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  1. Like
    Veshurik reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Otome ga Irodoru Koi no Essence   
    I'm going to be blunt... for some reason, the 'Otome' series of trap-protagonist ojousama-ge by Ensemble seems to be incapable of fulfilling the promise of Otome ga Tsumugu Koi no Canvas in any of its follow-up games.  Koi no Canvas was, for better or worse, one of the single best charage I've ever played, with strong characterizations for all of the characters (including the protagonist) full voices for all characters (later Otome series games all had voiced protagonists, though), and superlative individual paths with an actual story tailor-made to match both the protagonist and the individual heroines.  
    Unfortunately, none of the Otome series games since has gotten anywhere close to doing what Koi no Canvas managed, and this one isn't an exception.  I will say that it starts out really well... the protagonist is fully-voiced and capable in his own field (in this case cooking), and his actions throughout the VN show him to be competent... but the romantic portions, the characterization of the heroines, and the actual development of the heroine paths are all... second-rate.  The few good points in this VN stand out so well precisely because the rest is so poorly-done. 
    As an example, the humor is actually pretty good, and the protagonist's reactions to most situations are either funny or ones that leave you with a positive impression of him.
    Unfortunately, there are certain aspects that absolutely drive me insane reading this VN.  The heroine routes are truncated and devoid of drama (seriously, you can't have ojousama-ge without a controlling parent or a character with major personal issues, but none of that really exists here).  The romance is sudden and makes little sense.  Worse, it is pretty much impossible to develop an emotional connection even to the protagonist, because every time it seems like they might sadden you with his past (he is an orphan, for instance), they deliberately cut it short or interject the protagonist's general lack of care for the issue in question.
    After Koi no Canvas, this series has continually sabotaged itself with this kind of BS, and I'm actually crying right now at the sheer wasted potential of the characters in this story.  It is obvious the writer wanted to do more, as well... because there are a lot of signs throughout the heroine routes of cut scenes or abrupt story movements that seem awkward/amateurish.  Considering the experience of this team, even aside from this series, it seems a bit ridiculous that they would have tripped so many landmines in a single game (I mean, one of the writers worked on Sakura, Sakimashita... and that game is very, very good), and I honestly think that if Will wants to stop hemorrhaging cash, it needs to stop breaking up its best teams (the Evolimit team) or letting total incompetents get involved with story and characterization (referring to the Imouto Paradise writer who was also involved with this and the other Otome series games after Koi no Canvas).
  2. Like
    Veshurik reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Kanojo Step   
    Kanojo Step is the latest VN from Smee, a company famous (or infamous) for making old style first-generation charage (right down to being able to name the protagonist and having him be a non-person, as well as there either being no drama or only weak/easily resolved drama in the story).  As such, I wasn't anticipating a blowout hit, and I didn't get it, of course.  However, it did surprise me a bit in one aspect...
    ... and that was its comedy.  Ok, most of it is cheesy and 'familiar', but the timing of the comedy (usually emanating from the protagonist, as he is a 'class clown' style protagonist) is pretty much perfect and frequent enough that I spent about sixty-percent of this VN laughing.
    Unfortunately, the slice-of-life in this VN and the romance (which make up everything that isn't comedy) are... unimpressive.  They chose to go with heroines that were surprisingly dependent and deredere after they and the protagonist get together, and that wasn't a bad choice.  However, the simple fact is that there is a huge gap in the quality of narration and dialogue between parts meant to be funny and parts that are meant to be semi-serious.  This is the first VN I've encountered in a while where I felt like going to sleep whenever I wasn't laughing... and that isn't even an exaggeration. 
    Part of this can be attributed to the fact that the common route pretty much gluts you on everyday slice-of-life, and by the time you hit the heroine routes, it feels like being handed an apple pie after having gorged yourself on six others only an hour before.  Another part is that the way the everyday life parts are sectioned out is almost always the same, leaving you with a somewhat exaggerated sense of  monotony.  This, combined with the frequent meaningless choices and map movement systems (the classic type seen in a lot of older slice-of-life VNs that went out of style because they drove most people up the wall) made this a VN that reflected older styles... in a bad way. 
    For all the salt I just spat, this VN is actually fairly enjoyable most of the time... it's just that when it starts to feel monotonous, it really feels monotonous... Given a more story-driven plot combined with this same comedy and the complete elimination of the map movement aspects, it would have probably inched its way up into the top five percent of the charage I've played over the years.  Unfortunately, those aspects made for a VN that was far less than it could have been, at least from my perspective.
    Edit: Understand, the people who like the 'warm and fuzzy, devoid of any stains of negative emotion' charage will lap this up.  If I were to design a VN engineered solely to prick at 'mainstream' Japanese VN otakus' desire for 'an ideal everyday  youth' this would be what I would aim for.  However, as a story, it is fatally boring, unoriginal, and lacking in any entertainment value outside of the comedy, which happens to be hilarious.
  3. Like
    Veshurik reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, *cries* Soshite Hatsukoi ga Imouto ni Naru   
    ... I'm going to be blunt.  It has been a while (think 2014) since any company has produced a nakige that compares to this one.  The characters, their backgrounds, their personalities, and the setting all come together to form a story of deep affection, pain, and tears that had me crying more than a dozen times throughout the VN.
    In terms of heroines, this VN's imoutos are the best.  Shinobu is the twisted, obsessive half-yandere, super-capable imouto who adores her niisan (with good reason).  Tsubasa is the honest, affectionate, straightforward imouto who is incapable of hiding anything.  While the other two heroines kind of pale compared to those two, their routes are another story entirely.
    I'm going to be straight... there are no bad or under-developed paths in this VN.  The characters' emotional and real-life (to them) struggles are intense, engrossing, and emotional.  Neneko's and Yuuka's paths are cases of the 'paths surpassing the heroines', a phenomenon that has become sadly rare in recent years, as writing quality has fallen drastically in the charage 'genre'. 
    Technically, Tsubasa's is the true route, but none of the routes were neglected in favor of hers, though I could have wished for an epilogue based a few years later for Shinobu's path (a matter of personal taste).  This is a mark of the skill of the writer and the person who designed the scenario, as the fact is that in most cases where there is a true or central heroine, the other heroines tend to be neglected, at least in my experience.
    The protagonist in this story will probably get mixed reactions out of people, if only because he is a bit angsty, especially when issues of parents come up.  He has good reason, as he is a victim of child abuse (he doesn't hide this, and it is revealed within the first half-hour of reading).  At heart, he is a good person, but he is very exclusive in the people he cares about and insanely protective of those chosen few.  His obsession with his role as a big brother causes some big problems in Shinobu's route, but that is mostly because he is very hard-headed and straight-laced... the type of guy who makes a vow to himself and never breaks it, even in the particulars.
    Story-wise... this is classic non-Key nakige fare.  The protagonist deals with his own issues (to varying degrees) while doing his best for the heroines, the troubles and drama along the way designed to drag the tears out of you, though it all ends happily eventually.  I was particularly touched by the healing that occurs in the protagonist in Tsubasa and Neneko's endings (through different methods), and I, for once, wasn't frustrated with the protagonist and heroine's struggles in Shinobu's path. 
    None of the characters' struggles felt forced or unnatural, the way many charage make them seem, which was impressive in and of itself.
    Overall, this is a first-class addition to anyone's nakige collection, and it is definitely going to be stiff competition for my VN of the Month for May.  I wept, I laughed, and I suffered along with the characters and out of sympathy for them.  I come out of this VN glad that I played it, a rare experience for a person who is as jaded as I am when it comes to VNs.
  4. Like
    Veshurik reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, An apology and Vn of the Month May 2016   
    I have to apologize for being unable to deliver on one of my promises... to be specific, it doesn't look like I'm going to have time to finish Seiken Tsukai no Proposition this week... although, I could already tell it wasn't going to be a solid VN of the Month candidate.
    Unusually, there were actually two solid candidates for May's victor... Sakura no Mori Dreamers and and Soshite Hatsukoi ga Imouto ni Naru.  It really could have gone either way... both VNs are memorable and interesting, with solid stories and great characters... but in the end it was Soshite Hatsukoi ga Imouto ni Naru that won out.  Why?  There are a number of reasons... the biggest of which being the somewhat abrupt switches between the slice of life portions and the heavier plot portions in Sakura no Mori.  It isn't a really startling problem, but it was still a bit awkward.   Both stories were extremely emotional, but in the end, Hatsuimouto was just better technically.
    Edit: I really, really wish my bosses would stop dumping extra work on me... every time I think I'm done I check my email and find more for me to do.