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  1. Like
    Jade reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Bakumatsu Jinchuu Houkoku Resshiden Miburo   
    This is the third game in the series that began with Chuusingura (please don't judge that particular work by the utterly shitty translation).  I do highly recommend that you play both Chuusingura and Bushi no Kodou before you play this game, because it is necessary to fully understand some of the events that occur (particularly in the true Hijikata ending).
    First, a bit of background about the Bakumatsu period.  Essentially, after Admiral Perry forced open Japan with the threat of his cannons, the Bakufu (also known as the Tokugawa Shogunate), was forced to sign the usual set of unequal treaties Western nations forced on Eastern ones with less advanced tech during that period of history.  Japan's peculiar double-headed political structure at the time, with the Emperor 'lending' his authority to the Shogun of the time in order to rule Japan and the then-emperor's stated wish for the exclusion of foreigners lent anti-Tokugawa factions and ambitious feudal lords the justification they needed (mostly to convince their followers) to start moving against the Bakufu.
    This was made worse when one of these factions succeeded in assassinating Chancellor Ii, who directed the political purges and authoritarian political moves of the Bakufu immediately following Perry's actions.  This gave others the idea to do similar things to anyone they saw as supporting the Bakufu, and Kyouto became the center of a bloody series of assassinations of officials and merchants who sided with the existing authority or benefited from foreign contacts. 
    The Aizu Clan, which was given the authority and rather nasty job of bringing peace to Kyouto, recruited ronin (masterless samurai) in order to form a police force that would capture or execute the other ronin making trouble in the city.  This resulted in the formation of the Roushigumi, which later became the Shinsengumi seen in Hakuoki, Peacemaker Kurogane, and the Rurounin Kenshin OVAs (Saitou Hajime in the main series was also a member). 
    Historically, the Shinsengumi, despite having suffered a number of internal disputes and factional splits in the years leading up to the fall of the Bakufu, were amongst the few who fought to the end against the new government, and Hijikata Toshizou's final death and his death poem are one of the most incredibly romanticized objects amongst samurai-loving weaboos of the classic stripe.  Some left-leaning history buffs in Japan blame the romanticization of the Shinsengumi and the characters from Chuusingura for the intense rise in nationalism and insane glorification of samurai culture that occurred leading up to WWII. 
    Now down to business... it should be stated that this game is about fifteen times more violent than Chuusingura was.  The protagonist and other members of the Shinsengumi killed people on a daily basis with swords in broad daylight, and they don't really hold back when it comes to portraying that. 
    This game is also just as long as Chusingura (maybe slightly longer) was, despite being essentially one long path for most of its length (with about a third of it devoted to individual paths).  This is because the story covers about six years worth of chaotic events, both political and personal.  Going into this game with a full knowledge of the fates of the Shinsengumi members, I couldn't help but wish some of their fates would be changed (hint: of the original membership, only Saitou Hajime and Shinpachi live to see old age), and there are a lot of characters I honestly wept for... no matter what game I see him/her in, Sakamoto Ryouma is always an admirable character and seeing the pointless deaths of a number of clear-eyed individuals with an eye toward the future is just as bad.  However, this game follows history to the end in the Hijikata path and for most of the game otherwise... and while the Shinsengumi might be cultural icons now, their lives were colored with blood and tragedy.
    There are four main paths, three side-paths (paths for heroines that die or are otherwise separated from the main cast for some reason), and one true path (Hijikata Ending 2).  The main paths include Okita Souji, Kondou Isami, Hajime Saitou, and Hijikata Toshizou.  Okita's path... well, if you've seen any of the many anime (except Gintama) where he pops up, you'll know what I mean when I say it ends on a sad and somewhat empty note.  Kondou Isami's path is marginally better (if you know about Kondou's historic fate, it is nice to see it changed).  Saitou's path is significantly better and more detailed, as are the three side-paths (which is somewhat ironic).  Hijikata's paths are, of course, the most complete-feeling and satisfying, though the first one left me in tears for a solid ten minutes.
    This game does have some major flaws... there was an obvious history buff's obsession with detail when it came to portraying a lot of the historical events involved, and that aspect could start to feel interminable in the space between the story's main turning point and the heroine paths.  However, I found myself willing to forgive that flaw in the end.
    Overall, this was an excellent story, and it takes relatively few liberties with history (beyond feminization of historical figures), which is unusual in Shinsengumi portrayals.  The most unusual aspect of the game (the protagonist's ability) was mostly a dormant issue for the greater part of the game, so it often left me with a nice illusion that I was seeing through the eyes of a real Shinsengumi member. 
    I was surprised at one revelation in the true ending, though...
  2. Like
    Jade reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Isekai Mono: 'Otherworld travels' as a genre   
    Traveling to other worlds is so common a plot element in otaku media that it has actually become a fantasy sub-genre in and of itself.  This is actually one of my favorite plot elements... if it isn't screwed up magnificently (like in RE:Zero) by putting the wrong sort of person into the mess.
    The first otaku media that hit me with this was The Vision of Escaflowne, followed by Fushigi Yuugi.  The latter isn't one of my favorite anime, but I did like it up to a point.  The former is one of my oldest favorites, about a girl named Hitomi who gets sent to another world where she gets wrapped up in a conflict between a massive fantasy Empire and those opposing its might.  This is actually the standard for most of the early stories of the type, in this way:  Most early anime and manga at the time and up to the turn of the century that used this kind of concept tended to plop a protagonist into that other world either as a virtually helpless piece on the board, acting more as a catalyst than as a true mover and shaker.  This is the reason why the concept didn't really take off in the minds of fans until much later.
    Another type is based off of the archetype from Maze, an anime where the protagonist gets sent to another world as a 'savior/messiah' character who is immensely over-powered and somehow manages to bumble their way into saving the world.  In both cases, about 70% of the anime and manga of this type and the one above have the protagonist choosing to 'go home' at some point, though there are exceptions (such as Maze itself). 
    The third type is one where the protagonist is thrown into another world with a concrete role... but not necessarily the power necessary to survive on their own.  Twelve Kingdoms falls into this archetype, as the protagonist is essentially cast adrift, possessing an important role in her new world but not the power or the personal maturity to carry it out.  Twelve Kingdoms is a classic example of the type, in that the protagonist is unable to fulfill her role until she matures greatly in a personal sense and grows into her role somewhat.  Depending on the role (ranging from 'hero', to 'dark lord', to 'king') they mostly tend to choose to remain in their new world, because of the sense of purpose it provides them (which is a contrast to the two types above).  A more famous and long-running example of the type, with a somewhat lighter air, is Kyou Kara Maou.
    The fourth type is the one that has become most popular... 'the comedic traveler'.  This type, which began to appear en masse after Zero no Tsukaima initiated the concept, has relatively 'normal' protagonists being sent to other worlds to blunder their way to fame (or not) and generally amuse us with their antics, while also providing a serious story alongside.  A more recent example of the type is RE:Zero or Kono Suburashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo.  Generally speaking, the protagonists in these VNs are overconfident, vaguely idiotic, and generally ignorant individuals who have just one or two redeeming qualities.  Depending on the anime, VN, or game, they can be immensely annoying as characters, too.
    Of course, there are ones that don't fall into any of these types... but those are relatively rare.  I like this genre, but I'm beginning to grow tired of the comedic traveler type, lol.
  3. Like
    Jade reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, JRPG: Tales of Berseria   
    It has been a while since I bought a new jrpg and played it all the way through in under six months...  To be blunt, most new jrpgs just aren't worth finishing these days.  I gave up on Atelier shortly after Mana Khemia, Square hasn't produced anything interesting in ten years (for a story-addict), and most of the best old series are dead or in semi-permanent hiatus stasis. 
    Before this, I played Zestiria, and if you read my comments on it, I mostly liked it, though there were some aspects I wasn't particularly impressed with (the Armatization system, the translation of the skits, etc).  If I were to give Zestiria a 7 out of ten for making a good effort and keeping my interest to the end, I'd rate Tales of Berseria a 10/10... the rarest of things, a modern jrpg kamige. 
    I almost never give 10 ratings, whether of VNs or of Jrpgs.  The reason is simple... even kamige rarely get everything right.  In the case of a JRPG, this is even harder than with a VN, since it not only has to have an impressive story and presentation... it has to reach a level with the gameplay, music, and visuals that is impressive as well, if not perfect.  Tales of Berseria is one of those rare games that manages all of that.  Since I'm not a technical critic, my impressions of the visual and sound aspects are emotional reactions more than anything else. 
    For character designs, the only character design that set my teeth on edge besides the Normin characters (returning from Zestiria) was Magilou... I have a serious distaste for jester costumes, and Magilou's is just plain ugly to me.  This is an aesthetic comment, based on my personal sense, and I realize it won't be shared by everyone else.   On the other hand, Velvet is... perfect.  The visual change from the village girl, to the ragged prisoner, to the vengeance-seeking daemon in a ragged black coat, red bustier, and skirt was visually striking and very definitive of her in her roles in the early story.  Most female character visual changes during a JRPG tend to be... unpleasant (I love long hair, so that tendency for some of the females to all of the sudden cut their hair drives me insane).  Velvet was a rare exception in that.  For fans of Zestiria, seeing Eizen not as a giant man-eating lizard but as a bad-ass pirate in black was a nice intro to the guy who had so much influence on Edna from the previous game.  His fist-fighting style, his voice (Japanese), and his visual design are all as I would have imagined them, considering how Zaveid refers to him in Zestiria.  In addition, seeing a younger Zaveid, before his Zestiria way of living was established, was a nice treat... and getting the background behind his words in the first game is also nice.  Laphicet, who is essentially Velvet's biggest partner throughout the game's story, has a fairly mediocre design (someone has a shota-complex in that studio), but his magic is fairly awesome to see, and his voice is actually pretty good, for a child-styled voice (most are too high or too low, even in Japanese).  Eleanor has a personality that will grate on some people, and her visuals fit it quite well, since she has a very straight-laced personality (though she does loosen up as time goes by).  Rokurou is probably the third-best design of the group... his facial design, the movements of his eyes and expression during combat scenes, and his hybridized Japanese-style clothing all fit together nicely with his psychotic personality to create a solid character who partners up well with Eizen as one of Laphicet's male role models.
    Story-wise, this game is essentially a long revenge story... it isn't about saving the world.  The enemy is 'saving' the world.  No, Velvet doesn't give a flying bit of monkey poo about the world.  She is far more interested in murdering her step-brother for his murder of her younger brother in the incident that stripped her of her humanity and destroyed her village.  She is cold, ruthless, and filled with hatred that, when combined with her daemonic hunger, makes her a pretty scary character.  She would make an excellent second-to-the-last-boss in most JRPGs, simply because of how intense she is, retaining a level of humanity that strikes to the heart while acting in a manner that is almost too focused on the results to be a fully functional human being.  Oh, she has her soft moments... but as the saying goes, even the worst of villains will sometimes be kind to a child or save a puppy. 
    That is perhaps what is most exhilarating about this game.  Most of the player characters are unabashedly selfish in motive, acting solely for their own sake, regardless of the cost to those around them.  For a world being consumed by a blight that is actually worse than the one in Zestiria in some ways, this makes them true villains, even if their enemies are just as bad in their own way.  Velvet's fighting style is visceral, brutal, and it perfectly fits the action-oriented battle system of this series.  Feet, fists, and blade all in one ball of fury (literally) that sometimes strikes out with a demonic claw to devour her enemies.
    That brings me to the battle system... except for two major elements, this can be considered to be functionally the same as most other Tales games since Abyss.   The first of these elements is the 'souls' system.  In this system, you can gain more action points (SP) for future combat actions by inflicting status ailments or killing enemies, thus strengthening you at their cost... but in exchange, if you let them inflict ailments on you, you lose souls, and this severely limits how you can act once it gets down to one or two.  The solution to this is the second element... the 'soul break', where you can, at three souls or above, sacrifice a single soul to use a special move that has various effects on how you fight.  Since I fought with Velvet throughout the entire game, I'll just speak about hers.  Her ability allows her to strike out with her 'claw' and 'therionize' (eat) a part of her enemies (incidentally also breaking their guard and leaving them open to further attack) and gain a boost of some sort based on the type of enemy she ate.  The primary advantage of this state is that she can continue attacking until the effect runs out, ignoring her remaining number of souls.  It also heals all status ailments and debuffs and some HP, as well as making you invulnerable to ailments and knock-backs.  Unfortunately, it also immediately begins to drain HP, and if you maintain this state for too long, it is entirely possible to run yourself down to a single hp, if you aren't careful about getting hit.  Since killing enemies can also restore hp, this isn't an entirely bad state to be in, and if you have enough souls stored up, you can maintain this state by 'eating' an enemy whenever it is about to run out.  On Normal mode, I felt like I was playing a Tales version of Dynasty Warriors at times (with a greater variety of attacks), lol.
    Second in importance for gameplay, at least as far as I was concerned, is the equipment skills... basically, every equipment type has a single skill that the equipable characters can learn permanently by earning enough Grade while wearing it.  I had all of the ones available by the end, and I hate to imagine how much harder most of the game would have been without them.  Why?  Because stat increases due to experience gaining are insanely minimal in this game, leaving you reliant on equipment-enhancement and equipment skills to make up the gap... oh and player skills, but that goes without saying.  On harder difficulties, it only gets worse (believe me, I had some horrible experiences when I set it to the harder modes for the hell of it until I got used to the changed rhythms of battle). 
    In any case, now down to the story... to be blunt, no other Tales game even gets close to this game in terms of story and presentation.  Vesperia was good, but it didn't have anywhere near as much of an impact as this one did on me.  I cried, raged, and laughed with the characters from beginning to end, despite having weeks-long gaps between my playing sessions.  That is how deep an impression this game left on me, that I could pick it up after a fairly long hiatus and get just as absorbed into the narrative as if I'd never left.  By the end, I was weeping for both sides of the conflict, while agreeing from the heart with Velvet and her crew, it was easy to empathize with Artorius, despite his inhumane actions and manner.   As revenge stories go, it was far deeper than you'd expect, while retaining the essence of how it began from start to finish... a feat that is greatly impressive to me.  Not to mention that Velvet and crew's journey was never, at any point, about saving the world... a huge advantage over other jrpgs in and of itself.
    A few Linguistic comments
    In the Japanese language terminology there were some really interesting (for me) differences in how the same elements were referred to between games.  Whereas the Japanese term for the Malak in Zestiria had nuances of divinity to it, the term used in this one referred to them as 'spirits', with a nuance of something that could and should be used as a tool.  As for the daemons, the difference in terms was even more telling between the games.  In Zestiria, they are 'hyouma' (Hellions), a term which can be translated as 'possession demons', divesting the individual in question of built-in responsibility for what he has become.  However, in Berseria, they are called 'gouma', a term which can be translated as 'sin demons'.  This simple alteration of phrasing marks a drastic difference in attitudes between the Shepherd-equivalents (the exorcists) of Berseria's age and Sorey in Zestiria.  This difference in attitude is reflected throughout the story, creating an atmosphere that is drastically different from the one in Zestiria.  'Subtle' isn't a quality you usually ascribe to JRPG makers, so I was all the more impressed with this game for the linguistic aspects.
    EDIT: Ah, if you didn't figure it out from the text above, this game made me back into a fanboy for the first time in a while.  Sixty hours across one and a half months plus complete satisfaction in how it ended and the process of how it reached that ending... such a rare experience for me these days.
  4. Like
    Jade reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Venus Blood: Ragnarok   
    Yes, you were waiting for it, all you tentacle-loving freaks... this is the newest game in the Venus Blood series, as full of tentacles and sex-training as any of the others...  I come to you having finished the Law route and after being forced to go back a chapter in order to get to the Chaos route on my second playthrough (apparently you absolutely have to start the 'goddess insanity' chapter, by failing to complete one of the monster-hunting side-quests). 
    The gameplay will be familiar to anyone who played Hypno, though there are differences introduced in the unit-creation screen, just as in all the others in the series (every game puts its own twist on this aspect).  It is the sequel to Frontier, occurring some three hundred years later, and it is based off of a partial 'fallen goddess but still on Law Route' path. 
    The biggest difference in the gameplay from previous entries is the introduction of a 'research' system where you basically have to open each step in a tree to get access to other units.  You expend medallions to get particular units on each 'block' that you've opened up, and what medallions are available to you determine what units you can access and how much of each tree you can complete (it is impossible to get access to all medallion types and units in the first or even the second playthrough due to difficulty and route issues).  While this might not sound that different in fact, it was a great difference visually, making access to the various monster types more obvious than in previous entries.
    The system of 'leveling up resources' is back from Hypno, allowing you to use research to level up your auto-healing, auto-experience gaining, and automatic resource allowance (at the end of each turn) independent from what places you've captured.  I advise anyone planning to do multiple playthroughs to get everything as high as possible (focus on healing over experience and all the other resources before gold, since gold is the most plentiful resource). 
    Story-wise... it is standard Venus Blood.  You come, you conquer, and you decide whether to make the goddesses love you normally or just drive them crazy through sex training.  The actual basic plot is inferior to both Frontier and Hypno, though it it is more 'stable' in that it doesn't trip up in the last chapters like in the previous games.  Unfortunately, this game suffers somewhat from being a direct and obvious sequel, as the shadows and persons of characters from the previous game pop up everywhere, distracting you from the protagonist's story.
    I need to say something about the Venus Blood games here... it really is a shame that this company doesn't go 'legit' and start making non-ero games.  The complexity of the skill system and the way you can make levels almost irrelevant through simply combining the right units in the same squad is incredibly rewarding.  This is actually only the second game in the series where I actually explored this aspect of the game in-depth, but I was seriously impressed with the degree to which you can customize your army, creating the ultimate force.  In fact, it wouldn't be far from the truth to say the outcome of all battles is entirely determined by the way you design your squads.
    Sanah is something of a hard-ass when it comes for this game, always beginning on Hard mode... but I honestly don't recommend that for newcomers to the series.  For one thing, the basic endgame difficulty level is pretty high even on normal difficulty, and playing hard mode on the first playthrough has certain annoyances like running short of resources at key points. 
    Anyway, for gameplay, this, like most of the Venus Blood games, is fairly enjoyable.  As a story?  Lots of potential here, some really interesting points, but in retrospect the story pales somewhat in comparison to previous entries in the series as a whole, despite exceeding most previous games when it comes to the endgame story. 
  5. Like
    Jade reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, VN of the Month December 2016   
    Before I announce the VN of the Month, I'm going to go ahead and apologize to those who wanted me to play Honoguraki... to be blunt, I don't have the energy for it.  Ragnarok sucked me dry, and I need to get away from undead and demons for a while.  Moreover, I hate zombies in the first place (so many reasons), so I'd be unlikely to give a pleasant review or comment anyway.
    Now... it is kind of startling how so many great games got packed into a single month.  December 2016 was a monster month for story-focused VNs, with a relative dearth of charage/moege (with only two released).  I played as much as I could, but after six games, including the monster known as Venus Blood Ragnarok, I feel drained and tired.  The main reason I don't deny the existence of charage utterly (other than the occasional shining diamond I find in the piles of icarabu shit) is because even I need a break from bloodshed and darkness sometimes.
    There were three releases that had the potential to become VN of the Month this time around...
    Akiyume Kukuru
    Ryuukishi Bloody Saga
    Ou no Mimi ni wa Todokanai!
    Now, to be blunt, Ou no Mimi would be my first choice.  Why?  Because, without the art bigots interfering, it is the most solid of those three candidates by several degrees.  In fact, if this were six years ago, all things equal (including art), I would without hesitation have named it VN of the Month.  While AXL doesn't escape its own unique formula, there is a reason why this company is a consistent seller despite reusing character art and music constantly. 
    However, we come to Ryuukishi, which is only a few steps behind story-wise and has the advantage of being an immensely creative story that doesn't fall back on tropes for the most part.  It also has a more modern art-style that is highly-detailed, illustrating battle scenes and some of the more shocking guro scenes in loving detail. 
    Last of all, we have Akiyume Kukuru, which didn't fail to please as the third (and possibly final) game of Sumikko's 'Seasons' series.  As usual, it provides the kind of meta-science mystery combined with violent and sexual humor that the company has become infamous for.  For a certain type of reader, this VN is pure crack, though if you aren't the type it is aiming for, it will be a huge miss.
    So what is the conclusion?  In the end it came down to Ryuukishi and Ou no Mimi.  I balanced Ou no Mimi's solid, well-narrated story against Ryuukishi's more innovative approach... and in the end I chose Ryuukishi Bloody Saga as VN of the Month December 2016.  While AXL's works are really 'at-home' for me, I felt that Ryuukishi will probably have a larger impact on the VN community as a whole in the long run... and they were dead even on how I enjoyed them. 
    Now... look forward to VN of the Year 2016, which I probably won't finish considering until sometime next month.  Fortunately or unfortunately, 2016 was almost as good as 2014 and 2011 for VNs...
  6. Like
    Jade reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Random VNs: Shukufuku no Kane no Oto wa, Sakurairo no Kaze to Tomo ni   
    For those who are wondering about jury duty: I got rejected inside ten minutes without an explanation, lol.  Moreover, I spent four days reversing my sleep schedule so I wouldn't be groggy and zombified... what a waste of effort.
    Anyway, I finished playing Shukufuku no Kane last night but didn't have the time to post on it, given how I needed to go to bed eight hours earlier than my usual time.  This is the second time I played this game,, and I had to shift the vote upward in response to my somewhat less biased opinion on it.  This VN is a high quality charage... it doesn't do anything more than be a high-quality charage, but it is that, at the least.
    Shukufuku no Kane is an 'ojousama-ge', a type of charage where all the heroines are from wealthy families.  Moreover, the protagonist himself is that most unlikely of all things... an average guy who turns out to have been the grandson of a really wealthy old man who wanted him to succeed him.  Upon his arrival, he is immediately met by his cousin, Maria, whom he meets for the first time.  Maria's first words upon meeting him are that she has no intention of marrying him, in classic soon-to-be tsundere style (seriously, Studio Ryokucha is one of only about two or three companies I've played that can make tsunderes attractive). 
    Anyway, he has a duty to decide who he is going to marry within a year, given to him by his grandfather in exchange for paying off his father's debts (his father being a decent music teacher but being absolutely incompetent at finances).  That is the primary motivation for picking one of the heroines in this game.
    Now, the four heroines in this game are separated into two types... the ones the old man is fine with him marrying from the start and those he rejects out of hand.  If you want to experience a classic 'protagonist overcomes the objections of _____ to marry said girl', pick Saya or Urara.  If you want a path where you resolve personal and interpersonal issues to reach love, pick Maria or Kanon.
    I'm going to be blunt... while the characters in this game are excellently developed, the actual paths are decent, and the setting is well-constructed... this VN falls short in the ending department by several degrees.  Why do I say this?  Because the second the conflict is resolved, you have about ten seconds before the path ends, leaving you wondering what happened to the characters afterward.  This is actually several degrees worse than the average charage, since even most of that genre has some kind of aftermath in which you get to see and hear how the characters settled down in the wake of the path's events.  It is also the reason why I kept my new vote below an 8 on vndb (8 means 'potential VN of the Month' level).  It is possible for the ending of a story to ruin everything that came before, lol.
  7. Like
    Jade reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Signalist Stars and VN of the Month, October 2016   
    Signalist Stars came at me from out of left field, smashing me across the face with a spike grenade.   I literally wasn't expecting anything from this VN, as my recent experiences with new companies have left me unwilling to hope for better. 
    This VN does, in my mind, fall into the charage genre, but it does it so well that I was left a bit stunned.  Signalist Stars is based in a city where people who have a burning passion are encouraged to pursue it, regardless of what it is.  In this city, for the most part, those who sneer at people who have bright hopes for the future and those that try to smash young people down with the hammer known as 'reality' are virtually nonexistent.  For people who grew up without discarding their dreams, it is a utopia.
    Atsushi, the protagonist, is one of those people, a young man who desires to become a hero.  He is the head of a committee devoted to dealing with the problems that pop up as a result of the somewhat indiscriminate nature of the city and school's affirmation of people's dreams.  To be specific, this policy has led to 'geniuses' (people who excel in one area to insane degrees) being a little out of control, and the day to day life is a bit wacky and over the top.
    Atsushi is an idiot.  I mean that literally.  He is so stupid that he makes a chimpanzee seem intelligent sometimes... however, he has a nose for trouble, an endless passion for helping people, and a willingness to discard his own well-being in the pursuit of helping others.  He also talks like a delinquent and loves a good fight.  Trouble is his drug and peace is its aftermath, lol.
    Anyway, this VN is extremely comedic for most of its length, Atsushi's antics and stupidity creating so many running jokes that I found myself smiling constantly throughout most of the VN.
    However, if you asked me if this is just a straight-out comedy, the answer would be a definite no.  This VN has some dramatic moments, with one major one serving as the turning point just before the route split and one in each of the heroine routes, where the protagonist and heroine must confront both of their issues as a team.  This drama is fairly serious, though it tends to be resolved easily, in the fashion that is common to charage.  Nonetheless, it adds just the right level of spice for me to consider this one of the  most technically excellent charage out there... from a writing perspective.
    Unfortunately, there is one issue with this VN that is as annoying as hell.  Of course, it is a technical one and one that will probably be fixed with a patch later on... but there are huge problems with the sound in this VN.  To be specific, voice cut-outs, voice switches, sudden musical and vocal volume shifts, etc.  For some reason, in this one area, this VN has points where it suddenly jars you with its imperfection.  The actual BGMs used are 'common' ones I'm familiar with from other games, indicating that they are 'recycling' music from other VNs (probably at low cost).  However, they are mostly used ideally.  If it weren't for the technical issues (which might be programming-related) I'd honestly say that using 'generic' music wasn't a minus.
    Even if one ignores that this is a first effort on the part of this company, this VN is a gem.  While it needs some polishing (preferably with a technical patch to fix the sound problems), it is one of those rare charage that appeal both to me and the mainstream without throwing either side out of the boat.  If you asked me what I liked best in this VN, I'd have to say it was either the comedy or the character dynamics (both of which are intricately interrelated).  My favorite heroine was Isumi, the 'witch' and my favorite character overall was Atsushi (yes, despite the fact that he is an idiot).  Why do I like Atsushi?  Because, despite being an 'idiot' character, he actually manages to escape the archetype, becoming something more than the frame that was used to shape him through the skill of the writer.
    VN of the Month, October 2016
    This time it is a straight-out race between Sora no Tsukurikata and Signalist Stars.  Both VNs escape genre and archetype flaws through skilled writing and surprising escapes from the traps of convention, and both VNs managed to surprise me with their levels of quality.  They are neck and neck in my mind and almost so in my heart.  So, when it comes down to it, I'm going to decide this Month's VN of the Month based on a smidgen of personal bias, simply because they really are that equivalent when I eliminate that bias.
    In other words, Sora no Tsukurikata is VN of the Month October 2016.  Both games are going on my list of VNs to play from this year, though.  For those of you who just want a comedic romance and slice-of-life (albeit an unrealistic one) Signalist Stars would probably be the better choice, whereas Sora no Tsukurikata is a far better choice for raw story and plot. 
    Anyway, have fun yall, and look forward to November's releases!  I won't be playing Nanairo Clip, due to my inability to enjoy any story focused mostly on the entertainment industry in general and the Japanese idol industry in particular.
  8. Like
    Jade reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Clephas Top 50 VNs   
    For the last two years or so, I've gotten repeated requests to unequivocally name my top VNs made up until the present, ignoring objectivity, my vndb votes, etc.  I've more or less just ignored most of those requests, because it is a pain in the ass to name a 'favorite' VN in the first place.  I've made lists of VNs I loved from various genres, and I've also made lists of VNs for a specific purpose.  However, I've avoided making a list like this one up until now, mostly because my 'favorites' switch out so often. 
    Let's get this straight for those who are going to criticize my choices... these are the VNs I like the most, not the fifty best VNs of all time.  I make no pretense to preeminence of opinion in this case, because I'm also discarding all attempts at objectivity.  What a person likes is ultimately a matter of personal tastes, not a matter of logic.
    Why did I make it fifty?  Because my number of VNs played, setting aside replays and nukige, is over six hundred already (with replays and nukige, it is closer to eight hundred...)... I'd be surprised if I didn't have this many VNs I considered wonderful. 
    Keep in mind that these aren't in a particular order.
    1.   Evolimit
    2.   Dies Irae (the one by Light)
    3.   Ikusa Megami Zero
    4.   Nanairo Reincarnation
    5.   Semiramis no Tenbin
    6.   Bradyon Veda
    7.   Vermilion Bind of Blood
    8.   Hapymaher
    9.   Tiny Dungeon (as a series)
    10.  Bullet Butlers
    11.  Chrono Belt
    12.  Ayakashibito
    13.  Otome ga Boku ni Koishiteiru 2
    14.  Chusingura
    15.  Draculius
    16.  Otome ga Tsumugu, Koi no Canvas
    17.  Silverio Vendetta
    18.  Konata yori Kanata Made
    19.  Grisaia series
    20.  Akatsuki no Goei series
    21.  Reminiscence series
    22.  Haruka ni Aogi, Uruwashi no
    23.  Harumade, Kururu
    24.  Soukou Akki Muramasa
    25.  Tokyo Babel
    26.  Tasogare no Sinsemilla
    27.  Komorebi no Nostalgica
    28.  Yurikago yori Tenshi Made
    29.  Izuna Zanshinken
    30.  Moshimo Ashita ga Harenaraba
    31.  Kamikaze Explorers
    32.  Devils Devel Concept
    33.  Suzunone Seven
    34.  Baldr Skydive series
    35.  Baldr Sky Zero series
    36.  Toppara Zashikiwarashi no Hanashi
    37.  Tsuisou no Augment (series)
    38.  Kikan Bakumatsu Ibun Last Cavalier
    39.  Shin Koihime Musou (series not including the original Koihime Musou)
    40.  Soshite Hatsukoi wa Imouto ni Naru
    41.  Tenshi no Hane o Fumanaide
    42.  Irotoridori no Sekai
    43.  Noble Works
    44.  Koisuru Otome to Shugo no Tate (series)
    45.  Kitto, Sumiwataru Asairo yori mo
    46.  Jingai Makyou
    47.  Sakura, Sakimashita
    48.  Abyss Homicide Club
    49.  Re:Birth Colony Lost Azurite
    50.  Owaru Sekai to Birthday
  9. Like
    Jade reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Random VNs: Nanairo Reincarnation   
    Below is the original mini-review I wrote of Nanairo Reincarnation in 2014, which I mostly pulled out because it is much harder to access than this blog because of how buried that thread is.  Also, I was feeling too lazy to completely rehash everything I said back then.
    Nanairo Reincarnation
    Kamige kita!!!  lol
    I've been waiting all this  year for a kamige to appear, and thankfully, I wasn't disappointed.  Every once in a while I come across a game that gets every last aspect of what it included right.  These games are rare... usually just one or two in a given year.  Last year had two, for example... and so far, this year has one. 
    The Game:  Most of this VN is the common route, with a few scene changes on the way based on which of the two (inhuman or human) sides of things you chose to go by.  Kotori (the main heroine) and Iyo (the zashiki warashi) are on the inhuman side of things, whereas the human side is Azusa (the policewoman) and Yumi (the protagonist's ex).  There are a lot of common text and scenes to all the routes, which is why I say the common route is about ninety percent of the VN... this is because the basic flow of events in the main story doesn't change.  What changes is who the protagonist ends up with and how they deal with certain issues (such as the protagonist's three oni servants), as well as the ending.  By 'ending', I really mean about an hour and a half of story followed by a relatively short prologue that is nonetheless quite satisfying.  The story itself is initially focused on the antics of the protagonist, his oni, Iyo, and Kotori as the protagonist accustoms himself to his duty of seeing the restless dead off. 
    However, about one third of the way through, things take on a much more serious tone, for reasons I won't give now, and the central mystery of the story comes into play.  To be honest, I want to avoid any hints here, because this is a game that definitely goes over best if you play it from the beginning.
    This VN is a combination of a lot of genres... it verges on an utsuge at times, a nakige at others, and at yet others it feels like a comedy or an occult mystery. 
    The Heroines:  First, let me state that you should not play the inhuman side first.  To be frank, there is this one scene that is just downright cool near the end of the inhuman side of the common route that just makes certain events pale in human side of things.  Play Yumi>Azusa>Iyo>Kotori (do Kotori's two endings in the order suggested by the walkthrough) to get the best experience.  Yumi is a sweet, devoted young woman who parted from the protagonist sort of by default as they grew apart during college.  Unlike the other heroines, she can't 'see' ghosts or oni, which causes problems.  Azusa is a policewoman assigned by Unit 13 of the local police to be the liaison with the protagonist, who takes on requests to 'deal with' ghosts from them.  She is light-hearted, serious about her job, somewhat easily frightened (the first scene with her is total rofl), and gets drunk easily.  She is really hot-blooded about her work as a policewoman, which causes problems because she thinks she was dumped on Unit 13 as some kind of punishment.  Iyo is the zashiki warashi that has protected and guided the protagonist's family for eight generations, teaching each new one how to manage the oni... while at the same time doing her level best to bankrupt them with her spending habits.  She is foul-mouthed, mischievous, and gluttonous... and also surprisingly wise, though she has trouble being serious for more than a few moments at a time.  Kotori is a young woman the protagonist meets who is looking for her dog.  She becomes attached to him as a result of the incident's conclusion and begins hanging around his house, working as his 'assistant'.  She can see ghosts and the oni, and she gets along with the protagonist's oni famously.  She's somewhat shy with strangers but otherwise cheerful and easygoing. 
    The Oni:  The four oni seen in the story are Kikyou, Aoi, Fuyou, and Iris.  Kikyou has the appearance of a beautiful and mature woman and she was inherited from his grandfather for the purpose of teaching the protagonist about oni.  She is soft in manner, though she 'changes' when she gets angry.  Aoi is the first of the oni born at the protagonist's command.  She has the form of a cat-girl and she acts just like it.  Her personality is very similar to Iyo's, though her personal devotion to her master is different from Iyo's role as protector and mentor.  She wants what she wants at any given moment, and she won't hesitate to go after it.  Her special ability is psychometry, the ability to read objects and people for memories.  Fuyou is the second oni born at the protagonist's order.  She is very similar to Kikyou in appearance and manner, and her special ability is that she can be seen by normal people (something none of the other oni can do), though in exchange she doesn't possess a more mystical ability.  Iris is the third of the oni made at the protagonist's orders.  She is, to be frank, a cute goth-loli who prefers to talk using her puppet or through her telepathic abilities (she can read minds, communicate mentally, and link other people's minds like a wi-fi hotspot, lol).  She is the quietest of the three, though she is just as devoted to the protagonist as his other servant oni.  She is a little shy and a bit of a crybaby... though it is understandable considering what her first duty upon creation ends up being.
    Overall:  This VN is a first-rate story-focused, suited for people who want a good cry, a good mystery, and a few laughs along the way.  If you can't stand some mild guro and some really tragic scenes... you should still play this, because it is an excellent VN, lol.
    Now that you've read what I thought then, here are some new thoughts I've had since, having put two years and Akeiro Kaikitan behind me. 
    Nanairo Reincarnation is one of those rare VNs that does not pale even a little bit on  a second playthrough.  I thought being spoiled to the mysteries and the small-scale mindfuck would ruin this for me, but it didn't, in the end.  In fact, I found myself enjoying certain aspects of the small-scale mindfuck that exists in this VN with real appreciation for the skill and subtlety of the writer... I don't think I've ever seen a writer so perfectly walk the line between spoiling the surprise and concealing it too deeply.   There are hints... but not really strong ones.  In fact, most of them only feel like hints in retrospect, which is really how it should be in this kind of story.
    Another issue, which I didn't mention above, is the effects of the music and artwork.  To be blunt, Silky's artist, Sumeragi Kohaku, is a straight-out muchi-type nukige artist.  This lends a somewhat stronger emphasis on erotic atmosphere to the oni that really fits well with the setting, and she is also surprisingly good at non-H CGs...  Most nukige artists are horrible at clothing details, non-H positioning, and other such issues that fall outside of their preferred emphasis, but this artist does an excellent job of using her nukige-influenced art style to help define the characters. 
    Music-wise... while there are some BGMs that feel generic, the more intense ones are both unique and well-used to emphasize the atmosphere of the story.  While the impression of this VN is primarily formed from the subtle narrative and the artwork, the music more than does its job at enhancing the work of the other two legs of the tripod.
    I cried in this VN... a lot.  I wept for each ghost in their own time (well, except for one in particular who was just a joke), and I honestly felt for the characters throughout this VN, to an extent which is rare even for someone like me, who tends to like getting emotionally wrapped up in his stories.  A lot of this comes from the situation... but as much comes from the fact that Makoto is one of those rare protagonists who is honestly empathetic without any of the density or merely surface-level kindness that you see in love-comedy types.  For those who like to live behind the eyes of a VN's protagonist, this VN really is a treat.
  10. Like
    Jade reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Amatsutsumi   
    ... it's been a while since my feelings on a VN have been as complex as my feelings for this one are.  I say 'feelings' because this VN has massive emotional impact... not as much as Hapymaher, but nonetheless a lot of emotional impact. 
    To be blunt, Makoto is nothing like Hapymaher's protagonist, so if you were hoping for more of his 'consumed by sorrow and despair but still living my life' personality, sorry, no luck here.  Makoto is... a blank slate.  I don't say this in a bad way.  For better or worse, Makoto has lived his life in an isolated village where people literally don't talk any more than is absolutely necessary, lest they accidentally compel one another with their power, 'kotodama'.  Makoto has a fiance named Mana (and no, not that kind of lukewarm, 'distant fiance' sort of thing you see in some VNs, since they actually get down to business), and a rather nice, slow life in that village... However, he yearns for the outside world, where people can talk to people without restrictions.
    He escapes from the village and collapses from hunger in a small town four days later, where he is saved by the first of four heroines, Kokoro.  From there the story begins, as he makes the journey from an innocent 'kami' to a real human being with all the baggage that comes along with it. 
    A lot of the most interesting parts of this game come from the fact that he naturally doesn't understand much about the outside world.  Makoto's innocent, unstained viewpoint, combined with his natural kindness and willingness to embrace new experiences, feel surprisingly refreshing.  Things other 'normal' protagonists would worry over don't even occur to him, and he is so laid back he makes the drugged hippies of US in the sixties seem tense.  While he does change as part of the story, his personal 'lens', through which he sees the world, remains remarkably clean throughout... not to mention the guy has absolutely no sense of sexual morality (in other words, his idea of sexual morality is 'don't use his power to compel people to have sex with him').

    The first of the heroines, Kokoro, is a shojo manga addict who has fantasies about immoral relations with older brothers.  She is a natural at unconsciously grasping the hearts of others around her without trying, and she is pretty much the picture of a heroine who 'exists to be loved by everyone'.

    The second heroine, Kyouko, is a miko that can see dead people (yes, I went there).  She has huge self-esteem problems and is more than a little weird... for one thing, her reaction to Makoto is one of the more unique heroine reactions to a protagonist I've encountered over the years... for another, she is abnormally self-derogatory in both action and word.

    Mana... is the protagonist's fiance from the village.  She is pretty much apathetic about other people, unless they have the decency to provide her with food (from her point of view, people who give her food move up from 'stone in the road' to 'slightly adorable insect' in most cases).  She is a bit of an S, when it comes to Makoto, and Makoto is pretty much her reason for living.  Because of a careless use of kotodama by another member of the village, she is always cold and in her eyes, it is always snowing.

    Hotaru... is the true heroine of this story.  Cheerful and active, not to mention highly intelligent and perceptive... she is actually a fairly attractive heroine from the start.  However, she has less initial impact than Mana or Kokoro, for reasons that are fairly apparent.  Since that is by design, I actually am not complaining about this, though.
    Now, to get to the downside of this game... it uses the G-senjou 'ladder' story structure, wherein the story progresses arcs where you choose to either pursue the heroine associated with that arc to an ending or move on with the main story.  I can say that the path endings for the non-true heroines were actually pretty good, but having played the true path, they are comparatively low-impact.  A lot of this is the fact that the major events of their 'paths' are in the arcs they branched off from, so little is added by their endings save for more sex and some minor tying up of loose ends. 
    To get back to the main game... the true path is the impact I was talking about.  The main arcs were all emotional, so I guess you can say that the other heroines' 'paths' were also emotional, but, as I mentioned above, there is a definite sense that very little was added by choosing one of the other heroines.  Hotaru's path is easily the most powerful 'arc'.  In fact, it is so emotional and powerful that there are two ends for it.  The first one (which you are required to watch first) is... sad, to say the least.  It isn't a bad ending, but it is a sad one.  I know I cried.  For the second ending... well, let's just say it is a good one and leave it at that.
    Overall, my viewpoint on this game is... just as mixed as I said above.  My conclusions on the G-Senjou story structure are unchanged in the least.  I still believe that all VNs that use that story structure should be changed to kinetic novels, just so I don't have to deal with heroine endings that are neglected by the creators of the stories themselves.  While all stories with true heroines inevitably put a much larger emphasis on the true heroine, the way this story structure trivializes the other heroines is really irritating, especially when they are good heroines, like these were.  However, if you take the arcs, characters, and the true endings separate from that source of irritation, it is a great VN.  It just happens to use the single worst VN story structure in existence.  Indeed, that story structure and the inevitable realities it brings along with it are the only thing that kept me from naming this as a kamige. 
    PS: I will erase any and all comments that spoil anything in the last arc.  I say this because this is the type of VN that can only be enjoyed to the fullest once, not the type that merely changes flavor with each playthrough, like Devils Devil Concept.  Anyone who spoils this VN should have their skin sliced open, drawn back, then have salt rubbed into the exposed flesh. 
    ... *Clephas drools and goes off to make BBQ*
  11. Like
    Jade reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Random VNs: Kyonyuu Fantasy 3   
    The Kyonyuu Fantasy series is easily one of the weirdest series I’ve ever encountered.  On one side, you have what is clearly nukige levels of sexual content, with some of the most absurd h-scenes I’ve ever encountered, taking male breast-obsessions to new levels.  On the other side, you have startlingly detailed settings and interesting stories with protagonists who only seem weak on the surface.

    Kyonyuu Fantasy 3 is no exception to my experiences with the series.  When I started it, I was returned mentally to my first experience with the series, in the form of the massive omnibus edition of the original and its side and after-stories, the Digitalized Novel version.  I’m going to be blunt, this series’ protagonists are universally the same type of person… loving, wide-hearted, and extreme nymphomaniacs with a breast obsession.  The one in this one is the god of paizuri (if you don’t know what this is, ask one of the h-addicts around here), Yuranis. 

    The era is something like twelve to fourteen hundred years before the original, when an alternate Rome (where Caesar was never assassinated) ruled much of the Western world.  The protagonist gets thrust into the human world, and he makes his way with the usual casual competence and lack of tension that is pretty much inbred into the series.

    I should say that this Rome shares all of the Empire's many flaws and virtues, from systematic slavery and the difficulty of obtaining the status of citizen, to the formal and orderly lawmaking and engineering that defined the Empire at its best. 
    I’ll be honest, I absolutely love the way they put together the settings in these games… there is enough detail to satisfy people like me, and the tons of erotic content makes me rofl, since it is so… random most of the time.  I’m serious and I’m laughing… and I honestly just can sit back and enjoy games in this series without taking them overly seriously.  It is pretty rare for me to just sit back and enjoy something with this much h-content, but the Kyonyuu Fantasy series is a definite rare exception.

    The endings other than the true one are actually pretty detailed, and I was mostly satisfied with them… though it is pretty blatant that they intend to put out yet another series of fandiscs for this one later on, lol.

  12. Like
    Jade reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, How Adorable Heroines are now just Generic   
    How many of you started reading VNs, manga, or watching anime solely because the girls were so adorable?  I wasn't one of those (I began with Record of Lodoss War, lol), but Ai Yori Aoshi and Love Hina introduced me to the concept of the 'moe-heroine'.  Whether it was their way of speaking, their looks, or their attitude, moe heroines became an integral part of the otaku experience at some point (well, the male-oriented one anyway), and I actually don't have any problems with that.  I have lots of fond memories of moe-heroines (since almost all VN heroines and anime heroines nowadays are done like this, to one degree or another).
    However, as I've dug deeper and deeper into the VN universe (I realized this with anime long ago) I came to realize... all the heroines were beginning to melt together into one big moe blob inside my back-brain.  This is because very few heroines stand out enough to remain distinct in my mind from all the other, similar heroines inside my brain. 
    Understand, I never really experienced the 'blob of moe heroines' phenomenon until the last five years or so... first with anime, then (two years ago) with VNs.  As a result, it is harder and harder to find 'standard' heroines interesting in and of themselves... their situation and setting have to be interesting enough to keep me from abandoning them emotionally. 
    Do you want to know how many heroines remain distinct in my brain from the last three years of playing VNs?  Just thirty-three... and that is from well over seven hundred heroines whose routes I've completed in that time.  Frankly, even if I find an archetypical heroine interesting for a single playthrough, it is a rare heroine who makes an impression strong enough to retain her individuality in the collective VN memory of my under-psyche. 
    I once mentioned this to a newbie VN-player (naturally a moe-gamer) and he essentially blasted me about how I was a blasphemer against the pure love of 2D... 
    My response was, quite naturally, explosive laughter which I didn't bother to put into text. 
    How many people do you actually remember in real life as a distinct human being without meeting them every day (or at least with some frequency)?  Even if you see 2D as a real world, do you seriously think someone who has gone so far down the road of the VN otaku as I and some others in the community have to remember every single heroine they've encountered? 
    I'm fortunate.  I have a natural gift for storing episode memory, so if I start replaying a VN, I generally remember the heroines and their paths almost immediately.  However, expecting me to remember yet another tsundere osananajimi amongst hundreds of others off the top of my head after a year is fundamentally ridiculous, in my opinion (real example... also one of the two most common archetypes, along with the deredere osananajimi). 
    This doesn't necessarily mean the VN in question is bad... it just means the heroine is one I've seen dozens of times before, placed in different situations with a different appearance.  Some of the heroines I forget until I'm reminded about are from truly wonderful VNs... but that has absolutely no effect on whether I can remember them without some serious effort, lol.
    For my fellow vets... are you any different?
  13. Like
    Jade reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, The spirit of an older gamer: Why I play games and why other people play games   
    I've been playing video games more or less constantly for over twenty-five years. 
    That's a very simple statement that holds a surprising amount of meaning, considering how much video games have changed since I first began playing them.
    It began with the NES, for me... with Mario, Luigi, and the ducks.  I shot ducks out of the air, I jumped Mario across gaps and on top of turtles, without ever really understanding what was going on.  As a kid, this was fun, seriously.  Understand, this is the biggest point I am going to try to get across here... the difference between addiction and fun with video games.
    I played rpgs, primarily jrpgs, throughout most of my first ten years as a gamer, starting with Dragon Warrior (Dragon Quest), eventually reaching levels of true love with Final Fantasy II and III (IV and VI), Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, Secret of Evermore, and Ogre Battle.  When the era of cd-gaming came, I played D&D dungeon-crawlers on a shitty dos computer setup, and I played every jrpg I could get my hands on, with a lot of shooters, strategy games, and sports games mixed in. 
    Throughout all of that, I was still having fun.  Fun was my reason for continuing (I've always been a story-centric player, so I tended to stick with jrpgs, but I did play a lot of other stuff) and my reason for playing in the first place.
    It was in the PS2 era that I first came to recognize the difference between taking pleasure in playing something and merely being addicted to it.  I picked up FFXI and started playing it on the PS2 (yes, it was possible to play it on the PS2), and for the first time, I knew addiction... for the first time, I poured hour after hour, day after day, into a game that I wasn't having any fun at.
    I was constantly irritated, constantly driven to continue, whether for social reasons (friends I'd made in-game) or simply because I felt like I was 'almost there'. 
    Then, one day, I suddenly looked up and realized... I was immensely depressed and not enjoying anything about the game.  The sense of having wasted my time... sent me into a funk that lasted the better part of a year.  I still played games, but the color seemed to leech out of the screen even as I played them.  I realized that I was seeing bits of FFXI in other games, and that was enough of a reason for me to actively hate them.
    No game hit me this way more than FFXII... because FFXII's battle system is essentially that of FFXI with some tweaks.  Visually, it was a nightmare, and the weak story and characters only made it worse for me.
    Ironically, it was the realization that I honestly didn't trust Squeenix to provide pleasurable games anymore that led me to start playing a lot of the weirder stuff out there... such as Eternal Darkness for the gamecube and the SMT series.  Ultimately, because I'd become very much aware of the difference between pleasure and addiction, I lost interest in games that I would once have jumped onto simply because they were jrpgs or done in a style I found interesting.  I started abusing Gamestop's used game 'seven-day return policy' to demo games, and I slowly but surely came to realize that I honestly and truly hate multiplayer games that aren't played in the same room. 
    I am now an unabashed solo gamer, even outside of VNs.  I won't play most multiplayer games at all, and I hate games where the social element is as or more important than the actual gameplay or story.  Of course, if a game has an interesting concept, I'll try it... but if I feel that sensation I used to get from FFXI, I drop it immediately, cancelling all subscriptions and discarding all related materials without a second thought, even if I paid a good deal of money for them. 
    To be blunt, life is too short to waste on playing something that is merely addictive (this coming from a VN junkie, I know).  That sensation of false social interaction you get from online gaming and the high you get from winning in competitive games is highly addictive... but are you having fun, really? I wonder, how many younger gamers actually know what it is like to enjoy a video game, rather than simply being addicted to one?  This is a question that seriously bothers me, as I saw my young cousin playing Call of Duty (whatever the latest one is) online, unsmiling, for two days straight while we were staying at their place a few months back.  He really, really wasn't enjoying himself.  He was angry, depressed, and frustrated, but I never saw even a hint of a smile when he won, only this vague expression of relief he probably thought was a smile.  Was that relief that his team-mates weren't treating him like a worthless noob or an incompetent, or was it simply because the match was over and he could relax?  I don't know, because I didn't ask.  I know from experience that the difference between addiction and fun is fine enough that most people don't even recognize it is there until they are forced to.
    What are your experiences, gamers of Fuwa?
  14. Like
    Jade reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Sengoku Koihime X ~Otome Kenran Sengoku Emaki   
    This is a partial remake/rewrite of Sengoku Koihime, which was released back in 2013.  It is by Baseson, the makers of the Koihime Musou series, and the protagonist is the nephew of the protagonist from that series.  It is based on the Moeshouden fandisc ending (where the Shin Koihime Musou heroines are all together).  In addition to h-scenes, the text itself has been partially rewritten (it is more noticeable later in the game), and they added on the Houjou Chapters, a ten-hour after story.
    The story begins at the battle of Dengaku Hazama (the point where about ninety percent of all Sengoku Jidai-based historical fiction begin), where Oda Nobunaga, the lord of Owari, ambushes and kills the Imagawa Yoshimoto, who was considered to be one of the greatest lords of Japan at the time.  The protagonist is pulled from his own (modern) world and arrives there in a ball of light, where he is taken in by the female version of Nobunaga (Kuon). 
    Unlike the Koihime Musou series, there is no battle system involved here, which is great, considering that the story of this thing alone is about 1.5 times the size of Shin Koihime Musou, which was twice as long as the original Koihime Musou.  In other words, this is probably the longest kinetic VN in existence, right now, easily surpassing ChuSinGura and leaving works like Grisaia in the dust as far as sheer size goes.  This has its upsides and downsides... but it does manage to develop the heroines to a decent level, if at the cost of a certain degree of fatigue on my part.
    In terms of structure, this VN is actually a bit closer to the original Koihime Musou, in that there is only one path and all the heroines from the various clans end up with the protagonist.  There are five major arcs... first is the Owari and Mino chapters, where the protagonist earns the trust of the Oda clan and begins to build his own unit.  The second is the Kyouto/Oumi/Echizen chapters, whose ending is the midgame turning point.  The third one is the Echigo chapters, where the protagonist gets involved with Kagetora (Miku) and her clan.  The fourth is the Takeda arc, where the protagonist gets involved with the equivalent of Takeda Shingen (Hikari), who was considered one of the best strategists of the era.  The fifth and final arc of the main story is the violent conclusion to the battle with the oni.  The Houjou arc, which is an after-story, I count separately since the main conflict of the original story is over before it starts.
    In terms of raw narrative quality... this VN is top-level.  Baseson has a lot of talent available, and this VN shows it off to best advantage.  The writing is detailed and gripping, the dialog generally interesting and/or dramatic, and the VN as a whole is well-paces for something so long and drawn out.  
    If I have a complaint, it is that they didn't voice the protagonist... considering how completely central to the story he is, there really was no reason not to do so, considering the sheer amount of money they have to have spent on this thing in the first place, lol.  In terms of raw numbers, there are also a massive number of h-scenes, but they don't dominate things, for the most part (main heroines generally get two or three, with sub-heroines getting one for the most part).   This is inevitable, as there are something like thirty heroines in all, making for a rather massive cast, lol. 
    One huge difficulty at least some readers will experience is the sheer amount of historical background knowledge this VN demands of the reader.  For someone born in Japan, it is all learned as a matter of course by the end of middle school, but for those of us on this side of the puddle, it takes research to really grasp a lot of what is going on.  In particular, things like the Southern Court and the Onin War aren't generally given much attention in most anime or VNs based in the era, so even if you've played other games or read other stories based in the same era, you might not be able to grasp what is going on fully. 
    Another issue is that the traditional roles of the Imperial Court and the Bakufu (whichever Bakufu that is) are things non-Japanese will have trouble grasping.  The role of the Imperial Court after the Heian era ended is very much  symbolic, cultural, and religious rather than political, though it is used as a political tool by each incarnation of the Bakufu (Shogunate).  The duality of the reverence held for the Imperial line and the disregard (though it isn't presented as such) for them in political matters is a bit hard for Westerners to grasp... it took me a while, too. 
    The second huge difficulty is... the sheer amount of archaic language involved.  A lot of terms that went out of use in common Japanese decades ago are common throughout this VN, and I can guarantee that even people who are able to follow Dies Irae might have trouble with this VN at times due to this.  In particular, the political terms of the era can be difficult to grasp and actually require some research to fully understand, as their translation doesn't really get across their actual nature without a lot of context.
    My conclusion? If you liked Shin Koihime Musou, you'll probably love this VN, though it is quite a bit darker and more visceral at times.  The sheer length of this VN means you'll probably suffer from fatigue long before you finish it, so I recommend taking it in smaller doses (finish one of the major arcs, then take a day off, for example), as it takes a while to process all the information involved at times.  The addition of the Houjou arc, which is about equal in length to the Echigo arc, is a huge plus for the VN, but finishing this thing has left me pretty exhausted, hahaha.
  15. Like
    Jade reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Akeiro Kaikitan   
    For those of you who didn’t already know, this VN is based in the same setting as Nanairo Reincarnation and by the same company.  Nanairo Reincarnation was my VN of the Year 2014, and it is a VN that has remained strong in memory ever since.

    This VN has a much stronger ‘horror’ influence than Nanairo, which tended to be more of a nakige for much of its length.  The protagonist, Yashiro, is a young guy who was born particularly vulnerable to spiritual influences while not having the ability to see ghosts or spirits… meaning he is basically a walking target for stuff like that.  At the beginning of the story, he finds out he is cursed by the ‘Ghost of the Old School Building’, one of the ‘seven mysteries’ of his school.  This curse is fairly simple… it tries to get him to kill himself by jumping off the roof of the school building.

    A lot of the common parts of this VN focus around dealing with the mysteries and trying to discover a way to put the ghosts to rest, and in that sense it is almost identical to Nanairo… except that the protagonist, while central to the story, is essentially a ‘normal guy’ who got caught up in the mess involving ghosts and spirits.  The protagonist from Nanairo makes several appearances in the VN, as do his ‘family’ members, and it is based about two years after the original story.  There is definitely enough influence from the original that I have to recommend you play Nanairo first.

    This VN… tends toward an aura of sorrow, for much of its length.  The moments of fear are there, but they tend to be less common than ones of sorrow/grief.  There are a total of six heroines in the VN (five if you count Riri and Ruka as a single heroine), with three major arcs…

    The first arc is the Velvet Arc, which has the twin kami (Riri and Ruka) path splitting off midway.  Riri and Ruka’s ending… leaves a really strong impression, to say the least.   Technically, they are sub-heroines, but their ending is in no way neglected, either for detail or emotional value.  If there is a significant difference from the main part of the arc (Velvet’s path), it is that it is somewhat shorter and less dramatic.  Still, I cried for a half hour after it was over.  Those who liked the red-head from Hikoukigumo no Mukougawa’s ending will like this one.  Velvet’s ending… is closer to what I would call a ‘bittersweet romance’ path.  Velvet has serious psychological problems, all wrapped up in her past (I won’t spoil it), and dealing with those issues is the main focus of her path.

    The second arc is the Older Women Arc, which contains Misato’s and Youko’s path.  I’ll be straight… play Youko’s path first.  If you play Misato’s path before Youko’s, it will destroy you utterly, whereas it is merely saddening when you play Youko’s first.  Honestly, since I like that type of ending, I really did like how Youko’s path turned out, but it isn’t really a romance path (neither was Ruka’s and Riri’s).  Misato and Youko’s paths branch off from one another dramatically very late on (from a story perspective), and Misato’s path follows a far less dramatic and painful road to the end, one that is closer to what romance fans would like. 

    The third and last arc is the True Arc.  This path contains Kana’s and the True ending.  Kana’s path… is probably the most normal of all the paths, at least until the endgame.  To be honest, Kana’s path is the reason why I won’t be calling this one a kamige, though it isn’t horrible.  It is just… difficult to empathize with Kana (by the time I got to her path, I just considered her Idiot Friend #2, so I couldn’t see her as a romantic partner, even through the protagonist’s eyes).  Nonetheless, as paths go in a general sense, it was still pretty high quality. However, where this arc shines is, of course, the True path.  The True ending is… really heart-breaking.  What you might or might not have figured out from the clues about the mysteries behind what is going on at the school are brought to light in full form, and the issues that were generally laid to rest outside of the protagonist’s control or in a way that didn’t reveal the whole mystery were brought to a head in the protagonist’s personal viewpoint.  I cried for the True path.  I seriously cried.  If you don’t cry after you see what there is to see in this path, you probably should go to a psychologist.

    A few other comments before I go to my overall wrap-up.  My favorite heroine in this VN was undeniably Velvet, both because of my tastes in heroines (you’ll know what I’m talking about when you know her secrets), and because I just really, really liked her ending.  The protagonist’s degree of personal growth – and even his personality or outlook on life – will often be changed dramatically during the course of the paths, and this is one of the reasons I would love to give the kamige stamp to this one, despite the fact that it doesn’t quite reach Nanairo’s level. 

    Overall, this is definitely one of those VNs I’ll still be recommending to people five years from now, along with Nanairo.  It is a bit guro at times (at about the same level as Nanairo there), and the protagonist is a bit too typical of protagonists in the kind of situation he ends up in at times.  However, as long as you can get past these issues (or actively enjoy them) this is a great VN to play.  I will say that I really wished they would have done another adult protagonist, like Makoto from Nanairo.  I don’t really see the need to go back to student protagonists, but I guess that is just an inevitability when companies are under the kind of pressure of tradition these are.  I am seriously looking forward to more works from this company and this writer in the future, and this one is a solid (almost inevitable) VN of the Month candidate.

  16. Like
    Jade reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Tsumi no Hikari Rendezvous   
    Since I finished getting the acidic, poisonous, and unreasoning emotions out of my system - see this post:

    I was able to get through this VN without a lot of pain and twisted emotion such as I experienced with Soreyori no Prologue. 
    First, this is a VN that people who prefer moege/charage will not like.  I say this because, despite the high-quality visuals, this is - like most of Minori's more recent VNs - just a few steps too far in the direction of 'down in the mud romance drama' for the tastes of those who like the sappy, mindless romance that defines most VNs of the type. 
    Also, I will say that the best heroine in this VN is Fuuka (for reasons involving my personal tastes that I won't spoil).  Tsubura is just too... weak-willed for my tastes.  Ai is the central heroine, but she is typical of some of my least-favorite Minori heroines in being a bit too... attached to her own metaphors. 
    Having said that, this VN starts out in a way that I really didn't like (sparking the previous rave post that I used to lance that particular boil of toxic emotion), so I honestly can say that while the events in the common route were ones I didn't enjoy reading, they don't detract from the overall quality of the game.  In fact, for people who like this kind of 'afternoon drama romance story', this will be a perfect treat.  The simple fact that I don't enjoy that type of thing outside of a few specific scenarios is irrelevant to this fact, so remember that my personal distaste is pure bias, not a statement on the technical quality of the scenario.
    I honestly can't find a way to describe this story in any way without spoiling it.  This VN is so dependent on its specific methodology of revelation in order for the reader to enjoy it that any spoilers here - even minor ones - would be criminal on my part, so I'm going to decline to do an in-detail analysis of what I read, outside of a few generalized statements.  Tsubura, for better or worse, is a personality that will seriously split those who read this.  Her path has some seriously good points emotionally, but as a character, she will drive some people insane, because she can be seriously pathetic as a person sometimes.  Ai's path... is dependent on the common route, and the revelation of certain personality traits (and hiding others) is integral to telling her story, so I'll refrain from any further comment except to say that it feels like a 'typical Minori star-crossed, twisted into a pretzel romance, for better or worse'.  Fuuka... is Tsubura's opposite.  She is strong-willed, bad-mouthed, and pretty capable overall.  She is my favorite of the three  heroines (as I mentioned above) and her path stimulates one of my tertiary fetishes.  However, her path will also split those who read it, though for different reasons from the other two paths.
    I have to mention this issue, despite it being one that most Minori readers are already familiar with... the unbelievably long h-scenes.  For some reason, Minori seems to adore making h-scenes that last forever, have a ridiculous number of CGs, and are so intrusive into the story at some points that they actually make it hard to keep up interest in the story in general (there are some that aren't intrusive - and are even necessary to the story flow - but some are seriously...). 
    Visually and audio-wise, this VN is of average Minori quality (which is higher quality than the average VN ), but there are definitely issues with the graphic system, such as stuttering in the animations and occasional random freezes (usually lasting only a few seconds).  The random freezes stop if you turn off the animation, and I actually enjoyed the story more once they were gone... so I can honestly say the animation doesn't add anything to the experience one way or the other.
    In terms of raw scenario design and writing quality... the scenario design is pretty high quality, but the writing is somewhat spotty at times (daily life scenes are somewhat shoddier at times, whereas the quality jumps suddenly in the most vital scenes... not really noticeable unless writing is really an issue for you like it is for me). 
    Overall, this VN wasn't a bad experience once I got past my own issues... but I think that VN readers in the community will be split based on personal tastes when it comes to the game in general.  It isn't a kamige by any standard, and it is an unabashed soap opera type story (though without endless seasons of meaningless twists).  However, whether that is a good or bad thing is entirely up to you.  As I said before, some people will actually have more trouble than I did, particularly people who like the relatively simple romance that is the common fare of charage, nakige, and others of the type.  There are some seriously strong emotional moments in this VN... but it is not really a VN that will stimulate the intellect, as it is basically an adolescent romance story.
  17. Like
    Jade reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Koisuru Otome to Shugo no Tate - Bara no Seibo   
    First, I should mention that this is a true sequel to the original Shugo no Tate and that it is based three years after the events at St Terejia Academy.  The protagonist, Kisaragi Shuuji (who didn't get together with any of the girls from the original) is stuck in the job of the cross-dressing bodyguard, and he agrees to carry out this one last mission in exchange for the right to stop cross-dressing (lol). 
    I'm going to say right off the bat that Nozomi is the true/central heroine of this VN.  Only in her path are all the aspects of the story fully revealed, and so I advise reading her path last.  There are five heroines in this VN... Nozomi (a shy girl who tries not to stand out), Riri (a cross-dressing girl who is immensely popular with the student body), Mana (an air-headed ojousama), Mai (a poison-tongued maid), and Sonya (a Russian transfer student).  Like the original, there are a lot of darker aspects hidden under the elegant surface of the school, and those who prefer to avoid serious drama should probably also avoid playing this.  Similarly, there are some battle scenes - generally well-described - where the protagonist makes out pretty well. 
    Shuuji, the protagonist, is an experienced bodyguard and agent, and his combat skills show that.  Unfortunately for him, his cross-dressing skills are even greater (lol).  I should say that the protagonist is a lot more central to the plot than is customary in most of today's VNs (in other words, he isn't overwhelmed by the impact of the heroines), and the original in this duology was my first experience with the trap protagonist. 
    Overall, this game is pretty much what you would expect from a game in the same series as the original Shugo no Tate.  There is a decent balance between action, drama, romance and slice-of-life without going overwhelmingly in any of the four directions, save at key points.  The endings are generally satisfying enough, though people who have played the better AXL games will definitely recognize their style.  The original was a kamige, and this was a fun one to play... but it pretty much requires you to have played the original to get the full effect, so it isn't a VN of the Month candidate.
    Edit: I should note that some of the heroines have seriously dark pasts, and two of them are about as twisted up inside as the secret heroine from the original.  However, like most heroines with twisted pasts, they tend to have some of the best deredere attitudes once they fall in love with the protag.
  18. Like
    Jade reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, VNs: Gears of Dragoon 2, settling in for the long haul, VN of The Month Announcement   
    OK, I started playing Gears of Dragoon 2 about four days ago (I've only managed twenty hours so far, due to work), and I have a few comments on the game.
    For better or worse, Gears of Dragoon 2 Reimei no Fragments is a dungeon crawler/rpg/VN hybrid, and like most VNs of this type, it is pretty big.  To be blunt, in 20 hours, I've only managed to get to level 24 and get halfway through Chapter 2.  Considering that with the same amount of time I was already halfway through (or farther) with each of the Venus Blood games, that means that I have long way to go.  As such, I'm excluding this and Sengo Muramasa from VN of the Month for January.  I'm not really seeing anything glorious enough to surpass the experience of Tokyo Necro, anyway. 
    The battle system is a pretty straightforward turn-based one, though it has a limited-size skill palette that makes the game a bit inflexible at times as I've gained access to more skills.  The leveling system is an experience-based one where you gain levels by defeating enemies, then use skill points to increase skill levels or progress farther on the skill tree.  The game experience is added to somewhat by the presence of a guild-leveling system (where you get guild points for finishing missions, then use them to increase the levels of the four guilds - (Warrior - which affects the item shop-, Thief - Which effects item drops and dungeon mapping -, Priest - which effects damage and healing, as well as drops for certain types of items - , and Mage - which effects drops for certain items, etc), making the game more convenient.  I started out focused on the Warrior Guild, but the Thief Guild is a lot more utilitarian... if the Thief Guild's level is one above the current chapter, every dungeon in that chapter will come pre-mapped, thus making planning a lot easier. 
    Story-wise... it looks like it could be interesting, but the ratio of dungeon to story is a bit too lopsided toward the dungeon, thus making it hard to connect with the characters and story overall.  This is a problem some of the Venus Blood games also had, but I honestly think this is a bit worse.  The protagonist stumbles a bit too often for his apparent confidence, and the main heroine is once again a ditz (why is it that rpg/dungeon crawler heroines almost always are?).  To be honest, I do wish we could customize how the characters level up their stats, as some of the characters have really, really half-assed statistics despite their roles, whereas others have ones lopsided toward roles other than theirs.  I think this is mostly a matter of poor design, so I honestly can't be really complimentary about the game so far.
    Now, for the reason why I'm going ahead and announcing VN of the Month early... to be blunt, Fire Emblem Fates is coming out, and I'm probably not going to touch a VN for a week at least after it does, meaning until February's VNs release.  Also, except for this one and Sengo Muramasa, there really isn't anything left to play that is interesting.
    VN of the Month January 2016
    January was a month of extremes... I played two kusoge, one kamige, and one high-quality one.  Obviously, there is no other candidate for the VN of the Month except Tokyo Necro, but it should be mentioned that Hataraku Otona no Renai Jijou would have had VN of the Month potential in many another month.  It isn't a kamige, but it was solid enough to remain in memory.  While having to plow through two kusoge was painful, the other two were worth it.
  19. Like
    Jade reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Venus Blood Series, In order from Abyss to Hypno   
    A Universal Issue

    Tentacle sex and rape are the two big downers to this series. For a series with such good writing, it is amazing how quickly it becomes repetitive once h-scenes get into the picture. On the bright side, corrupting the heroines in Empire, Frontier, and Hypno almost always has immensely hilarious results after the mindbreak. It is kind of irritating that you pretty much have to mindbreak them to get the really good strategic skills, though.


    To be honest, this is the game in the series I liked the least. First, it is the first one that introduces the tentacle impregnation=new troops system that was the recruitment system for this and Gaia. Second, it has the weakest set of heroines and protagonist in the entire series. Third - and last - it uses a dungeon-defense gameplay model, which I despise. To be honest, the Law route of this game is incredibly boring, story-wise, with a huge amount of cliched jrpg knock-off plot twists. While this isn't unexpected, the main heroine's personality is the worst part of it... her idealism wears on you after a while, and both the protagonist and the antagonist are both weak enough not to be able to make up for it. The Chaos route suffers from 'we just stuck an evil route on it for mad science self-indulgence' syndrome, and the ending is, if anything, even more pathetic than the Law ending (think a bad ending in a chuunige with the positions reversed). While the story is actually mildly enjoyable while it is going on, the aftermath is singularly disappointing and dissatisfying.


    I'll just come out and say it... this would have been the perfect story if the main antagonist wasn't such a straight-out 'Me Dark Lord, Destroy world because me bored!' Kefka knock-off. Oh, the details are mildly interesting, but the last chapter is almost unforgivable. If it wasn't for the overwhelmingly good cast on the protagonist's side of things, as well as the game's excellent story as a whole (if you cut out the ending sections) this would probably be an eminently forgettable game. The protagonist's motivations, his background, and his abilities as a general and a warrior make him a really attractive main character, and the fact that he isn't just a mass of endless ambition and sadism (unlike many VNs along the same lines) is a huge attraction for this game. The actual gameplay is somewhat improved from Empire (the previous strategy-conquest game in the series) but the game balance is kind of broken at points (think sharp spikes in difficulty, especially at the beginning and end).


    ... you almost have to be impressed about how completely they integrated the monster-birth recruitment system into this game. It isn't nearly as annoying as it was in Abyss, where it made the actual process of recruitment a matter of extreme annoyance (especially if you wanted to constantly alter the makeup of your forces). However, you do spend an inordinate amount of time staring at the little calendar part of the UI and checking to see how it will effect the power of the units you intend to birth. Again, like all the previous games in this series, it suffers from a lack of a good antagonist. There is nothing really sympathetic about the final antagonist (too faceless). The actual base story is much, much more interesting than Abyss... and the main heroine of the Law route is undeniably adorable, as well. lol (out of character for this company is that there are no h-scenes for this heroine, hahaha)

    They also added a dungeon-raid event battle system where you send your troops through an enemy's dungeon, in addition to the dungeon-defense and construction that makes up ninety percent of the game. This is a definite improvement, and the actual dungeon-construction and defense is a lot more refined (though I still thought it was inferior to Demonion's).


    This is undeniably the best game in the entire series, from all angles but one - heroine development. Individual heroine development - usually done through a combination of sex events and conversational events - is a lot less deep than it was in the previous games (yes, it is somewhat weird to say that there is character development when it comes to mindbreak and tentacle-H, but it happens to be true). It also departs from the previous games' style in that you pick your path early on and have to stick to it (basically, you either decide to break Sylvia or become her friend by either continuing with the sex-training or picking her regular conversational events after the required initial scene).

    This is perhaps the only game in the series where I actually found the chaos route worth playing, though the ending was perhaps less interesting than the actual antagonist and the process of going through the route. The Law route feels very much like a route to redemption from the hell his life has been for Leon and the world in general.

    However, as anyone who plays this game from the beginning will notice, the true flower of this game's story is the relationship between Leon and Anora. The mutual interdependence, absolute trust, and unstinting love they give one another from the very beginning is touching, even though Anora is pretty much a neutral evil character and Leon a true neutral one, lol.

    The Law route antagonist, as per the course in all the other games by this company, is a bit of a yawner, though the actual fight against him is pretty good.

    In terms of the gameplay... it is undeniably improved far and above all the previous games in the series. Being able to invest resources in increasing your income of the four resources (food, ether, magical energy, and coin) as well as war (experience gained every turn automatically by all recruits) and medical (automatic healing on every turn) allows you to do something other than conquer to build up your base of power. The conquest itself is done in stage format rather than in continental conquest format, which has its downsides in terms of gameplay flexibility but has the advantage of not kidding you about how much freedom you have (both Empire and Frontier basically did the same thing but gave you the illusion you were freely conquering the world). The actual recruitment system, which has been evolving since Empire, reaches its peak in this one, where character customization is the most advanced so far, without the unnecessary complications of heroine impregnation in Gaia.


    Overall, as a series... it makes you hate tentacles after a while, if you didn't already. It also makes some great protagonists (Empire, Frontier, and Hypno in particular). It also has very flat antagonists and gameplay that tends to be somewhat disappointing. Nonetheless, if you can slog through the H scenes (or just ignore them) Hypno - at the very least - is worth trying. Unfortunately, this series will destroy anyone who hates rape or tentacle sex, so I can't recommend it for the uninitiated... or for those who prefer soft H. To be honest, I started turning off my emotions after the first tentacles appeared and if it weren't for the fact that the moment the heroines' broke in Hypno was so deliciously evil, I probably wouldn't have bothered to read any of them. I'll never replay any of the games in this series, but I'll probably at least try the new ones in the series, if only out of curiosity to see whether they've improved the storytelling to fit my standards completely.
  20. Like
    Jade reacted to sanahtlig for a blog entry, Ask sanahtlig: Answers to Common Issues and Concerns in the VN community   
    I see many frequently encountered issues in the visual novel community.  I've taken some time to address them, with a focus on pragmatic solutions rather than long-winded explanations.
    Issue: I really like <insert type of VN>, but I can't find others like it, or I've already played through all the suggested titles.
    Answer: There's over 17k VNs in VNDB's database.  2356 are available in English.  The sorts of VNs you're looking for are almost certainly there.  Time to learn Japanese.
    Issue: JAST USA is really slow, and it licenses nearly finished fan translations and sits on them for years before releasing them.
    Answer: Time to learn Japanese.  You'll probably finish before JAST does.
    Issue: Companies keep licensing eroge and releasing them censored on Steam.
    Answer: They're doing this because few people buy eroge, whereas Steam users are more than happy to overpay for softcore porn.  Time to learn Japanese.
    Issue: JAST/Nukaku is censoring my lolis / guro / scat / all the content I'm interested in.  It's really ticking me off.
    Answer: Distribution of offensive pornographic content is restricted in much of the English-speaking world.  Time to learn Japanese.  Also, best not to import the stuff, or you could end up like this guy.
    Issue: Original English VNs are terrible.  Help!
    Answer: Yes, the English VN market has thus far failed to attract professional game developers, especially when it comes to sexual content.  Time to learn Japanese.
    Issue: The game I'm interested in has a fan translation or a fan translation in progress, but the translation is terrible or the project is stalled.
    Answer: Fan translators cannot be relied upon to provide high-quality translations quickly and reliably.  They have real jobs / studies that take precedence.  Time to learn Japanese.
    Issue: Localization companies pick mediocre or short titles I have no interest in.  Why can't they release something I want like <insert title from Type-Moon, Eushully, or other famous developer here>?
    Answer: Japanese companies don't care what you want, and neither do localization companies.  They want profits, and releasing titles people want is often unfeasible or unprofitable.  Time to learn Japanese.
    Issue: I tried text hooking with machine translation so I could play Japanese VNs, but I can't understand it or it's too frustrating to use.
    Answer: Understanding machine translation requires practice and exposure.  It's a bit like learning a new language.  If you'd rather not learn machine translation, you could learn Japanese instead.
    Issue: Learning Japanese is hard.  Like, really hard.
    Answer: Yes, it's one of the most difficult languages for a native English speaker to learn.  The US government estimates that 2200 hours of intensive study is required to gain basic proficiency in Japanese.  To add insult to injury, Japanese has a special asterisk next to it reading, "Languages preceded by asterisks are usually more difficult for native English speakers to learn than other languages in the same category".  That means they lied; it actually takes significantly more than 2200 hours to learn the language.  Good luck.
    So there you go: practical solutions to frequently encountered issues.  I hope everyone finds this guide helpful.
  21. Like
    Jade reacted to astro for a blog entry, taypls 6   
    *** astro has shared contact details with Joe. ***
    Joe: Hi astro, I'm wondering can u pls translate Aiyoku no Eustia?
    Me: sorry I really don't have time to take on more projects right now
    Joe: But it's a rly good game
    Me: I'm sure it is. look, I hope that you're not asking me to do it for free at the very least - I don't even know who the heck you are
    Joe: Well how long will it take u to do it? I can pay u $2000 at most depending on how long it takes
    Me: ...Do you have any idea how long the game is?
    Joe: No idk japanese so I've never played it before

    Well, this isn't really Tay's fault, but my rule of thumb is to always blame Tay. taypls
  22. Like
    Jade reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Sangoku Hime 4: Giving up in Exasperation   
    Like some others, I got tricked into playing yet another gameplay-hybrid in the series of games by Gesen known as the Sangoku Hime series. To be honest... I couldn't imagine how they could have screwed things up worse.
    First of all, they used their 'restructuring' of the game as a big draw for those who were disappointed with a lot of the aspects of 3. They basically redid all the character designs (without exception) with completely new characterization, art, and voices... and I'll be honest, I couldn't imagine how they could have screwed things up worse.
    It isn't just that the style has regressed in some ways (the male character designs, which were actually pretty awesomely detailed in previous games, are now unbelievably crappy by any standard, probably to bring them in line with the new, moe-moe character designs for the female characters)... if it were just that, I would have shrugged and let it go. Unfortunately, it pretty much eliminated the best part of 3, which was the glorious atmosphere that enveloped you at key historical moments, such as the confrontation with the Yellow Turbans or the Alliance against Dong Zhuo... and especially when you defeated one of the Three Kingdoms or reached another historical turning points. Sun Ce, who was a warrior-queen type in the previous games, has turned into a moe-airhead with a war-addiction in this one. Cao Cao, who always put her ambition first and had the immense strength of will to follow through on her plans at all costs, while possessing a surprising sense of mercy and compassion to those who followed her or surrendered to her... has become a kuudere with a love of sweets. Even worse, her appearance in 3, which was kind of demonic, was changed drastically to make her into 'just another leader-heroine'. The only ones that hadn't changed were the Liu Bei followers, whose drive and personality hadn't essentially changed (though their visuals had changed significantly... oddly the only positive visual change I saw in the game).
    Now, setting aside the characterization and visual changes in other characters, we'll come to the change I found the most unbelievably annoying. Ginga, for all that he was a straight-out womanizing soldier-type in the previous games, nonetheless had a distinct personality. He was a powerful individual who knew the battlefield like the back of his hand. Unfortunately, he was replaced in the new game by Akito, your typical 'nice-guy' VN protagonist who happens to have an ability to see the future in dreams (and yet he can't seem to figure out how to use it... until late in various paths). Oh, there were other big issues throughout what I played... such as the lack of serious character development and the retaining of pointless slice of life scenes for side-characters that feels out of place in an otherwise serious game. However, the writing/story side just basically lost ALL of its luster... leaving you with the drudgery of the Sangoku Hime series (yes, the actual game-progression hadn't changed a bit from the previous games).
    There were some changes to the gameplay... such as the contraction of the soldier-types into a mere six different ones (light infantry, destroyers, barbarians, cavalry, archers, and tacticians (female or male)) versus the twelve or so that existed in previous games. This was actually an improvement in some ways, as it clearly redefined the classes according to their abilities and role. The character-building system is also simplified into three trees (war, learning, and astrology) and is expanded to cover all generals, not just the unique ones. Unfortunately, that simplification means that it is hard to impossible to overcome weaknesses in vital characters such as the ruler of your country (Liu Bei and Sun Ce both have weak political abilities compared to Cao Cao, whose abilities in this area are among the highest in the game). This can be a huge handicap, as your leader's political ability determines how much you can do in a single turn. You also lose most of the skills that were most useful in the previous games, such as the ones that let you massively increase your attack power in certain situations (thus giving you more strategic options).
    In the end, I just had to drop the game after I conquered half of China with Cao Cao, Liu Bei, and the Sun family... all three had exactly the same problems. Not to mention that the detailed story scenes that recreated certain minor but vital historical events were gone entirely (I particularly missed the events from Cao Cao's rise to power, which were fascinating and as true to the base material as anything I've seen in a game like this).
  23. Like
    Jade reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Not much hope for 2015's VN of the Year?   
    To be honest, the harvest for this year so far has been kind of... less than impressive, to say the least. The best VN I've played this year so far was Silverio Vendetta, and even I think it would have been much better if it had only contained Vendetta's path. I'll come straight out with it and say there aren't any solid candidates so far, even though the year is almost half-over. Last year, by this time, there were four solid candidates - though the later part of the year blew most of them out of the water, and all the candidates from 2013 were concentrated around the beginning of the year.

    It is kind of worrying how little in the way of exciting VNs has been released so far this year, and while I am holding out hopes for the new game from Tigre Soft and one or two other possible releases, my experience so far this year is that all the major companies seem to be trying to spit out games that will make them a quick buck for small amounts of effort (fandiscs, shorter games than usual with fewer cgs, using newbie writers, etc). To an extent, that was true last year as well, but it has gotten worse since this year began. For someone who is basically plowing through an average of four or five new VNs every month (or six or seven, like last month), this is not just a minor issue but a real problem. While I found Silverio Vendetta in February to be immensely fun, there really hasn't been anything that blew me out of the water so far.

    Understand, this isn't a case of my standards being too high (normally, I would suspect that, but looking at the ones I've played so far objectively...). Rather, it is a case of the bar being lowered overall, by the companies doing the releasing. As an example, Giga released yet another visually impressive but somewhat subpar moe-battle VN near the beginning of the year with an obvious eye toward imitating (poorly) some of Majikoi's more enjoyable aspects, combined with some from the Ikki Tousen anime's concept. Normally, this VN would have been exciting, and it did have all the elements necessary to make a good VN... put together in such a manner that it turned out to be surprisingly bland.

    Sanoba Witch, which I had some rather high hopes for, also disappointed me somewhat. For all Yuzusoft's flaws, that company has always tended to understand where the line between serious and joke needs to be drawn in each of its games (ie Dracu-riot). Unfortunately, there was only one path in that game that I could unreservedly praise, and it definitely wasn't kamige material.

    Combine that with a poor showing by Minato Soft and barely acceptable works by Pulltop and a few other companies, and I have to wonder exactly what is going on in the eroge business right now.

    I know I sound unnecessarily condemnatory, and you would be right to say I'm being pessimistic. However, the fact remains that it hasn't been a good year so far, and six months without a kamige is downright depressing. Of course, you usually can only expect one or two kamige in a given year... but most of the best companies have been producing disappointments, so I think my pessimism is well-deserved, personally.
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