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  1. 14 points
    Clephas

    Stubbornness and Burnout

    For those familiar with me, you know I spent year after year doing VN of the Month and that I ritualistically complained about how tired I was of this or that trope or bad habit that plagued the industry or games. I was asked repeatedly why I could still plow through so many VNs, despite the stress? The simple answer is that I have always been stubborn as hell. I've experienced 'burnout' numerous times in my life, mostly because I have a naturally obsessive personality. Once I start obsessing over something, I literally am incapable of ceasing to do so without something jarring me completely away from it for a time, which usually results in me realizing I burned out long ago and have just been hanging out of stubbornness. The same was the case for VNs. When I first started playing VNs, all VNs were worth at least trying. However, as time went on, I increasingly lost interest in most nukige and eventually my interest in 'everyday teenaged life SOL romance' (or 'the standard charage') began to fade. It was probably about 2016 when this reached the critical point, but it took another year and a two-week bout of flu where I couldn't think well enough to play anything to bump me out of my years-long trance. Part of it was that I rarely, if ever, took a break from VNs during those years. I was always playing at least one, and I had a tendency to barrel through them consecutively without even a short pause to rest, week after week, month after month. I used most of my free time to play them, I structured my work schedule and habits around playing them, and I generally existed solely to do so. I dunno how many of you can even imagine what living like that is like... but it was the fact that I am no longer driven to play game after game that is letting me sit back and enjoy the few I actually want to play. I go back and pull stuff out of my attic on a whim, I dig through my collection based on a desire to relive a single scene, and I generally just take pleasure in playing what I want to play. Would it be strange for you to hear that this all feels unnatural to me, after all these years? I've been playing third-rate charage I didn't want to even see, much less play, for years... and now I only play stuff that takes my interest, dropping them if I don't see any hope for the game to break out of the shell of mediocrity. I don't feel driven to blog about replays beyond when I feel like it or when I think I have something to add to a previous assessment, and I can actually sit back and enjoy the few charage I actually feel like I want to play. While I do have regrets, they aren't about the years spent obsessing and over-playing VNs, despite my previous words. I set out to do VN of the Month because, at the time, there was no way for people to have an idea of what they were getting into with most VNs. It was a bit startling how few people were seriously trying to let people know what kind of VNs were out there without spoiling everything from beginning to end. Even today, most reviewers can't seem to keep heavy spoilers out of the text, which saddens me. However, I no longer feel that it is my mission to 'fix' this. I've been there, I've done that, and I won't be doing it again. I will still play VNs, and I will still review them (on occasion), but don't expect me to be as prolific as I used to be, lol.
  2. 11 points
    It has been almost six months since I ceased VN of the Month. I can say now that while I do, surprisingly, miss some aspects of that particular column, the freedom giving it up has granted me is far greater compensation. When I was doing VN of the Month, I was literally the only person commenting on most of the non-nukige VNs in a given month. I was driven by a sense of obligation to those who read my blog to continue regardless of what it was doing to me and my life, and I can say now that that wasn't a healthy situation for me. I am still a VN addict. I probably always will be, just as I am a heavy reader in general and a lover of role-playing games. However, I still think the role I put it on myself to play was a necessary one. How many people who play untranslated VNs give honest opinions devoid of spoilers? For that matter, how many of them are honest about their biases when they feel they can't give a particular VN a fair chance? I made myself abide by a pretty strict set of rules when I was doing VN of the Month. One was that I would primarily evaluate VNs based on story, character development, and setting, while only mentioning visual and audio elements when they were obviously exceptional. My reason for this is that I lack the background to properly evaluate the technical aspects of audio-visual materials, whereas I have extensive experience with all sorts of reading material in general and fiction in particular. Another was that I would, on a regular basis, restate my particular biases, reminding people of the limitations of my objectivity. This was because I was writing on all VNs I played for the first time, and it would have been unfair for me to fail to state my biases beforehand when playing something that was outside my tastes or something that hit them spot on. The third was a resolve to avoid excessive spoilers. My standard was the Getchu page. If information was released on the Getchu page or the official site, I didn't consider it to be a spoiler, but I was to avoid spoiling things beyond that, except when absolutely necessary. The fourth and final rule was to strive for objectivity inasmuch as possible and be honest with myself and my readers when it wasn't possible. These rules were my guide posts for the years I did VN of the Month, and they served me well, generally... but I reached my limit. To be blunt, VN of the Month was only made possible because of my high reading speed and my willingness to structure my life solely around playing VNs and making money to buy more. Naturally, this way of doing things was doomed to failure eventually, but I got so caught up in actually doing it that I didn't notice it really at the time. Now, I play only what I want to play, and that makes me a much happier person, despite a few wistful moments where I wonder if I couldn't have done it a little while longer.
  3. 10 points
    You should read this over at https://j-addicts.de/vn-of-the-month-december-2003/ as not only does it have (some) juicier screenshots, but the formatting is much better. First of all, I believe I should thank the j-addicts/Koutou Yuumin team for their knowledge and expertise. This article grew way beyond my expectations, and I would surely have lost my way without them. Also, to the several friends who gave me feedback and helped me out in various ways, thank you very much. Well then, shall we start? This month has four masturpieces (get it?). They are Saishuu Chikan Densha 2, Kadowakashi, Christmas★Present, and Kizumono no Shoujo Gaiden. That being said, there are still several other quite decent games. The game that surprised me the most by the positive and my personal masturpiece is Jam 'n Limit, and the games that disappointed me much were Eisai Kyouiku and Yami no Koe III. If you're looking for this month's overall best game, the answer is probably something boring like Saya no Uta (the answer, not the game). How are masturpieces decided, you ask? Introducing: the fap-o-meter! In Erogamescape, it's possible to vote on how suitable the H-scenes were for fapping material, ranging from "Weren't useful at all" to "Were pretty useful." Thus, I will attribute a numerical score (from 0 to 5) for each of those and tally up the average. This will be known as the fap-o-meter. This isn't a fallible and objective method, but it should give an idea of how much cummies the players were able to get out of these games. The Games To begin with, I decided which games to play based on EGS's database. This is because it's bound to have more games listed than vndb. Out of 107 releases, I checked out 31 games. There were 21 games I would've considered for review, except that I wasn't able to obtain them as nearly all of them are obscure doujin games, which were sold exclusively at Comiket. I blacklisted 55 games: 32 are moege/charage/plotge – basically, games that have too much plot or other crap in the way of my precious porn, 9 were re-releases, 7 were PS2 games or not VNs, 6 were all-ages and thus no porn, and 1 was listed incorrectly. Please keep in mind that just because a game is ranked higher or lower, it's not an absolute indicator of its quality. Some games cater to one fetish exclusively, so they're not bound to please everyone. The game titles have been localized by me, as I thought that's something that a predominantly English-speaking audience would appreciate. That is if they don't have one already. The same goes for the synopsis. Many of them are translated by me, and at times, I've had to replace what was very obviously nonsensical machine-translated garbage. I am still in the process of learning Japanese, and translating is, well, challenging, but I can assure you that there are no lies, falsehoods, or made-up stuff on them. I will put any game descriptions that aren't mine between quotes and credit them appropriately. The screenshots are at 75% of their original resolution, except for one of the games where I could only play the widescreen version, so it's at 50%. If you're interested in a specific game, I'd advise for you to CTRL+F search for it. If you'd like to read my overall conclusions on this whole venture, search for My Thoughts and Conclusions. One last thing: I did not rely on machine translation tools to play these games. 1. Midnight Sleazy Train 2 EGS-Score: 74 (442) Atelier Kaguya TEAM HEARTBEAT Fap-o-meter: 3.26 (91) Saishuu Chikan Densha 2 Main appeal: chikan, forceful sex, group sex 最終痴漢電車2 "Touch her/Lick her/Verbally abuse her" "Some towns have legends of haunted houses or underground communities in the sewers. But in Takumi’s town, the ultimate urban legend is the Midnight Sleazy Train. Desperate for a spot on the train, Takumi waits by the station after hours. But he finds that you can’t just buy a ticket. Only by bringing the perfect female guest can you ensure permission to come aboard." http://anidb.net/perl-bin/animedb.pl?show=anime&aid=2444 Well, color me surprised! For some reason, this game has hundreds of votes, so I was curious about how that came to be. Perhaps a lot of people watched the H-OVA and became interested in the game that way? That's what I call a marketing success. But that's not all. The game itself is a pretty good nukige. Beyond the beautiful art and hot H-scenes, the game bolsters a pretty robust map movement system. Unlike most games where you wander at random, hoping you'll run into the characters, the game tells if there's someone at the place you're about to visit. It sounds like something straightforward, but it doesn't matter how good the game's content is if the system doesn't facilitate the access to that very content. Besides that, you also have verb-based interactivity during the H-scenes (filling up their lewdness level gauge), and this makes for perfect roleplaying. You're not just playing as a groping protagonist, you feel like the groper yourself. With all of these factors combined, it's no wonder that so many people enjoy this game and the series, yet to this very day. Though, if you're not that big of a fan of uh...gangbangs, you might not enjoy it that much. Maybe watch the H-OVA first and see if it's something you'd like. 2. Kidnapping EGS-Score: 65 (41) ZyX Fap-o-meter: 3.25 (4) Kadowakashi Main appeal: sexual slavery 拐 ~カドワカシ~ There was a certain man, an all-girls school art lecturer. One day, he came across Tomoko, a student who was being bullied, and saved her from her predicament. However, this very event triggered his innermost sadistic desires. Suddenly, he could no longer hold back, and forced himself upon her. To our protagonist who had awakened to his sadistic desires, Tomoko proposed that he sexually train one of her classmates, Yazawa Mizue, a pure girl, ignorant of the ways of the world. While being aware that Tomoko was hiding something, the protagonist decided to play along with her plan. Could he become such an individual that could rule others into submission? Not out of simple, mere lust, he earnestly wanted to find the answer to that very question. Will he really be able to rule over the heroines as if they were his own possession, or else, will he end up as nothing more than Tomoko's puppet? Wow, uh, what a fast development. They really get straight to the action, huh. Within a couple of minutes, the protagonist rapes one of his students, Tomoko. I'm actually not a fan of justifying this as "lol deep dark desires," but I guess that's the setup they were going for. The main meat of this game is to sexually train a trio of heroines. True to its name, with Tomoko's help, you kidnap two of your students and confine them in a locked room, starting off with Mizue. What really makes this game stand out is the sheer variety in H content. The heroine has stats, most of them sexually-related, and you have to raise them to allow for even kinkier play. You have to be strategic with your options to train the ultimate sex slaves. Though, if you suck, you can play on Easy difficulty. When I say variety, I mean that ALL of these options are available at the start (well, as long as the heroine "consents" to it). This means all kinds of play. You can choose to be kind or to be sadistic. You can make her service you or teach her pleasure through shamefulness. Ultimate freedom and variety. That doesn't mean you can just do anything. If you're too harsh on her, she'll collapse. Have this happen enough times, and you'll get a game over. So please, be responsible, and take good care of your sex slaves! When it comes to the staff members, the spotlight is on the game's artist, Mutou Keiji. He is responsible for the character design and art of many games I have played in the past, from Studio Triumph. It's extremely similar to JAST published Do You Like Horny Bunnies?. Perhaps they had the same teacher? It might seem odd at first, but I grew really fond of this style over time. The sex scenes are also animated, and for once, they actually look good. Nice! 3. Christmas★Present EGS-Score: 70 (62) Ail [Team Riva] Fap-o-meter: 3.09 (11) Christmas★Present Main appeal: BDSM, forceful sex, comedy クリスマス★プレゼント On the night of December 16th, with Christmas close by… In the corner of a town wrapped in the holiday spirit, our protagonist, Sajima Yuuji, was once again completely absorbed in picking fights with delinquents. All of a sudden, a girl in Santa Claus's garments fell from the sky, crashing into him. Carrying the collapsed girl who to his room, he raped her without waiting for her to regain consciousness. And so, the very next morning, this one Santa's apprentice came to her senses. Upon realizing the situation she was in, she was bewildered. "No...it can't be!" Not only did he deprive her of her precious symbol of maidenhood, but also the source of her powers: her precious Saint's Crest. And so, promising to return the crest, he set the following terms: "Until the day of Christmas, you'll be my slave." Abusing these powers, and laying his hands not only on this Santa's apprentice, but also his stepsister Yuzu, stepmother Honami, and other women…what will become of this year's Christmas? This was actually the game I was looking forward to playing the most. Considering this is the month of December, I really wanted to play at least one game that would really get me into the holiday spirit. It took me hours to figure out how to get it working, but man, was it worth it! While the description is a bit grim and dark, the game is actually the complete opposite. It's always fun and filled with comedic moments. The best way to describe this game would perhaps be "bakage" (silly game) due to its sheer absurdity and ridiculousness. Of note, the game has a sort of "affinity" system. Your actions will increase your "evil" points by a certain amount. So, you can abuse the powers of the Saint's Crest, which can make any wish come true, or you can be a good boy and play along as Santa's Little Helper, spreading happiness all over town. The art is beautiful, the sex is hot, the banter between characters is great. This game would make for the perfect Christmas present. 4. Defiled Girls - Campus of Used Goods Side Story EGS-Score: 70 (83) Rasen Fap-o-meter: 2.82 (17) Kizumono no Shoujo -Kizumono no Gakuen Gaiden- Main appeal: blackmail, forceful sex, group sex 傷モノの少女-傷モノの学園・外伝- The "Kazaoto Academy Student Guerrilla Incident". An incident where roughly all survivors suffered greatly. The women, raped. The men who refused to rape, killed. And now, once again, a new humiliation play was about to begin... After the terrifying incident took place, part of the students who attended Kazaoto Academy transfered schools. And so, the stage changes to the preparatory school, Mizuto Academy, which two of the incident's victims attended. They were Oomura Takeshi and Shindou Narumi. In the middle of winter, when he had just gotten used to his new school life, Takeshi discovered a laptop which contained a video of Narumi being gang raped. While he was in shock at this devastating sight, his friend Kaneda Masaru saw the video by accident. Unflinchingly, Kaneda comes up with ways to use this video to blackmail Narumi. Without being able to refuse Kaneda's suggestion, Takeshi, while holding complicated feelings in his chest, ends up agreeing to blackmail and rape Narumi. And so, asides from Narumi, they gradually went on to defile the other girls surrounding them... This an insult game. This game has insult scenes, the protagonist and his buddy insult the girls...wait, what? Duh, I mean, rape. Yes, that's the word. This game is basically a side story of the original Kizumono no Gakuen. You don't really need to have played the previous game as it's not a direct sequel. Takeshi and Narumi's involvement in the previous incident is briefly explained - Takeshi was forced to film the girls being raped, under threat of being killed, and Narumi was one of the victims. Upon finding one of his old videos, he can no longer contain his excitement. I prefer this game to the first one because I like seeing the gap between peaceful school life and the moments of higher tension. That's not to say that the battle royale setting isn't thrilling though. It also feels like more of a personal experience, since you have one protagonist instead of multiple ones/multiple POVs. While you might initially think it to be a rape fest...it's just so much more than that. It capitalizes on human emotions: sorrow, anguish, sadness, loneliness...and instead of an abrupt chaotic state, it's gratifying to witness that transition. You can also expect exciting developments such as betrayals when you least see them coming. The H-scenes are well, pretty good. There's nothing that bonds friends together any more than doing the same girl at the same time...the story is about the defilement of the girls, as much as it is about the corruption of the protagonist's psyche. Though it helps to have a friend who is crazier than you. At least in this game, the "villains" actually feel like villains as they delve into their intricate plots, instead of your casual rapists. Of particular note, this game has a quite nice atmosphere, boosted by a quality soundtrack. Good faps are to be had with this game. 5. I'm a Booth Attendant - Heisaku and Kenta's Wild Tales EGS-Score: 65 (35) Interheart Fap-o-meter: 2.75 (4) Oira wa Bandai ~Heisaku & Kenta no Yume Monogatari~ Main appeal: voyeurism オイラは番台~平作&健太の夢物語~ One day, a police detective suddenly barged in a certain popular public bathhouse that the protagonist was in charge of. "Dan Koutarou! You're under arrest, under suspicion of sexual assault!" With a clack, he was handcuffed. Several months passed, and after a hellish series of interrogations, his guilt was established. "Why, why am I the only one serving a prison sentence? Why are Heisaku and Kenta getting away scott free? But, it seems that is my fate... Even if they were to be caught, it does not mean that my punishment would go away, but... Is the public bathhouse that I inherited from my pops done for? I've really done something awful to him..." Man, I can't believe we came out innocent. I feel kinda bad about pushing the blame solely on Koutarou, but this too is part of fate, huh. Kou-chan, just sit quietly in your cell! So, we were cleared of suspicion, but what should we do from now on? You're right...for now, how about we go back to Koutarou's shop, and peek in the bath once again?! There's also videos of those women we filmed that we haven't used yet! To begin with, let's change bathhouse's name! Enter Heisaku and Kenta's Wild Tales! This is a side story, continuing off the ending of the first game. I really recommend that you play that game first so that you'll get the most enjoyment out of the story. Basically, this is a real-time, public bathhouse management game. You take in customers, and you can peek at them while they change clothes, are in the toilet or just chilling in the bath. You'll have to follow the schedule carefully and know the exact times when the heroines visit the bathhouse. The game's system is pretty helpful in this regard, but something like a tutorial would've been much appreciated. It takes some time to get used to the gameplay, as you also have to use and buy items that will help you in your peeping quest, but I find the experience to be worth the trouble. If anything, the banter between characters is pretty well-done. Most of the characters are actually adults, which is a nice change of pace. I also like that the previous game's protagonist went to jail since that's what happens when you do bad things. The game is pretty similar to the first one, so once again, that's probably where you want to start. Interheart themselves published a walkthrough for this game, and I wish I had noticed it before playing...oh well. 6. Please Teach Nanami and Konomi the ABC EGS-Score: 68 (101) Studio Ring Fap-o-meter: 2.61 (18) Nanami to Konomi no Oshiete ABC Main appeal: lolicon ななみとこのみのおしえてA・B・C "You're a college student on summer vacation. In your neighbourhood live two extremely friendly cute twin girls, Nanami and Konomi Nishimura. One day their mother asks you to tutor the two of them. "Nanami wants to study with onii-chan!" "Onii-chan, will you teach Konomi?" Of course, onii-chan immediately replies. "Sure, if you want me to, it'd be my pleasure." "He didn't say no... thank goodness." "Yay!" And thus begins your summer "lessons" with Nanami and Konomi." https://vndb.org/v1620 Alright, so uh...yeah. Despite the pretty art and cutesy voice acting, I found this game to be not much more than wish fulfillment for lolicon. To begin with, I'm not a fan of deredere, lovestruck heroines, but if you're into this type of content, you're probably going to enjoy it. 7. Lewd Little Sister BABY EGS-Score: 65 (65) Image Craft Fap-o-meter: 2.58 (13) Inmai Baby Main appeal: lolicon 淫妹BABY "The protagonist is a young man. He lives with his younger stepsister Mana in the same house, together brother and sister discover a lot of games (with sometimes interesting toys) and they have a lot of fun." https://vndb.org/v3153 Right, so, uh...yeah. There are two main points of interest in this game. First, it's the art or overall art direction. Not only are the H-scenes fully animated, but the sprites are also constantly changing very fluidly. The artstyle might seem simple, but it's nice and colorful. Honestly, this game very much feels like an anime, to the point I'd almost unironically call it an "anime game". The second point is the sheer amount and variety of endings. You have the freedom to craft the story as you please, but remember that everything you do has a consequence. Strictly speaking, I'd only recommend this to fans of the genre. 8. Children Milk Parfait EGS-Score: 66 (28) Shiritsu Sakuranbo Shouggakou Fap-o-meter: 2.57 (7) Kodomo Milk Parfait Main appeal: lolicon こどもみるくぱふぇ "You're a college student and while you love the many beautiful girls you see around you in college you prefer elementary school girls. Your girlfriend is 10 year old 5th grade elementary school girl Ai Hasegawa. She's happy to be your girlfriend but discovers that her best friend Aya Sakurai has a crush on you too! Ai loves both you and Aya so she decides it's ok to share! She brings Aya to your apartment and asks you to take her first kiss. Where will you go from there?" https://vndb.org/v4244 I swear, I'm not doing it on purpose! Anyway, for this game, I actually had to make a decision, since if I included the votes of the 2007 DVD release, it would score much higher. To make things fair, I decided not to. In my opinion, I found this game to be boring. The children don't act like children (more like naughty adults trapped in a child's body), and most scenes are teasing. I also thought that the OP was really catchy, it even forced me to get up from my chair and bust my moves for a few minutes. The UI is also extremely cutesy, which fits the mood of the game. 9. Matty, the youngest child EGS-Score: 61 (22) Complet's Fap-o-meter: 2.5 (6) Matty Main appeal: straight shotacon まってぃ Due to certain circumstances, Ryouta was sent to live with his parent's relatives, becoming a freeloader of the Okano household. However, in this house, he is treated as nothing more than the "youngest child". As the youngest child, he is constantly teased, submitted to unreasonable requests, and sent to do errands. However, he is simply not in a position where he can refuse. The eldest daughter and office lady, Sena; the second daughter and tomboy, Kana; and the youngest daughter and his classmate, Mana. These three, without exception, do as much as they like with their new younger brother. On the other hand, his aunt Kaori dotes excessively on him. In the middle of such an exciting daily life, embarrassing and fortunate events occur...what will happen to Ryouta? I actually completed two routes of this game...but it's difficult to call them routes to begin with. Okay, first of all, this is what will usually happen. At school, you get two alternating choices that decide what type of event will occur. When you're back home, you get four choices which are meaningless by themselves (e.g., kill time, go back to your room, watch TV, etc.), and if you're lucky you'll trigger some kind of event with the heroines. When it's time to go to bed, you can choose between going to sleep right away, going to the restroom, or reading a porn magazine (there are like four to collect, can you get them all?!). The first two of those choices CAN trigger events, but 90% of the time nothing happens. And this repeats every single day until the game ends. You have no idea which choices trigger what, you have to constantly savescum if you want to see events with a certain heroine (and of course, you'll have to try all the choices first, every time), and even then, more than half of the scenes are teasing. So all you're really doing is collecting events. I hope I was able to convey the frustration I felt playing this game. Why couldn't they have employed a map movement system, where you could just visit everyone in their respective rooms? Why this lazy, inane system? And even worse, the heroine I was aiming for doesn't even have an H-scene or a proper ending. The game just ends abruptly. What a piece of crap. Either way, the art by Mame is definitely the game's high point. I recommend that you read the prologue, download a complete save file, and check out the H-scenes. Or play a better game, by the same company. 10. Surrender - Ravished Body, Broken Heart EGS-Score: 60 (3) X[iks] Fap-o-meter: 2.5 (2) Shikkan ~Hazukashimerareta Karada, Oreta Kokoro~ Main appeal: BDSM, forceful sex, mystery しっかん ~辱められた躰、折れた心~ On a solitary island, somewhere in the distant seas, there laid a certain hospital. Upon embarking on a ship towards the island, and arriving at the facilities, the protagonist received a request from his brother, the hospital's director, to investigate the spy the who had snuck in. Taking on the guise of a doctor, he will interrogate the various suspects through any and all kinds of methods. However, in the midst of the swamp where anticipation and expectations intertwine, the evil that remained dormant within the darkness reared its ugly head. This is a mystery game where the objective is to uncover the spy and the island's other mysteries. Who is the spy, and what are they after? What secrets does this hospital hold? The navigation is done through a map movement system. I usually dislike these, but you can at least trust the characters to hang out in a specific place. There's the doctor who hangs out at her own office, the patient that stays inside her room, the two nurses in the nurse station and the nurse in the psychosomatic ward. If you check out the other areas, you can find out more about the game's world, side characters, and... special tools. When you talk to the characters, there's also this interactive system, kinda like the old verb-based games. Except that it's with nouns, people's names, locations and so on.In conclusion, the game's system is kinda annoying, and honestly, I don't feel like doing bad things to the characters when they're so lovely... The dialogue and voice acting are built in such a way that they actually feel like real humans. Speaking of voice acting, it's pretty good! You might recognize some industry veterans... I'd say that despite some annoyances, the journey does feel worth it. It's definitely a game I'd like to spend more time with. 11. Good Girl's Worries Counselling Room - Fantasy World's Immoral Guidance EGS-Score: 65 (15) Collection Fap-o-meter: 2.33 (3) Yoi Ko no Nayami Soudanshitsu ~Mousou Sekai no Haitokuteki Shidou~ Main appeal: group sex, forceful sex よい娘の悩み相談室~妄想世界の背徳的指導~ The game's protagonist manages a counselling website called "Good Girl's Worries Counseling Room". Officially, it is a well-renown website where volunteers give counsel to its female users, easing their worries. However, if you seize their trust by giving them appropriate advice, you will be able to meet them directly for a sexy time! In the meanwhile, the protagonist, upon reading the contents of their e-mails, flies off to a fantasy world, where his imagination takes hold of the events they describe. Essentially, when his brother collapses from overwork, by sheer coincidence the protagonist manages to find out that he was in charge of a counseling website. The gameplay is simple: you check your inbox on the website, pick the e-mail you want to read, read it, and then the protagonist imagines the H-events described on the e-mail. After that, it is your job to give the girls advice through a series of choices. I was initially disappointed, thinking it was kinda lame to not engage with the heroines directly, but I find this to be a really novel idea. They take what would be generic H-scenes and give them a backstory, aftermath, and the female character's perspective. The most fun I had with this game was reading those very e-mails and challenging myself to give good advice. For example, there's a high school student who talks about how several boys confessed to her at once, and she ends indulging their wish of wanting to create "pleasant memories" with her. I told her that she needs to value her body more and that she should be responsible and pick only one of the guys to be her boyfriend. It really feels like a very personal experience, where I am crafting my own story, almost as if I was actually talking to a real high school student. I did not get that far, but it seems, later on, you'll actually be able to meet the girls, so there's something to look forward to. After all, most of the game's H-scenes only occur inside the protagonist's fantasy world, not in reality...or do they? Another point I'd make is that while the art might seem kinda amateurish, I actually think it's pretty hot. I like it! 12. Bright Future - Wet 'N Messy 2nd Time EGS-Score: 70 (93) FlyingShine Black Fap-o-meter: 2.17 (12) Akarui Mirai ~Wet And Messy 2nd time~ Main appeal: forceful sex, group sex, wet and messy アカルイミライ Wet And Messy 2nd time "In Azami High School, the stage of this game, there is a rumor about a ghost. According to witnesses, that ghost is surprisingly beautiful and her scent is luscious. Masaki starts to examine the fact about the ghost and one day, he happens to talk with a girl who exists in the past, Sakura. But the fact is that she doesn't exist in the present. She was killed in the past and Masaki tries to change her future to save her...." https://vndb.org/v546 This is a mystery/drama game that also doubles as a nukige. You, as the leader of the newspaper club, are initially given the task to investigate the so-called "Honey Ghost." The rest is according to the description: you start talking to a girl from the past and then realize that she died. Your objective is to find out what happened and change her terrible fate to a bright future. But that's not all. There are also several peculiarities happening in the present. There's the mysterious psychic treatment (psychosomatic) school club, which is in fact just a front for a group of rapists. While you are busy with your investigation, be careful not to let the heroines fall into their grasp... True to its name, you can expect things to get really wet and messy, by a variety of fluids...be it water, essential oils (aromatherapy), milk, SEMEN...But while the art is beautiful and the story seems promising, the game actually suffers from the excessive H-scenes. Before you really have time to care about a heroine, you end up peeking on them having or being forced into sex by a group of guys. If the scenes were more spaced out, the game would actually feel like it has some tension. Overall, I Just feel like it's trying to do too many things at once. While you get plenty of choices, only very few of them branch out the story. Most of them just give you an alternate or slightly different scene. They don't really have an impact on the story. The series was rebooted as the Kurai Mirai (Dark Future) or Crime Rhyme series. By the name alone, you can see the new direction that they took with the games, which I'm not of a fan of. Because no matter which manners of cruelties they must endure, at least the title name "Bright Future" gives you the hope that there is a way for the heroines to avoid their awful fate...even if not entirely. I'm not a fan of these quasi-NTR gangrape games, where you're just walking around, peeking on others having sex, and not really doing much about it. That's not to say that some of the scenes aren't hot, especially if you like it...wet and messy. I like this scene where your previous choice changes whether the heroine calls you senpai or onii-chan. It's, uh, a nice touch since you're pretty much defining the relationship you have with her. 13. Mansion, the Prison of Lust EGS-Score: 60 (12) Girl's Software Fap-o-meter: 2 (1) Ingoku no Yakata Main appeal: BDSM, sexual slavery, maids 淫獄の館 The ultimate immoral adventure game - combining extreme humiliation and sexual assault elements with the component of sexual slavery. Taking a remote western-styled mansion as the game's stage, train these beautiful and lovely maids into your sex slaves! Will you accept your fate, exhausting the limits of rape and sexual slavery? Or else, will you continue opposing those who hold you captive until the very end? If you were to take a single step within this mansion, you too would end up becoming its prisoner... First, I suppose I should start with what I liked about this game. The art is gorgeous when it comes to the character design and HCGs, drawn by one of my favorite eroge artists. The sexual slavery scenes are quite varied, but there's also a good number of vanilla scenes. You basically get the choice to give in to your "deep dark desires," or to defy your captor. To be honest, despite this being a nukige, what I enjoyed the most were the slice-of-life scenes and banter between characters. The music is a great mood-setter, but what made these scenes that much more enjoyable was the stellar voice acting performance. I'm sure that if you look at their names, you'll recognize several industry veterans. I'd point out Isshiki Hikaru, who voices the protagonist's sister in Cartagra as especially memorable. However, all of them were really good, and I also liked their performance in...other parts of the game. That's the thing, though. After spending all that time growing fond of the characters, I don't really want to do awful things to them. For this game's negative points, I'd say that getting a good ending is really difficult without using a walkthrough, and otherwise, it just gets frustrating. I also disliked the spontaneous H-scenes during the first part of the game. This is because they are all "dream sequences," more like showing a possible future for the protagonist. It feels as if those scenes were just thrown in there because the slice-of-life and comedy sections were too long, and they thought people would get bored if they didn't get some fap material, but eh. They feel entirely out of place because there's no context and no build-up for those scenes.Another point is that when I train my sex slaves, I don't like sharing them with others...especially dirty old men. 14. Stray Sheep - Disgraceful Confession Room EGS-Score: 55 (4) Panda House Fap-o-meter: 2 (1) Stray Sheep ~Chijoku no Zangeshitsu~ Main appeal: BDSM, mystery STRAY SHEEP ~恥辱の懺悔室~ For yet but an ephemeral moment, a rape scene that makes one's sadist heart boil strongly with passion. A tale that does not confine itself to the boundaries of desire. In order to solve the mystery surrounding his sister's death, our protagonist headed towards St. Raffine Mission Girls' High School. And for the sake of his unsatisfiable, boundless desire, he infiltrates the school, takes on the mantle of a clergyman. In this place, there yet wandered innocent lambs...however, a feast that would push the very limits of shame and disgrace was awaiting them. These Stray Sheep will kneel before one who borrowed God's name to find the truth at any cost. Stray Sheep doubles as mystery and hardcore BDSM game. The protagonist makes use of his privileged position as the school's new Father to search for the truth, little by time, at times employing more forceful means. I did not find myself able to empathize with the protagonist and his revenge-filled heart. It's not that I'm not fond of revenge stories, but if you're going to do awful things to someone, then at least do it to people who deserve it. If one thing though, both the CGs and character sprites sure are pretty. Reminds me a bit of Mink's artstyle of that time. 15. Masquerade EGS-Score: 64 (14) Soft Circle Courreges Fap-o-meter: 2 (1) Masquerade Main appeal: maid, pure love story MASQUERADE Under the strong duress that was succeeding my father's legacy, my life resumed itself to dedicating myself to my work. Finding absolutely no joy to this monotous, repetitive routine, I soon found myself to be a mere husk of a man, caring about nothing but maximing profits and running a successful business. But then, there she was. Elena Garshis. Following the death of her mother, she was taken into my household, working as a maid. I want to see her scream and shout, to dye her pure white skin with my jet black desire. Yes, the very same Elena who does not lose her perfect, radiant smile, no matter what the task...If it's her, she will accept me with no protest. Over time, I came to be consumed by such feelings, and finally, I was able to satisfy my desires. Taking shelter from the coldness of Winter, a small story took place in a certain mansion. And with it, so did develop a pure yet depraved love that taught me the warmth and true meaning of Christmas, together with the one most important to me. While the setting seems to be grimdark, it's actually kinda wrong to call it a nukige. In fact, you could complete the game while avoiding most of the sexual content. I actually completed this game as it's relatively short, about one to two others long. I found the main story to be sweet and very much worth the time I spent with it. Some might find it generic, but I guess I'm fond of these pure love type of stories. You can choose to either engage in sexual acts with your maid or to have conversations with her about a variety of topics, getting to know her better. By sexual acts, I mean that you don't force yourself upon her and that everything is done consensually, even if the protagonist is in a position of authority. On that front, it's kinda weak as a BDSM/sexual slavery game, but I appreciate the variety of content and the hot HCGs. The negative side is that both these conversations and H-scenes repeat themselves. For example, if you want to unlock further conversations, you'll have to approach specific topics an X number of times. The problem is that the conversations are the exact same the second or third time, so you're gonna be skipping them. It's just annoying. Did they run out of content even though the game is so short? Why force you to repeat conversations? Anyway, you'll probably want to follow a walkthrough. The similar happens with the H-scenes, where you can unlock extra scenes or variations of the same scene. Anyway, this is a pretty decent doujin game if you like maids, sweet but kinda corny love stories, are willing to press the skip button half the time, and use a walkthrough. 16. A Naughty Doctor EGS-Score: 58 (7) Sol-fa-soft Fap-o-meter: 2 (1) H na Oisha-san Main appeal: lolicon Hなお医者さん "A somewhat naughty doctor has come to take medical examinations. He is supposed to inspect their bodies, but all he's doing is touching the young girls all over." https://www.dlsite.com/ecchi-eng/work/=/product_id/RE039687.html So I booted up this game, which is unvoiced and has the same looping soundtrack all the time. And on the very first few choices, I hit a little girl, was sent to jail and got a premature Happy Ending. Great game. "HAPPY ENDING...hell if it is!" But it's actually an enjoyable game. You touch the characters in places where you're not really supposed to, but get away with it with some convincing persuasion, and eventually get to do a more direct inspection. I actually like this type of games where you play as a doctor and interact with a patient, deceiving them, and abusing their trust. For example, Studio Triumph's games. But well, this one doesn't even compare since the game is too damn short, as the whole thing is about 20-30 minutes long. Apparently, there's a voiced version, but I couldn't get my hands on it. The game is decent for what it is, but it's nothing special. I think there should've been more bad endings. 17. Jam 'N Limit - LOCKED/ROOM/CON/FINE/MENT EGS-Score: 53 (18) Studio Jikkenshitsu Fap-o-meter: 2 (2) Jam n' Limit ~Mis/shitsu/Kan/kin Main appeal: roleplay, forceful sex ジャムアンリミット~密/室/監/禁 Ever since I was a child, I had always questioned myself. Yes, I've always hated those so-called moral lessons. "Do not hate or harm others. Try to be mindful of other people's feelings. Plants and animals are living beings too, so treat them kindly." I wonder if there is anyone who actually puts these lessons in practice? To begin with, it is impossible for one person to adequately understand the feelings of another person. Also, treat other living things kindly, they say? Should such a line come from someone who eats meat? Who gave them the right to preach such hypocritical nonsense? Even if I were to narrow down the topic to human beings…for example, a person who raises funds for the sake of the homeless or those in greater need…I wonder if they're as great as they seem to be. Helping elderly people cross the street, giving directions to those who ask, offering your seat on the bus or train… wouldn't that be nothing more than feeding one's superiority complex, feeling of self-satisfaction, or just your typical social propaganda? Considering that I ponder these issues on a daily basis, I'm quite certain that society would just say I'm "going crazy". However, as far as I'm concerned, this is completely "normal" to me. If the world is to think that I've gone crazy, then I must prove that they are the ones who have gone mad. Thus, I shall find a suitable target for this "experiment", to show the world that I am the one who is normal. The only reason I went ahead and made the description this long is that this is the type of philosophical musings that are constantly present in the game. You can only imagine my surprise, playing this game after I almost considered skipping it - from the cover it seems like a generic nukige, and the score reinforces that assumption. I'm very glad I did not. Honestly, I can only do this game justice with a full review, which I'd like to do in the near future (maybe), so this will be a bit of a sample of what's to come. It comes with a fair warning though: this game isn't for everyone. It's probably only for sexual deviants like me. I've played this up until I was done with the first heroine's section of the story. Instead of having character routes, you "conquer" one heroine after the other, so you follow the protagonist's journey through madness. That is to say, this is more the protagonist's story than anything else, but you only truly understand the depth of his madness when you have a "normal" person as a reference. But that isn't all, as they too will find their own "madness." Your choices in-game have to do with the course of actions you take as much as the preparations you have to make. For example, for your plan to succeed, what kind of precautions should you take, what should you be most concerned about, how will you create the perfect locked room while avoiding suspicion, how will you psychologically corner your prey, how will prevent their escape, and what will you do in the event something unexpected happens. Accompanied by an in-built flow-chart, you'll be making these decisions as you try to avoid the game's multiple bad endings. I don't want to spoil the content of the H-scenes, but they've mostly based around..."personalized roleplay."For me, this is the best game I played this month and my personal master and masturpiece, or at least the one which surprised me the most, making this whole venture worth it. Please don't overlook it just because it has the "nukige" label. It could also be that the game simply left a lasting first impression, which lead me to overhype it slightly. Either way, I look forward to finishing it and publishing a more detailed review, whether it lives up to my expectations or not. Maybe. 18. Gifted Education Frenzy EGS-Score: 65 (89) Kuzuryuu Fap-o-meter: 1.93 (14) Eisai Kyouiku Main appeal: BDSM, sexual slavery 英才狂育 "Certain subjects being taught these days at college aren't always on the curriculum... Sex education is one of them. Here at our all-girls school, one male teacher takes it upon himself to best educate students in the ways of carnal knowledge. Using (and abusing) his authority, he lures the hottest students into his lair and has his sleazy way with them. In the end, these girls will learn some lessons they'll never forget." https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=8497 You might know this from the H-OVA "Study a Broad." With beautiful art from Innocent Grey's CEO Sugina Miki, renown artist responsible for Cartagra, Kara no Shoujo series and Flowers series, coupled with BDSM and sexual slavery themes, what could possibly go wrong with this game? Put simply, this game sucks. Sugina Miki's art and the seiyuu's talents were put to waste with this game thanks to an awful gameplay system. So, you have three phases during the day: morning, lunchtime, and after school. During those periods, you can visit different locations during the game, taking up one, two, and five time slots respectively. Oh, and I fail to mention that there are ten locations in the game? So, you have to visit the heroines at the RIGHT TIME in the RIGHT PLACE to trigger the events. What a load of crap. This game is the ultimate proof that no matter how good your game's content is (in this case, H-scenes), it doesn't matter if it's locked behind a nonsensical and overly complicated system. Sure, you have an idea of where the characters are likely to hang out, but who would've thought that the flower arrangement club member likes to hang out on the rooftop? So, definitely use a walkthrough. And don't try to pursue more than one heroine at a time, as the timeslots often clash. That's not everything, though. If you fuck up too much in the beginning, you can get a bad ending. And even if you follow a walkthrough, you probably won't get to see every event. This game is as sadistic to its players as it is to the heroines. I actually completed one of the routes - the twins. And there I witnessed some of the most stupid teen drama I ever had the displeasure of going through in recent times. At the very least, the H-scenes are hot, but I don't think it's worth seeing them without the context behind them. How frustrating! 19. Erosion EGS-Score: 74 (21) Black Package Try Fap-o-meter: 1.8 (5) Shinshoku Main appeal: sexual slavery 浸蝕 The protagonist, Kokubo Toshiya, is adopted by the loving Kitagawa family. In truth, he was in cahoots with the orphanage's director, and aimed to turn the women of this family into his prey. Despite conducting himself as a mature and overly polite child, Kokubo Toshiya secretly harbors dark thoughts, this twisted personality being a result of a traumatic childhood experience. Gradually, he starts to show his true personality just before starting his plans on his stepmother and stepsister. While his stepfather is away from home, Toshiya puts his plan in practice. Using a photo of his stepsister shoplifting, he starts with her stepmother, and soon he also reaches his hand on his stepsister. I actually edited the first part of this synopsis from vndb because it was filled with lies, so I claim it as my own. Ahem. This game unceremoniously starts with four H-scenes in a row. It sure doesn't waste any time, huh? On the very first scene, the setting is established. Toshiya, despite being of high school age, is somehow a hardcore sex slave trainer, all because his mother was a whore when he was a child. The orphanage's director is already his sex slave, as are other girls in school, and then he "infiltrates" this loving family intending to make them his sex slaves just for the lulz. You witness the mother, who knows the protag for nothing but a few days (or like, 10 minutes in-game), masturbate while calling his name. I mean, what the fuck. Already? She hardly even knows him! This protagonist is literally the equivalent of an isekai anime protag who one-shots everything in sight on the first episode. I did not find the art or the voice acting appealing either, but there's plenty of variety when it comes to the training scenes, I guess. If I had to mention any positives, it would be that the game is quite technically advanced. There's an in-built flowchart, a read text marker, the ability to jump to the next and previous choices, and voice lines on the backlog. All in all, this game is nothing more than rape fantasy and is completely disrespectful and demeaning towards women. 20. Last Order EGS-Score: 70 (50) 13cm Fap-o-meter: 1.75 (8) Last Order Main appeal: sexual slavery, group sex ラストオーダー The stage of this game is a family restaurant named flóreal. As an able floor manager, the protagonist enjoys the trust of his fellow staff members and respect of his superiors. However, there was another side to this man. He gets closer to the female employees while feigning kindness... By the time he has attained their trust, he discovers and exploits their weaknesses, and forcefully makes them his own possession. In reality, all of the women who work at this restaurant have already become his sex slaves. However, one day, two new job applications had come, and at that very moment, the protagonist had already decided on his next prey. Although she seems to be a quiet, docile girl, in reality, she keeps hidden an unparalleled lewd side of hers. Not letting this go unseen, the protagonist comes up with numerous ploys in order to completely put his new prey to shame. This is a game which seemed to be nothing more than a generic nukige, but ended surprising me. If there were such a thing as a theme for this game, it'd be moratorium, the postponement of social responsibilities. The protagonist and other characters deal with this issue on different degrees: feeling like they're growing up too fast, being afraid to become a full-fledged adult, or being too attached to things of the past. As someone finding themselves within this very period of transition, I felt I was able to connect to the game on a personal level, if even slightly. The sexual content mostly revolves around the use of devices for sexual training and bondage. With two new waitresses bolstering floréal's ranks, so are there two new prey for the protagonist to lay his hands on. I have mentioned this several times before, I believe, but I'm not fond of sharing my sex slaves. After the slaves' training is cumplete, you have them serve the customers, often multiple at once, and this happens when you had just thought they became yours. I'd say that might be why the fap-o-meter is so low, even though this is actually a quite decent game. 21. Intense Pregnant Belly - Senpai, Please Acknowledge My Child! EGS-Score: 41 (18) Acme X Fap-o-meter: 1.67 (3) Hageshiku Botebara! Senpai, Watashi no Ko, Mitomete Kudasai!! Main appeal: forceful sex, group sex, yuri 激しくボテ腹! ~センパイ、私のコ、認めてくださいっ!~ "It's a creampie without contraception!" Thus were the words of the savage brutes who targetted her… Nami, a pure and naive who always has her head up in the clouds, whose only noteworthy feature is her liveliness. Letting her heart be filled with high hopes and expectations, she begins attending the same school as the senpai that she admired. The very picture of a typical shoujo manga heroine, Nami lived her life blissfully ignorant of how truly scary men can be. However, nothing but terrifying fiends awaited her in this school, be them men or women. Her volleyball club adviser, fellow club members, classmates, dormitory roommates and the dormitory manager… Even the surrounding neighbourhood's bums, all of them constantly aimed at Nami's fresh and ripe body. Will she really be able to offer her chastity to her beloved senpai? First of all, I gotta ask. Who the hell came up with such a dumb title? This game is just a tasteless and senseless complete rapefest. It is disgustingly evil and cruel. I'm sorry, but I don't have much else to say. I dropped it because I'm not a masochist and there's hardly a redeeming factor to this piece of crap. I guess some people might be into it, but I'm not. Moving along. 22. Say Yah! Happy New Year 2003! EGS-Score: 55 (9) Authoring Heaven Fap-o-meter: 1.6 (5) Say Yah! 2003 Main appeal: comedy, straight shotacon Say Yah! 2003 This is a sequel to Say Yah!. This time around, in order to pay back Old Man Klaus, Aria has officially acquired her Santa Practitioner License, and distributes presents all over town to various houses. There reside a shotacon mother, a lesbian chick, and even a sister got dragged into it! This Christmas Eve, you'll be cumming down their chimney! This game is not only a sequel to first Say Yah!, but it also features characters from other Authoring Heaven and Complet's games, as they're both imprints of the same stock company. You can expect similar kind of content and humor from the same games. Basically, you have a map, and you choose which house to deliver presents to... in the form of sex. It's not really my cup of tea, but the game is kinda funny, if you're into that type of humor... 23. Married Woman Slave Coffee Shop 2 EGS-Score: 60 (20) Black Lilith Fap-o-meter: 1.6 (5) Hitozuma Dorei Kissa 2 Main appeal: sexual slavery, group sex, forceful sex 人妻奴隷喫茶2 "To think that you'd really take pictures like these...you're scum, human scum!" Wild beasts lust after the body of a beautiful married woman, who manages a coffee shop. With a new sacrifice being offered to these very beasts, they will squeeze out every single drop of these two cows' lewd tits! I played the first game too just so I could understand this game better. Thus this will serve as a review for both games. They're about 20 mins each, so that wasn't an issue. But well, there isn't that much to say, except that the games suck. On the first game, these three high school students with nothing better to do than wander around town manage to spot a lady shoplifting. And somehow, they make use of that knowledge to blackmail her into becoming her sex slave. After the first H-scene, it's scene after scene until the game ends. On the second game, this chick finds The Three Stooges talking about how much they love sex, and apprehends their sex toys. After calling them human scum, she ends up fapping with those toys inside the classroom, and she follows them to the coffee shop because she's secretly a colossal pervert, I guess. The rest plays out the same as the first game. The games have slight ero animations which kinda look good, but since it's a zoomed up close-up, they end up covering most of the CG. These games are cheap, they're too short, and they suck. 24. The Voice in the Night III - Summoning Circle Pentagram of the Three Desires EGS-Score: 60 (45) Black Cyc Fap-o-meter: 1.5 (14) Yami no Koe III ~Gobou San'yoku Mahoujin~ Main appeal: corruption of characters 闇の声III ~五芒三欲魔方陣~ "K is trapped within the academy, and recruits a passerby to find girls in various locations outside the academy in order to break the barrier. To accomplish this, she lends him her bag containing clothing and apparel with a degenerating influence." https://vndb.org/v3336 Wait, what is a Black Cyc game doing at the very bottom? To truly understand this, you'd have to play the first two games, as this one is part of the original Yami no Koe trilogy. Thankfully, I am perfectly suited for this review as I played all of the three games. However, this is a game that I would like to review at a greater length, so I'll try to keep this short. Basically, this game sucks. No, it would be more correct to say that this would just be an average nukige, if not for its preceding legacy. Because it bears the Yami no Koe name, anyone who plays this game expects high-quality nukige, the same as the first two. But it's the complete opposite. Here's how the gameplay goes: you have a box with several magical items, starting with five, and each one of them is supposed to awaken a dormant fetish within the heroines. Once you reach the second stage, you get up to ten items to use on the heroines. Sounds awesome, right? Well, not really. The heroines are only receptive to one or two of the items in each stage. Most of your time is actually spent trying out different items, getting a generic "this item wasn't very effective" message, reloading, trying out a new item, getting the same crap all over again until you get it right. That's not all. While a heroine might've been receptive to an item at first, it might happen that they will not be interested in it in the future. So, it's save, reload, save, reload, save, reload. How about I just quit, uninstall this piece of crap, and never play it again? Even worse, the protagonist doesn't interact with the heroines directly. Thanks to K's powers, he makes the item magically appear in front of the heroine, and they'll make up a suitable excuse on their own for why the item is there. What a load of bullshit. The only time you have sex with them is at the very end (if you managed to corrupt them all fully), on what feels like the developers' way of mocking and trolling the player. You know when you play a sequel to one of your favorite games, and it's complete shit? Except that here, you can't blame EA, like with its sudden takeover of Bioware franchises such as Mass Effect or Dragon Age. No, it's literally the same writers, the same director, the very same team. They knew what they were doing with this game, and it's nothing more than a quick cash grab. I hope I was able to convey my feelings on this matter accurately, and looking at the scoring, it's no surprise. Everyone felt let down by what is the weakest game of the Yami no Koe series. The only good point to this game is the amazing art, by one of the best eroge/nukige artists. Even Conjueror agrees! However, he gave the second and third games the same score, so I wonder if he actually played them at all. 25. Rape Secretarial Office 2 -Midou Shirou's Chapter EGS-Score: 65 (12) Maika Fap-o-meter: 1.5 (2) Ryoujoku Hishoshitsu 2 ~Midou Shirou Hen~ Main appeal: sexual slavery, mind control, forceful sex 凌辱秘書室2 ~御童志狼篇~ Midou Shirou manipulates females' body and mind at will, as the legitimate successor of the dreadful, evil fist, the "Obscene Vortex Core Fist". Of course, that is nothing but his secret identity. He worked as a respectable employee of a high-tech development enterprise, until... One day, the situation suddenly changed, ever since he was confronted with a mysterious conspiracy. He receives a missive from Yuuzuki Yukino, Internal Investigation Bureau's top agent dispatched directly from headquarters, to settle this incident once and for all. This game is about rape. It has rape in the title, and even the game's executable file is called "RAPE2.exe". Basically, you have Midou Shirou, who can use some sort of mysterious power, which translated literally would be something incomprehensible such as "Obscene Vortex Core Fist." Probably some kind of wordplay. When he says specific keywords, it triggers something within the heroines - there are no tools that need to be used, so it's just a special ability of his. And by special ability, I mean that it's a complete cheat. After you meet all the heroines, you can choose one of them to be your trained sex slave, as in, it's something that already happened. I found that to be interesting at first, but it's actually kinda lame. Let's say you were interested in a character, would you want to conquer her or would you want the game to gift you her as your already trained slave? Your objective is to obtain sensitive financial information and have lots of sex while you're at it. Your chosen sex slave will assist you in this task, so you already have six slightly different ways of playing the game. This all sounds awesome, but it's simply too easy. It's too easy to make the heroines fall thanks to Shirou's ability, having them call you "Master" by one H-scene's time. To begin with, the protagonist is already a cool stud, does he really need this power? He doesn't have any interesting motivations or something you can empathize with. This game is just a trashy rapefest, which puts its beautiful art to waste. 26. I'll Grant Your Wish - A Gift Received in Winter EGS-Score: 58 (17) High Soft Fap-o-meter: 1 (1) Kanaete Ageru ~Fuyu ga Kureta Okurimono~ Main appeal: group sex かなえてあげる~冬がくれた贈り物~ The protagonist is a university student, a complete bookworm who has been enamorated with reading ever since he was a child. He was confessed to by his bright and cheerful childhood friend, Shiraishi Yuri, and they became a couple just before highschool graduation. However, even to this day, the two have yet to engage in lewd acts, as Yuri has developed some sort of complex, thanks to her huge breasts. Ever since he was a middle schooler, he eased his worries and feelings of gloominess by engrossing himself in reading. Being immersed in that world, he was able to reduce his stress with the power of his imagination. However, as one would expect of one who had just become a university student, such a thing is simply no longer possible. His accumulating sexual desire. His increasing sexual fantasies. That wasn't only towards his girlfriend Yuri, but other women as well. However, one day, with the day of Christmas approaching. A group of women, introducing themselves as Santa Claus, suddenly appeared. "In exchange for helping us, we will make your dreams come true." And so, taking on a four-year period contract, the protagonist accepts their proposal. Will his sexual fantasies remain in the world of dreams, or else...? The premise is rather simple. The protagonist wants to have sex with his girlfriend, but it's totally not happening any time soon, and he faps to his sexual fantasies all day. Wow, he and I are not so different after all! So, these girls suddenly appear in his room and make the proposal as mentioned earlier. The story is well, as you could imagine, nothing special. It's nothing but senseless H-scene after H-scene, without any thread linking the events together. Put simply, it's just boring to read/play. You literally play as Santa's little helper, as you go from house to house, and research which present to give to the residents. Depending on the presents you pick, your relationship will improve with one of the heroines. This is a quite cumbersome system, and not very easy without a walkthrough. I wasn't able to find one... Since the protagonist is the only one who can see the girls, it could also be that he's simply had one fap too many, and none of this is real. Yep, that's probably it. 27. Let me fuck 'ya, teach! EGS-Score: 50 (11) Tryset Fap-o-meter: 1 (3) Yarasete! Teacher Main appeal: straight shotacon やらせてっ!てぃーちゃー "Ishibasha Yuuta is young, but already way too much interested in erotic things, to the point that at school he is considered a pervert! There is a new temporary teacher at school: her name is Riko Okamoto and she's there to assist the actual teacher during 2 weeks. She makes the perfect target for Yuuta to tease..." https://vndb.org/v5884 For a while, I thought I was playing a Complet's game, as this one has similar art, humor, and sexual content. You play as an overly perverted brat and constantly tease the new assistant teacher. Instead of proper routes, just like Matty (ugh), you collect events. The difference is that you trigger those events by moving around the school, as you pick the location you want to visit. I find this blind guessing system to be annoying, so I'd recommend a walkthrough once again. I actually liked the H-scenes, and I'm pretty surprised this game is sitting here at the bottom, especially when you consider that it spawned a whole series. Maybe Tryset were off to a bad start with this one, or the players just found the system to be too cumbersome. 28. Day-care worker <3 EGS-Score: 45 (9) Triangle-delta Fap-o-meter: 1 (1) Hobo-san Chu! Main appeal: roleplay 保母さんちゅ! Kasuga Shin'ichi works at the Kazamizawa Daycare Center. Together with Osamura Natsumi and other daycare workers, their daily routine resumes itself to taking care of and supervising the growth of multiple children. One day, the cute and lively Shima Chiaki joins them as a new daycare worker. However, she ends up causing lots of problems as she can't get used to the various tasks related to taking care of the children's needs. As her senior on the job, Shin'ichi is instructed to put into practice a special curriculum, which they came to mention as "night training". Witnessing Chiaki in low spirits over not being able to perform at her dream job, he steels his heart in order to turn her into a proper daycare worker. Thought I'd start by giving a warning that, despite the protagonist's profession and the game's setting, all participants in sexual activities are consenting adults. That already makes for strange setting though. Who thought about mixing up daycare work with...roleplay? The worst part is that they do a pretty poor job at explaining the need for such a thing in the first place. I mean, I don't think it helps her understand the kids' feelings any better by changing adult diapers or making her piss on the ground. Overall, the setting just feels at odds with the game's sexual content, but it does make for an interesting premise, I guess. I do commend them for trying out something different, and I do find the H-scenes to be not that bad... The main highlights are the beautiful OP (no need to listen past 2:10) and yet another casting by Isshiki Hikaru. 29. Petite Idols - Disgraceful Fan Appreciation Day EGS-Score: 52 (14) Black Lilith Fap-o-meter: 1 (3) Puchi Idol ~ Chijoku no Fan Kansha Day Main appeal: lolicon, cosplay, forceful sex, group sex ぷちアイドル~ちじょくのファン感謝デー "It's time for fans to punish these two little selfish idols!" https://vndb.org/v6957 This is just bad. I feel like I really hit the bottom of the barrel with this one. It comes with a really stupid reasoning for revenge: the two idols are cheeky and foul-mouthed and treat their greasy, sweaty, disgusting otaku fans with the disrespect they deserve. But then came fan appreciation day... 30. Nestle Close III - Manager Hibiki EGS-Score: 70 (3) Haikara Kissa Fap-o-meter: 0.5 (2) Nestle Close III Main appeal: onee-san, big breasts, glasses Nestle Close III "A pretty girl who is a daughter of your apartment house's owner is asked to take care of the building during the owner's two weeks absence. How do you get along with her? https://www.dlsite.com/ecchi-eng/work/=/product_id/RE024315.html I physically cannot play this game, as short-haired heroines with glasses are the worst. Next. 31. Soft and Tender Lesson EGS-Score: 50 (11) Trabulance Fap-o-meter: 0 (1) Pururn Jugyou Main appeal: breasts, big breasts, big tiddies, tits, oppai ぷるるん授業 The ultimate game for lovers of huge, enormous breasts! The heroines are all female teachers, mature beauties featuring a bust size of over 100cm! As it is the specialty of Trabulence, the H-scenes are fully packed with all sorts of juicy big tiddies! As advertised, the heroines have enormous breasts to the point that it's sure to cause back problems. If you're into this type of thing, you might get some enjoyment out of it. However, I found the game to be a completely average nukige. Of particular note, there is a toggle correct choice indicator. Interact with the same heroine enough times, and you'll have sex with them. Wow, now that I put that in words, it seems that'd describe most games. Either way, despite being thrown to the very bottom, it's certainly not THAT bad. Then again, there's only one vote which is... mine. My Thoughts and Conclusions First of all, thanks to everyone who stuck with me until the very end. Or perhaps you're one of the people who scrolled down to the very bottom? It's alright, I don't blame you. The truth is, this format sucks. Usually, you'd first find a game you like, play it, and then maybe review it, not the other way around. This would've worked much better if I had a team of perverts working with me. Each one of us could pick a game that we might like, play it, and then review it. This was way too much work for one person, as this was all my own, original commentary, but I did my very best for the quality not to suffer. The very idea of reviewing eroge and excluding nukige would be ridiculous, as despite bearing the "stigma" that comes with the nukige tag, there are some pretty good games amongst those that I reviewed. Making people aware of that was my initial objective, and I hope to have realized it. Not surprisingly, there's a good number of games focused in particular fetishes. I think it's interesting that there wasn't a single Netorare game amongst these, perhaps the genre hadn't taken off yet. There's a big divide between games with consensual sex and games with forceful sex. The first usually focuses on lighter fetishes, while the second group often goes all the way with hardcore sexual slavery. I play my games on fullscreen, so I wasn't bothered by the resolution. And there are plenty of games with beautiful art, mood-setting soundtrack, and stellar voice acting performances nonetheless. The most significant conclusion I'd take is that most of these games, well, suffer from too much gameplay at times. Like I've said on my very first review, it doesn't matter how good your content is if the system is cumbersome in a way that players have too much of a hard time accessing it. You can have a map movement system like Eisai Kyouiku's, which forces you to check a walkthrough every 10 seconds, or you can have one like Saishuu Chikan Densha 2's, where you can worry less about optimization and focus more on having fun. The second is one where the creator really thought about the player experience, how would people actually feel playing the game. I also found it interesting that most protagonists are actually adults. There are several university students, but you have them do all kinds of jobs: ordinary salarymen, teachers, daycare worker, clerk, doctors, idol manager, grocer, businessman, restaurant floor manager, tutor, even a priest... You also have many different kinds of settings, as if everyone was trying hard to carve their own niche. Makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside thinking about how everyone, even the little guys, was working hard, giving up precious time during the holiday season to provide us with great fapping material. God bless you. Oh, you’re probably wondering why I didn’t talk about Saya no Uta. Well, it’s the title that needs no introductions, so I decided to go ahead and not talk about it at all to make my job easier. The point of this article was to have short reviews and summaries for lesser known games of the month, so I can’t just feature the most popular ones and not or just dismissively ignorant talk about the rest. The fap-o-meter is astonishingly low, which is complete blasphemy. This is one of the hottest english published eroge out there, with also one of the best translations available. There’s a story about how Makoto wouldn’t sell his translation until his writer parents approved it, so you can be certain of its quality. As a closing statement, please, by all means, do try some of these games and enjoy yourself to your heart's content. If you have any questions you'd like to ask me, please go ahead and message me or leave a comment below. As always, thank you for reading, and I appreciate any and all feedback.
  4. 8 points
    Hello there, all you good people still following my content-starved blog! There will be no regular review post this week (I’ll be catching up next week with one about Reine Work’s Our Lovely Escape, and hopefully a week after that with one of the long-overdue games sent to me for review), but I’ve wanted to take this opportunity to share the reasons behind the recent slowdown on the site and talk a bit my plans for the future. A warning: this will contain a lot of personal musings that most of you are probably not very interested in. However, I kind of need this opportunity to vent and reset. I’ll add a tl;dr version at the end of this post. Outside of my, not-extremely-successful attempt to jumpstart a new wave of activity on Fuwanovel, there have been a few other things happening behind the scenes. The major one was my academic project on visual novel fan translations, which led me to submitting a paper for an international fan studies conference in Cracow. Preparing the speech in English (this was the first time I wasn’t speaking in Polish on such an event), running a survey with people involved in fan translation projects… It all took a lot out of me and gave me little time and energy to actually enjoy VNs as such. It also coincided with a minor health issue, which despite its non-threatening nature made it impossible for me to sit straight for nearly two weeks – a truly infuriating thing when you should be working on your computer and are basically running out of time. This was probably a major factor which destroyed my motivation for working on the project, which in turn made it be the most painful and depressing one to date. I, however, still made my short presentation in the presence of prof. Matt Hills, one of the most influential researchers in my obscure field of study, and learned quite a lot from other speakers. Here’s some photographic proof, courtesy of my girlfriend who once more agreed to help me inflate my ego by documenting my speech. 😉 As you can see, I was asking the Heavens to help me and my listeners to get through those 20+ minutes of my horrible English accent. Not sure to what degree my prayers were heard, but at least there were no fatalities. Oh, and in the lower-left corner, it’s Matt Hills. That was both awesome and terrifying. And here’s a rare moment where my conference ID wasn’t hanging backwards! You can see the fear in my eyes – one would think after nearly 10 similar presentations I’d be a little bit calmer, but it’s apparently in my nature to stress out over everything. And here’s me taking one of two questions that were still possible to ask after I’ve used all the discussion time for my way-too-long PowerPoint slideshow. And yup, I will insert Flowers whenever that's even remotely appropriate. Suou x Rikka forever. You can't stop me! While, in general, my project was fruitful and I’m satisfied with my performance, I also ended up so physically and emotionally drained that I’ve ditched the other two days of the conference, just enjoying my time in Cracow. Even after coming back, I had a day of what could be described as a full-on breakdown before I kind of got my shit together. All this, of course, has some very real consequences for the blog: for quite a while, I didn’t have the time and energy to really read VNs. And, obviously, without any new material to cover, I didn’t write anything either. It’s the first time since establishing the Blogger site that I have no “emergency” posts to use or quick ideas to supplement more involved write-ups with, even despite switching to the biweekly schedule. And honestly, I don’t expect to write much in-advance anymore. The “one post every two weeks” frequency is here to stay and I’m going to be flexible about it, switching content and dates when necessary. The other thing is that I still want to make the blog a little bit more of my personal space. I’ve kept up the regular stream of content both to become a better writer and to prove a few things to myself. I think I’m satisfied with what I’ve achieved, and while I’m definitely not discarding the general profile of the blog and the responsibilities I’ve taken upon myself (like covering the games sent to me), I’m going to have fun with it too. Write silly stuff connected to the weeb culture and my peculiar experience with it. I’ve already hinted at this at the beginning of the summer, but I’m even more determined to make it happen now. No hobby I’ve picked up over the years was this intellectually stimulating and satisfying as this one and I want to do all I can to keep it this way– I can't let things go too stale. And while I’m doing all this weird stuff and overthinking things, I hope you guys will stay and still read my crappy writing. Exploring the creativity and passion of EVN devs is not something I’ll ever get tired of, and I hope we can enjoy their stuff together for years to come. Thank you all for following my work, and until next week! tl;dr I’ve been to a fan studies conference which, together with minor health issues, ate a month and a half of my life. I’ll get back to “serious” posting next week, returning to the bi-weekly schedule. I might sneak in some weird posts about Japanese popculture between “proper” EVN ones. EVNs are love, EVNs are life (still). See you next week for actual content!
  5. 8 points
    Anyone who has read one of my reviews knows I'm something of a cynic and a pessimist. I try to think the best about every VN I go into, but my first impulse is to see what is wrong, rather than what is right. Whether it is optimism and rose-colored glasses or pessimism and cynicism, and excess of either is often a negative influence on the quality of a review. Generally speaking, I usually make an effort to find something I like about a VN's concept before going in, then I start the VN trying to enjoy it as an outgrowth of that. By the end, this usually results in me having experienced both the negative and positive aspects of the VN... the problem is, when reviewing, it is all too easy to forget what is good about the VN. As a result, when I'm writing up a review, the first thing I do is write up a list of the good points I found, ignoring the mitigating negative factors. I then build the review around these and include the negative points in with the rest... but you can probably tell that being positive just doesn't come naturally to me, since I tend to be pretty harsh. However, by using this system, I've found dozens of VN gems over the years that I probably would have discarded for perceived negative qualities if I didn't use this process. Indeed, early on in my reading of untranslated VNs, I dropped numerous ones simply because they had a negative aspect that I got obsessed with. I would later go back and replay them, only to find that the negative aspect wasn't as big a deal as I thought at the time, since I made the effort to go back with a differing perspective. A poor quality in a reviewer is the tendency to ignore the negatives about something you like. Another one is to rate things entirely based on aspects you only have a vague grasp or focus on (in my case, due to my eye problems, I'm not the best judge of artwork, and my musical sense is entirely based on how it enhances the atmosphere, rather than raw quality comprehension). I'm a story reviewer. I review almost exclusively based on the story, characters, and presentation. As such, art and sound rarely have a place in my reviews, since I don't think I'm qualified to evaluate them except in the most general of terms. I can tell when a VA did an exceptional job, because it stands out enough for me to notice. I will even mention this in the review, since it takes a lot for a performance to stand out to me. However, I never pretend to know the ins and outs of specific aspects of VA or musical quality. I simply don't have the right kind of ear for that kind of thing, not being musically inclined. One thing I've noticed in some reviewers who prefer niche genres (such as myself) is to display a tendency I refer to as PGRD (or Popular Game Reactionary Disorder). It is a fictional mental disease that many of us who have a distinct preference for a niche genre display that causes us to have a knee-jerk negative reaction to popular works, simply because they are mainstream. This is a problem that is particularly common in Western otakus of around my age, who became fanboys during a time when watching anime, playing Japanese video games, and reading manga had a rather strong stigma that left us feeling isolated and defensive. However, it is also present in people who prefer niche genres (I get the double whammy, being both). That sense of isolation leads to a tendency to over-praise our favorite materials and bash anything that we see as being too popular. In reverse, there are those who automatically dismiss anything that isn't mainstream. Both types are reactionary in nature and have little to do with the quality of the materials in question. Being a long-time sci-fi addict, I can't understand why anyone would enjoy Avatar (the movie). However, if I make the mistake of saying that in front of a fanboy of the movie, I will inevitably get a vociferous lecture on how misunderstood the movie is by science fiction fans... There are many such examples of such behavior I have experienced over the years, both in myself and in others. As such, a reviewer has to be willing to examine his own motives for liking or hating something. Are you being cynical for the sake of being cynical? Are you over-praising something to the point of overlooking the obvious problems with it? Are you making excuses while thinking you are making a reasoned argument? On the other side, are you ignoring the voice of reason to give you an excuse to dislike something? In the end, bias is unavoidable... but it is a reviewer's duty to do their best to cast aside as much of it as possible, because people use our reviews as reference points when they pick what they want to play/read/watch.
  6. 6 points
    Welcome to my blog. Where have we been? Where are we going? TIMELINE 1980s: - Early eroge largely consist of still art (what we call pixel art now), very short dialogue/narrative elements, and some primitive interactive elements, while spanning many genres. 1990s: - The point-and-click adventure game, which has its roots in 1980s video games, establishes itself as one of the most popular genres of eroge. Many games emerge which have interfaces that are visually similar to those of most point-and-click adventure games, but with gradually differing gameplay. These games are all collectively called "adventure games" or "ADV" in Japanese. The general style of having an interface which consists of a rectangular text box at the bottom of the screen, and a collage of visual elements meant to serve as a guide for what the main character sees, is also called "ADV". In other words, ADV becomes a genre that embodies a style of presentation. - The non-adult game company Chunsoft puts out Otogirisou, a kind of illustrated story in which pictures are placed in the background as visual aids while the full narrative is conveyed as overlaid text. This style of presentation is called a "novel game" or "NVL" in Japanese. The gameplay of Otogirisou purely consists of the player making choices on where to take the story, similar to "Choose Your Own Adventure" books, a simple yet powerful narrative tool which would prove influential to ADV as a whole. - Two major eroge brands that specialize in ADV, elf and Leaf, create popular games like Doukyuusei and To Heart. These games stand out from their competitors by the way they utilize talented artists and writers to focus on the personalities of charming heroines, rather than treating pixel porn as what matters and the characterization as an afterthought. This character-centric evolution is called a charage (character game) and encompasses both NVL (like Kizuato) and ADV. And with the release of YU-NO and Kamaitachi no Yoru, two ADV/NVL games that have well-written stories, the term scenarioge (scenario game) becomes more popular. 1999: - Kanon is released by Key. It's the first time a large number of players became very emotionally moved by the story of an eroge, or any ADV at that. Even someone like Baba from Visual Arts, who was just a businessman without much personal interest in ADV, became interested after Kanon. Aside from inventing the nakige (naki game, which means "crying game") genre, it awakened in players a desire for longer scenarios as necessary to deepen their attachment to the heroines. But its most significant role is being the first major moege (moe game) at a time when the term "moe" wasn't even very well known. 2000: - The doujin NVL Tsukihime comes out, and its quality lets it rank among the very top, if not at the very top, of both scenarioge and charage. See Popular Views on What Defines the Chuuni Genre for more info on the influence of Type-Moon's works. 2000-2006: - Now that Kanon and Tsukihime have come out, it seems like a dam bursts and a flood of popular and influential ADV/NVL are released. There are comparatively fewer in 2001, with the most notable ones in my mind being Kiminozo and Kazokei. But in 2002 you have Ever17, Higurashi, Kusarihime, Baldr Force, Hello world, Da Capo, and others. And every year after that just has more and more top quality ADV/NVL. The biggest year is 2004, which sees the release of both Clannad and Fate/stay night (successors to Kanon and Tsukihime, respectively). - Around the middle of the decade, the term "visual novel" is invented among English speaking fans of these games, and basically refers to any game which has an ADV/NVL-style interface and a strong and constant narrative. Since the rest of the world directly bypassed the early history of Japanese eroge and ADV/NVL, they didn't bother with the origins of these styles of games, and just chose a term which seemed to more naturally describe the most famous and representative ADV/NVL. Since then, the term "visual novel" has been recognized by the Japanese too, although the broader Japanese playerbase still commonly thinks that VN is synonymous with "adventure game". In any case, the term is excellent and I like it. - Over the course of this decade, the major tropes and popular genres of VNs, which were mostly foreshadowed in the late 1990s, are firmly established and standardized. They include TIPs, unlockable routes/end, true ends, bad ends, hidden heroines, time loops/leaps, moe, chuuni, nakige, utsuge, imouto games, and many more. The diverse and awkward gameplay of the 1980s and 1990s more or less disappears. - Meanwhile, many of the most successful eroge companies like Key, Type-Moon, and Leaf/Aqua-Plus successfully rebrand themselves and reduce their focus on adult content for the sake of marketing their works to the rest of the Japanese "otaku" industries. They adopt the label of "bishoujo game maker". Many of their most popular IPs (intellectual properties) receive anime adaptations or evolve into multimedia franchises, with "Fate" being the most famous example. On the other hand, as these industries embrace VNs, they also learn from them and try to emulate that same appeal within their own IPs; Fate/stay night is especially influential as a progenitor of the "chuuni" genre. 2006: - Statistically, eroge sales begin to decline. The industry itself doesn't immediately begin to decline, though, because investors take time to notice and react to such trends, companies are still in the midst of developing games, and they will try to shift strategies to fight the trend. The decline in sales won't slow down until 2012. WHY Causes of the trend? This was fiercely debated for years and still hasn't been completely settled. But it's more or less clear. VNs served as a creative outlet without rivals for several years. At first, in the early 1990s, nobody expect much from eroge. But as we entered the later part of the decade, that changed. Eroge was always a venue for weird and exciting scenarios that wouldn't be accepted elsewhere, and it was easier than ever to make quality audiovisual experiences, with multiple free or cheap VN engines available. Writers like Maeda Jun and Nasu took advantage of the medium's ease of entry, along with the freedom of expression it afforded. It was a fresh, mature alternative to the LN industry. However, that didn't last forever. Major publishers in other mediums distilled the parts of eroge that appealed most to players: the nakige components, the moe components, the fanservice and unapologetic harems, the handy sci-fi tropes, the balloon breasts. Everything except the deep emotional and mental investment that's only possible with literature. And of course, the mature themes and content. Above all, what VNs brought to the table was no longer as fresh to people. Without a sense of excitement, the fact that VNs require people to sit down and actually read continuously for hours became... problematic. The era of smartphones and social media also heralded the era of low attention spans. People came to think that "adventure games" = "boring". This was coupled with the fact that more and more people play bishoujo games on their smartphones, and who wants to play eroge in public? Waifu/husbando social games like Fate/Grand Order and Granblue Fantasy dealt especially heavy blows to players' interest in VNs. They let players pick between countless more waifus and husbandos than VNs, have more exciting plots to engage casual players (not some ordinary school life drama), have the slutty outfits and exaggerated figures of nukige heroines, continually put out new content for the most popular characters, let you put your waifu/husbando in your home screen so you can constantly look at her, and tap on the portrait of her/him to hear some flirty line voiced by a popular anime seiyuu. They even copied the feature of some VNs where you can give your favorite hero or heroine chocolates on Valentine's Day or White Day. The proof is in the recent anime Chuubyou Gekihatsu Boy where the "guy who's only interested in 2D girls" stereotype no longer involves VNs on a PSP, but rather depicts a social game on a phone. To be frank, even the latest Fire Emblem game probably makes VNs less appealing by comparison. The main draw of VNs was always the cute and flirty heroines and romance, but these elements have been thoroughly exported. The exact same situation arose with Japanese web novels on the site Shousetsuka ni Narou. An initial wave of authors pioneered new genres with certain distinctive tropes, most of them related to isekai, and started a trend which has dominated the Japanese web novel scene. But the mainstream LN industry quickly learned and started to put out its own isekai LNs, as well as aggressively recruit these authors (who naturally didn't object to being paid for what they'd initially put out for free online). A few years later, Narou's talents have more or less moved out, and the stories at the top of the popularity charts haven't been supplanted by any new talents. In any case, the major difference between Narou and the VN industry is that Narou authors are overall much better off with editors, whereas the transition from VNs to LNs/anime is absolutely a creative downgrade. WHAT DO 1. Copy FGO. Social games are a natural evolution of the appeal of many VNs. Unfortunately, they're also largely vapid experiences with have less voice acting, silent protagonists, a massive cast of heroines who receive little character development, a disjointed narrative, a story that's mostly dialogue and constantly interrupted by battles, and many other flaws that prevent them from achieving literary excellence. These games have invariably underestimated how popular they'll become and worked with cheap art assets and flimsy storytelling, only to fix this by hiring better artists and writers for the more recent arcs of their ongoing main storylines. However, even those recent arcs are still shallow experiences compared to VNs. The best they can do is have good comedy--no one will ever feel as empathetic toward the characters as they do in VNs. But of course, despite the problems with social games' storytelling, they are still... inevitable. They will still successfully rake in cash from people with personalities prone to gambling addiction. So one VN company after another has tried to become the next FGO. Eushully, light, August, Key, Lilith, Frontwing, Nitroplus and many others have pursued social games, virtually all of which failed to really take off like FGO--in part because they weren't very well-made, and in part because the Fate franchise is more popular with more devoted fans. Frankly, this solution has been thoroughly pursued by all sorts of VN companies, and we know exactly what happens: it fails unless they're very lucky. 2. Give up. This is a wise and fine choice. The river of life flows ever onward. Sometimes it's best to accept defeat. 3. Make NOT a visual novel. Be Kodaka Kazutaka. Start from the idea that you want to make an adventure game. Then to appease your producer, call it a detective game instead, and add a 3D world with gameplay that takes place within it while occupying a lot of the player's time, so it in no way feels like a pure ADV. Make the narrative largely dialogue-driven. Write in a way that wastes less time on subtlety and imagery and takes more advantage of humor, twists, and action. Then call it Danganronpa and be successful, while feeling that you tricked the world by making an adventure game with the quality storytelling of an adventure game that doesn't feel like an adventure game. Too Kyo Games plans to water down a full-fledged ADV-quality scenario with meaningful realtime gameplay, by partnering with studios that actually know how to make fun games. It's a long-term experiment on tricking people into playing adventure games. 4. Make a visual novel, but be better. Find a slightly new angle. Gather the A-Team. Target non-traditional markets. Cultivate one's prestige. In short, reorganize and rebrand. But still make a visual novel, with ordinary 2D art and probably little to no gameplay. The only problem is that people don't like VNs anymore because smartphones shrunk their brains until they had flea-sized attention spans. So at best, such "better" VNs will simply exist in the top tier of modern VNs, able to survive and maybe make a little profit. These are VNs for the sake of creators who want to stay in the VN industry despite how comparatively little it pays. Aniplex.exe, a new VN brand started under Aniplex that Makura staff like Sca-ji are involved with, seems to fall under this category. They're identifying as makers of "novel games" probably because that sounds more respectable these days than bishoujo game. I'm frankly more interested in Sca-ji's other still unannounced projects (but that's just because I'm not personally a fan of Konno Asta or Umihara Nozomu). 5. Copy FGO, but EVOLVE. Before Light's "Pantheon" mobile game died mid-development, Masada planned for it to have a substantial scenario. That kind of story would fatally clash, like matter and dark matter, with social games as they exist today. Unless they rethought the entire premise from scratch, I assume they'd have to at the very least dilute such a lengthy narrative into segments with constant breaks, rewards, and mini-games. And they'd have to make a tough choice about whether they seriously want to market it for smartphones, or stick to PC like Granblue Fantasy. It's easier to not evolve or just give up. But moreover, I think industry veterans are just pissed off and unable to accept that something as amazing as VNs can't find its consumers anymore. So they will struggle. Visual Arts will struggle, for sure. Key pretended to be half-dead in their 20th anniversary message, but they were actually hard at work. They've let Maeda take on the scenario of a high budget smartphone game called "Heaven Burns Red". Will he be able to do for social games with "Heaven Burns Red" what he did for VNs with "Kanon"? I'm not too optimistic, since I haven't seen any indication that the overall story concept was Maeda's. 6. ??? To quote Sca-ji, a writer who's qualified to talk about the unique worth of eroge, from late October: "People across various otaku industries have said, 'I want the wonderful culture of eroge to stay alive.' They're going out of their way and doing many things to make that happen. If I'm pessimistic, this might be our last chance to revive this industry, so I'm cheering them on. Do your best. ... People around their late twenties to thirty years old have started to take positions of power in society, praising eroge and doing many things for us." ZZZ 「Kanon」や「CLANNAD」「Angel Beats!」など…「泣きゲー」からアニメ原作まで、美少女IPを仕掛け続けた28年! ビジュアルアーツのユニークなブランド戦略と経営思想を馬場隆博社長に聞いてみた 『ダンガンロンパ』、『東京クロノス』、『グノーシア』の開発者が語る。「アドベンチャーゲームは滅ぶのか?」緊急座談会 「なぜエロゲ業界は衰退してるのか」 それをまとめた画像が話題にwwwww https://twitter.com/gannbattemasenn/status/1015644154271973376 https://enty.jp/avestan https://twitter.com/sca_di https://vndb.org/ EPILOGUE A new decade is upon is, and we're in the midst of a wave of 20th anniversaries that inevitably prompt retrospection. What I'm keeping an eye on, out of concern for the industry, as we enter it: - Too Kyo Games - Heaven Burns Red (unveiling on February 28) and Visual Arts as a whole - Sca-ji's Twitter account - Aniplex.exe as a whole - Any news from Masada about new publishers for Pantheon - Major non-adult scenarioge companies like Spike-Chunsoft and Mages (they may absorb some talent or try to carry on eroge culture) - Any actual new VNs from Nasu, like the Tsukihime remake ADDENDUM I: A Note on Death VS Decline (added 1/28)
  7. 6 points
    Since ceasing VN of the Month, I've been slowly recovering from my years of over-reading VNs, the vast majority of them ones I normally wouldn't have taken an interest in. While I still play VNs regularly, I do so at a slower pace, reading more conventional literature and playing normal games as much as I do them. I recently began to regain some of my VN stamina (though I will never get back to where I was), and I've found that even the SOL VNs I choose to play are far less stressful than before. It is nice to reconfirm that I truly love VNs, after so many years playing far too many charage threatened to make me hate them. However, I've also noticed that I am far less tolerant of obvious blunders and poor choices on the part of writers, regardless of genre. When something touches on my pet peeves, I immediately drop the VN, and I lose all urge to play it, often for months after. This was the case with Sorceress Alive and it is also the case with Raillore to Ryakudatsusha (dameningen protagonists with no interesting or redeeming traits are one of my pet peeves). On the other hand, my stamina for 'sweetness' and 'ichaicha' in a VN has recovered somewhat, and I can play a route in a charage with no troubles... However, I no longer desire to play any routes other than that of my favorite heroine. I used to mechanically run through all the heroines in a VN without hesitation or slowing down, but now I only go for the one or two heroines that interest me, ignoring the others entirely. This change in my own behavior leaves me somewhat bemused, though I can see where it comes from rationally. I simply got tired of plowing through huge numbers of boring heroines that almost buried the good ones, lol.
  8. 6 points
    Maggot Baits is something of a Holy Grail of dark eroge, highly anticipated guro fans within the Western VN community and often hyped as possibly the greatest achievement of the company that produced it, Clock Up. As one the most gruesome VNs ever produced, and quite likely the most brutal one ever brought to the West, it contains dozens upon dozens of violent sex scenes, all accompanied by intricate CGs, with small variations in them so numerable that they sum to nearly 2500 unique illustrations. All of that placed in a highly-unique, modern-fantasy setting populated by amazingly-crafted characters and tackling interesting philosophical and religious topics. While it’s pretty much the furthest possible thing from what I usually write about on this blog, few games intrigued me as much as this one, particularly after my inconsistent, but extremely interesting experience with Clock Up’s another famous title, euphoria. Everything I’ve heard about Maggot Baits suggested that it was both more extreme and overall better than studio’s other bestseller, and after reading it to completion, I felt the need to share my thoughts about it in detail. Both because it’s a pretty fascinating case of strengths and pitfalls of this breed of eroge, and to warn those interested in it as a piece of storytelling – while in many ways an incredible achievement, this game is extremely hard to recommend for a “normie” reader such as myself. Why is that exactly? Before I go into story details, it’s most important to deal with Maggot Baits’ greatest issue – its structure and general storytelling formula. This game is, at its core, a guro nukige and it’s incredibly dedicated to this template. It throws h-scenes at you at very consistent intervals, disregarding whatever might be going on in the story and sacrificing any sense of pacing or tension so it can constantly offer a new piece of violent hentai. Quite often, the scenes are not important for, or even directly connected to what’s happening in the plot, pretty much pausing the whole narrative to insert a new piece of fanservice. In this, it goes even further than euphoria, which did a much better job intertwining its scenes with the story and had a bit more restraint in the most dramatic and meaningful parts of the plot. Maggot Baits even goes to the length of adding a major side-branch in the first chapter of the story, which is nothing but 3-4 hours of futanari porn leading to a bad ending. All of it narratively empty and pretty much derailing your experience if you expect any kind of interesting reveals or a meaningful conclusion within it. I still don’t understand why it was a part of the main story, and especially inserted so early in the game, before you build any connection to the characters involved or can understand the full implications of what is happening in those scenes. Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
  9. 6 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!
  10. 5 points
    Master Magistrate is the murder mystery detective visual novel set in the late years of Japan's Edo Period. Developed by the indie studio Irodori and released in the year of 2017, it quickly attained popularity and became a hit amongst Japanese fans. They praised the great direction sense, well-crafted scenario, immersive atmosphere, and fascinating soundtrack, amongst other aspects. Hobibox have attained publishing rights for the Chinese and English versions of the game, wishing to bring this experience overseas. They have committed themselves to provide a high-quality product, hoping to turn a new leaf and redeem themselves for not so fruitful past endeavors. Read more at https://j-addicts.de/master-magistrate-early-access-review/ - we now have a comment box! (I was initially planning on cross-posting here but the screenshots looked strange, so yeah).
  11. 5 points
    Hello and welcome to this year’s first EVN Chronicles Steam Curator Clean-up, where I look at the games that were sent to me in the past six months through Steam’s Curator Connect, but were either too small to warrant a full review, or I simply couldn’t cover them in detail due to time constraints. When I first did this kind of posts last year (you can check them out here: Part 1, Part 2), some of the games featured there waited extremely long for being covered. Because of this, I’ve decided that from this point forward, I’ll make this a twice-a-year event, being sure that every VN given to me gets its space on the blog within a reasonable time period. As always, I’m extremely thankful to all the developers that send me their work for assessment and it saddens me whenever my impressions are negative. I hope, however, that the feedback I can offer will be valuable to them, while believe it’s my duty to my readers to warn them against buying a game I find lacking. So, setting the introductory drivel aside, I hope you enjoy this brief overview of these four interesting VNs sent to me during the first half of 2019! Snowed IN Snowed IN is an unusual yuri nukige, focusing on pair for soldiers in the distant future, where cybernetic enhancement of the human body has reached incredible levels of sophistication. The protagonist, Sigma, is an experienced spec-ops officer who has modified her body to the point where little of it remains organic. For an infiltration mission against a cell of anti-augmentation radicals, she’s assigned with a fresh, talented recruit – a full “natural” named Linde, whose presence in the military is connected with an affirmative action plan for those not augmented. The two polar-opposite individuals, both through their background and attitudes, have to work together to survive the extremely dangerous assignment – and the mission itself hides even more threats and twists then the initial setup would suggest. Sounds intriguing? It surely does, but the fact this is a nukige, and a very short one at that (up to an hour and a half of content), should be taken into account when setting your expectations. The game explores its main themes rather briefly, often switching to sex scenes that are only vaguely justifiable in the context of the tense plot – the writing and main intrigue are solid, but simply too rushed to provide a compelling narrative. There are also some highly-questionable elements to it, especially in the rather distasteful bad ending – that’s definitely one point at which h-content was very unnecessary, even if those scenes are the “main point” of the game. As a piece of yuri smut in an unusual setting, it's definitely not the worst thing around – just don't expect anything more than that. Final Rating: (Cautiously) Recommended Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
  12. 4 points
    Clephas

    The nature of an infodump

    In plotge of all types, whether they are chuunige, kinetic novels, horror suspense, or mysteries, infodumps are ubiquitous throughout the VN world. Infodumping in and of itself isn't a horrible thing to do to the reader (as some people claim), but it is a tool that is often abused by writers who want to expound on their beloved world and its characters. First, the definition of an infodump is a scene with little or no dialogue where background information is provided without directly proceeding with the story. Infodumps can vary in size from as small as forty lines of narration to up to a thousand, depending on the writer and the subject matter involved. There are even multiple types, which I will describe here. The Lump of Infodump The Lump of Infodump (as I put it) is the most common type of infodump in VNs. In the 'Lump, a great amount of information, sometimes with brief bits and pieces of dialogue or character stream of thought, is provided in a single scene, interrupting the story. The 'Lump is the type of infodump most likely to drive people crazy, due to its tendency to create walls of uninterrupted text. When abused, it tends to interrupt and/or destroy the flow of the story, and I've encountered a number of games where a more measured approach to presenting the setting or explanations of the particulars of an event or the 'why' of an action would have been less monotonous. In fact, that is the big flaw of this type of infodump. It is almost impossible to avoid monotony with this kind of infodump, because all it is doing is literally dropping information on you. That said, infodumps often have a reason for existing that becomes clear in coming scenes, so it is not necessarily always a bad thing. The Scattered Infodump 'Scattered Infodumps' are a technique where the writer provides the information in smaller, more digestible asides throughout the story, as it becomes relevant. This technique tends to be received with less irritation and often goes almost unnoticed by the reader, because it doesn't go on long enough to disrupt the flow of the story. Unlike the 'Lump, it is less likely to be abused, though many writers who use it get into the habit of always using it, which can be problematic for those with an allergy to non-dialogue text, lol. The Flashback Infodump The Flashback Infodump is just that, an infodump provided in the form of a flashback instead of an aside. These often fill in the gaps in the motivations of characters or their upbringing, and their purpose is, 90% of the time, to reveal something that would have made things less interesting if it were revealed earlier. Flashbacks are often abused, though. They are common throughout VNs, with roughly 90% of plotge having at least one and 30% of all charage (in my experience) having one. They are a convenient method of revealing a character's past, so many games also use them for character development, particularly in heroine paths. The Prologue Infodump This is probably the least annoying of the 'obvious' infodumping and is a sub-category of the 'Lump. Some games, rather than dumping setting and character information on you mid-story, will instead infodump immediately after you start. This has the advantage of getting around the disruption of the game's flow that is inevitable with mid-game 'Lumps and providing background information without the writer having to remember to include it strategically throughout the story. This technique is, however, rarely used. Games that use it are rare mostly because if the first thing you see when starting a VN is a wall of text, most people will drop the game right then and there. Because of this, most games that use this are directed to a very specific fanbase or niche of the VN community that already has an established interest in the game in question. A few thoughts The reason I decided to make this post was because of a conversation I had with @fun2novel regarding infodumping in Bradyon Veda. In Bradyon Veda, infodumping is integral to the game's battle scenes (incidentally the discussion began with me giving examples of good battle scenes to him). Because the science-fantasy techniques being used by the characters manipulate matter and physical laws, there are infodumps built into the battle scenes, explaining what they are doing. Because of this, I noted that Bradyon Veda's battle scenes were an example of positive infodumping, because it was done in such a way that it enhanced rather than disrupted the telling of the story. Conclusion What am I trying to get at? Nothing, really. I just thought that people give infodumps a bad rap, when they have probably been infodumped without even noticing it.
  13. 4 points
    Sekai Project VN Start of Kickstarter Estimated delivery Actual delivery World End Economica June 2014 May 2015 Not yet delivered Clannad November 11th 2014 October 2015 March 2016 Grisaia Trilogy December 2014 October 2015 April 2018 Memory’s Dogma June 2015 December 2016 Not yet delivered The Human Reignition Project June 2015 December 2016 Not yet delivered Narcissu 10th Anniversary Anthology Project October 2015 April 2016 Not yet delivered Root Double January 2016 March 2016 November 2016 Chrono Clock August 2016 April 2017 Not yet delivered A Clockwork Ley-Line Febuary 2017 January 2018 Not yet delivered Fatal Twelve March 2017 January 2018 November 2018 Hoshizora No Memoria May 2017 September 2018 Not yet delivered Shining Song Starnova August 2017 August 2018 June 2019 A light in the Dark February 2018 June 2018 Not yet delivered Tokyo Chronos July 2018 April 2019 Not yet delivered Frontwing VN Start of Kickstarter Estimated delivery Actual delivery Corona Blossom vol 1 June 2016 October 2016 July 2019 Corona Blossom vol 2 September 2016 December 2016 July 2019 Sharin no Kuni November 2016 October 2017 Not yet delivered Corona Blossom vol 3 December 2016 March 2017 July 2019 Grisaia Phantom Trigger Volume 1 and 2 March 2017 June 2017 March 2019 Grisaia Complete box March 2017 Q4 2017 Febuary 2019 Grisaia Phantom Trigger Volume 3 June 2017 September 2017 Not yet delivered Wonderful Everyday August 2017 January 2018 Not yet delivered Grisaia Phantom Trigger Volume 4 November 2017 April 2018 Not yet delivered Momoiro Closet Febuary 2018 July 2018 Not yet delivered Grisaia Phantom Trigger Volume 5 June 2018 October 2018 Not yet delivered Island August 2018 December 2018 Not yet delivered Sol Press VN Start of Kickstarter Estimated delivery Actual delivery Sakura Sakura August 2017 December 2017 Not yet delivered Newton and the Apple Tree December 2017 May 2018 Not yet delivered Irotoridori no Sekai Febuary 2019 December 2021 Not yet delivered Others VN Start of Kickstarter Estimated delivery Actual delivery Muv-Luv September 2015 September 2016 July 2018 Libra of the Vampire Princess December 2015 November 2016 May 2017 Dies Irae December 2016 May 2017 April 2018 Koropokkur March 2018 September 2018 October 2018 Venusblood Frontier September 2018 December 2019 December 2019 Seven Days September 2018 January 2019 Not yet delivered Aokana June 2019 December 2019 Not yet delivered
  14. 4 points
    Taisho x Alice was sadly remembered in the western otomege fandom for one of the worst otome localizations disasters. It read like garbage, had several bugs and it featured amateur english voice acting as if reading engrish wasn't enough. It failed so spectacularly the localization didn't even get past episode 1 out of 3. Well, thankfully tbh. Still, the damage was there and for a long time we believed we would never see a proper localization of this cute fairy tale reimagination in the west. Until now. Primula (TaiAli developer) decided to give english audiences one more chance, complete in a multilanguage package with japanese and chinese options to boot! Rejoice folks as Taisho x Alice episode 1 is now available on steam with a proper translation (translator this time around is our precious verdelish and from what I read from her previous VN translations it's likely top notch)! Episode 1 have only 2 heroes but they have full proper routes. The rest is in episodes 2 and 3, coming soon if episode 1 sells well enough. It's not always we get second chances in VN localization scene so let's say one huge thank you to Primula and support if you can and if you dig cute otomes! *points to strong female protagonist tag in VNDB, hint, hint* DISCLAIMER: sadly I wasn't paid for this promotion, I did it out of hype alone.
  15. 4 points
    This scene is the opening of Silverio Vendetta, and the two monologues (one from Zephyr, one from a spoiler character who isn't named in the scene) define the nature of the game's theme. “勝利”とは、何だ? What is victory? “栄光”とは、何だ? What is glory? それを得れば、何も失わずに済むのだろうか I choose that path, will I be able to live without losing anything? 救えるのか。守れるのか。本当に、幸せになれるのだろうか Can I save what is mine? Can I protect it? Can I really find happiness?  問いは切実。なぜなら、勝利というものはとても恐ろしいものだから。それが輝きの内に秘めている毒牙を、俺は誰より痛感している。 I ask this earnestly. For victory is by nature frightening to me. I know the poisoned fangs hidden within its glorious light better than anyone.   身の丈を超えた栄誉、使い切れないほどの大金、人目に付かざるを得ない大成功……そういったものはどうしても過剰摂取してしまった途端、逆に所有者を苦しめにかかる。 Honors that leave capability in the dust, more money than one can spend, success that can't help but be noticed... Those things can't help but cause the holder suffering the moment they overdose upon them.   つまりは反作用。 In other words, it is a reaction.   分かりやすいところでは敗者からの妬みつらみに有名税、人物像の一人歩きに、あらぬ期待や噂話。過激なものでは殺害予告、崇拝脅迫などなどと…… Amongst the more obvious would be jealousy from the defeated, the price of fame, the public's view differing from reality, and unfounded rumors and expectations. The more extreme end can even go to death threats, worship, blackmail, etc...  悪意か、あるいは逆に暴走した善意ゆえか。どちらにしても恐ろしいことには変わりなく。 Whether it is malice or berserk good will, they are both terrifying.   それは時として単純な敗北を上回る激痛と化し、更なる破滅の呼び水となる。 At times, that even becomes a suffering far more terrible than simple defeat, and it can even become the cause of utter ruin.   大きな事業が成功した代償に、愛する家族に累が及べば本末転倒。それと同じだ。 It is the same as losing your family as the cost for succeeding in business. It's counterproductive.   時としてここは負けておくだとか、少し遠慮をしてみせるとか、そういった配慮が必要な瞬間は間違いなく存在している。勝てば官軍とは早々いかない It is an absolute truth that there are times when it is best to consider allowing defeat or showing humility.  無論、だからといって勝利するなと言っているわけでもないのだ。そんなことを真剣に語るやつは心底馬鹿だし、目が曇っていると言う他ない。 Of course, I'm not saying 'don't win'. Anyone who says that is a total idiot and is blind to reality.   人ならば誰しも、いいやどんな生物であろうと例外なく勝利という結果を目指す。それが自然で、当たり前の行動原理だ。そもそも負けてばかりでは生きることさえ難しく、無制限に敗者を許してくれるほど世の中は甘い形に出来てはいない。 Humans... no all living things regardless of origin seek a victorious result. That way of being is perfectly natural and a matter of course. It is truly rare that victory is unadulterated. In the first place, if you are always on the losing side, it is hard to even live, and the world isn't so kind as to infinitely forgive the defeated.   だからそいつの器に見合った勝利と、妥協できる程度の敗北。その一線を見極めて行動するのが充実した人生を送るコツではなかろうかと、思わざるを得ないのだ。 That's why the ideal is to seek victories one is capable of handling and defeats one is capable of accepting. I can't help but believe that the key to living a full life is acting while keeping an eye on that thin line. 大きな夢を目指すことで惨めに敗れるくらいなら、最初から挑戦せずにそこそこの勝負で済ませておくのが最も賢く、傷も浅い……と。 'Rather than suffering a terrible defeat as the result of pursuing a great dream, it is much smarter and less painful to avoid challenging your limits and be satisfied with minor victories and losses...' 反吐の出そうな弱者の論理展開だがこれを口にしているやつは存外多く、かくいう俺もその一人。 That's the nauseating thought process of the weak, but there are a lot of people out there who talk this way... and I am one of them. 卑小? 凡人? そうだな、指摘されてもその通り。自分自身でよく分かっているよ。予め負けた時のために予防線を張っているだけだろうと誹られても、まったく、ぐうの音も出ない Pathetic? Mediocre? Yes, what you are saying is correct. I know that very well. Even if you say I'm just making excuses for the time I lose in advance, I can't refute you. そうだとも、俺は小物だ。 That's right, I'm a pathetic man. 人としても男としても、小さな器しか持っていない。 Whether as a person or a man, I am only capable of so much. 大した理想や信念もなくその日暮らしの金銭さえ手に入れられれば満足という、翻弄される風見鶏。 I live without any real ideals or convictions, an opportunist who is quite satisfied as long as he can make enough money to live day by day. 受動的、かつ厭世的。ただ一言、情けない。 I'm passive as well as pessimistic. To sum me up in a single word... pathetic. けれど── However... それでもただ一つ、言い訳をさせてもらうなら悟ったまでの人生について具申したい。 Still, if you'll let me make one excuse, I would like to report on the life I lived until I came to this realization. 俺は何も負け続けたからこうなったわけではなく、求めてもいない勝利のせいでこうなってしまったのだから。 I didn't end up this way because I kept losing but rather because of an unwanted set of victories. そう──勝てば碌なことにはならない。 That's right... nothing good comes of winning. 必ず、より強大な姿となって次の苦難が訪れる。 Without fail, the next, much larger tribulation follows it up. それは冗談みたいな言葉だが俺にとっては紛うことなく真実だった。 That might seem like some kind of joke... but it was an absolute truth for me. 本当に、ああ本当に、いつもいつも、いつもいつもいつもいつも…… Really, oh really... every time, always, always always... 敵に、任務に、難問に、勝負に、勝ったところで状況が一向に改善されない。それどころか、難易度がアップした状態で似たような事態が連続するという始末。まったく訳が分からない。 Whether an enemy, a mission, a difficult question, or a competition, achieving victory fails to improve the situation. Moreover, I found myself facing similar situations at escalating levels of difficulty. Seriously, what's with that? 身をすり減らして勝った途端、より恐るべき難題が必ず目の前にふりかかる。 The moment I won by running myself ragged, an even worse problem would always, without exception, pop up before me. 血反吐をはいて生き抜いた途端、どこからか容易に超えざる大敵が次は俺の番だと出現してくる。 The moment I came out victorious, puking blood, another great enemy would appear before me. まるで運命という宝箱をぶちまけでもしたかのように。際限なく湧き出てくる次の問題、次の敵、次の次の次の次の──勝者が負わねばならぬ義務。 It was almost as if the contents of fate's treasure box were scattered before me. Problems, enemies, and every tribulation you could possibly imagine welling forth endlessly... the duty a victor must bear. おまえは見事に勝ったのだから、栄光を手にしたのだから、次のステージに進むのは当然でより相応しい争いに身を投じなければならないとでも? Is the world saying that, since I won, since I achieved glory that proceeding to the next stage is a matter of course, and I have to throw myself into a more fitting conflict? それが勝者の宿命だから? ふざけろよ、こんな馬鹿げた話があるか Because that is the duty of a victor? Screw that! Can there be anything more idiotic than this?! 誰しもみな現状をより良くしたいから勝利や栄光を願うのに、なぜか俺に限ってはそれが自らの首を絞めていくのだから、不条理という他ないだろう。 Everyone seeks victory and glory to make their present better, but for some reason, in my case, that just strangles me. You can't call that anything other than absurdity. そして当然、凡人なのだから負けもする。いいやむしろ、何も出来ずに地を這う方が多いくらいだ。 And of course, since I'm just a normal person, I lose as well. No, it was actually more common for me to be crawling the earth, helpless. それが嫌だから研鑽を積み、慣れない努力に手を伸ばしたこともある。 There was a time when, because I didn't like that, I took the unfamiliar path of working hard. けれど勝てば、決まって訪れる次の困難。永遠に脱出不能の蟻地獄。頭がどうにかなりそうだった。 However, if I won, I was doomed to face the next tribulation. It was a hellish existence I was incapable of escaping. I felt like I was going to go mad. そんな状態に置かれて尚不屈の意志を保てるほど、人の心は強くない。 Placed into that kind of situation, the human heart isn't so strong as to be able to maintain an indomitable will. だから、俺はもう十分だと疲れ果てて。 And so, I decided I had enough, exhausted. このまま、ただ流されて生きることを選択し。 I chose to live going with the flow. 自分が塵だということを、嫌になるほど受け入れたのに。 Though I hated it, I even accepted the fact that I was worthless trash. けれど── However... それでも、守らなければならない子が出来たから。 Yest still, I found a girl I had to protect. 彼女を救うために、このちっぽけな命を懸けると誓った。ゆえに後もう一度だけと奮い立たせて、再起する。 I vowed to use this pathetic life to save her. For that reason, I forced myself to stand and go forth once again. 一世一代、最後の博打。そして俺は何の因果か勝ってしまい…… It was a once in a lifetime, final gamble... and for some reason I won... どうしようもなく“勝利”を手にしてしまったのだ。 And I achieved yet another terrible victory. それがすなわち、地獄への片道切符に変貌するということをついぞ甘くみたままに…… I foolishly failed to realize that that was doomed to transform into a one-way trip to hell... (at this point, it changes narrators from Zephyr to another) 死神が呼び寄せられる。手に負えない艱難辛苦が訪れる。 The grim reaper is called forth. Trials and tribulations beyond my ability to handle arrive. 守り抜くなど絶対不可能。勝者へは永遠に至れない。 Protecting her to the end is absolutely impossible. He will never become a true victor. 訪れる次の大敵──次の不幸。次の苦難。次の破滅。 What comes is another enemy, another misfortune, another tribulation, another ruin. 掴み取ったはずの未来は暗黒に蝕まれたまま続行していく。 The future he thought he'd reached continues to move forward, eaten away by darkness. むしろ手にした奇跡を呼び水に、よりおぞましい新たな試練を組み込んで運命を駆動させるのだ。 Rather, the miracle he managed to create becomes fuel for another challenge, turning the wheels of fate. それが“逆襲”と呼ばれるものの本質。 That is the nature of a 'counterattack'. 弱者が強者を滅ぼすからこそ成立する概念は、ゆえ逆説的に、勝利の栄華を手にしてしまえば執行資格を失ってしまう。 As it is a concept that exists through the weak destroying the strong, if the glory of victory is achieved, the right to use it is lost. ……彼は永遠の負け犬、呪われた銀の人狼。 ... He is an eternal loser, the cursed silver werewolf. 常に敗亡の淵で嘆きながらあらゆる敵を巨大な咢門で噛み砕く、痩せさらばえた負の害獣。 The gaunt evil beast who crushes all enemies in its great jaws while howling its despair from the depths of defeat. 次にやって来る狩人が更に凶悪な存在になると分かっていても、自分自身の宿命から逃れられずに足掻いている。 He continues to struggle, even though he knows that the next hunter will be even more terrible than the last, unable to escape his destiny. “勝利”からは逃げられない。 It is impossible to escape from victory. “勝利”からは逃げられない。 It is impossible to escape from victory. “勝利”からは逃げられない。 It is impossible to escape from victory. 「ならば────」 "Then..." ──さあ、どうするか? ... now, what will you do?
  16. 4 points
    In our obscure EVN market, there are rarely games or events that could be described as major controversies – even the most unfortunate releases or Kickstarter disasters usually don’t involve enough people and money to gather the attention of the community for a longer period of time or spark a mass backlash. Along with Aeon Dream Studios’ k-pop fan game debacle (a really amazing story of incompetence and borderline-fraud, if you care to follow it), No One But You is possibly the most controversial and polarizing EVN ever released. Appearing on the relatively-barren landscape of early 2015 and promising experience similar to the high-budget Japanese VNs, it sparked a lot of interest and hope for the second coming of Katawa Shoujo – an EVN that would not feel overly niche or amateurish, but actually capture the charm of beloved Japanese titles and rival them in its storytelling. The reality, of course, proved much more underwhelming. The unexpected Kickstarter success (the campaign reached over 1200% of the initial, $1200 goal) resulted in a highly upscaled and complex project, developed within just a year by then still-unexperienced Unwonted Studios. Involving a network of over a dozen writers and artists, and a heavily-rushed release (which was never moved from the initial KS campaign claim despite of many major features being added through stretch goals), No One But You was eviscerated by many reviewers, with Fuwanovel notably giving it lowest possible score in two separate articles, and received only a mixed reception from the readers after showing up on Steam on January 2016. In a way, it remains one of the most infamous story-centric EVNs, possibly only beaten by the cheap ecchi titles such as Sakura games in the amount of hate and ridicule it gathered. However, looking at it three years later and with all the fixes and additional content added post-launch, is it really that bad? Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
  17. 4 points
    Clephas

    Dead Days

    On request and because I am a Kurashiki fan, I decided to play this, despite worries about the concept and the characters... and I came out finding my worries perfectly justified. First, the protagonist Teru... in a standard chuunige, he would be the jackass that gets killed after begging for his life in the opening act after doing something totally scumbag-like. Worse, rather than being merely a cold-blooded manipulator (which is how the Getchu page presented him), he is actually an irritable kid who thinks he is a lot smarter than he is. Second, the heroines... first, the punk-like Aira who overdoes her makeup and generally speaks like an airhead but has definite anger issues. Second is Asami, another man's wife who is generally weak-spirited and only clings to her second life out of a desire not to lose what she has left (her husband and child). Third is Mao, the protagonist's osananajimi who has a strong sense of justice, is pretty naive in general, and tends to get on the protagonist's nerves constantly (this gets worse after he dies and gets resurrected). Mao is the true heroine of the game... and also the single most annoying character in the game, even setting aside the protagonist's issues with her. To be blunt, she is yet another Victim A heroine presented as the true heroine of a serious game with violence... Third, the writing... I wanted to cry at how low-quality the writing in this game is compared to Kurashiki's previous two Clock-up games. Both Okami and Maggot showed off his skills in full, and as a result, they have a cult fanbase even amongst those who don't like the sexual themes involved in the latter or the social ones in the former. The basic narrative quality is scaled down to the level of the protagonist, which is hugely disappointing. Last, though this is more of a universal complaint for all Clock-up games... too much meaningless h-scenes. I hate Clock-up's visual style for H-scenes (there aren't any torture rape scenes in this one, outside of the bad endings which I didn't watch), and the presence of loli content made me vomit... twice. Seriously, was that really necessary? The good points of this VN lie solely in the individual heroine paths, because the common route is just poorly handled and paced. The heroine paths, on the other hand, are slightly stronger, though only Mao's has a decent epilogue (even by VN standards). Overall, this game felt like a really inept attempt at psychological horror. Considering how good a job Kurashiki has done previously at this kind of thing, it startled me how huge the gap in quality was between this and his previous works... both for Light and Clock-up. Even Sora no Baroque was better, and that is saying a lot.
  18. 4 points
    Clephas

    Tamayura Mirai

    Tamayura Mirai is the latest game by Azurite, the company behind Shinsou Noise and Akumade Kore wa. Unlike the previous two, it is not a guro mystery. Instead, it is a fantasy with an extremely similar setting to Monobeno (which had a great setting, even if the lolicon elements were outright disgusting). It also shares a writer (Touta) with such excellent games as Kin'iro Loveriche, Floral Flowlove, Gin'iro Haruka, and Ojousama wa Gokigen Naname. Before I go any further, I want to speak as to why I compared the setting to Monobeno. Fukano, the town/valley in which the story is set, is a backwater where youkai, humans, and deities coexist. Folk traditions, such as deities within the home, are still alive and well, if not entirely understood (the death of the last folk shaman in the area ensured that, from what is said). The protagonist's role is very similar to the role of the miko in Monobeno (keeping harmony and balance between the supernatural and mortal), and, though the younger generation isn't, a certain level of superstition remains in the older generation. In addition, the protagonist's choice to live isolated in the mountains in a run-down and modified old Japanese school (think the school from Higurashi no Naku Koro ni) also echoes the isolation of the protagonist's home in Monobeno. That said, the atmosphere in the game isn't as severe as Monobeno's, though the protagonist's 'duty' is harrowing at times. All that said, this is definitely its own game. The general atmosphere is a bit somber, and the characters all have some kind of serious problem that leaves them a lot less at peace than they seem on the surface (the protagonist included). The protagonist is a mage who wields runic magic (Norse shamanic style), and he has the role of keeping peace the mixed-origin supernatural community of Fukano, the setting. He lives in an abandoned school in the mountains with a succubus named Midari, who has the dual problems of being afraid of men and deeply fearing her own nature (though her upbringing shows through at the oddest times). At the school he attends, he frequently meets with a water spirit information broker named Hanako (one of the heroines). Occasionally, he meets up with his oppai-loli 'oneechan' (who is very childish and has a really poorly-executed accent that just comes off all wrong in the VA...). The story begins with his encounter with Yukina, a girl with naturally high levels of spiritual energy who is completely untrained (and is thus a danger to herself and everyone around her, since youkai and monsters can gain power by eating such people, and others make assumptions about what she can do based on her spiritual power). I won't go into details about their meeting, because this is a game best experienced the first time without too many preconceptions. This is essentially a nakige, and it does a pretty good job of bringing out the tears. The protagonist's duty often brings him into contact with situations where he must deal with various tragedies, sometimes from the present, sometimes from the past. His own previous life isn't exactly bright and flowery either, lol. The protagonist has a tendency to see himself as weak and selfish, but he has a seemingly endless capacity for getting obsessed with solving other people's problems... which actually makes him perfect for his work (considering the nature of the mountain deity and certain hints given during the common route, it is pretty clear that he was given his role specifically because of that tendency). The heroine routes, quite naturally, focus on the issues with the heroines... to be specific, dealing with the issues that bother them the most deeply. Equally quite naturally, the first heroine I picked was Midari, the succubus. Midari Midari is a member of the succubus nobility who was exiled from her homeland because of her fear of men and inability to feed properly (essentially have sex with men...and lots of them, preferably). Worse (from her perspective), she fell in love with the protagonist on their first meeting, thus dooming her in the eyes of her people and filling her with a constant conflict between her impulses and her love for the protagonist. Midari has a very gentle and refined manner, and she has the grace that one would expect from a noblewoman... However, on occasion, she makes remarks (usual casual references to sex acts or her sisters and mother's sluttiness) that reveal rather blatantly that she isn't human and her basic upbringing wasn't either. Her path is all about dealing with her internal conflict and its real-world consequences... and this leads to a lot of nice emotional drama and a decent catharsis... though, to be honest, the cathartic scenes two-thirds of the way through the common route were better. Hanako For those who understand the reference, yes Hanako does hang around in the girls' toilet. Hanako is a water youkai that came over from China six hundred years before the story began and eventually rose to become one of the top figures of all the water youkai in Fukano. She is actually pretty powerful, and she serves as an information broker for Mutsuki (the protagonist) as he performs his duty as the Mage of Fukano. Hanako's route is a weird one and it isn't as emotional as Midari's route was. To be honest, a large part of the reason why is that the relationship part starts really quickly and feels somewhat forced... Hanako has a reason to like Mutsuki, but Mutsuki doesn't really have a good reason to fall in love with her, so it feels weird. This is in opposition to Midari, who has been at his side for some time when the story began and is insanely devoted to his well-being (not to mention sexy and graceful at the same time, lol). This route could have been handled much better by using a tactic similar to the Midari route, where they become closer during the course of him carrying out his duties... unfortunately, the way the route was handled was sadly inept for such a potentially interesting heroine. Yukina Yukina is a young woman with a natural gift for the use of spiritual power (so much so that she can attack youkai with her bare hands and blasts of raw energy). Her characterization is a straight out tsundere, so anyone who reads this VN with some experience with the character type will probably be able to predict her reactions in most situations. I started laughing at a few points when she said something so typically tsundere that I couldn't believe any writer would still use the lines...lol Yukina's route is all about her personal issues, both her past and her present ones. I do feel that this route's romance was far too hurried (like Hanako's) in the sense that their relationship should have had more time to develop into something deeper before things began to accelerate. That said, the actual events after the romance solidifies are well-written and described, and you gain a lot more insight into Mutsuki's motivations and the depth of his personality than you do in the other paths. I recommend this path be read after the other two heroines available at the beginning, simply because the revelations made here are too overarching to allow you to truly enjoy the other paths without reservation. Shiro Shiro is the protagonist's loli-oppai oneechan, who speaks with a weird houben (regional accent) that is poorly used by the VA to the point of being wince-worthy (yes, this is worth mentioning again). Shiro and Mutsuki's issues are the core of everything that has shaped Mutsuki to be the person he is. As such, it was only natural that Shiro would end up as the true path heroine... indeed, her path begins after the end of a non-romantic Yukina path. I'm not going to spoil what those issues are, but I should note that Shiro was the motivation that drove Mutsuki to become a magus. In the setting, magi are seekers of forbidden truths, similar in some ways to the magi of the Nasuverse save that they don't seem to have a large-scale organization or influence on the mundane world. As such, they frequently take actions that are amoral in the pursuit of their path of research, and many naturally think in ways that are out of sync with humanity. The Mage of Fukano is a rare exception, in that the deities of Fukano have made a role for the holder of the position in the natural existence of the valley and mountains. Mutsuki's path of research is about as immoral as it gets, even if he still has a conscience and his motivations come from a very human place. As such, it takes a central role in the major dilemma of the path, as anyone who has read Yukina's path would guess anyway. In the end, this was the path (other than the common route) which drew out the most tears from me. Shiro and Mutsuki's story is full of sorrow but ends with joy, so I can honestly say this falls into the classic 'nakige' style. Conclusions I have a few things left I want to say before bowing out on this game. First, I wanted a Feles (Mephistopheles) route, since Feles is ridiculously deredere (in a yandere way) over the protagonist. Another issue is that I thought that leaving the protagonist's deeper issues out of Midari's and Hanako's paths was something of a poor choice. Yukina is presented as a mirror to the protagonist as well as a heroine, so it is understandable that she would play such a vital role for setting up the true path. However, I felt that failing to properly deal with his personal issues in either of those two paths was a mistake. Mutsuki does have VERY serious issues that can't really be glossed over... not to mention that I seriously doubt Midari's issues would end just with what we saw in the path (living with a succubus in a state of perpetual near-starvation will inevitably have its ups and downs).
  19. 4 points
    Protagonists perceived as weak seem to be something a lot of people reading VNs complain about, and as this is an interesting topic imo, I've been spending some time trying to organise my thoughts on it and write them up in a way that's not completely incoherent. In the process I started reflecting on main characters and their role in fiction on a more fundamental level and came up with a very basic way to categorise main characters, by comparing their personalities to how much it advances the plot in their respective stories. I even made a very professional looking diagram to explain my thinking: As you can see, the y-axis is supposed to be a measure for the MC's personality, while the x-axis shows how much they actively influence the plot. As each quadrant marks a certain general category of protagonist, I also named those in a way I found fitting (in italic) and added a few examples from VNs I read. The measure for personality I chose is a mixture of a protagonist's general determination to face problems head on and to which degree they are actually able to solve the ones the plot poses. I know this is kind of a soft category but this whole thing isn't supposed to be a scientific essay and I couldn't come up with anything better so it will have to do. On the top end of this scale you would have someone like Superman, on the bottom end probably Bella Swan. The question about how proactive a protagonist is at least in this metric boils down to if they mainly react to plot points happening or if they themselves make plot points happen. This category also isn't perfect though. For example almost any character arc involving a protagonist in the "weak" category is about them turning stronger. In my opinion this doesn't make a character more proactive though as this is usually driven by plot necessity. In this metric you can define four broader types of protagonists. The weak protagonist is someone who usually stumbled into his situation and mainly goes with the flow. The strong protagonist makes his own destiny. The observer is someone who isn't getting too actively involved in the things going on around him, either by their own choice or some external reason. As for the fourth category, I don't know if there actually are protagonists that combine being incapable or weak willed with being proactive. I used Phoenix Wright as an example as you could at least argue that he's only getting by through luck while he always keeps fighting till the end, but that should also move him further up on the personality scale. You will probably also disagree with other choices I made about where to put certain characters. So as you can see, this is more of an orientation to think about characters and their roles in fictional media than an objective measure. It also doesn't tell us anything about how well a character is written. There are bland action heroes as well as super well developed wimps. I still thought this self-made graphic might be an interesting thing to share. It might also turn out to be a good place for me to reference whenever I might think about writing something about an MC. At least until someone comes along and completely destroys all of my personal theories I based this on. edit: I thought I'd add and explain a few examples for each category (except the useful idiot as I can't confidently name any) from other media so people who don't know any of the guys in the chart or find my explanations too abstract or incomprehensible can get a grasp on what I mean. But first to give an example of what I mean by proactive vs. passive, because just doing a lot of things is not the same as being proactive: Imagine a story where someone dear to the protagonist gets murdered. If this turns into them killing everyone responsible, the MC is extremely proactive. they could just wait for the judicial system to prosecute the bad guys and testify as a witness, but his thirst for revenge drives everything happening from then on. A passive protagonist in such a scenario might be someone who struggles with the loss and is overwhelmed by everyone else not caring and instead fighting over the inheritance. But now for the protagonist types: Weak protagonist: Harry Potter - Although everyone in universe talks about how special he is Harry Potter doesn't have that much of a personality, does he? The Sorting Hat talking about how he would be a good fit for any house is true (except for Slytherin as that's basically the Hat telling you you're a bigot) as he shows reasonable degrees of bravery, intelligence and blandness. He doesn't have the magical skills to beat the most powerful wizards either and more often than not gets bailed out by his mother's love or whatever. His personal struggles are always pretty similar to what any kid his age goes through and rarely impact the plot in any major way. In most books he either ends up as a part of the main either through witnessing certain events by chance or because the bad guy plots to get him killed. And most times he gets a "becoming a stronger person and beating the bad guy" arc without him actually groing as a person that much. Harry Potter is also a good example of why a weak protagonist isn't necessarily a bad thing. When the world around the main character or the plot are the actual star of the story, a too strong protagonist could take away from that. The role the protagonist fills is basically to go through the world with the same sense of wonder the audience would while providing an "everyday person becoming a hero" arc. Which is probably the reason why people who don't like the Harry Potter franchise in general are usually the ones complaining about its protagonist. Frodo would be another example for this kind of protagonist. As mentioned above I'm going to write another blog post about why I think weak protagonists are very common in certain types of VN and why they often seem more annoying than in other fictional media. Strong protagonist: James Bond - While his stories always start out with him getting a mission he certainly approaches them in a very unique fashion. I don't know if I have to write a lot more about him. Most iconic action heroes fall into this category. Observer: This type of protagonist seems to be more common in Japanese than in western media. Stories with this kind of protagonist usually have them coming in contact with the plot through either coincidence or their line of work and often involve them providing some kind of service while the narrative focus is on the ones the MC comes into contact with and these side characters tend to have the biggest arc. To name an example in western media Mad Max (at least from the second movie on) is pretty good at surviving in the post-apocalypse but he doesn't have some higher goal beyond that. In Fury Road he might be the main character, but the plot is driven by Furiosa's goals and he just happens to help out as it aligns with him trying to flee from the same people. He still helps out a lot, but technically it's just not his story. Which is why he just leaves at the end. As for Japanese Media Gingko in Mushi-Shi might be the prime example. The anime has more than 40 episodes and three specials, still we learn next to nothing about him. Every time he walks into someone else's story, helps them realise their respective arcs without ever getting too personally involved, and leaves again. Violet Evergarden also fits the description for the major part of the anime. She is a killing machine and apparently quickly becomes very good at her new job as well, yet, while there are episodes focusing on her, in most of them she just helps someone else come to terms with their emotions through providing them the service of writing a letter. Violet Evergarden also shows that it's possible to develop protagonists in episodes not focusing on them. edit 2: So I managed to come up with an example for a"useful idiot" (although I don't really like that name, I couldn't think of a better one): many characters in movies by the Coen brothers fit this category. While the protagonists themselves usually are straight man characters, the plots (especially in Fargo and Burn after Reading) often revolve around how bad decisions by incompetent characters lead to catastrophies.
  20. 4 points
    First, I'm going to state that all charage/moege are harem-ge (with the exception of kinetic novels with only a single heroine). In all these cases, you have a bevy of heroines that are, at the very least, friendly with or somehow attached to the protagonist. There are a three standard types of harem that I consider to be general umbrella types. These harems do not include nukige sex-only harems or the type of harems that pop up in gameplay hybrid VNs, as these often have distinctive story-exclusive reasons for harem formation. The Disconnected Harem This is the standard-issue harem for modern charage/moege. In this harem situation, the protagonist is independently connected to most of the heroines, with very little or no interaction between the members of his harem of latent deredere troopers. The reason this has become the dominant harem in the charage genre in the last seven years or so is because it is the one that is the most 'tasteful' to monogamists and traditionalists. In this case, the heroines either have no real connection with one another or only weak connections that become tenuous the second the heroine path begins. Games that have these harems tend to have extremely weak casts of characters in general, and there is usually very little or no real conflict between the characters (low incidence of love triangles, few jealousy attacks, etc). As a result, games with this type of harem tend to have weak or nonexistent plots, lackluster SOL outside of ichaicha dating, and 'convenient' drama that is resolved so quickly it might as well not even exist. These harems generally disband at the end of the common route, as the protagonist seems to completely forget any attraction he had to the other girls and they fade into the background. The Dominant-Sharing Harem The Dominant-sharing Harem is defined by the members of the harem being at least somewhat familiar with each other (often friends, family, or members of a group or club) and able to be cooperative to an extent while competing for the protagonist's love and attention. Girls in this kind of harem situation (Shuffle is a prime example of it) are ok with the idea of sharing the protagonist in the abstract, but in practice they want to be the 'first wife' or the 'wife' and relegate the other heroines to the mistress or concubine status (though it isn't always stated this bluntly). This is perhaps the most realistic harem situation, as, historically, real harems - other than royal ones - have usually been structured with a head or first wife and a number of secondary wives, often married with the permission of or by the choice of the first wife, lol. The Everybody's Equal Harem The Everybody's Equal Harem is, just as the name indicates, a harem where the protagonist essentially loves and treats all the heroines equally and the heroines accept this situation, albeit often with a tacit understanding between one another that they won't stop aiming for a Dominant-Sharing type situation. As such, this can often be considered a prelude to a Dominant-Sharing Harem result in practical terms. A classic example of this would be the end of the Grisaia series or the ending of Strawberry Feels, where the protagonist himself never forms a preference, even if the heroines do build a sort of pecking order based on dominance of personality or circumstance. Tiny Dungeon's Endless Dungeon ending can also be considered this kind of ending, whereas the individual routes represented by the first three games would be considered Dominant-Sharing harems. Why I bothered with this post Anyone who has been an otaku as long as I have been has to accept that harem-thinking is essential to SOL otaku-ism. As early as Love Hina and Tenchi Muyo, rom-coms have been creating wacky harems and weird situations that result. This is because romantic comedy is the easiest type of comedy for anyone to get into, and the easiest one to empathize with... and comedy used to be the dominant genre in otaku media (though romance always came a close second). The evolution from that type of loose harem (though in later incarnations, the Tenchi universe threw off all pretense of not being harem-ist) to the current situation took decades, but it was a natural evolution in visual novels in particular, due to the fact that most visual novels are multi-route, heroine-focused affairs. Charage in particular, with their focus on SOL, inevitably give off a sense that the protagonist is the center of a harem, even if it is only in the common route. Since this kind of situation appeals to the more primitive parts of the male psyche (males are genetically predisposed to seeking multiple mates, though socialization and emotional attachment overwhelm this in modern settings), eroge tend to abuse this flagrantly. Oh yeah, if you haven't figured it out, I like harem endings that aren't sex-heavy... but that isn't so much because I have a thing for 'collecting' bishoujos. Rather, I like the various situations that result in VNs, as they are often intellectually interesting, heart-warming, or hilarious (or all three). Nukige-style harem endings are boring and make me roll my eyes, mostly because I question whether anyone has that kind of stamina, and because ignoring the emotional and practical aspects entirely like that makes it hard to suspend disbelief. If a plotge can make me think a harem would work, I want to see it work, lol.
  21. 4 points
    Clephas

    Trinoline

    Written by Kiririri and edited by fun2novel and Me Trinoline If there ever was a time when the quality of a story was judged purely on its aesthetics then minori’s games would be tough opponents to defeat. Trinoline continues in the same tradition as many other minori games. High-budget top-quality visuals with a ridiculous level of attention to details. This includes blinking eyes and well done lip syncing, top-notch high quality CGs, and unusual camera angles, where you walk and look to the side at a character walking next to you while a long non repeating background scrolls by. All that and more put this at the top of one of the most visually polished games around. Fortunately, visual novels aren’t judged purely on how good they look. Not usually at least. Trinoline asks valuable questions and explores some very interesting themes and ideas. It is set in a world where the science has advanced far enough to manufacture real, lifelike androids. Events become more complicated when our protagonist’s little sister dies only to later come back as an android. She is just an android and not his real sister of course, only an illusion of the real thing. However, the twist is that she has all of the little sister’s memories inside her, and the question is, 'does it matter if she is real or not?' Do memories make her his sister or is she just a replacement for what was lost to tragic events? What happens if your loved one comes back in android form? Are they the still the same person? Are androids even capable of love, even if they don’t have a heart? Do they dream of electric ships? Trinoline features three heroines. Yuuri, the childhood friend, skips school often. However, nothing is what it seems on the surface. What does she hide behind that cheerful upbeat smile of hers? Her route was the least interesting, and it is a bit of a downer for much of it. Shirone, plays the role our protagonist’s “little sister”. She is the Trino (android) with the protagonist’s little sister’s memories inside her. It explores how and if love can bloom between a human and an android. Sara is the other childhood friend. She had a leading role in developing the Trino, a new kind of android. Because of her work, she and the protagonist haven’t seen each other in a long time. Her route is considered the true route and it explores the difficulties of developing an android and the problems in their thinking. The game is pretty equally divided between the common and all the other three routes, and it touches on very interesting issues. However, at the end of the day I don’t know how I really feel about it. I can't help but wonder if I actually enjoyed the game or not. It doesn’t help how stupid the protagonist acts in some scenes and changes his opinions about androids from one route to the next with no consistency, with no regard for his personality. I wanted to like the game because I thought the heroines are really great. In addition, if it wasn’t iterated enough previously, the game is really beautiful. Unfortunately, the constant depressing atmosphere kept up throughout the game pretty much crushed me and every false hope I had for it. I don’t want to further elaborate on that to avoid spoilers. The game has a lot of great moments, but it also has many points that will split opinions. If you’re looking for a deep and exhilarating science fiction story, you won’t find it here. The narrative is slow-paced and takes its sweet time to build up. This is a game for those looking for a character driven nakige with some light sci-fi elements. However, it might keep you depressed most of the time, so take care if you don't like that sort of thing.
  22. 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
  23. 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.
  24. 3 points
    I've been seeing people wondering about Daitoshokan's translation, so I'm making this compilation of screenshots just to show what the experience is like in English. The further down you go, the further into the game you are. But these screenshots are all from the first half of the common route and earlier, so I wouldn't worry terribly. I think the VN is super fun, and really, that's all I care about, to be honest.
  25. 3 points
    Today I wanted to talk a bit about an interesting project, and one that provided me with a unique opportunity to, for the first time, act as a proof-reader and do minor editing for a sizeable VN. Because of this personal involvement, this won’t be a full-on review, but more of a loose rant, highlighting both the worthwhile aspects of the game and my somewhat-peculiar experience with it. The VN in question, Bewitched is indeed a rather interesting one, as all games by Graven Visual Novels are – just as they are weighted down by extremely awkward translations from Russian and inherent flaws of their author’s prose. This time, however, the developer made their first attempt to work on properly polishing the game’s English script with the help of a few volunteers (including my gloriously dyslectic person). This move was quite likely inspired by the discussions I had with them regarding their previous projects and the problems with their English versions. If my involvement in the EVN scene ever made a tangible difference, this is the most concrete example of it, and I hope you’ll be willing to join me as I briefly explore what that difference actually is… Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
  26. 3 points
    I had someone ask me why I consider some VN battle scenes to be good and others to be low quality just the other day, and I thought I would address this here. First, I should state that while visuals definitely have an effect on the quality of a battle scene, the quality of visuals is less than 15% of the reasons why I pick one VN's battle scenes over another's. The considerations when it comes to visuals are raw quality (artist skill, detail, etc), number of combat-related CGs and sprites, and the quality of the visual effects. More important (roughly 25% of the whole) is music and sound effects. It is quite possible to turn a VN whose visuals are mediocre and writing are good into a masterpiece based solely on how the BGMs and sound effects are used. I've seen it happen (Devils Devel Concept being a prime example), and I can honestly say that this aspect almost always trumps visuals when it comes to determining the quality of a given battle scene. Another 25% comes from context and presentation. I split this evenly because these two factors tend to be inter-dependent in battle scenes. Without the context, you can't tell whether you should care, and presentation (the art of bringing writing, sound, and visuals together to create a collaborative effect on the reader) quality can dramatically alter how you see the battle. The last 35% is all writing. My prejudice would have put it at 50%, but realistically, in a VN, writing is at the very least 35% of what determines the quality of a battle scene. The very simple reason is that making a battle scene interesting requires an eye for detail, for stringing descriptions of character actions, emotions, and words into a cohesive whole. There are plenty of writers outside of the VN industry who only do this well and literally are incapable of 'peaceful writing'. That is because what is demanded of writing during a battle scene is fundamentally different from what is demanded outside of battle scenes. To be blunt, most VN writers have no idea of how to write a battle scene, which is why the good ones stand out so much. 'Tom blasted magic sword at Dave, Dave took it on his shield with a grunt' is about as far as it goes with most VN battle scenes... and that is fairly horrid, since there is no sense of what is actually going on in that exchange. It isn't uncommon for VN makers with unskilled writers to simply substitute visual and sound effects for descriptions of the battle simply because the writer can only handle dialogue and minimal or copy-paste action lines. However, this results in amazingly boring scenes, since there is usually almost no variation in visual or sound effects from scene to scene, action to action. This means that they are essentially using a square block for a round peg. I don't know how many third-rate battle scenes I've fallen asleep to over the years... Anyway, ideally, a good battle scene should have all the elements come together in one cohesive whole. However, in practice, that almost never happens. About the only companies that have ever managed to do that consistently are Nitroplus, Light, and Propeller... and we all know what happened to Propeller and (more recently) Light.
  27. 3 points
    People who drop themselves into the abyss of otaku media tend to have their sense for things dull over time. Action scenes don't excite like they used to, rom-coms aren't as funny, ecchi isn't as hot, and only the densest stories succeed in scratching the itch. This is what I (and some others) call becoming a 'jaded veteran otaku'. Jaded veteran otakus often become 'genre specialists' (meaning they only play one type of game, watch one type of anime, and/or refuse to play specific types), and only the most hypocritical have less than ten favorites in their medium. However, how exactly do you tell that a VN (in this case) is one of your favorites? There are a number of signs. 1. Does watching the opening get you excited no matter how many times you've seen it? 2. Does a great phrase that shattered your personal gate of tears do so again on a second playthrough? 3. Can it still make you giggle? 4. Can it still delight you with new discoveries or even only confirming the ones you made the last time you played? 5. Does defending it to everyone around you fill you with passion and do you have an intense desire to chain every other VN fan in site to a chair in front of a computer to play/read it? 6. Do you find yourself wistfully wondering if you'll ever find anything else like it again? 7. Do you feel like a junkie coming down off a great high after you finish it? These are just some of the signs of a VN happening to be your favorite... and one of the strange side-effects of being a long-time addict of otaku media is that your favorites become ever more distinct to you as time passes. I have literally forgotten the contents of more VNs than most people have played, but the ones I love remain in my memory with surprising detail, even after years without playing them. Not all of my favorites are kamige (in fact, surprisingly few of them are), but to me they are irreplaceable friends similar to the books I can never bring myself to get rid of.
  28. 3 points
    There were few EVNs in the last few years that I’ve seen seriously hyped up by other VN fans and brought to my attention through multiple recommendations and positive reviews – particularly beyond titles by a handful of relatively well-known and respected creators such as ebi-hime. The game I’ll be writing about today, Soundless -A Modern Salem in Remote Area-, is one of such exceptions, enthusiastic opinions about which intrigued me to a major degree, even though it ended up being two years before I finally picked it up. And this is not where the curious and unusual things about it end: this freeware visual novel was released in late 2017 by a small circle under the name of Milk+ and is heavily influenced by the denpa subgenre of horror – one reliant on distortion of reality and chains of bizarre events, true meaning of which is usually hidden under multiple layers of mystery. It mimics extremely well the visual style and climate of the early 2000s’ Japanese games, offering a now rarely-seen call-back to parts of visual novel history highly nostalgic to many fans. And thankfully, there’s a lot more to it than just the interesting stylisation and riding on memories of the past… Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
  29. 3 points
    First, as I state in the title, I'm coming off my fifth playthrough (all paths and endings) of Tokyo Babel. As such, I am - very obviously - deeply fond of the game. I'm also a fan of the writer Higashide Yuuichirou (for reference, he also wrote Ayakashibito and the scenario for Fate/Apocrypha). However, in this post I wanted to address some of the complaints I get from those who play the game. First, I will address the major complaints I've taken personally from those who read or have read it untranslated, then those who read it translated. Untranslated 1. 'This doesn't feel like a Higashide game/isn't as good as his other games!' For better or worse, Higashide went in a different direction, style, and approach in Tokyo Babel in comparison to his previous works. Ayakashibito is the basis for most untranslated Higashide fanboys' love, but it needs to be said that anyone who has played the two games will barely see any resemblance beyond the writing style. Ayakashibito was about a young man struggling against the world as he tried to carve out a life for himself with his adoptive sister. His emotional struggles with unreasonable and unreasoning prejudice, as well as the active malice of powers both great and small, struck a chord in a lot of the people who read it. Moreover, it is by far the most slice-of-life focused of all Higashide's titles, whereas a huge portion of Tokyo Babel is fighting, preparation for fighting, and dealing with conspiracies. 2. 'I loved Dies Irae and this was recommended to me based on that, but it doesn't match up.' This one makes me laugh. Sorry, I'm not trying to be contemptuous, but, despite some surface resemblances, Tokyo Babel is wildly different from Dies Irae. Higashide is not a poet. Masada is. Higashide is calculating where Masada is impulsive. As such, I can honestly say the only resemblance between the two is that they both have a preference for fantasy and melodrama. Dies Irae is an opera, whereas Tokyo Babel is more straightforward and to the point, in comparison. 3. 'Why is there no ero? All his other games had ero, so why not this one?' I have to wonder if anyone but me was surprised at this one being the third most common complaint I got from those I recommended this game to. Yes, his other games have a mix of good and horrid ero (Ayakashibito is particularly infamous for its side-character scenes), but Tokyo Babel was written from beginning to end as an all-ages novel. Surprisingly, I agree with those who think the lack of ero in Tokyo Babel had a negative effect. To be blunt, I can't see Lilith not finding a way to shove Setsuna into Raziel's futon or failing to trap him in a room alone with Sorami... and that's setting aside several moments in her path that would have made for some great 'desperate and somber H' scenes. Higashide, for all that his ero scenes were sometimes awful (again, Ayakashibito), always made them relevant to the story and used them to enhance its flow... something many chuuni writers who utilize ero content fail to do. 4. 'What the heck is it with this game's weird mix of styles?!' I'm not an art bigot, so I'm not the best person to answer this question. This game's art style differs from previous Propeller games to a significant degree at times. Is that a good or bad thing? Hard to answer... though I do think the decision to make the main characters look younger than in previous games (with some exceptions) was questionable, lol. Translated 1. 'What is with the translation?!!!!'. Aah... this is the idiot argument. Sorry, but I've said this a thousand times before 'Japanese to English translation is an oxymoron'. Conjueror was pretty much the only translator brave enough to jump into translating something like Dies Irae or Tokyo Babel precisely because fans of this type of game are such a-holes when it comes to translations. Yes, it isn't perfect. Yes, it doesn't somehow magically mirror Higashide's brilliance perfectly. However, I would like to make a few major points for those who insist they could do better... Japanese has numerous concepts, sayings, and even casual phrasing that simply don't translate into English without a much larger number of words to fill in the gaps in the language. One reason I always recommend anyone who can read a game in Japanese (even if they have to use a parser and text hooker) do so is because it is impossible to perfectly replicate everything in a localization to English. It is possible to get across many concepts with creative language and a wide vocabulary in English, but that sometimes means spending minutes or even an hour on a single line, trying to create something that can somehow retain the best parts of the original. Chuuni translations tend to be awkward (both anime and games) because the language used requires more of this, and it becomes too easy to fall into the habit of robotically spewing out the translation instead of actually writing it into prose (look at the FGO cell phone game and you'll see what I mean). 2. 'This wasn't as dramatic as I thought it would be!' This one puzzles me... but then, I never played the game all the way through in English (I went up through the Miyako fight in Raziel's route to get an idea of what it was like), so maybe more was lost in the localization toward the middle and end than I thought. 3. 'The subject matter made me uncomfortable'... Ah yes, this one. To be honest, even I felt the remnants of my upbringing pounding on the doors of my psyche at times when I played this game. To be blunt, to anyone brought up in a devout Christian (or even Muslim) household, playing any of the routes can be enormously uncomfortable at times. By the nature of the process of 'suspending disbelief' that occurs when you read something fantasy, your prejudices and upbringing inevitably play into how you see the game. To be blunt, by Christian standards, this game is blasphemous, lol. In Japan, due to the way the divine is seen (impossible to explain if you haven't studied it, so I won't go into this here), this game doesn't feel that way. However, this game can cause some odd reactions in some Westerners. 4. 'I don't get the humor.' Sad to say, but a good portion of humor in Japanese VNs simply doesn't translate very well. The funniest scene in the game (in my opinion) is the drunken party in Sorami's path... but there are several points in this scene that don't translate (think plays on Japanese wording, puns, and phone number styles) that had me cracking up every time. Sad to say, but, for those playing translated JVNs, this is something you'll just have to live with. Conclusion I didn't really refute any of the complaints here... but I did try to address them. Tokyo Babel is one of the few of my favorite games that have been translated (though more of them have been in recent years, including Hapymaher and Dies Irae), but it is also the one of my translated favorites that is most likely not to be mentioned when someone is asking about this type of game.
  30. 3 points
    Clephas

    Kimagure Temptation

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

    Tasogare no Folklore

    I do not regret playing this game. I needed to say this first, because this game has a pretty high level of emotional impact. The actual characters are quiet for the most part, but the relationships in this game are so twisted that even thinking about them being real would make a saint wince. This story centers around a young personal servant, Kumagata Arima, and his young mistress, Otobe Supika. It is the Taishou Era (pre-WWII, late teens to late twenties of the twentieth century), and Japan's first age of modern prosperity is at its height. Supika is an apparently sickly ojousama who reluctantly goes to school at the urge of her personal servant Arima, who takes care of all her personal needs (up to and including dressing her and doing her hair). Arima is an apparently devoted servant who can be relied on without reservation by his sickly mistress... Well, there is a lot more to it, but this is as far as I can go in terms of specifics without spoiling it for you. Tasogare no Folklore is a game where not knowing too much is an important aspect of enjoying the story, so I really suggest you don't read the official site or the Getchu page. Instead, I will explain what kind of game it is. Tasogare no Folklore's primary attractions are the disparity between the darkness hidden in the depths of the characters' home and the apparent strength of their relationships, particularly the one between Supika and Arima. Their relationship is not as simple and straighforward as it seems on the surface, and the way it twists is the source of a lot of the sick fascination I felt watching the train head for the broken tracks. To be straight, this is a dark game with no miraculous salvation. Oh, there are a few times when a 'convenient' outcome occurs, but those are the exceptions rather than the rule. The characters' feelings for one another are real, but they are also muddied by circumstance and events in the past. As a result, their relationships are twisted to an extreme degree (though Supika and Arima's relationship is so twisted even the other characters can't understand it). However, the presentation of this game is top tier. I'm almost tempted to cry 'kamige', but that is going too far, lol. This game is a dark fantasy, but it is also a quietly intense love-romance. It also has elements of a number of genres, but in the end, what stuck with me was that I felt it was a romance from the beginning. There are two endings (and one extra story based off the 'good' ending) in this game... a 'good' ending and a 'normal' ending (in Tsukihime style). The good ending is a happy one... but I say that with the caveat that it is still bittersweet. The environment Supika and Arima are forced into is not one that goes for charage-style 'purely happy' endings, after all.
  36. 3 points
    First, for those who are familiar with me... Yes, I did play this. Why? Something about the way it was presented in the Getchu page said that there was more hidden beneath the surface than a standard oppai-nukige. Thankfully, my instinct was correct, in this case. Now, for those who are curious, this game is a straight-out harem, from beginning to end. This game's primary attractions are the comedic reactions of the heroines and the way they and the protagonist slowly 'fall'. It is like watching a train wreck in slow motion... it is too fascinating to look away from, yet you know it is going to end badly, lol. The protagonist, Yuki, is a somewhat hetare-ish guy who does his best to disappear in the classroom and has trouble speaking to others. One day, out of loneliness, he opens up the Tomefure app, where young guys offer young girls a place to stay for free without strings attached and signs up. The girl who appears at his door is the class idol, Sakurako, who immediately crushes his hopes (sexual fantasies) and basically does her best to leech off of him, dragging a bunch of other girls into the mix. This story is all about a bunch of young people too afraid to create real relationships or who have huge problems in their normal lives essentially huddling together and gradually becoming contaminated with this weird 'small community' Stockholm Syndrome thing. I spent most of the game laughing or in a state of 'frustration' (yes, that kind of frustration), because the process of Yuki and the girls' morals collapsing takes a long time (despite being a kinetic novel, this game took me almost 20 hours to complete) and actual H and near-romance (there is no true romance in this game) doesn't get going until you are about 7/8 of the way through the game. In terms of writing, the basic quality of the main writer is pretty low. I'd say he is somewhere below the baseline for charage writers, which is generally bad in any case. That said, because of the way the 'story' is presented, his lack of writing skills doesn't create as much of a negative effect as it might otherwise, even in a charage. If you want a comedy ecchi harem VN to read, this is probably the best option you can find for the last three years. The whole thing is so absurd that I couldn't help but laugh out loud (a real lol) on dozens of occasions. Don't expect 'healthy' romance, since the whole story is based on the characters' gradually losing their common sense morality about relationships as they sleep in the same room (there is more to it, but I won't spoil you). However, if you don't mind that kind of thing (or if you love it) this game is a fun read. PS: Yes, I surprised myself with how much I got into this one.
  37. 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
  38. 3 points
    On my journey to try and write a complete story, I found it incredibly satisfying creating my story's universe. Mostly characters, relevant parties, and cause and effect. So after a few months of creating, I end up with a decent amount of details and a fair chunk of my story plot filled in. But I haven't written a story. In fact, I haven't even completed a single scene in it's entirety. Strange. These "details", feel so integral to the story. I feel like I'm creating the story. And yet when I google "how to writing", everything is dead focused on the scene: making the perfect scene, the build-up of scenes, scene dialogue, etc. It seems like our focuses are different. Anyways, without going into how modern writing is too presentation focused, let me lay out these two contrasting features which constitute a story. A World The world of a story is its own characters, and their thoughts, interactions, histories, and details. And a timeline of events with explanation of cause and effect. To me as a writer, a world is already the story. Creating the locations, characters, and happenings. Just like how facts and forensic evidence can tell a story, the existence of this separate world, it's characters and events makes it a story to me. Telling a Story However, there is another huge element in stories. That is, how we convey them. When we talk about a good writer, we often applaud their gripping text, captivating storylines. A good part of that is the art of presentation. The first implication of presentation is that of selection. Not every fact and character's thought reaches the reader's eyes, and certainly not every cause and effect is layed out. A story consists of a series of scenes which convey the journey, and also bring the reader through the build-up and through the climax of the story. Beyond that, a story has description, which helps the reader to imagine the scene and put them there. A scene can have a mood, which immerses the player. It's possible to like a scene just for it's mood. Note this mood is a very subjective thing which is both conveyed and imagined. A mood might also might suggest something about the character's lines of thoughts, or it might connect to the punch line of the scene. A narrator can use different tones, which achieve similar effect to a mood. For example, the ironic tone in the narration of the post apocalyptic world SukaSuka encourages us to grin painfully as we hear about curious history and the downfall of foolish parties, deserving and tragic alike. A caustic tone in another post-apocalyptic story could be emphasizing to the reader that human lives matters little here. Of course, the writer could offer up these ideas directly, but a tone or mood simply hints at them. Mostly what these things contribute to is to bestow an experience to the player. This is a subjective experience which is distinct from the world that the author created. Before you think I'm saying "objective rulz", I note that it is possible for a story's universe to have certain emotions or ideas that permeate through it, which the author was trying to convey in the first place. I guess this is why they talk about stories often having an over-arching message. I personally am not a big fan of stories having a primary message, though that it is definitely something which can be done. However, even without having a message, stories usually end up effectively talking about something. This is because they inspire us to think about the phenomena/conflict that they depict. In closing, my fellow VN readers, I leave you with this. Think about a story you've read or are writing. Does the world exist for the sake of the telling, or does the telling exist on behalf of conveying the world?
  39. 3 points
    Ok, anyone who has read some of my rants about microtransactions will wonder why I decided to play this f2p smartphone game... until you remember I'm also a Nasuverse fanboy. I made the questionable decision of picking this game up about two and a half months ago, and since then I've been left with a lot to ponder. First, I'll list what I like about this game. 1. Relatively easy to play for free, in the sense that simply doing free quests and story quests can get you the in-game Saint Crystals necessary to roll for higher-rarity servants with only a bit of patience. 2. Charity Servants, the ones that you can get from completing event quests, are often really good (there are exceptions, even so far, but meh), so if you just do the events, you can still build a decent party before going for the higher-difficulty story quests. 3. Leveling up Servants can be fast if you have the items ready. 4. Battle system is decent, if sometimes deliberately frustrating (to encourage you to spend money, probably). 5. Support Servants borrowed from friends can let you clear hard quests easier. 6. The story of the main game is extremely well-written (though the translators made a lot of obvious stumbles by not fixing the language into English grammar at some points). 7. Manages to recreate the often ambiguous emotions drawn out when you played FSN or watched anime like Fate/Apocrypha that gave the series such grandiosity, along with the usual Nasu humor. Negatives 1. Too many obvious ways in which they try to get you to spend money, with the constant summoning campaigns and sudden difficulty spikes during and post Camelot. 2. Blatant Japanese-style gacha-addiction builder. 3. Missions can be extremely long irl time, and AP regeneration speeds make it possible to play seven hours a day on story missions during half-AP campaigns... which eats at rl a bit too much. My Experience My rule when playing standard video games that I already know I want is 'I'll spend $60 and no more', and I kept to that rule, with a lot of headaches from temptation and obsession with cute or awesome Servants (Evil Artoria is just sexy in her portrait at final Ascension, lol). I've managed to enjoy the story of the main game and laugh through the events so far (the GudaGuda events were hilariously designed and written). However, the lack of breathing space between events and summoning campaigns leaves me feeling exhausted even if I only play a few hours here and there. Every time I wanted to sit back and enjoy the story, there was that time limit to get all the great skill-up and ascension items I didn't want to have to farm from the game nodes, and now there is an event coming up that requires you have completed the main story through Solomon... which is annoying as hell, since BB really looks cute, so I want her in my roster to stare at with drool dripping from the corners of my mouth, like with Medusa Rider and Evil Artoria... Yes, that is the level of obsession this game can create for Fate fans. The fact that several familiar faces are available in the beginning-of-the-game gacha (including Archer from FSN and Heracles) is tailor-made to draw a Fate fan in and trap him with his own lust. I don't recommend anyone with a collector's tendencies or addictive tendencies in general play this game, as it is a potential money sink for any such individual, sadly. Since I am such an individual, my words should have weight, lol. It takes real effort for me not to look at the summoning campaigns when I don't have Saint Crystals or summoning tickets. On the other hand, this game manages to actually tell a good story, and, having just finished Camelot (which is a difficulty spike on par with suddenly dipping into a Souls game when you thought you were playing Ar Tonelico level), I can tell you it is worth at least going this far. While it lacks the huge emotionality of Fate/Apocrypha or the original FSN, it makes up for it with the sheer number of personal stories and glorious ends the various Servants manage to meet. The fact that this definitely feels like a Fate story in both depth and detail makes it even better for a Fate fanboy. However, where things fall short is that we have yet another silent protagonist, similar to Fate/Extra. While this makes, justifiably, the Servants the stars of the story, it can be a bit frustrating that your only inputs are frequently humorous interjections. Personally, one thing that has had me laughing on numerous occasions is how gloriously weird some of the Berserker characters are... since they are all psycho to one degree or the other, this can lead to some... interesting results. While our friend Lancelot from Fate/Zero makes an appearance, most of the Berserkers can and do speak, even if their manner is downright crazy or obsessive.
  40. 3 points
    Clephas

    Realive

    Realive is Purple Soft's latest game. For those unfamiliar with Purple Soft, they are the makers of Hapymaher and Chrono clock, and their specialty lies in nakige with fantasy and/or sci-fi elements. As an example, Chrono Clock has the time-manipulation watch, Amatsutsumi has 'kotodama' (the ability to control people and some phenomena with words), and Aoi Tori has divine and demonic powers. In this case, the characters are drawn into playing an AR game called Alive, which grants them strange abilities based on how far they have progressed in the game. Since these abilities actually bring about real life results, I call it a 'mystical app', lol. Anyway, this game was written by Nakahiro of Hoshimemo and AstralAir fame. In combination with the sheer eroero nature of Purple Soft's artists' character designs (since his previous works that weren't nukige were mostly 'cute' games) it definitely presents a different picture from what you would expect from Nakahiro at first... but as you progress through the game, you will inevitably - if you have played his previous games - come to recognize similarities in how he handles the emotional and comedic elements to his previous works. The common route of this game is mostly light-hearted, though it shows at times the deep worries the various heroines and protagonist have (on the surface level). For those familiar with Hapymaher (which is translated), it becomes evident that Nakahiro is a fanboy of that particular work pretty early on, as he deliberately inserted many small easter eggs into the character personalities and settings that are drawn from the characters of Hapymaher. Sadly, he doesn't seem to have been fond of Saki (how could anyone play that and not love Saki?!!) but the heroines seem to have carried on a lot of elements from Hapymaher characters for some reason... though I won't spoil it for you. Have fun figuring out which characters inherited which Hapymaher elements, lol. Anyway, there are four heroine routes in this game and one Grand Route (just a different name for a true route, save that it usually has a bigger focus on resolving central elements of the main game's story as opposed to the heroines' individual ones). I'll introduce the heroines as I go. Kaya Kaya is, on the surface, your classic arrogant/selfish ojousama. She has distinct manipulative tendencies and a strong need to be on top, no matter what the situation. However, that surface hides a crybaby who lived a sheltered but strictly-regulated existence that tried to squeeze all traces of personality out of her. This is not that uncommon in ojousama heroines, but the way Kaya is presented is cute, generally speaking. Her class is Alchemist, which oversees destruction and creation of objects. Like all the four initial heroine routes, this one focuses on resolving Kaya's issues as she tries to complete the game, which is often difficult, since the conditions of the missions given by the game are often vague and designed to help the characters grow and face their inner demons... and Kaya's demons are a doozy (those this can be said about all the heroines to one extent or another). While some of her issues might seem minor to someone looking from the outside in, it is nonetheless made easy for the reader to empathize with her suffering. This path was my first experience with how the endings were going to be handled for this game... and the ending was something of an exercise in frustration for me, primarily because there is so much hinting at the background setting without giving me answers to match up with my suppositions. In addition, since we have no way to see how things progressed between the events at the climax of the path to the epilogue (this is deliberately not spoken of), I found myself wishing that they'd left epilogues to after the game was done completely. Minato Minato is a loner by choice, living a hard life working part-time jobs to keep her in food and shelter while attending high school. She actively hates the idea of trusting others, and she resents deeply the hypocrisy of those who try to help her out of pity. Normally, she presents the picture of a 'koakuma' heroine (and that's what she is), but she is also a rather obvious tsundere, albeit one who only shows her true tsun when someone manages to embarrass her. Her class is Trickster. Minato's path is... much more viscerally emotional and at the same time amusing than Kaya's path. I chose her second because she was the other 'outlier' heroine amongst the four initially available (I almost always pick heroines who aren't already close to or in love with the protagonist first, since osananajimi and deredere classmates are usually boring). She resists both the idea and reality of her romantic feelings for Chihaya (the protagonist) for a long time, and her reactions to those feelings were just hilarious... up until the point she finally gets down to being deredere, then she is even more clingy than Kaya, and that takes work. Minato's theme is 'overcoming dependence and making peace with the past', and it was much more effectively executed than Kaya's path... that said, i do still have complaints with how the epilogue was handled. However, that's the case with all of the four initial endings, so I'm just going to grin and bear it. Nemuru I'll go ahead and get this out in the open. Nemuru and Satsuki are the heroines I had no interest in from the beginning. Satsuki is an osananajimi in the classic 'cooks and cleans for him' style (albeit not tsundere for the most part) and Nemuru is your typical shy girl who has trouble speaking with men. Nemuru's class is, ironically (at least on the surface) Idol, and her skills are all centered around gathering or controlling the attention of others. My major problem with Nemuru's path came down to the fact that Nemuru was the heroine, in the end. As a path, it is actually fairly good, even if it lacked a lot of the non-standard twists and turns seen in the previous two paths (incidentally why I picked those two heroines first). However, Nemuru's character was irritating to me (shy heroines who remain shy for most of the game drive me crazy), and while she grows a great deal as she overcomes her trauma (much like the previous two), I was left unmoved due to my lack of interest in her. Again, her path is technically good, and a less-jaded player would undoubtedly be able to empathize more with her (the me of two or three years ago probably could have), but I've grown used to not bothering to tolerate heroines I don't like of late, so my reaction was probably inevitable. Satsuki Satsuki is the osananajimi neighbor, living with her younger sister Yayoi. She constantly wants to take care of people, especially the protagonist, and she intentionally matches her time leaving the house to his... do I have to enumerate anymore reasons why I left this path to last? lol Anyway, Satsuki has a strongly self-sacrificing personality with an intense desire to help and protect others. This is reflected in her class, which is Knight. Her path is perhaps the second most emotional (for me) so far, right behind Minato's. That said, her existence as an osananajimi and an essentially 'normal' person pretty much eliminated any possibility of me preferring her as a heroine, hahaha. Her path is all about overcoming the loss of something precious, and as such, it is inevitably a tear-jerker. Grand Route Early in the Grand Route, the reason for the links to Hapymaher become clear, and about a third way through, it becomes clear why all the events in the other path occurred. I'll be blunt... you'll probably spend most of the first third of this path in tears, if you have a heart. It is also an extremely familiar set of themes and setting ideas for someone who has read Hapymaher, so I can clearly state that this game is a Hapymaher derivative rather than just supposing it might be. This path forces the protagonist and the heroines to face their largest trauma, the one not mentioned even slightly in the other paths. This trauma... is bad enough that I'd honestly be tempted to rename this an utsuge. However, typical to Purple Soft's nakige brand, the ending is a happy one, if somewhat bittersweet. I know I cried. I will say that the protagonist's solution to the problem was... novel and typically convenient of a Japanese nakige, lol.
  41. 3 points
    Studio Élan, a company founded by Josh Kaplan, one of the authors of the highly-appreciated yuri VN Highway Blossoms (check out my review of it here), gathered an unusually large and enthusiastic following since its formation in early 2018. Engaging high-profile artists for their projects, utilizing Kaplan’s renown within the VN community and brilliantly spreading its message through social media, the relatively small team managed to become of the most high-profile actors on the EVN scene before releasing even a single title (not counting demos and prologues, which, of course, also had a large role of building the studio’s profile). With follower counts and Patreon support that could make many veterans of the scene jealous, the company spent the last year working on two interesting and well-marketed projects, both of them gorgeously-looking yuri VNs, while seemingly only getting more and more attention. Considering the hype building up at insane rates, it was that much more crucial for Studio Élan’s debut title, Heart of the Woods, to deliver a compelling and memorable experience. While few people could doubt its stunning aesthetic – the demo and plenty of promotional material made that part perfectly clear – it was still a question whether it could create characters and story able to at least rival those of Highway Blossoms, to which the new game would be inevitably compared. Thankfully, I can quite confidently say that the full release, which showed up on Steam mid-February 2019, was pretty much everything fans could hope for – and maybe even more than that. Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
  42. 3 points
    solidbatman

    Little Busters: The Apology

    Hello. I am the guy who wrote that review of Little Busters that everyone hated because I did not like the game. Those poor people are doing just fine, however, even with my evil, vile, disgusting review out there still. I, on the other hand, have never been worse off. You see, I've been overwhelmed with guilt. I feel bad for what I did. I took a beloved visual novel, one that has changed the lives of many people, and slandered it with my negative review. Then I continued to ride that infamy I gained into relevancy allowing my hatred of Little Busters! to manifest itself as a false representation of my true opinion of it, much like I am doing right this moment. The truth about my time with Little Busters! is that I enjoyed the VN. It had some bad routes (like all of them) and had a really unremarkable ending. But can I say I did not enjoy my time reading it? Not really. The 24 hour stream was a blast, and subsequent streams were a lot of fun, especially when people were involved in the jokes and discussion of the routes as I read them. For example, Lewycool's Sexy Seagull Legs during Mio's route was light in an otherwise forgettable, boring route (protip: a character with no personality other than "I like books" is not a recipe for a fun route) and allowed me to actually have fun with the route. Likewise, discussions of Kurugaya's Balloon Tits carrying me off into the sky made her Bill Murray wannabe route more enjoyable. Refrain was a blast to read right up until the ending. I didn't hate Rin and simply wished we saw far more development from her than what we got. She was a fun character. The experience of reading Little Busters! was good. I had a good time. While my opinions on Little Busters! remain the same, that it is a bad VN (not horrid at least), I do not regret the time I spent on it and I sometimes wish I could read it over again on stream with everyone like I did before. So, I owe everyone an apology. I'm sorry your favorite VN is so shit I had to bring in friends to enjoy it instead. I can't wait to get my hands on the official Rewrite release in 600 years. Also, a review of an InvertMouse VN is coming very soon to this blog near you, assuming I'm not blocked first.
  43. 3 points
    While probably few people following my VN-related writing know that, for quite a long time I had a peculiar relationship with the brony fandom. Being brought into the community by my RL friend, a popular fan-artist working under the pseudonym Pony-Berserker, I’ve written a few dozens of My Little Pony comic scripts and, more importantly, based my master’s thesis on researching the fandom – more specifically, exploring the bizarre world of MLP fan erotica. While my current involvement with Bronies is minor at best, I’ve decided to commemorate both my previous and current hobbies by reviewing the humble catalogue of My Little Pony visual novels – in this post, and the one two weeks from now, I will go through pretty much all VN-style fan games made by bronies that are currently available in English, which is just around a dozen titles, including large demos and trials. So, if you have the courage, please join me in this bizarre adventure through the world of shipping, bad fanfiction and, maybe, some genuinely interesting, imaginative VN project within the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic universe! Welcome to Ponyville (demo) The MLP visual novel scene seems to be a hell of demos, dropped projects and never-ending development limbos. Some of the most notable games in this niche suffered from perpetual delays or straight-up died halfway through the production cycle, and Welcome to Ponyville might be the best-known among the latter. After releasing a substantial demo in mid-2012, the team behind quickly started becoming more and more silent, and after two years with no meaningful updates, the chances of the project being finished were clearly gone. The already available first episode, however, is still quite an interesting piece of content that is arguably worth experiencing on its own. Telling the story of a pony arriving to Ponyville to settle within the town (you can choose the protagonist’s gender and the breed of pony they represent), it showcases some of the most notable achievements of the brony fandom: art that very closely resembles that of the show, both in style and quality, and full voice acting that faithfully mimics the original voice cast of Friendship is Magic. The 1,5h-long demo is mostly composed of casual, amusing SoL scenes in which the protagonist organizes his stay in Ponyville and takes odd jobs, while meeting the Mane 6 (brony term for the 6 main characters of the show: Twilight Sparkle, Rarity, Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, Applejack and Fluttershy), along with various other inhabitants of the town. At the same time, the game introduces Silent Hill-like, disturbing dream sequences, suggesting there’s something sinister hiding underneath the fluffy surface… While we’ll never know in which direction this project would go exactly and I would normally not recommend wasting time on approaching unfinished games, Welcome to Ponyville shows the creativity of the MLP fandom at its finest and give a taste of what we could’ve got if more of its energy went into projects of this kind. Final Rating: Recommended Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
  44. 2 points
    Clephas

    Sorceress Alive

    Originally, when this game came out, I bought it, played the first part of the prologue, facepalmed over the protagonist's actions, then dropped it. I still don't think that choice was a mistake, even now. That's not to say this is not an excellent game (it is), but the fact is that Kouki being a total doofus at times is annoying as hell. This game is split into two parts, Sorceress and Alive. The two parts have significantly different story progression and outcomes, and it would be safe to say that Sorceress is a different game from Alive in many ways. Sorceress can be called a 'combat sport charage', as it focuses primarily on the heroines, romance, SOL, and the Rave tournament. This in itself is quite an enjoyable example of the sub-genre, though the gap between Kouki in his 'strategist mode' and his 'dense doofus mode' is startling at times. Alive is more of a plotge with chuunige elements (I've had people describe it as a chuunige, but it doesn't have most of the major qualities of one). The story there is darker and much denser, showing sides of the various characters you can't see in Sorceress. Though, tbh, it is bound pretty tightly to some tropes familiar to most otakus. The heroines are Azuria, Akina, Yuzuriha, Miya, and Riri. Riri only has an ending in Alive, but she does play a role in both parts of the game. Azuria is your typical mother-like oneesan character... with the classic physical features to go along with it. Of the five, I think she has the strongest personality second only to Yuzuriha, who is intense behind her calm appearance. She wields earth magic, which she uses mostly in a defensive manner at first (though she does expand her repertoire). Akina is your typical 'fire magic tsundere'. To be honest, there really isn't any need to explain her further if you've seen any number of anime tsunderes with fire magic. They all act the same way and are equally predictable. Her relationship with Kouki ends up somewhat like that of Yuuji and Shana in Shakugan no Shana (the first half of the season) in some ways. Yuzuriha is the quiet bullied girl of the group. She uses ice magic, and her manner seems to reflect this... However, she is probably the most passionate and loving of them all by several degrees. Her relationship with Kouki has a rather larger portion of psychological dependence than the other paths, but I still think of her as the strongest personality of the group. Miya is the apparent 'imouto' character, constantly clinging to the protagonist, always with a mischievous smile on her face. While there are definitely hidden depths to her personality, it is somewhat hard to get at them early on. She wields wind magic, which reflects her (apparent) whimsical nature. Riri... is your typical arrogant tsundere ojousama, with fight-loving traits blended in. To be honest, she has the least amount of character development, so I have to say I think she got gypped. That said, she is a great rival for the Sorceress part of the game, and a wielder of darkness magic. An important character to keep in mind is Yuumi, who is the most powerful mage in the school, a wielder of light magic that dominates her opponents easily. Her personality is apparently hedonistic and driven by the whimsy of the moment. She also is extremely lazy. Sorceress I'll state here again that Sorceress is basically a charage with battle elements tacked on. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. The 'working together to win the tournament' element provides an excellent reason for the protagonist to get close to the heroines despite his original meeting with Akina, and the actual individual story progression is quite good. However, except for Yuzuriha's ending, the character endings were somewhat disappointing in comparison with the deeper character development of the common route and the drama of their individual routes. This is understandable in retrospect, if you've played Alive, but it was still irritating. Considering how much the romance of the paths built up the characters' dreams for the future, the lack of a 'significantly after' factor to the endings was disappointing. The action in this game in general is about the same as a low-end chuunige (reasonable action, low on descriptions of what happened...). Alive Alive is a far darker story, which strips away the veil hiding the nature of the Queendom (females are dominant due to a low rate of male births), and there is a lot of death and destruction... For those who loved the characters in Sorceress, Alive can be painful at times, though the catharsis is pretty decent, especially in the middle and later parts of the story. To be honest, due to the structure of this game, it is really, really hard not to spoil anything important. So, I'll just say that the story is good... for what it is. It is not terribly unpredictable (though I imagine some will think there is a light mindfuck in there), and the twists were rather obvious. However, for what it is, it is enjoyable. That said, it isn't without a few severe flaws endemic to its structure. Alive is essentially a single path with seven endings (one normal, five good, and one true). As a result, there is little effort to give further life to such characters as Riri or Yuumi (until near the end), and I was immensely disappointed with how the endings were handled... in particularly the true ending. While the five main girls all have a 'years after' ending, the lack of a harem ending (I'm not joking) after making all the girls fall in love with him (not kidding) is just ridiculous. In addition, the true ending fell flat... yes, it was nice in an abstract sense, but for someone who read through the last part of the main path on the edge of his seat, I had to wonder what the writer was thinking. While it does bring tears to the eyes somewhat, there were at least a half-dozen ways it could have been easily turned into a bawling tear-jerker final scene that would have had all the readers dribbling snot and going through whole tissue boxes. This lack of a satisfying catharsis to top off the game was a somewhat flat ending to an otherwise excellent game.
  45. 2 points
    The monotony of school is an oppressive force on a kid's life. Psychologically omnipresent, you don't even need to be within its walls to feel its chains shackling you. Home is just made an extension of its presence with homework. And more then just the boredom of rote memorization and a lobotomizing curriculum, there is a social arena where you must interact with the other prisoners. Regardless of how you feel about them, its important to at least maintain a sociable facade. Unlike College where education is on your own dime, and therefore your own time. The grade school schedule from kindergarten through high school is rigidly compact, and generally you have little say in what you get to study. Regardless of talent, interest, or relevancy, you are stuck in a classroom where most other students are just as unenthused to be there as you. 8th Grade, 13 years old and my last year in junior high. I didn't need to put more than a minimal effort into my studies to attain the reputation as an honor student. Although on a superficial front I got along with everyone, I lacked any true connections that extended beyond the solidarity of being prisoners of the educational system I've just described. Life was dull, but everyone told me the path I was walking down had success and stability at the end of its road. That assumed I would continue playing the honor student role I fell into though. Despite the agency of free-will, I was complacent. Despite my ennui, I had little initiative or courage to stir things up. The irony of attending a Catholic school and passively turning a blind eye to the bullying occurring. The frustration of my sexuality awakening but being too emotionally impotent to do anything about it. This is the context in which I discovered Yume Miru Kusuri: A Drug That Make You Dream. Past midnight, and I had just finished downloading a copy of the VN. I had promised myself to install it then go to bed. Opening the application up as a test, I was greeted with a soothing yet hypnotic track. Three girls with blank expressions were looking up at me amid an infinite expanse of vaguely drawn school desks. For minutes I just listened, utterly mesmerized. It was as though I was experiencing a drug that was making me dream. Winter break started the next day, and I had previously installed another visual novel that I was intending to start first. But as my consciousness was drifting in the dazed state before sleep, the title theme track kept ringing in my head. The next day I decided to start my vacation playing this VN instead, and that has made all the difference. The opening scene, an image of a generic blue sky with soft clouds. The narrator himself falls asleep and soon finds himself in an odd dream. Upon violently waking up, soothing music akin to the title screen track plays, and without even realizing it my own thoughts are absorbed by Kouhei's inner monologues. His thinking was so natural, and familiar. And that's when I noticed, I was Kouhei Kagami. The issues of bullying, interpersonal relationships, and the desire to escape the dullness of reality (albeit not through drugs, for me anime was my escape) were all subject matters I understood, and more importantly related to. The way things play out in the various routes always remain grounded in a firm realism. Which easily allowed me to project myself into the situations. But unlike a generic self-insert protagonist, what made Kouhei so relatable was his distinct voice. He was hesitant to tread towards anything that could shake him off his honor-student trajectory, and yet he was equally tempted and fascinated by such things. Smoking, sex, drugs, standing up to social forces; all things that even the most straight laced of teenagers will probably be tempted by. If not for the things themselves, then to grab control of your own life by actively doing something you shouldn't do. This is how Kouhei and I were kindred spirits. The way the story and Kouhei's perspective completely resonated with me led me to voraciously read something for the first time in my life. Before I always viewed reading as a chore, and I only ever reluctantly did so. Reading this VN however, led me into feeling as though everything was happening was to a slightly older, Japanese version of myself. It was that immersive quality that sucked me into the VN's world. That was my baptism into VNs. I'm 22 now, and rereading this VN I can't help but think back on myself and who I was when I first discovered it. Not only have I long since graduated high school, somewhere amidst my early adulthood I also learned to stop being such a passive participant in life. Yet while I can no longer identify with Kouhei Kagami like I did when I first read his story, I can still understand his thinking and actions so clearly. Almost like reading his perspective brings me back to my perspective when I was in my early teens. In that respect, Yume Miru Kusuri is kind of the Catcher in the Rye of VNs.
  46. 2 points
    Usually, I focus mostly on the perspective of a consumer when I write in this blog. I do this because I am and always have been primarily a consumer of material rather than a creator. However, that doesn't mean I've never created anything... just that I haven't published anything (well, under my own name... ghost writing doesn't count) since some early fiction on Deviantart over a decade ago. So, since I'm not writing as many reviews, I chose to start a small corner describing the techniques I use when I'm writing fiction (which I still do as a hobby, though I stopped posting it after the last site I posted massively on went under). Today's corner is about the techniques I use when creating a character (usually the protagonist and his immediate surrounding characters, as well as the antagonist) in the brainstorming process. There are two types I use... the flow of thought type and the 'important points' type. The flow of thoughts (similar to flow of consciousness style of writing) involves simply writing out all the qualities, the basic history, and abilities/talents/weaknesses of a character as they occur to you in prose form. This is very similar to the character summaries given on official websites, but in much more detail, with specific important points (to you) described in detail. Immediately after I complete this process, I ink out the setting (I usually create a setting in parallel to the characters) and then I start the 'sculpting' process. The sculpting process involves slowly shaving away or altering parts of the character that don't quite fit with the full setting, are excessive (it is easy to make fantasy protagonists over-powered, for instance), or just don't seem to be internally consistent in retrospect. The final step is to try to write an intro scene for that character that would make sense for that character in the universe you've created, giving you an impression that you can use to form their role in a story. The second method I use is more mechanical. In this case, I write out all the qualities in list form, based on what kind of character I'm interested in making. I usually use this for side-characters, as it is a much 'dryer' approach. Essentially, I create Personality, History, Relationships, and Abilities/Talents/Quirks/Weaknesses categories. Relationships is generally the first category I focus on, connecting their strand of the web to that of the protagonist and/or other characters. The second is usually either History or Personality. The reason is that this defines the nature of the Relationships, giving it a more distinct form. Last is the Abilities/Talents/Quirks/Weaknesses category. To be blunt, while this is important to their role in the story, it is the aspect that is most likely to be subject to change based on what is necessary to keep the plot going. These are the basic techniques I use... to be honest, since I've never been formally educated in creative writing, I don't know how close my methodology is to that which is commonly used, but I find that this works best for me.
  47. 2 points
    kivandopulus

    Steel [Graviton]

    Foreword: I never expected a 80 hour long race out of this "episodic" story. How much time should pass till opening? What about length of the epilogue? Should there be some lines after the final credits? Believe me, Steel will surprise you with each answer. I knew that scenario from Kadokura Keisuke would be enjoyable. But it took me a full week to be able to digest it. VNDB: https://vndb.org/v6416 Youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5Nc368AlSs&list=PLs4Gp5VU4Fv9jHMWwIIkzFPiTpLJ-eMP7 Synopsis: The protagonist, Tomoya, was abandoned by his mother at a tender age. He was taken in by Honjou Arisa after a chance meeting. Four girl adoptees who had joined the Honjou family home for similar reasons also lived there. Though they were not related by blood, Tomoya treated the girls as if they were his siblings. They lived peaceful lives at the Honjou residence... but one day, he encountered a strange woman in town. She was wreathed in something that looked like iron – and upon seeing her figure, he remembered that he, too, had once harbored such a metallic augment. "Is that... your Anima?" A right arm turned to metal... A peculiar corpse discovered at school... A transfer student exuding dark mist... And a foreign warrior wreathed in thick steel armor... Tomoya's peaceful life would soon begin to crumble as disaster came to visit him and his sisters. To protect them, he shall have to once again wreathe his right arm in Anima. Game type: Supernatural abilities chuuni story Character Design rating: 8/10 Protagonist rating: 7/10 Story rating: 9/10 Game quality: 4/10 Overall rating: 7/10 Basics first. This is a story of a big and powerful Honjo clan. Main character Tomoya is an adopted child who lives in the family for the last five years. Only few families possess the anima ability to turn their body into weapons. They have rivals, but don't show their powers to the outsiders. Tomoya only starts to master his anima. That brings us to structure. There are four chapters. Three first chapters have similar shape. Each of them is devoted to Honjo sisters and their anima - first Misaki, then Ayano, finally Iori. These three chapters have two endings each - initially the true one when the heroine comes off the stage in some way and then the side happy ending with each heroine. After each of four chapters there's a short explanatory chapter which is devoted mostly to past events and Honjo Alice heroine. The fourth chapter has only one ending and is devoted to the most mysterious heroine Nishinomiya Akizuki. It also covers most of the loose ends of the game. Epilogue chapter (with a small Final chapter which finalizes Explanatory Chapters) is very different from the other chapters and presents after-story for the different characters that remain on the stage up to the point. Phew, with that covered - almost - without spoilers it's possible to go on. Story is thrilling, and text is really rich. Characters are quite developed despite having no voicing thanks to whole 15-hour long chapter devoted to each of them. What I liked the most is that there are very few SOL scenes. Protagonist Tomoya starts off pretty well with all his powers awakening gradually and evolving with more emotional experiences. But game really lacks a good conflict. There are some goons (including elite ones) from the rival family, but that's it. So in result Tomoya just does not have opportunity to actually fight since we constantly need to show battle prowess of our chapter heroines. Thus he gets from cool to passive losing charm. Due to the lack of conflict some fights happen even between heroines out of trifles. But on the other hand, some antagonists jump to the stage out of the blue. Momentum never gets lost. Time to get back to story since it's the main flavor of the game. Each chapter is actually very different, so we can't stop being surprised. Misaki chapter is our straightforward nakige with personal drama and focus on the heroine alone. Ayano chapter suddenly changes focus from heroine to her anima. Iori chapter is totally different again since Iori actually can't fight. Maid Noriko has to fulfill that function, so Noriko actually gets her own ending as well. Third chapter also marks the main conflict of the game and uncovers Honjo clan secrets. Fourth chapter has the most straightforward conflict between main heroines Alice and Akizuki against their own antagonists. As for epilogue, it gives off too much of Clannad scent which is a great minus for such Clannad hater as me. Each chapter is named after anima name and explanatory chapters are called Shizoid because of the very different perspective presented. The saddest part is graphical presentation and absence of voicing. That gives a huge penalty to the quality evaluation. I can't really imagine many persons to be able to read such a huge story with such poor presentation. But - on the other hand - how many real modern masterpieces are there without voicing? Can't really remember even one out of the blue. That's an enormous feat by itself.
  48. 2 points
    EVN releases often come apparently out of nowhere, with games either flying under the radar during their entire development process or simply being forgotten due to delays and inconsistent promotional efforts on the part of their authors. This lack of proper buildup can easily spell a commercial disaster for such titles, especially considering today’s overcrowded indie market and the Steam storefront so full of shovelware that browsing recent releases stopped having any functional meaning. Thankfully, at least some of these games can still break out of total obscurity thanks to their particular merits, or even having the help of someone with a particularly big megaphone (which, in the realities of the VN market, means one of the very few established publishers interested in Japanese-styled games). One of the recent titles that apparently got away with its extremely-prolonged development and a long period of obscurity is Serment – Contract with a Devil. This lighthearted, yuri themed dungeon crawler by Nkt Studio was released on Steam by Sekai Project in early February 2019, nearly three years since the reveal of the first demo and after significant changes to the game, including a drastic visual makeover. Thanks to its beautiful promotional art, appealing premise and the developers quickly responding to players’ feedback, it managed to gather a decent amount of attention and positive response. But what exactly this “dungeon crawler/visual novel hybrid” has to offer? Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
  49. 2 points
    lunaterra

    Exploring Hustle Cat

    I don’t like coffee. I don’t like being around cats. Hustle Cat is a game about working in a cat café that specializes in coffee. What could go wrong? …not a whole lot, it turns out. Part of the fun of playing games is being able to pretend you’re a person you’re not—in this case, a person who genuinely enjoys drinking coffee and being around cats. One of the things that Hustle Cat is most famous for is its character creation. Rather than selecting a gender as in most games, Hustle Cat allows you to pick the protagonist’s pronouns (he, she, or they). There’s a minor element of appearance customization, with three skin tones (pale/medium/dark) and two builds (one slightly more feminine, one slightly more masculine—although both are heavily androgynous; the biggest difference between them is their hair length) which can be combined. And unlike many visual novels which allow the protagonist’s appearance to be customized, Hustle Cat actually shows your character in its CGs (and there are quite a few CGs compared to how long the game is). Something I noticed is that, despite (or possibly because of) the pronoun selection, pronouns are rarely used for the protagonist at all, and they’re never explicitly gendered (i.e., if you pick “she/her” pronouns, Avery still isn’t referred to as a girl or woman, just a nerd). I’ve seen some people say that Avery is canonically non-binary because of this, though I haven’t seen anything from the developers confirming it. Regardless, it’s still pretty rare to even have the option of playing a non-binary character in a game. Main characters (in order of introduction) Avery Grey is our extremely relatable protagonist. A recent college graduate, they’re looking for their first job while living in their aunt’s apartment. While going for a walk, they discover a cat café named The Cat’s Paw which just so happens to be hiring. After a strange interview with the café’s proprietor, Graves, Avery becomes its newest employee. Landry is a waiter-slash-unofficial-carpenter at The Cat’s Paw. He’s super friendly and kind. Graves Serling is the eccentric owner of The Cat’s Paw. He clearly is hiding things—a lot of very big things, in fact. Most importantly, the fact that he was in a goth band in the 90s named Xpidercoven. (Okay, that’s not the most important one.) Hayes is the café’s barista; he suffers from a pretty severe case of anxiety. Finley is the super-outgoing social media intern. (By the way, it’s a complete coincidence that I read two visual novels in a row with major characters named Finley…) Mason is the taciturn head (and only) chef of the café. I fell in love with her immediately, and hers is the first route I went through. Reese is the assistant manager. He talks himself up a lot. I hated him almost immediately. The love interests of Hustle Cat: Finley, Mason, Reese, Graves, Hayes, and Landry Read full post at Pixels, Polygons, Prose
  50. 2 points
    Been busy for a while, but this time I only stopped for a few months rather than a few years
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