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  1. Thanks
    ChaosRaven reacted to Plk_Lesiak for a blog entry, Thank you all for coming along for this ride! (Indefinite Hiatus)   
    Hey there all!
    I will start with saying  that I really treasure my time spent writing this blog and interacting with various people involved in the EVN community. You guys were awesome company in this journey and despite the obscurity of this project, I feel like it benefited me personally in many ways and maybe even helped people appreciate the value within the non-JP visual novel scene. I'm really thankful to all the people that read my blog, the devs that offered me their time and gave me their games for review – they all made these 2+ years into something special.
    When I started this project, there were two main things that motivated me. The first one was the frustration over dismissal of EVNs which is still common sense in the large parts of the VN fan community – belittling of the very games that made me fall in love with the visual novel formula. I wanted to create a space that is fully dedicated to discussion and promotion of EVNs as worthwhile and significant part of the genre. The second part was even more personal – my personal struggles with video game addiction and other issues, my ambition to shift my focus into a more challenging and creative activity. In many ways, I consider both my goals relative successes. While slowly, the perception of EVNs is changing and the scene evolving in interesting ways – while it shares pretty much all the suffering of other indie niches, with PC gaming in general being oversaturated and hard to navigate, I feel that it at least established itself as a significant formula that is attractive for story-oriented devs and appreciated by a significant audience. In other words, EVNs are here to stay and in time fewer and fewer people will be able to easily dismiss them as poor imitations of Japanese games. Whether my work had any impact in this regard? Apart from a bunch of people on Fuwanovel that I know I influenced in personal interactions, I honestly have no idea. I want to think there was some minor impact, but I had enough fun in the process and learned enough that I don't mind either way. I did my best and changed a few things about myself, which was the most important part for me.
    Of course, I'm in no way saying that I'm putting the blog on hiatus because my job here is done. The real reason is much more prosaic – I just can't keep up with it. The last month was particularly devastating in this regard, with very little time for me to either read or write. And while an obvious answer would be to just work at my own pace and publish stuff whenever I'm able to, it's not really something that would work out for me. Missing deadlines, thinking about future projects, it all became a source of stress rather than a source of fun, and I feel it would only get worse with time. While I really wanted to keep the project alive, I don't want to do so at any cost. I feel burned out. I barely read VNs for fun. I don't watch anime for a few months now. I need a change of pace and ability to rediscover my love for these hobbies. The blog, sadly, became a prime obstacle in this.
    So, what's going to happen now? The blog will cease to get updates, unless something special happens. I might still do game jam summaries, as those are something I massively enjoy. I might also publish something on Fuwanovel from time to time – I'm theoretically still an editor there. The one part of the project that's definitely here to stay is the Steam Curator account. The devs that sent me their games deserve to at least get a Steam review and, generally, an evaluation of their work. I will also use my Twitter to publish updates about new games listed on the Curator account. The Steam reviews themselves will likely be a bit more polished – not that much though, I don't want to jump straight into the same burnout-inducing rabbit whole.
    So, once more, thank you for sticking around and I hope my project gave you some amusement. And, of course, see you around – I'm not giving up on EVNs and the community around them any time soon.
  2. Like
    ChaosRaven reacted to littleshogun for a blog entry, Melty Reflection Review   
    Welcome to this week VNTS Review, and as for the title I'm simply combined 'Melty' word from Melty Moment and 'Reflection' word from Summer Pockets Reflection Blue so we have 'Melty Reflection' as this week VNTS Review title. As for this week, release wise it's not as active as the last week although the updates was still manage to make up for it though. For the updates, we have usual one from fan translation and monthly one from Nekonyan, and most importantly we manage to have Irru fulfilled his goal to release Momiji's patch at June today. In any case, let's see what I can write for this week as well here.
    From Sol Press we have Irotoridori was fully translated along with the editing was almost completed at 90% edited. Looking from the progress of their other VNs, looks like it'll be next release. No much to say for now other than I'll look forward for the near future release from Sol Press if possible. From Frontwing as expected they'll release Phantom Trigger Volume 7 in English language as well, and for the release date, it'll be at July 22nd later according to the Steam page. What I know for now is that it would be the last volume for Phantom Trigger, and that it'll be longer compared to the previous volumes. If anything, at least I can accept this as the conclusion of Phantom Trigger more easily compared to Rakuen seeing that Phantom Trigger here is more or less a linear VN compared to Kajitsu (Although there's no sex scenes though).
    As for Nekonyan's updates, currently we have Hello Lady was at 40% in QA and apparently it's already completed the editing progress for the fandisc part as well. While it mean that Hello Lady should be next Nekonyan's release, it's still not determined as of now because we also have two projects that was in QA as well. Those two projects are IxShe Tell with the current progress was at 85% translated and 80% edited along with 35% in QA, and Riddle Jokers in that it's been at a quarter in QA. In any case, I'll look forward to see whether Nekonyan's next release would be one of those three VNs above or not. For the rest of their updates, we have Kirikoi was at three quarter translated along with a quarter edited, Aokana EXTRA 1 was at 45% translated along with 15% edited, and 1st secret project was at 30% translated. Lastly we finally have Melty Moment start the progress after more than two years in hiatus, and currently it's at 30% translated. That's all for Nekonyan's updates at this month.
    Since the new fragments for PS3 version of Matsuribayashi, it mean that the work on Miotsukushi Ura was resuming. As for the current progress of Miotsukushi Ura, it's at 54% translated. For more updates from fan translation, we have Taimainin Yukikaze 2 was at three quarter translated, Kud Wafter all age version was past three quarter (77.38%) translated, and Eustia was at 90.37% translated with side stories was at 37.52% translated. Since we have Summer Pockets Reflection Blue released, of course Alka decided to translate it and since they already translated the original version it mean that at least they already finished a substantial part of Reflection Blue itself (Apparently more than halfway). Also this time they decided to work on this until they finished unless they got C&D from VA seeing that the official version of Summer Pockets did have some flaws (ie typo and some broken wordwrap), so let's see if they can finished Reflection Blue here.
    For the last update, we finally manage to have Momiji's patch released today, and the patch did cover 62.57% of Ginharu. So if you already interested with Momiji ever since Ginharu being released and can't wait for Mizuha's patch release, go get Momiji's patch and have fun. As for the next plan while it should be obvious that they'll translate Yuzuki's route next, Irru still don't know what's Trip's plan for that yet. Irru also hope that they'll be able to go back to weekly update starting this week, so let's see if Tsurezure can do it later.
    That's all for this week VNTS Review, and see you next week.
  3. Like
    ChaosRaven reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Shuffle! Episode 2   
    To be honest, I had great hopes for this game, based on the fact that Agobarrier wrote up the drafts for the story before his unfortunate passing.  I thought I'd see the peculiar humor, the deredere-MAX heroines, and the wacky antics that I associated with the original game.  I expected running jokes (frequently used as accents to various scenes), and I hoped that Navel would finally regain some of its original 'magic'.
    Unfortunately, it seems that those hopes are a bit too high.  Perhaps it was inevitable... the team that did this game was partly made up of the writers that have been doing the Da Capo games, which should have told me they would have a less amusing approach to things (though it saddened me that Ou Jackson didn't manage to force things into his style more often...).  The loss of Agobarrier's unique style is sadly all-too-clear in this game, as, while it does channel some parts of the original, the way the most important scenes is handled is far more fumble-fingered and lacking in flare, which is just sad.  
    That said, there were some parts where the writing quality suddenly jumped up massively, such as in any scene where Primula was involved (for some reason).  To be honest, it was that very jump in quality that illuminated just how poorly some parts of the game - in particular the prologue and large swathes of the common route - are handled.  
    What is truly sad is what they got perfectly right... the characterization of side characters.  Primula, despite being, and all the side characters are really well-done.  So it kind of amazed me that the heroines were so sloppily done.  There is far more effective character development done in the common route for the side characters than the heroines (other than Lims, who has good characterization for the most part) considering their roles, which struck me as a horrible approach.  Rishia in particular is a horribly awkward character from the very beginning, and while some of that comes from her character concept, more of it comes from everything from her VA to her sprite poses... not to mention an odd lack of face time in the common route.  Her voice actor is a familiar and excellent one, so I can only imagine that it was the director that screwed things up...  
    To clarify, the heroines that had the strongest characterization in the common route go in this order Lims>Kohaku>Kirara (I hate Kirara anyway though)>Rishia>Nelia.  I say this because Kohaku gets more face time due to living with Raito and Kirara's characterization is so blatantly obvious that it can't help but be effective, if annoying.  Nelia has the least amount of face time in the common route (even if you pick her 'side' of things in the various choices) than the other heroines, and Rishia suffers from her initial introduction.
    What is canon?
    Without spoiling the important stuff:
    1.  It is 100 years since the end of Shuffle.
    2.  A great disaster happened sixty years in the past.
    3.  Primula is apparently an eterna-loli and is still alive and well.
    4.  The current King of the Gods is the son of Shia's much younger (born after Shuffle) brother.
    5.  All characters other than Primula from the original have long-since passed away.
    7.  At least some of the events in each path actually occurred.  
    8.  Rishia was very close to her great-aunt, Shia, who passed while she was still a child.  
    9.  Neria was very close to Nerine, who died childless and was her adoptive grandmother.  
    Primu- errr... I mean Limstone
    Lims was the first heroine I went after.  This wasn't because of any fetishes on my part (my fetishes lead me to Nelia), but simply because she had the best characterization of the non-human heroines in the common route.  Her development and even her story pretty much mirrors that of Primula's, up to a point.  More is revealed to the protagonist than was to Rin in his time, and the development of their relationship - up to a point - feels natural and even touching.
    Unfortunately, the romance is handled... awkwardly.  Considering this comes from a team known for having at least minimal skills in this area (if few others), I was awed at the way the romance in this path felt so unnatural.  While this isn't a path-killer for me (because romance isn't that important to me as part of a story), it was a disappointment.
    On the other hand, the drama in the last part of her path and the path up to the actual relationship formation were both excellent... too bad the ending was a little wince-worthy in terms of quality.
    Nerine's adoptive granddaughter is a seductive young woman who has horrible characterization in the common route (if you read the official character profiles and compare them to the actual heroine in the game, there are almost no similarities).  She has inherited her grandmother's recipe for tamagoyaki, and her path has some eerie similarities to Nerine's in Shuffle (in a generalized sense) without having the same impact.  I won't spoil the original game for you, but I had to wince at the drama used in this path.  
    I'll be honest, if more effort had been put into making Nelia into a real character instead of a caricature in the common route, this would have been a good path.  Unfortunately, very little time was spent on Nelia in the common route relative to the other heroines, and this has an unfortunate dampening effect on the reader's emotional investment.
    I have to wonder after finishing this path if they just intend to partially mirror the paths from the original game...
    Rishia's scenes in the prologue are the single most awkward introduction scenes I've seen from a heroine in a commercial VN from a major name in over ten years... no, ever.  To be honest, considering that intro scenes are something most charage writers do well, I didn't expect the awkwardness I experienced.  I mean, I almost dropped the game inside the first half hour, which I wasn't expecting, considering how much I loved the original.  Rishia's character eventually sheds the awkwardness created by the introductions, but I thought my feelings toward her would be ruined by the introduction to the very end.
    However, her actual path is a complete turnaround from my experiences in the common route.  Suddenly (and jarringly) the quality of presentation goes up and Rishia goes from being a thin caricature of a heroine to an actual person.  To some extent, this also happened in Nelia's path, but part of the reason this path suddenly took on depth for me was the way it tied into the story of Spiral.  In fact, it feels like a direct extension of the political elements of Spiral, which is why it felt much deeper to me than it probably is if you haven't played Spiral.  
    That said, the impact it had was enough to overcome the awful introductory scenes... but it still needs to be noted that this game is horribly flawed, not the least of which by the difference in style between the four writers (why they combined the writers of Tsuki ni Yorisou, Otome no Sahou and that fluff-fest series - Da Capo- I'll never understand).
    Understand, I have no interest in the human heroines in this game.  Kohaku is ok, but I find Kirara to be so annoying that the idea of romance with her makes me want to vomit.  
    Anyway, this game's primary flaws lie in the common route, which is, to be blunt, mostly fluff.  The character introduction for Rishia was botched, and there was a severe lack of face time for the two main heroines.  These flaws don't make the game unplayable, but for fans of the original, it can't help but be a disappointment.  Rishia's route manages to overcome most of the weaknesses of this particularly mismatched group of writers, but that is more because of the existence of Spiral than the inherent value of the story.
    Also, there should have been a path for Marine and Citron.  
    To add to the canon above, I should note that Spiral was apparently written as a prequel to this game.  It occurs a few months before Rishia's arrival in the human world, and it is centered around an agent from the Divine Realm.  I originally thought it was a prequel to Shuffle, but it turns out that it was a prequel to this game, lol.  
  4. Like
    ChaosRaven reacted to alpacaman for a blog entry, Themes and Stuff: Baldr Sky   
    So this post got way longer than I expected it to, probably because it's easier to explain something that is there than prove something is missing, especially in a VN of this length. It is the first post in what I hope will become a series where I want to discuss a couple of VNs and some their themes and how they are explored in more depth, especially ones I either have a strong emotional connection to or dislike despite them being highly regarded in the community. They are all going to contain spoilers for the games they cover, in this case Baldr Sky Dive 1&2. In this one there are a lot of footnotes where I try to explain plot points and so on well enough for someone who wants to read this review without knowing the game to be able follow what I'm talking about. In case you're just looking for my spoiler-free condensed opinion about this game, you can read the last paragraph.
    At the time I finished the first route of Baldr Sky I thought it was a quite promising start. It was obvious a story of this scale would need a lot of exposition and the game handles it pretty well in always trying to tie every piece of information to a mystery waiting to be uncovered and the introduced concepts were interesting enough to be fun reading about them on their own. I wasn't to fond of the narrative choices regarding Rain's (the heroine of the route) character arc, because her family background seemed like a great starting point to explore several aspects of the setting and themes it implies (1). She grew up in the Midspire, a gated community for rich and influential people who are opposed to the organic AI (2) that controls many aspects of the outside world. Her father is a hardliner in that regard and the commander of an anti-AI military force of the world government. He has become estranged from Rain, who starts sympathizing with the pro-AI faction, and his wife, who slowly started to degrade mentally and finally joined an abusive cult called Dominion and died shortly after (3). Isn't this a fantastic set-up to simultaneously explore how certain parts of the society in this world function, discuss why the pro-AI and anti-AI faction hold their respective believes and establish an agenda for Rain that's at the same time complicated and relatable, making her a three-dimensional character? While there are two or three scenes and a little dialogue addressing each of these topics, the route focuses on how she has always been in love with the protagonist, made a promise to dedicate her life to him after Gray Christmas (4) and was friends with Sora, the true heroine who died back then. Her connection to the cult is only used to give her and the protagonist a reason to not run away before the final showdown. All of this robs her of an actual agenda beyond doing what the MC tells her, effectively turning her into a prop that talks exposition and provides military intelligence in the later routes (she becomes rivals with another heroine later on, but that is more of a small subplot rather than something that adds actual substance).
    While I thought this approach was a wasted opportunity, I could also see how it aids the main story by not having Rain's personal issues interfere with the the main plot advancing and it gives Sora some more time on screen. So I didn't think too much of it, especially as there still was more than enough time left in the VN to fill its world with life and explore all the topics the first route hints at. And there are a lot, for example: Poverty vs. wealth in a highly developed society, what happens when a private company becomes so important to the world order that the state doesn't have any means of properly regulating them, the ethics of modifications of body and genes, what constitutes your personality, especially in a world where your memories get stored on some hard drive and your body can be replicated, the ethics and politics of sentient AI, even the theme of spirituality in a world where said AI sets and controls the rules for a cyberspace where people spend just as much time as in the real world, effectively turning the AI into a deity, and possible afterlife in cyberspace.
    At one point in Baldr Sky I started to notice a pattern that keeps being repeated over the course of the VN in how it deals with most of these themes. Or rather doesn't, as issues rarely ever get discussed on their merits, but rather on what faction or character holds which position or what the game needs to be true. Let's take the conflict about organic AI as an example. The anti-AI people are the bad guys. You know that because they call the other side names and have a tendency to get violent. So when they create designer babies that's bad and the children turn out to become sociopaths. When the leader of the pro-AI faction clones her dead sister with minor changes to some of her genome to make the two non-identical (for reasons), it is a clever maneuver against the big bad and the child is a genius. When the anti-AI faction builds its own machine-AI supercomputer, it is possessed by an evil super-AI trying to annihilate mankind. When the pro-AI put the control of all of cyberspace into the hands of AIs they have no eefective control over, they happen to only want everyone's wellbeing. When Chinatsu (5) switches to the Anti-AI faction, it is because she has a false conception of who is responsible for Gray Christmas and not because her believes or worldview change. So it is not some deep insight that makes her overthink her position again, but her commander betraying her. And of course he does, he is anti-AI after all (6).
    Whenever someone opposed to the way Ark Industries (7) does things raises a good point, it rarely ever gets addressed, and when it does, it immediately gets drawn back to the personal level. A protester criticizing their lack of accountability is not to be taken seriously because he is part of an angry mob. The leader of Dominion telling the MC that Ark and Dominion are basically doing the same thing in trying to revive people in cyberspace who died in real life is just the ramblings of a madman. Even when it turns out that Ark is in fact doing this exact thing, it is alright because Ark does it with good intentions and Dominion are evil so their experiments only produce digital zombies. The game even acknowledges that Ark doing this would be a huge scandal, because the anti-AI faction sends spies to their cyberspace to expose this and weaken Ark's political position. Still Ark doing this is seemingly OK, as they only experiment on old rich people who don't want to die and are willing to pay to reach digital afterlife, and also because it becomes an important plot device to save the world later on. I could go into how BS resolves and picks sides in the three way conflict between Ark, Dominion and anti-AI people makes a pretty weird point about faith and religion but why bother when the writers probably didn't think that far anyway?
    I think I made my point about how Baldr Sky avoids making any moral or political statements beyond “torture is bad” or “making pacts with lunatics is bad” and reduces any clash between ideas to conflicts between people or factions. It cannot even bring itself to say that corruption is inherently bad. At one point the sleazy mayor Anan, whose secret cooperation with Dominion has brought the city to the brink of destruction, gets captured by the good guys. One of them points out, without it getting challenged, that Anan's shady dealings have made the economy flourish by bringing high-tech industries to the city. Which is a great point to make when all the returns enrich Anan and his corrupt pals while a major part of the population lives in poverty.
    There actually is one theme Baldr Sky tries to explore to some degree, namely memories and how important they are to forming your personality. A big portion of the VN is told through flashback, most of the heroine arcs revolve around past promises, Makoto (8) has a sickness that causes her to have memories from different timelines (yes, those exist in BS) and lose her sense of self in the process, there are different ways factions try to recreate real people in cyberspace by feeding their memory data to NPCs, a certain memory is sent to the past to solve everything, the titles of the two parts of the game are “Lost Memories” and “Recordare”, and so on. To me this seems like an odd choice for a plot that mainly revolves around conflicts between political factions in a high-concept sci-fi setting. BS makes a few interesting points on that front, especially in regards to the connection between memories and what the calls soul, but as with the other themes I mentioned before, a lot of it seems to be mostly window-dressing, not something that impacts the plot or the characters' motivations in a major way. Additionally, seeing how often VNs in general use flashbacks as a storytelling technique, its not that novel of a concept.
    You could also make the valid point that not every piece of media needs to discuss complex philosophical questions, and you would be right. But then why raise them at all, when all they do is serve as props to either give the setting the appearance of depth and complexity or serve as a means to introduce other plot devices that could just as well have worked without them?
    Another problem this approach causes is that it does not allow the characters to have any deeper agency. They cannot have any ideals, because then the game would have to talk about those. Their alignments revolve mostly around who they have sympathy for and who could harm them. I already talked about how this keeps Rain from getting meaningful character development that ties into the larger narrative. To pick another example, Nanoha's route (the second one in the game) has very similar flaws: While she is the least interesting one of the heroines to begin with, her backstory still offers enough to create some drama that adds some depth to both her character and the themes Rain's chapter introduces. Nanoha's parents were leading pro-AI scientists who got killed by terrorists. Also the aftermath of Gray Christmas made her a refugee. She deals with this by clinging to her happier past and spending all of her free time in the replication of her college dorm in cyberspace and trying to live her life just as she did back then. But instead of being the basis for some character growth with her finding a way to embrace the present or exploring why the cyberspace is so attractive to so many people, there is another romance plot involving a past promise (9). This is especially frustrating considering that this way BS misses a great opportunity to further explore the aforementioned theme of memories. Her life as a refugee gets dealt with in like three scenes where you learn that she works in an internet cafe and has to live in an actually not that shabby love hotel (oh the horror!) and some dialogue where other people about how hard she has it. As for her relation to the overarching plot it revolves around her still trusting and being in contact with the scientist responsible for developing Assembler, whom she has known since being a child and who went into hiding after Gray Christmas, while the everyone else is trying to hunt him down. He seemingly betrays her and implants a device containing Assembler into her stomach, so she gets sad and runs away. He goes mad, so maybe he really is a bad guy? Again, the heroine's personal struggle has to take the backseat and her route mainly utilizes her as a means to lead up to another set of plot points and provide a little romance and h-content.
    The other routes are not that much better either, with the exception of maybe Makoto's character arc (10). The protagonist's character arc is solid though nothing to write home about, I guess, and there are a few well written side characters, although not enough to change my overall opinion on BS's treatment of its cast. I cannot finish this review though without talking about the evil mastermind who plotted everything. I will keep it short though. Having your grand villain appear nearly exclusively through exposition by other characters is pretty bad writing, unless you want to make a very specific point. Which BS does not. He does not embody some vague concept, like fate or human hubris or whatever. He is just an under-characterized seemingly a higher intelligence that wants to kill all humans in every timeline or whatever.
    To sum it up: The way Baldr Sky engages with the more general subjects it raises is, to put it nicely, fascinating. It just refuses to do it. It is a story about a conflict between political factions, yet it does not want to discuss politics or policy. It takes place in a world where the relationship between humans and technology raises tons of moral and social issues, yet it does not want to talk ethics. At the same time it does not seem like it cares that much about its characters either. So if BS wants to engage seriously with neither its themes nor its characters, what does it expect me to get emotionally invested in? That there's six women in this world who want to carry the MC's baby? In the end, apparently that is close to all there is to it. Which I find pretty disappointing for a VN of this length and reputation. I still rated both parts 7.5/10 on vndb as the pacing and overall advancing of the plot are executed well. I also liked the gameplay enough to add an extra half point.
    I should probably clarify a few of the terms I'm going to throw around to avoid confusion. To borrow from wikipedia, the setting “is both the time and geographic location within a narrative”, the premise of a story is “the initial state of affairs that drives the plot”, and a theme is “a central topic a narrative treats”. To make the distinction between these three more clear with an example, in MuvLuv Alternative the setting is present Japan in an alternative history where aliens invaded earth and mankind started building mechas to fight them. The premise is a young man who keeps looping through this timeline trying to use his knowledge of coming events to ensure mankind's victory and return to his original world. Themes MLA explores include, among others: trauma, patriotism, coming-of-age, alien intelligence, comradeship and the struggle against fate.
    Organic AI in BS has acquired some level of consciousness and thus can't be completely controlled by humans, but greatly surpass classic machine AI in processing power. The anti-AI faction (as in anti-organic-AI) sees this uncontrollable alien intelligence overseeing all the rules in cyberspace as potentially very dangerous, whereas pro-AI people believe the AI to be benign and thus point to its advantages.
    Dominion is an end-times cult that believes the AI to be a goddess and tries to separate peoples' consciousnesses in cyberspace from their physical bodies.
    An event where Assembler, a nanomachine to rebuild the earth's destroyed environment, but with the potential to wipe out all life on earth in its unfinished form, gets released from a research facility and the world government prevents its outbreak by obliterating most of the city surrounding it with a megabeam weapon in earth's orbit.
    The heroine in the third route.
    Actually Kirishima Isao's character arc is one of the more interesting ones in BS. Him acting against his morals by betraying and knowingly sacrificing his closest confidant because he is too focused on reaching what he thinks would be the best outcome leads to him losing not just the battle, but also his closest ally and the moral high ground he claimed. This would be way more effective though if BS ever showed any sincere interest in the morals of its characters.
    The company leading the pro-AI faction. Don't get me started on them. How you could pick a company with their business model as the good guys simply baffles me. They act as mediators between AI and humans, but seem to earn their money by implanting bio-chips into infants' brains (and those of everyone who can pay for it) that connect them to the internet 24/7 and upload all their memories to the cloud (which the AI can access and use). They also built a college with high tuition fees for these people where they get taught by the AI itself and turned into an internet elite class (but which gets destroyed on Gray Christmas).
    The heroine in the fifth route.
    There are between three and five of those in all six routes, depending on how loosely you define “past promise”, if I remember correctly.
    It involves her learning to cope with her illness in a positive way and emancipating herself from the grasp of Dominion/Neunzehn (the big bad). There even is a symbolism-heavy CG! It is as on-the-nose as it gets, but at least there is an attempt at doing something even remotely ambitious.
  5. Like
    ChaosRaven reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Random VN: Haruru Minamo ni   
    Haruru Minamo ni is one of my favorite games by one of my favorite charage companies, Clochette.  Clochette is known for a combination of decent stories, moe-ero (sexy and moe) heroines, and fantasy/sci-fi settings.  Haruru Minamo ni is based in the same world as Amatsu Misora Ni, which is - ironically - my least favorite Clochette game.  In this world, the idea and existence of Japanese-style deities is a self-evident reality.  This is partly due to the fact that 'arahitogami' (kami who take a human shape and live as humans) come into existence regularly enough that they are obviously recognizable and accepted as what they are.
    This game has five heroines: The protagonist's little sister and goddess of the mountain, Miori; the new sea goddess of Tamatsue, Kanau; a young thunder goddess named Mei; Tatsuki's (the protagonist) and Miori's osananajimi Ena; and the fisherman's daughter Asumi. 
    Miori comes across as the most level-headed of the five heroines, having been a goddess from birth, rather than ascending to the position.  She was 'raised' to a great degree by her older brother, and she is all-too-aware of how the task of raising her has shaped his personality and way of looking at the world.  She has all of her worshippers' names, faces, situation, and lifestyles (and that of their relatives to the fourth degree) memorized, and she is the trusted and beloved goddess of the mountain.  She is also a heavy gamer (console) due to the fact that the siblings' ancestor (the first goddess of the mountain) having promised to remain upon the mountain, thus binding her to the old town around her shrine, thus making her a homebody.  She is the epitome of the Japanese idea of a tochigami, being able to express her will anywhere within her territory and protecting it against misfortune.  Obviously, she is a brocon.
    Kanau is a young girl who became a goddess at a relatively late age, and as a result, she doesn't have great control of her powers.  She is also extremely unlucky and tends to draw misfortune to herself to an extreme degree.  However, she also has a hidden core of steel in her spirit that lets her get up after every failure with relatively little help or interference.  Her kind and hard-working nature show a great deal of potential, though it is, as of the beginning of the VN, unrealized.
    Mei is the incarnation of a bolt of lightning given the form of a girl after attaining divinity.  Unlike Kanau, who is learning to be a goddess because she was born human, Mei needs to do so because she has had little connection with humans.  She is very straight-laced and honest, telling people what she thinks upfront. Her emotions are obvious, but she will often hold herself back for the sake of what she thinks is right.  She desperately wants to be of use to humankind, but she has no idea of how to go about it.  
    Ena is the daughter of a Japanese sweets shop owner and the Yamagami siblings' osananajimi.  She is an easygoing, kind-hearted girl who cares about others first and foremost, without a malicious bone in her body.  Having grown up around Miori and Tatsuki, she knows them almost better than they know themselves, and thus she has made a point of restraining her long-held feelings for Tatsuki and keeping them below the surface.  For better or worse, she is the type of girl who suffers as a result of her tendency to put others first.
    Asumi is a seemingly standoffish daughter of a fisherman.  Having been raised near the sea, she became an excellent swimmer at a young age.  However, she quit the swimming club and now avoids swimming anywhere but the mountain river, avoiding the seas like the plague.  She also doesn't believe in deities, feeling deeply betrayed by them for reasons that come obvious later.  Despite this, she is actually very straightforward and easy to get along with... once you understand she doesn't like wasting time on small talk.  
    Mei has the cutest dere of all the heroines, I'm just going to say right up front.  Think 'cat who absolutely adores her master' and you'll get an idea.  Mei's path is pretty heavy on ichaicha... but since her dere is cute in a good way and there is little romance drama to annoy me past the actual stage of them getting together, I didn't mind either time I played it.  
    Her path's drama is mostly centered around her growing as a kami by being loved by Tatsuki (yes, seriously), so most of it isn't that serious.  However, there are a few 'trouble moments', especially toward the end of the path.  Nonetheless, all is well that ends well, and the path is tied off nicely.
    Miori, despite her efforts to keep her brother at arm's length, is a rather self-evident brocon.  This is fairly typical of Clochette imouto heroines (incidentally, Clochette little sister routes are some of the best out there, though they lack the twisted stuff you see in some other companies' lineups).  However, this is made more complex by the background of the two.  The first part of the path, the formation of the relationship, is more of a clash of positions: brother/sister, priest/goddess along with a bunch of other baggage that was inevitable.  However, it does make it a lot more interesting than your typical 'incest is bad' drama you see in most imouto routes.
    Miori and Tatsuki, once they get together are somewhat... intense.  This was also the case with Mei, but if Mei and Tatsuki were an extreme version of the typical bakkouple (idiot lovers), Miori and Tatsuki are so insanely intimate (think finishing each other's sentences half the time) that it takes it in a somewhat different direction.  There is some significant drama near the end of the path that is very, very revealing about the setting in general... but because of that, I would recommend that first-timers play most of the other routes before this one (Kanau's and Miori's can be done at the end) for the best experience.  
    Honestly, as a character, I like Asumi the most of the five heroines.  However, I have to say her dere is more 'hidden' than the other girls, as her feelings don't really reach the surface in the same way as the others.  As a result, in her path, you don't get to enjoy the kind of melty deredere crazy couple ichaicha you do in Miori or Mei's path.  On the other hand, her path is a gift to those who like intimacy over brain-melted ichaicha.  
    Asumi's romance starts the most 'naturally' of the three paths I've played this time so far.  This is probably because she isn't a goddess (meaning Tatsuki's hangups aren't as strong an issue in that stage of the relationship), and Asumi's seduction of Tatsuki happening to be a lot more subtle than the others because of the way she handles emotions.
    Honestly, I don't like the way this path ended, in comparison to the way the previous two did.  While it is highly emotional, it also trips one of my major most-hated tropes
    Kanau is a pretty straightforward girl in every way... but the beginning of the romantic part of this path is seriously weird.  I mean, it is a Clochette game, so sexually charged scenes are normal but...
    The attraction of Kanau's path is the way she starts to change things in Tamatsue as a result of her personality.  While Kanau isn't my favorite heroine, she definitely has a strong path worthy of a main heroine.  
    This path can be considered to be the 'main' or central path of the game, as it has the most story-focused approach, whereas most of the other paths had a tighter focus on the lovey-dovey aspects, with the story growing like weeds between ichaicha moments.  That said, it isn't like this path makes the other heroines feel underserved.  Rather, it feels more like a natural extension of what was going on from the beginning.  
    I'm not a fan of Ena's path or Ena as a heroine (Ena as a side or helper character is ideal, but I don't like her type as heroines).  As such, I'm not interested in replaying her path.  This game in general is Clochette at its best, in particular the way there are so many diverse elements interacting with the central characters, as opposed to the charage standard, which generally has only the heroines, the protagonist, and maybe a few friends with relatively few other connections.  There are mild cathartic moments, humor, and ecchi enough for anyone who likes a more varied 'flavor' in their charage, and the heroine paths actually have a story to tell, not just a 'romance'.  I recommend this for people who want some mild fantasy and story in a primarily SOL setup (and for people who like heroines who happen to be attached to oppai).  
  6. Like
    ChaosRaven reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, A year or so later: My change in outlook   
    Since ceasing VN of the Month, I've been slowly recovering from my years of over-reading VNs, the vast majority of them ones I normally wouldn't have taken an interest in.  While I still play VNs regularly, I do so at a slower pace, reading more conventional literature and playing normal games as much as I do them.
    I recently began to regain some of my VN stamina (though I will never get back to where I was), and I've found that even the SOL VNs I choose to play are far less stressful than before.  It is nice to reconfirm that I truly love VNs, after so many years playing far too many charage threatened to make me hate them. 
    However, I've also noticed that I am far less tolerant of obvious blunders and poor choices on the part of writers, regardless of genre.  When something touches on my pet peeves, I immediately drop the VN, and I lose all urge to play it, often for months after.  This was the case with Sorceress Alive and it is also the case with Raillore to Ryakudatsusha (dameningen protagonists with no interesting or redeeming traits are one of my pet peeves). 
    On the other hand, my stamina for 'sweetness' and 'ichaicha' in a VN has recovered somewhat, and I can play a route in a charage with no troubles... However, I no longer desire to play any routes other than that of my favorite heroine.  I used to mechanically run through all the heroines in a VN without hesitation or slowing down, but now I only go for the one or two heroines that interest me, ignoring the others entirely.
    This change in my own behavior leaves me somewhat bemused, though I can see where it comes from rationally.  I simply got tired of plowing through huge numbers of boring heroines that almost buried the good ones, lol.
  7. Like
    ChaosRaven reacted to Ramaladni for a blog entry, Master Magistrate - Early-Access Review   
    Master Magistrate is the murder mystery detective visual novel set in the late years of Japan's Edo Period. Developed by the indie studio Irodori and released in the year of 2017, it quickly attained popularity and became a hit amongst Japanese fans. They praised the great direction sense, well-crafted scenario, immersive atmosphere, and fascinating soundtrack, amongst other aspects.
    Hobibox have attained publishing rights for the Chinese and English versions of the game, wishing to bring this experience overseas. They have committed themselves to provide a high-quality product, hoping to turn a new leaf and redeem themselves for not so fruitful past endeavors.
    Read more at https://j-addicts.de/master-magistrate-early-access-review/ - we now have a comment box!
    (I was initially planning on cross-posting here but the screenshots looked strange, so yeah).
  8. Like
    ChaosRaven reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Kokorone Pendulum   
    This is the latest game by Clochette, a company known mostly for four things:  It's decent stories, it's excellent characters, a tendency toward fantasy and sci-fi settings, and the forest of oppai heroines that spring up in its wake.  lol
    Clochette is straight out my favorite plotge/charage hybrid company, mostly because they understand what they do well and don't try to do anything but develop from that perspective.  The result is that I can depend on their games being enjoyable.  Some people will probably go 'eh?  Isn't that a matter of course?', but most companies that always produce the same genre never manage Clochette's level of consistency in quality and type.  To be straight, this is the only charage company whose games I can still enjoy without reservation, even after my burnout. 
    Kokorone is based in a setting where mysterious out of place objects, in the form of underground black pyramids surrounded by unnatural foliage, began granting people mysterious powers about thirty years before.  The protagonist, Komachiya Soushirou, has one such ability that he defines as an affliction.  His ability is indiscriminate telepathic reception (under the theory that people 'project' their emotions and thoughts constantly if they don't try to shut it off).  He suffers from headaches and having to hear people spill their thoughts and emotions into his mind wherever he goes, and he can't shut it off.
    That said, seeing as this is a Clochette game, this 'constant suffering' stage only lasts about five minutes (Clochette games have dark moments, but none of them have an overbearing atmosphere).  It is soon relieved by his experience of the mind of Kamishiro Sumika, one of the game's heroines, and he finds himself drawn into helping out with her club, which tries to build bridges between Magia Saucers (yes, that is the name for them, lol) and normal people.  They are joined by the iai mistress and Sumika's best friend, Tatewaki Chihaya; the genius Magia researcher Tsumuri; her cat-like best friend Leeruxu; and (eventually) the protagonist's senpai-imouto Nazuna (yes, she is both his little sister and his senpai).
    The common route is pretty straightforward Clochette, with ecchi happenings that never cross the line, mild humor, and a few serious story/plot points that serve to properly introduce you to the setting and characters (and give you an idea of what the heroines will be like).  The protagonist does deal with his personal issues in the common route just well enough to provide a baseline for them possibly becoming less important in the heroine routes (or become important again, depending on the path), which was definitely intentional and typical of heroine routes... but I never really thought Clochette would pursue the production of a game with a constantly gloomy protagonist, anyway.
    Chii-chan (Chihaya)
    Because of this route, Chihaya will forever be Chii-chan to me.  I mean, Chii-chan is so adorable that you can totally see why Sumika adores her... and the route is extremely lovey-dovey, even at its darkest moments.  Part of that is helped by Chihaya being a complete open book to the protagonist for much of the path, resulting in an endless cycle of ichaicha that is oddly non-annoying (probably because the ability to see into her head makes it less fake-seeming). 
    Anyway, Chihaya's route focuses, unsurprisingly, on the personal issues for her that surround her Magia and her relationship with her father... as well as the problems Magia can cause for athletes and competitive martial artists (by law, they can't participate).  This route gets highly emotional at times, especially toward the end, but it stays light and cute for the most part.
    The obligatory catgirl of this VN, a young woman who possesses a Magia that grants her incredible physical abilities and the visual traits of a cat-person.  She is a friendly and whimsical heroine, closing in suddenly and vanishing on a whim.  She eats a lot (think food-fighter levels), and she can generally be trusted to be smiling or encourage a warm atmosphere wherever she goes.
    Her path circles around her abandonment issues and the protagonist's reaction to them, and as a result, it has less focus on the characters' powers than in Chii-chan's path.  There are some strong emotional moments in this path, as Leeruxu's issues have a very strong basis in her past that isn't easy go leave behind.  That said, it mostly comes off as a moe-focused sort-of nakige route... especially since everything about Leeruxu is built to be moe or ero, right down to her voice.
    Nazuna is the protagonist's imouto (little sister for the uninitiated) and she is pretty typical of Clochette imouto characters.  How so?  Every single Clochette imouto shares two major qualities... they are a total brocon and they are extremely erotically designed (all Clochette heroines manage to be ero in a good way, despite being oppai monsters).  Nazuna shares this quality with standard-issue tsundere piled on top, in the way of old-style tsundere (right down to the classic tone of voice when denying her affection).  Also typical of routes for these heroines, the incest issue is mostly minor to the heroine and protagonist, though there is a short period of thinking over the difficulties involved.  (incidentally, Nazuna is only #4 on my Clochette imouto list, with Konoka from Prism Recollection being the top so far, mostly because they did so good a job combining her quirks, her high intelligence, and fundamentally tragic innocence... oh yeah, and her perversion)
    As a clarification, one reason why most Clochette sister heroine routes go more smoothly than most is because there is usually at least one other person who is supportive of the relationship, if not the entire group of heroines and sub-characters.  While drama often pops up later on in the path, the initial transition is usually fast and easy, in comparison to blood-related imouto characters in other companies' games.
    In exchange for not being overly focused on incest drama, this path tends to focus on the issues with their deceased parents and their relationship to the school they are attending... and the dreams they left behind for the relationship between Magia Saucers and normies (lol). 
    Note:  I'm doing this VN really slowly, doing a path whenever I feel like it, but one thing I'm noticing is that there is a great reduction in drama from previous games by this company.  While the issues of the prejudice between Magia Saucers and normal people are present in each path, in the ones I've done so far, it has been mostly mild.
    Unusually for Clochette, Sumika is the main/true heroine of this game, though you can play her path from the beginning.  Sumika is a kind-hearted, innocent young woman who desires nothing more than to see others happy.  Her goal is to see Magia Saucers and normal people get along, and she works hard as the club leader to make it happen (while baking cakes and other snacks for her friends).  She is an 'open book', as her spoken words and inner 'voice' don't vary from one another very often, and she is the 'voice' that heals the protagonist of his growing misanthropy early  on in the story.
    Her path, atypically for Clochette, is by far the most extensive in terms of dealing with Magia-related issues, the protagonist's past, and his problems with his ability.  As a result, this path feels the most like a normal Clochette path, though it is also the only path that doesn't have an epilogue.  It is an excellent path, but, having read it, I have absolutely no desire to be disappointed by Tsumuri's path, so I'll stop my play here.
    As a charage, this is a top-class game, with all the best elements of a charage (ichaicha romance, SOL, mild comedy, etc) involved without most of the flaws (average/weak protagonist, lack of origin for romantic feelings, excessive dating).  As a Clochette game, however, it falls somewhere below the midline, being just a bit better than Amatsu Misora Ni while falling below all their other works.  That said, even a below-average Clochette game is still much better than the common ruck of charage, so I can honestly recommend it to those who love oppai and charage, lol. 
  9. Like
    ChaosRaven reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Some thoughts: A few Months later   
    It has been almost six months since I ceased VN of the Month.  I can say now that while I do, surprisingly, miss some aspects of that particular column, the freedom giving it up has granted me is far greater compensation. 
    When I was doing VN of the Month, I was literally the only person commenting on most of the non-nukige VNs in a given month.  I was driven by a sense of obligation to those who read my blog to continue regardless of what it was doing to me and my life, and I can say now that that wasn't a healthy situation for me. 
    I am still a VN addict.  I probably always will be, just as I am a heavy reader in general and a lover of role-playing games.  However, I still think the role I put it on myself to play was a necessary one.
    How many people who play untranslated VNs give honest opinions devoid of spoilers?  For that matter, how many of them are honest about their biases when they feel they can't give a particular VN a fair chance? 
    I made myself abide by a pretty strict set of rules when I was doing VN of the Month.
     One was that I would primarily evaluate VNs based on story, character development, and setting, while only mentioning visual and audio elements when they were obviously exceptional.  My reason for this is that I lack the background to properly evaluate the technical aspects of audio-visual materials, whereas I have extensive experience with all sorts of reading material in general and fiction in particular. 
    Another was that I would, on a regular basis, restate my particular biases, reminding people of the limitations of my objectivity.  This was because I was writing on all VNs I played for the first time, and it would have been unfair for me to fail to state my biases beforehand when playing something that was outside my tastes or something that hit them spot on.
    The third was a resolve to avoid excessive spoilers.  My standard was the Getchu page.  If information was released on the Getchu page or the official site, I didn't consider it to be a spoiler, but I was to avoid spoiling things beyond that, except when absolutely necessary.
    The fourth and final rule was to strive for objectivity inasmuch as possible and be honest with myself and my readers when it wasn't possible. 
    These rules were my guide posts for the years I did VN of the Month, and they served me well, generally... but I reached my limit.  To be blunt, VN of the Month was only made possible because of my high reading speed and my willingness to structure my life solely around playing VNs and making money to buy more.  Naturally, this way of doing things was doomed to failure eventually, but I got so caught up in actually doing it that I didn't notice it really at the time.
    Now, I play only what I want to play, and that makes me a much happier person, despite a few wistful moments where I wonder if I couldn't have done it a little while longer.
  10. Like
    ChaosRaven reacted to solidbatman for a blog entry, Heart of the Woods Review   
    Studio Elan, and I refuse to copy and paste the accent mark like they do on their Twitter account, bursts out onto the EVN scene with their long awaited debut visual novel, Heart of the Woods. A mix of Ghost Adventurers, fluffy yuri relationships, and a magical elements, Heart of the Woods is an ambitious showcase of talent wrapped up in a tightly woven tale of love and sacrifice.
    From the very beginning of this roughly 4-6 hour long VN, Heart of the Woods sets a tense tone that persists throughout the entire run time. Tara and Maddie, the team behind the viral paranormal internet show, Taranormal, are on their way an isolated town located in the woods at the behest of Morgan, a fan of the show who tips them off at paranormal activities within her town. Conflict is bubbling, though, as this is the final episode that Maddie will be working on, and this month long trip to produce the episode has pushed their now strained friendship to the breaking point. What follows is a series of rapidly escalating events where the very lives of the characters hang in the balance.
    The story itself is generally solid with a few hiccups due in large part to how the passage of time is handled in this VN. Events progress at a whiplash pace in the VN which leads to the relationships between characters feeling more than a little contrived. This is something many VNs suffer from, however, and might be the most difficult aspect of writing a romance VN without feeling it completely with fluff pieces to flesh out character relationships for the sake of believability. While normally I despise long periods of fluff, Heart of the Woods would have benefited from a padded run time with more light hearted character interactions without the main conflict looming overhead. One half of our main cast, Maddie and Abigail do get far more of this type of treatment when compared to Tara and Morgan who are relegated more towards the advancement of the plot at the expense of a more evenly paced relationship.
    The light hearted moments that do exist are tender and well done generally. Tara is a magnificent goofball, Abigail is a not so pure cinnamon roll, Morgan (my personal favorite character) features a great amount of excellent character growth, and Maddie is versatile, able to smoothly interact with every character in an interesting way, even when the interactions are less than amiable. More often than not, the interactions between couples, is incredibly cheesy and I feel that once again, the lack of establishing scenes for the relationships is the main cause of this. With that said, just because they are cheesy does not mean that they are poorly done or bad. Perhaps my inexperience in reading yuri VNs is showing here and the purpose is to create a more light, fluffy feel, in which case, the cheesy love dialogue achieves its goal.
    Setting aside the character interactions, the storytelling is an improvement over the standard skeleton that director Josh Kaplan’s previous work, Highway Blossoms, follows. Far more ambitious and fantastical, Heart of the Woods’ story features some unexpected developments that caught me off guard. Aided by a writing style that seamlessly switches from whimsical and comedic to foreboding and brooding the story rarely misses a beat and when it does, its due to the previously mentioned passage of time. Of special note is how the writers successfully pulled off narration perspective changes in seamless fashion. Usually when a VN switches the narration character to tell a different side of the story, I find that one character’s side of the story is far stronger, more engaging than the other character. This is not the case in Heart of the Woods. Each perspective shift is treated with equal amounts of effort and I never found myself wishing I could go back to a different character’s narration/story.  
    The VN features phenomenal artwork from Adirosa and Rosuuri which establishes the magical world that the reader enters and also gives each character a highly unique appearance to match their personality. For example, just what in the hell are Tara’s hair clips? This question will inevitably lead you to “Why can Tara not even cook toast without nearly burning down an entire ecosystem of magical creatures.” Each character’s look matches perfectly with their personality. Once again, I have to show some love to my favorite character, Morgan, who’s sprite work is downright unsettling at times giving her a very mysterious feel which helps establish the magical strange setting for this VN.
    The final piece of the puzzle for establishing this world is the music, which I am pleased to say is top notch. Featuring the talents of Sarah Mancuso and Astartus, the soundtrack is heavy on the use of stringed instruments but never overpowering which gives the reader the same level of comfort, or discomfort as the characters in the VN. When a soundtrack can assist in the world building and storytelling as the soundtrack in this VN does, that is the sign of great composition and direction.
    The characters, art, story, and music all come together magnificently in creating the world of Heart of the Woods and therein a major hindrance to the VN comes into play. It is quite literally too fantastic of a world and story to be told in a VN. The limitations of the VN medium are on full display as despite all of the efforts taken to create this magical world, it never really feels like it is used to its full potential. Technically the VN is sound, utilizing clever camera movement, character positioning, and particle effects to bring this world to life, but I still felt it did not quite reach its full potential because it felt too static. This is in no way a knock on the team behind this work, but rather a criticism of the medium as a whole. This story and world would be far better suited in the form of an animated movie to allow the environment to truly come to life. I want Studio Elan to take this as a compliment, rather than a criticism. The work they did was too good to be trapped within the VN medium.

    Heart of the Woods is a welcome entry to the EVN scene injecting a strong dose of professionalism into the market. While it does feature a couple of flaws, the overall package is an well polished work that is well worth the time to read if you want to spend a few hours in a world of yuri and magic. This is a fantastic debut work and leaves me excited to see just what Studio Elan has in store for the future.

    Rating: 4.5/5
  11. Like
    ChaosRaven reacted to sanahtlig for a blog entry, Valve opens Steam to uncensored eroge and hentai games   
    Steam is now selling hardcore uncensored porn games. This has profound implications for eroge fans, developers, publishers, and distributors.
    Sanahtlig's Corner: Valve opens Steam to uncensored eroge and hentai games
  12. Like
    ChaosRaven reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Shin Koihime † Musou - Kakumei Son Go no Ketsumyaku   
    First, I should mention that this post is mostly going to focus on how this VN improves on the original content from Shin Koihime Musou.  The reason is fairly simple... if you like the series, you'll eventually play this, and if you played the original Shin Koihime Musou, then that is probably what you want to know.  I know I would.
    Next, I will go ahead and come out with it... I loved what they did with this path.  The degree of added detail in this VN is actually higher than in Souten no Haou (Gi/Wei), and at least part of this is that it adds in a huge portion of time in the prologue, added story in the later areas of the game, and significantly revamped scenes involving the much larger cast of characters available to the somewhat sparsely-populated (comparative to Shoku/Shu and Gi/Wei)  of the original. 
    The prelude (the period of the game starting with Kazuto's arrival through the Yellow Turbans and Dong Zhuo eras) is so completely redone as to be unrecognizable.   Son Bundai (Sun Jian) being both alive and present in this part of the game alters how it begins dramatically.  Ienren (her manna) is like Sheren/Hakufu magnified with a foul mouth and a fighting power roughly equivalent to Ryoufu/Lu Bu.  She is harsh with her enemies, domineering but thoughtful with her subordinates, and rules her people with an iron fist in a velvet glove.  Under her tutelage, Kazuto actually ends up pushed into the bloody/dirty parts of war, and as a result, he ends up a bit fiercer/harsher than he is in the other paths at times.  
    This path does indeed follow the basic bones of history (if you know what happens with Sun Jian and Sun Ce in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, you know what I'm talking about), which matches the original events of the path in the original Shin Koihime Musou.  However, because of the experiences in the prelude with Ienren, the emotional moments were all the more poignant, and I felt myself able to empathize more with the characters as a whole than I did in the original path, where things seemed to move far too fast through that part of the game.
    The generalized 'fattening up' of the story is present at all levels, and the story is much more complex in the particulars as a result.  While this has the effect of making playing all the way through this path somewhat exhausting, I felt it was worth it in the end. 
    The extra heroines are something of a mixed bag.  I really liked Taishiji and Raika, but I despised Pao and was disinterested in Teifu (yet another drunkard older woman in a game that already has way too many).
    I do want to say that I really seriously don't understand why they kept the system where you can't read all the heroine events each chapter.  Sengoku Koihime allows you to read all of them, and it didn't seem to hurt the story... and it was immensely annoying to end up seeing some of the scenes that were slightly out of line with the current progression of the story.  Only the 'ruler' heroines' scenes perfectly matched what was going on in the story as a whole, and that disrupted my enjoyment of them immensely. 
    Last of all, as rumored, there is indeed an 'alternate' ending to Go's path, unlike Gi's.  This ending branches off at the most dramatic/sad turning point of the original path and gives you a 'what if' for if
    This alters the events that proceed from there and the ending as a whole greatly.  I honestly cried happy tears at this ending, and for those who are displeased with that particular turning point of the original path, it is a treat. 
    Anyway, that is my commentary on this game, for those who are interested.
  13. Like
    ChaosRaven reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, A VN of the Month Announcement   
    I've been considering this for some time, but it has suddenly become a reality.
    To be blunt, I've come to my limit when it comes to playing pure SOL games.  Oh, I can still enjoy many of them, but if you asked me whether I can look at them without my resentment of 'normal' SOL content blinding me, the answer is no.  If I have to read through one more template date scene or see another osananajimi climb through the window from next door, I'm going to start tearing out the last remaining hairs atop my head.
    *coughs* Ahem, now that I've got that out, it needs to be said that I've been doing this since September of 2012... a ridiculous amount of time to be playing roughly 80% of all non-nukige VNs that come out (I'm figuring those I dropped or just couldn't play because they were just that bad into the twenty percent). 
    Just to be clear, I will still continue to play VNs and comment on/review them in this blog.  However, I will no longer play as many outside my tastes, nor will I go out of my way to seek gems from companies I hate reading from. 
    I realized while I was playing Koisaku (Ensemble's latest game), that a few years ago, I would have read this game without any real problems, and I wouldn't even have blinked at the crap that now drives me up the wall.  Oh sure, Ensemble's base quality has fallen massively, but when I took a step back, this is actually one of the better amongst their more recent games, with plenty of indications of real stories for the heroines in the background.  However, I found I just couldn't tolerate it.
    It hit me in the date scene that occurs in the common route... I have no tolerance for date scenes at all anymore.  Scenes like that exist for every heroine in every SOL VN, and they all turn out in almost an identical fashion.  Reading it, even though it was basically a 'friend date', was like dragging my brain through mud.  I just couldn't do it.
    I promised myself that I wouldn't BS myself on this particular matter years ago... and I knew the limit was coming.  I just didn't realize that it would be this soon.
    So, I have to announce that this is the end of my VN of the Month column.  Now, all that remains is my Random VNs and whatever VNs I choose to play each month.
    I will continue to play what I'm interested in, and that will probably include slice-of-life at times.  However, I will no longer play SOL out of a sense of duty to my readers. 
    My original reasons for starting VN of the Month
    When I first started Clephas' VN of the Month, it was because vndb gives nothing to you for info on their games beyond poor tls of the game summary from Getchu, character profiles, and sometimes tags (that might or might not be accurate).  I felt that that didn't do most games justice, and I hated the way I had to go into a game blind on so many occasions.  As such, I started putting up commentaries on just what kind of VN I was playing, with few or no spoilers.  This was a need that, at the time, was not being fulfilled (and as far as I know, still isn't, since most reviewers include major spoilers because they are inconsiderate). 
    Over time, my routine each month started with figuring out which games weren't nukige and which I would play first...  and picking out which one was the best after I played them (the latter of course being entirely a matter of my opinion, informed as it might be). 
    However, it is time to set down my burden.  I tried handing off my work to others, and that worked for a while (thanks to @Dergonu@fun2novel@BookwormOtaku@Kiriririri for their help over the last year - yes, even you, Kiriririri).  In the end, though, I'm just one man... and one middle-aged man with increasingly bad health isn't going to be able to keep this up any longer.  Heck, I'm amazed i kept going this long.
    I do hope someone else takes up the torch of at least informing people of what to expect in newer games (and not just the ones from popular companies), but that isn't my job anymore. 
    Thanks for reading,
  14. Like
    ChaosRaven reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Shunkyoku no Tyrhhia ~What a Beautiful Dawn   
    I'm going to be blunt... if it weren't for the urging of one of my online friends, I wouldn't have played this game.  For one thing, it is a direct prequel to Gakthun, which I didn't have much fun with (I don't really like Japanese versions of Liar Soft games, for some reason... though I loved the English version of Sekien).  It is based in a steampunk world version of one of the most-visited eras of Japanese history in otaku media, the Bakumatsu era. 
    In that era, Japan was opened by British air-fortresses, rather than by Perry's gunships, but the results were pretty much the same up until the beginning of the game (albeit with the usual liberties taken).  Since there was no walkthrough out for this game, as of yet, I ended up on a path whose history pretty much echoed rl history save for who died and when (oh and the individuals' motivations, of course).  Whether this was a good thing or not, I dunno... but the ending was decent, if bittersweet (not to mention that the last scene indicates that it is the one that heads into Gakthun). 
    The protagonist, Hachirou, is the child of a Shogunate vassal family famous for their real combat oriented sword style.  He himself is a bit obsessed with modern steam technology, and his habit of constantly referring to his pocket watch shows off his straight-as-a-yardstick personality. 
    Like a lot of steampunk-series games, this one jumps around between many different perspectives for about three-quarters of the game (relatively little time is spent with Hachirou, considering he is the protagonist), but this game escapes the rather... Steven Brust-style story narration (reference to the Phoenix Guard and its two sequels, which are written in a style that is excessively dramatic and roundabout) that poisoned me against Gakthun and some of the other games by this company.  In that sense, this was the easiest Liar-soft VN for me to read.
    This game has heavy Cthulhu Mythos influence throughout its latter parts, ranging from a rather blatant one in the final battle scene of the ending I got to numerous smaller indications throughout.
    Is this game good?  Yes, it is well-written and interesting to read.  Is it a kamige?  I can't really judge, since I have no idea how to get the other endings without a lot of trial and error (and I'm too lazy to do that with a liar soft game).  I'm giving it a decent rating because I liked a lot of it... but the way the game treated the Shinsengumi was a bit depressing at times (it really, really sucks to be Shinsengumi in this game). 
  15. Like
    ChaosRaven reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, A List: Chuunige likely to sell in the West   
    Understand, chuunige mostly appeal to a very core fanbase.  The style, the fact that they don't translate well, and the fact that most of the action/story is so 'out there' makes the games unapproachable.  The sheer amount of text means that localization costs are through the roof, which makes things worse, of course. 
    I'm being realistic, ignoring my inner fanboy who screams everybody should love chuunige because charage suck in comparison.  However, that is the flat-out truth. 
    So, I decided to make a list of chuunige I believe would sell in the west/appeal more to the western brain... and not just the core fanbase.  I have these ordered by the most likely to the least.
    1.  Bullet Butlers- I say Bullet Butlers is the most accessible precisely because it uses a lot of elements that Western audiences can easily grasp without having to be 'deep' into otaku media.  Zombies, elves, dragons, and orcs.  Firearms as the most common weapon type, superviolence, and a film noir atmosphere to a great deal of the game.  If I were to name one chuunige that has the potential to be a hit (by VN standards), if properly advertised, it is this one.
    2.  Draculius- If I were to name a sort-of chuunige that is accessible to people that don't particularly like chuunige, this would be it.  If you liked the best parts of Libra and hated the rest, you'll probably like this game.  It has aged somewhat, but the characters are unique, the story is excellent, and the humor is recognizable on both sides of the ocean. 
    3.  Hello, Lady- Yes, I went there.  If you can enjoy Narita Shinri, you will like this game, regardless of your genre preference.  Narita Shinri is a protagonist who will earn as many haters as he does lovers, and there won't be that much room in between.  However, his story is very much one that is visceral and easily comprehensible for any human who has lost someone they loved.
    4.  Shinigami no Testament- 3rdEye's chuunige are accessible.  I could put any chuunige by that company in this spot other than Bloody Rondo and say that it has the same potential for success.  Even Bloody Rondo does have some appeal outside its genre (in fact, it probably has more, lol).  3rdEye is a company that I can use to brainwash newbies without overwhelming them, which is why I was happy when Sorcery Jokers got localized, lol.
    5.  Gekkou no Carnevale- I can guarantee someone is going to ask why I didn't mention any other Nitroplus game besides this one.  However, the themes in this game are very Western, for the most part... and werewolves and murder are always guaranteed to catch the interest of a certain (surprisingly large) crowd over here.  Put in living dolls and mafia connections as well, and you have a recipe for success. 
    I actually thought of naming some others, but when I seriously thought about it, the hurdles for a Westerner and non-chuunige addict for playing those were just too high.   Anything Bakumatsu is going to be translated poorly, so Last Cavalier is out.  Evolimit has potential, but I thought BB is more likely to catch hold of westerners who aren't already part of the scene.  Anything like Dies Irae is almost guaranteed to flop if it isn't 100% crowd-funded (as in, all costs paid for by the crowd-funding), so Bradyon Veda and the Silverio series are out.  Vermilion has similar problems.  Muramasa suffers from swordsmanship infodumping that will probably cause the average reader's brain to go numb early on.  Tokyo Necro has zombies, but the chances of people actually getting past the prologue are relatively low, despite the coolness of the story and setting.  Izuna Zanshinken has enormous potential in the US, because of the style and the themes it tackles, but its episodic 'feeling' is a huge negative for some of us... 
  16. Like
    ChaosRaven reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, VN of the Year 2017   
    As always, I took a ridiculous amount of time considering candidates for VN of the year, this year. 
    The final lineup of candidates were:
    Aoi Tori
    Kin'iro Loveriche
    Bakumatsu Jinchuu Houkoku Resshiden Miburo (I determined that it, to an extent, stands on its own enough to be considered)
    Suisei Ginka
    Haruru Minamo ni
    Yami to Hikari no Sanctuary (lost to Aoi Tori)
    Kanojo wa Imouto de Tenshi de (lost to Haruru Minamo ni)
    Oni ga Kuru (lost to Kin'iro Loveriche)
    Ojou-sama no Hanbun wa Ren'ai de Dekiteimasu (lost to Suisei Ginka)
    While those five candidates made it to final consideration, I have to say for the fanboys that I never really seriously considered Kin'iro Loveriche for the final selection once those five candidates popped up.  I reviewed my experiences of each VN individually, then compared them in my mind.  While Kin'iro Loveriche is an excellent game, it just didn't match several of the other VNs on the list.  If I split this into candidates by genre, though, I would consider this the nakige of the year.
    Miburo falls off for a different set of reasons... in fact, it probably wouldn't have made it to the finals at all if I wasn't a weaboo and a Japanese history freak.  It is good, it is detailed, and the bloodshed is awesome... but if you asked me if its raw quality is at the very top of the list, I would have said 'In another year, maybe.' 
    Suisei Ginka was a great game.  I'll say that before I go through why it failed to make it through the final selection... actually, it just fails to get there because it just isn't good enough.  Oh, the story is interesting and enjoyable, but truth be told, Yami to Hikari no Sanctuary was better in its limited battle scenes, and I honestly found the antagonists to be too weak for a chuunige.  Great bad ending though.
    Haruru Minamo ni is definitely my pick for charage of the year, if Loveriche is nakige of the year, lol.  I'll state it outright... no other charage this year got anywhere close to Haruru Minamo ni.  That isn't a surprise, because Clochette's formula (if not the boob obsession) is probably the best established one for the genre.  However, it just didn't make it there.
    VN of the Year 2017
    Now, you've probably already figured it out from my explanation above, but Clephas VN of the Year 2017 is Aoi Tori.  I probably could have picked any of these in a year with no other equivalent candidates and been satisfied with them as VN of the Year, but, after four 'layers' of consideration (I've been filtering candidates since March last year) this one was the one left over, having barely eked its way past the other VNs above.  Any of the VNs that made it past the filter back in December really had VN of the Year levels of quality, which is unusual.  2017 was a good year for quality VNs, even if I didn't choose the one you wanted me to, lol.
  17. Like
    ChaosRaven reacted to MaggieROBOT for a blog entry, Otomege Hakuouki for beginners   
    Hey everyone! Today I'll talk about one of the most popular japanese otomeges from one of the most popular japanese developers: Hakuouki! Seeing there's tons of releases/sequels/prequels/spin-offs of this game, in different platforms even, I'm doing a simple guide for everyone trying to start your journey but have no idea where to begin.
    First, what is Hakuouki? It's a game by Otomate/Idea Factory, released back in 2008 for PS2, it tells you the story of some beautiful men in the Shinsengumi (that is, long story short, a special police force of the late shogunate period, 1864). The name of the guys are all from real existing persons, but some extra supernatural elements like demons and vampires were throw in the story for fun. If you're a fan of stories set in Japan's past so this game is just for you because the atmosphere is the best part of the game! Also with you like katanas. The main character is a bit bland and mostly useless, but the samurai boys are interesting enough! The fights are also fun, not super epic chuuni style, but good with some tragedy stuff. Also good to note is that it was first localized in 2012, a time where otomeges in the western market were still rare.

    Anyone wanted long haired bishies? They're all (except that second one from the left) so beautiful~
    Still with me? Want to give it a go? Okay! Let's put things in order!
    Looking at the english versions, the very first you should get is one of the following: 
        1) the Android or iOS version that's named simply "Hakuoki"; 
        2) the Memories of Shinsengumi version for 3DS, that have some side stories that wasn't included in the first PS2 version (that's also not included in the Android/iOS version);
        3) the Stories of the Shinsengumi version for PS3,  that also includes the fandisc (there's actually NO other way of reading the fandisc in english outside of this version); 
        4) the Steam version (the age check is because of violence and not porn), although I advise against this one simply because this version (also available for PSVita) was split in two parts AND PART TWO WASN'T LOCALIZED YET! YOU'LL ONLY BUY HALF THE GAME! Supposedly there new routes here, since it's a remake of the original, but you'll have to wait until next year to see the full game, or you can just pick the other versions. Part one's name is Kyoto Winds and part two is Edo Blossoms.
    That's enough to understand the general idea of the game. Did you liked and want more? What's the next step? If you bought the PS3 version, read the fandisc, Hakuouki Zuisouroku, since it expands some stories of the main game (those stories aren't sequels, they happen in the middle of the first game)! And of course, there's some extra short stories for each of our guys, including ones that weren't available first time around! It's fun and fluffy most of the time, to break the serious atmosphere of the main scenario (Well, that's what fandisc are for...) ^.^ Unfortunately, you need to understand japanese to keep going...
    Next entry in your journey is Hakuouki Reimeiroku, a prequel. The catch here is that title is not an otome. WHAT? Yeah, you read that right. The protagonist is a guy (no, sadly no BL), there's no romance to be found here and the focus is actually fighting, bloody fighting, even with the MC loses tons of them. And honor, friendship and loyalty stuff. Pretty cool actually, especially for people that don't play otomeges for romance! There's plenty of versions for you to choose (DS (should work with an emulator), PSVita and PS3), but no PC (I noticed that otomate seems to hate PC for some reason... ¬¬).

    With no girls around, no BL is a waste of ikemens...
    After that, comes Hakuouki Kaikoroku, a mobile game that expands even more the lore of the original. It's like a second fandisc, with more short stories and tons of interactions between our characters.
    And, with that you just finished the main dish of the Hakuouki series! Wait, there's more? Well, of course, let's go over the spin-offs! I should note that all of them are completely useless to the lore, so only play them if you end up being a Hakuouki completionist.
    On the serious side, we have the Urakata Hakuouki games (the first one and its fandisc). It's set in the same world of the main series, but with a new MC and new boys (all of them still based on real people). Weirdly enough, you can actually start here, since the story here is mostly recycling some ideas from the first game. So either you play this if you really REALLY liked the original's ideas or start with this title. This game also have RPG elements, something that didn't let the otomege fanbase all that happy...
    On the silly side we have three more games: Hakuouki Yuugiroku and its sequel, just a collection of mini games with chibi characters and some short stories and CGs in between (but I don't think it's worth playing these for the story), and Hakuouki SSL, an officially made fanfic-of-sorts high school AU story. Yes, really. It's cute and happy, unlike the more serious main game, so if you want some giggles, this game is good enough.

    Blush boys in a doki doki school scenario
    And that concludes aaaaaaaaaall entries of the Hakuouki series. Phew! Was it worth? That's for you to decide. Lots of fans of the series were a bit annoyed by the constant milking of the frachise by otomate, but I think they finally stoped. I just hope they don't do same with Code Realize, bc I'm following this series for now, and I don't need more games than I can buy... In my humble opinion, a good place to stop is either after Reimeiroku or Kaikoroku. Or before Reimeiroku, if you're in for the romance.
    Oh... there's still all those anime adaptations to talk about... Eer, this blog is about gaming so I'll stop here! For now. Next time, in BL news, I'll try to do my first review!  Until then!
  18. Like
    ChaosRaven reacted to Dergonu for a blog entry, Shirogane no Soleil Review   
    Shirogane no Soleil -Successor of Wyrd- <<Unmei no Keishousha>>
    ( "The soliel of silvery-white" - Successor of Wyrd << The Fated successor >> )
    This is the first game in Skyfish's epic norse mythology series. I had never even heard of this game before Clephas made a blog post about it a little earlier this year, and that might be the case for many. Having finally played the game myself, I have to ask... how is this possible? Why is such a great game not more well known? This VN truly deserves more exposure than it currently has.
    Shirogane starts off with our main character, Ryuuhei, and his sister Tamako on their way to a set of ancient ruins in Iceland. Ryuuhei is not an archaeologist like his sister, but was dragged along by her on the pretense of being her "bodyguard." Ironically, that is exactly what he ends up being. Ryuuhei's group gets pulled into an encounter with a strange creature called "Berserk", a monster made up by the broken soul of an ancient warrior, which fell in battle ages ago. Powerless against this incredibly dangerous foe, Ryuuhei prays for help, asking for power-- the power to protect the people he loves. His call is answered by a slumbering Valkyrie, Sol, who makes a contract with Ryuuhei. She will fight for him, in exhange for his life force. Every time she uses her powers, she drains some of Ryuuhei's life force out of his body, shortening his life. They fight off the Berserk together, but this is merely the beginning of their tale. This seemingly random encounter might not have been as random as they thought. One might even call it... fate.

    The story in Shirogane is fantastic. It's told in two parts, "Valkyrie in love", and "Successor of Wyrd." Some of the story takes place in the present, while certain other parts takes place in the past. Shirogane contains tons of refrences to norse mythology, though the descriptions of characters and events from norse mythology in the VN are not necessarily identical to the "real thing". Therefore, while familiarity with norse mythology helps with appreciating certain aspects of the game's story, it is not at all needed. What matters in terms of refrences are all explained well enough in game, and seeing as they usually put a unique spin on things, it is not at all needed to know everything there is to know about norse mythology before reading this. (That being said, knowing some of the general concepts about who is who, and what is what will certainly make it an even more enjoyable read.)

    Although Shirogane is a very serious story, with tragic themes riddled all over it, just like normal stories from norse mythology, the game contains a good number of humoristic slice of life moments as well. That being said, all of these moments fits very well into the flow of the story. We are seeing things from Ryuuhei's point of view, as he deals with the fact that his own life span is constantly being drained because of his contract with his Valkyrie. As a result, you feel a little more attatched to these everyday moments, since they are seen through the eyes of someone who only has so much time left to enjoy them. In addition, the comedy is pure gold most of the time. The slice of life moments very rarely feels out of place, and never gets in the way of the story. The humor in the game had me literally laughing out loud so many times, I lost count.

    One of the biggest strengths of this game is without a doubt the characters. Each character feels unique and is well fleshed out. They all add something to the story in their own ways, and it's hard not to grow attatched to them, be it heroes, anti-heroes or straight up villains at times. The interactions between the characters truly pulls out all sorts of emotions from the reader, making the story feel like one hell of a roller coaster ride. (In a good way. Prepare your tickets to the feel train, folks.) While the "good guys" are all very well done, my favorite characters were honestly the villains / anti-heroes that are introduced throughout the game.
    On top of making fantastic "villains", the "duos" in the game are brilliant. Essentially every single character is paired up with another in some way, and they all complement each other greatly. These "duos" were without a doubt one of the best parts about the game in my opinion. Be it heartbreaking moments or hilarious ones; nearly all the most impactful moments in the story stems from one of these duos' interactions.

    Art, Music and Writing:
    As shown in the screenshots above, the art is nicely detailed. Considering this game was released in 2007, the art is very impressive. The amount of special effects, cut-scenes and CGs is no joke either. Sadly, things aren't as good in the music department. The music is by no means bad, but it does feel a little bland at times. Certain tracks do work very well with the tone of the story, and are straight up beautiful to listen to, but others feel repetitive and aren't that impactful. So, my complaint with the music would be the inconsistent quality of the tracks. That being said, this is hardly a big issue, as the writing, art and story makes slightly repetitive music matter very little in the end.
    Overall, I have very few complaints about this game. It was a fantastic read from beginning to end, and I strongly recommend reading it. I don't use the term kamige a lot, but this definitely qualifies in my personal opinion.
    You can buy all the Soleil games on DMM. (NSFW LINK!!!)
  19. Like
    ChaosRaven 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...
  20. Like
    ChaosRaven reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Aoi Tori   
    Aoi Tori is Purple Soft's latest project, a VN based in a girls' school in the mountains, where the protagonist, a priest (I'm assuming Episcopalian/Anglican for various reasons), goes to school as an exception, as he cannot live outside of the school without being taken by demons.
    Ritsu, the protagonist, possesses the power to take others' negative emotions, thus enhancing their feelings of happiness and joy, and this power works best when he has sex with them.  Now, given that he is a young man, you'd think from this description that he was going around finding girls that were in trouble and 'saving' them that way... given eroge culture.  However, if anything, it is the reverse... girls that are desperate to escape their personal reality come to him, seeking the happiness he can give, and he has reduced himself to something like an automatic mechanism for giving them what they want.  To be blunt, his point of view seems very close to that of a lifelong prostitute, save for the miraculous ability he possesses... moreover, a prostitute who didn't choose the work (his first experiences were all oneshota, apparently).
    One day, his monotonous days of sex and quiet prayer (it sounds odd, but outside of school, that is pretty much what it was like), a century-old vampire named Mary Harker appears before him, having intruded into his home behind the chapel, and he lets her stay out of kindness.  At the same time, a voice (referred to as the 'demon on the phone') tells him over the phone that he has a rather dark fate awaiting him and his power isn't what he thinks it is. 
    This night is closely followed by a number of meetings and reunions... a devout girl with a self-destructive streak a mile wide (Akari), the young teacher who stole his virginity (Risa), and the twin sister he never knew he had (Sayo).  In addition, you have Mikako, who is Risa's sister and Ritsu's only friend... and who is a genius as well as a pragmatist.  Overall, it is an interesting cast of characters, even for a Purple Soft game.
    I'm going to be blunt, the part that will put off at least some of you is the sheer amount of sex in the first part of the VN.  The game begins with two h-scenes, neither of which involves affection or love, and, while this is a good intro into Ritsu's situation, it also will probably drive the romantics amongst you a bit crazy, judging by my previous experiences.  So... if you can't stand a protagonist who doesn't bother refusing sex from women and is used to having sex with girls he doesn't know, you probably won't like this game.
    That said, there are relatively few similar h-scenes after this, probably in order to keep you from getting too swallowed up by his attitude toward sexual activity.
    Ritsu is a rather strange young man, even setting aside his destined role as the Prince of Darkness (Mary's term for it).  As the demon on the phone puts it, 'You are a madman who can only be satisfied by saving others.'  That fits him perfectly, and that part of his personality never really goes away.  He is fundamentally a giver, above all other things.  Even if he can be convinced by the heroines to be selfish in the now, when things come to a climax, he always falls back on that nature.  He is also a natural S and a hedonist (though he is not conscious of this most of the time), and he doesn't have it in him to become paranoid or maintain his anger for long.   That said, once he decides on the result he wants, he will literally do anything to achieve it.
    Mary Harker
    Mary Harker, in any other game, would be the true heroine.  I don't mean to be mean about Akari... she is creepy has hell sometimes, despite her apparent normality (you'll see what I mean if you actually read the first two h-scenes), but if I began this game without a walkthrough or seeing the cover of the game package, I probably would have assumed she was the true heroine.  The reason is very simple... she is the catalyst that sparks the game's engine at the beginning, and, given eroge custom, that heroine usually is the true one. 
    Now, her personality... Mary is probably the most cheerful and normal vampire I've seen outside of a 'nerfed' vampire setting (this one isn't, since just a bite is enough to turn someone and she takes injuries from her own prayers and the sun).  Nonetheless, she has lived a century, and that has had various effects on her psyche, though the biggest one is a growing awareness that maintaining her humanity and human persona is becoming harder and harder.  It is only because of Ritsu that she is able to have some kind of a hope for the future, and she is pretty dependent on him during the story.  Despite that, she is also sort-of an oneesan character outside of her own path.  She does have a lot of experience under her belt, and her attitude toward him at some times skirts the motherly.
    Her own path is... a clash of two people destined to live in darkness, her and Ritsu.  They are both people who don't understand romantic love at the beginning, so seeing them change is somewhat amusing, but the bigger issue is that their natures press down on them, making a happy romance difficult.  Overall, it was a highly emotional experience that I enjoyed thoroughly.  I do wish - as I almost always do - that she had a nice long epilogue after story, but I have resigned myself to not receiving what I wish for most of the time, when it comes to that.
    Akasabi Risa and Akasabi Mikako
    Akasabi Risa was the protagonist's first sexual partner.  Like all the girls who had sex with him in the past, she was seeking escape from reality by having him give her happiness, but she, unlike the others, was actually in love with him from the beginning.  Risa is a consummate actress, hiding her true intentions behind her feelings, a technique she apparently developed in the years she was away from Risa.  She is also essentially a 'giver' type, willingly giving everything for those she cares about.
    Mikako is a pretty unusual character.  If it weren't for her fondness for Ritsu and her love for Risa, I would be tempted to call her an emotionless sociopath, based on her surface actions.  I called her a pragmatist above, but this isn't despite her emotional reactions... it is her natural state of being.  Pragmatism is usually a product of socialization and rationality being prioritized over emotion.  However, in Mikako's case, she is able to (and does so automatically) completely analyze and render meaningless her emotions before they reach the surface.  Her love for Risa is pretty much the only exception, and it is that emotion that renders her as almost human (her fondness for Ritsu exists because she loves Risa and Risa loves him). 
    Now, the demon on the phone takes on a rather more direct role in this story than in Mary's, where he/she is merely speaking to the characters.  In fact, the demon's interference is what brings this path's conflict to the surface, and overall, it made this path more interesting than it otherwise would have been.  To be blunt, without the demon's 'help', it is highly unlikely that Risa, Mikako, and Ritsu would get together, based on the revelations in this path.  There are a number of reasons, but the biggest one lies with the fact that Ritsu quite simply doesn't have strong emotions toward his sexual partners normally (once he actually loves them, it is different)... not even remnant lust.
    Kurosaki Sayo
    Kurosaki Sayo is Ritsu's twin, separated from him at birth.  She is a cynical, emotionally twisted young girl whose only love is Ritsu (though she does have affection for others based on whether they make Ritsu happy or not) and whose hobby is toying with him and Mary.  She appears on the scene shortly after Mary's arrival, guided by the demon on the phone.  She is also a part of the demons' plans for him, and that plan is the center of her path.
    This path is an utsuge-style path... don't expect a happy ending.  There is a good reason why Sayo was given to a different orphanage by their mother, and that reason becomes apparent fairly early after Ritsu chooses her.  I enjoyed this path and it has some really good cathartic moments... but I honestly thought they were a bit excessively obvious in foreshadowing this one.
    Afterwards (read this if you don't mind a bit of spoilers)
    Remember, this is a spoiler.
    As techniques go, it is interesting, and I felt the need to mention it before Akari's path because of how it leads into it.
    Umino Akari
    Akari is... the girl whose outer personality and inner desires are most in conflict.  Akari is a devout Christian (Ritsu's assessment), kind-hearted, gentle, and takes pleasure in giving of herself to others.  However, she is also strongly driven to seek out danger, corruption, and self-destruction in every way, shape, and form.  As one of the milder examples... she is afraid of heights but she willingly participates in the school swim club's high dive competition.  A more extreme version is the one you run into at the beginning, in the first scene, where, after watching her friend have sex with Ritsu, she is drawn to him and has sex with him as well. 
    Akari's path is... interesting.  Actually, the beginning of the path is slow, because the story refrains from going to the extremes you saw in the common route and the other paths.  However, that slow build up is a near-perfect lead into the solid drama leading up to the ending.  There is actually very little I can say about this path without spoiling it, but I can say that I liked the ending.  I cried numerous times throughout the path, and the ending itself satisfied me completely, a rare event in and of itself.
    One thing I should note is that there is a distinct Chrono Clock reference in this path, which startled me a bit.  It was actually a stronger link than the mention of the kotodama-users early in the common route.  For those who are interested, I'll respond in a PM, but I'm unwilling to spoil this.  I did laugh though.  I'm unsure if this is an affectation or not, but it is interesting. 
    I'm seriously tempted to scream 'kamige!!!' to the sky... but in retrospect, they game does have some distinct flaws.  The main one of these is the somewhat haphazard approach to the beginning of Risa's path (it felt kind of like they were shoving things along a little too forcefully in that one). However, even so this is one of the better games that have come out this year, and, in its own way, keeps the Purple Soft fantasy nakige tradition started with Mirai Nostalgia alive and kicking.  Where Chrono Clock fizzled and Amatsutsumi committed the sin of using the ladder-style progression system, this game manages to both satisfy and feel like it treats the non-true heroines well. 
  21. Like
    ChaosRaven reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Kizuna Kirameku Koi Iroha   
    For obvious reasons, VN vets rarely get up their hopes for games by new VN companies.  Generally speaking, most of them are charage or nukige, and those that aren't usually flop on their faces.  So, it should come as no surprise that the people I chatted with about this game generally didn't have any hopes for it. 
    However, that is probably because they didn't take a look at the team of scenario writers.  The first one, Gihara, was the writer for Tenka Gomen, Shin Koihime Eiyuutan, Shin Koihime Musou Kakumei (responsible for the rewrite), Harvest Overray, and Girls Be Ambitious (something of a cult classic for Japanese fanboys of a certain stripe).  Nissy was involved with Hanasaki Work Spring and Gin'iro Haruka.  Finally, Toishi Hiroki was involved with Sakura, Sakimashita and Floral Flowlove. 
    By most standards, that is about as solid a team as you can find for any single VN, even if it is essentially a combat sports charage in the same vein as Unionism Quartet and Shirogane Spirits.  So, after having done a bit of research on the game and its story, I picked it for my second game this month.
    Happily, I wasn't disappointed by the results.
    Oh, by any standard, this game doesn't even approach Aoi Tori for raw quality of storytelling or music.  It also has as much lost potential as any other fantasy charage that put effort into creating a complex setting (inevitably, they never go far enough).  The protagonist is a little too similar to some others I've encountered, such as the one from Walkure Romanze or Aokana, in that he starts out as a self-pitying loser and spends the entire game in a supporting role. 
    That said, for what it is (a combat sports charage), it is nice and fun.  The protagonist, Touki, is a swordsmith who makes spiritual blades combined with mechanical parts called 'Origami' who has lost his ability to make them, leaving him with a bunch of wasted talent and people wondering why he is wasting it (sound familiar?).  The combat sport in the game - called Jindou - is basically one-on-one ritualistic duels between wielders of these mechanized spirit blades (the blades grant the user increased physical abilities based on their ability to draw their power out), and three of the four heroines are competitors (two of them newbies, one the highest-rank veteran, a setup that is traditional to the sub-genre).  The last one is a fellow maker of Origami, an American arms dealer's daughter named Freesia. 
    The protagonist does manage to get past the big personal issue in the common route, so there is no 'diversion' onto another path in life as is common in many VNs with a similar protagonist (in other words, ignoring the protagonist's scars and leaving him as a loser).  This is a huge plus, as this type of character goes... but it is shortly after that event that the paths split.
    Shion is the protagonist's kouhai, a girl who was going to give up the sword because, due to her high ability to draw out spiritual energy, keeps breaking Origami... and on top of that, she is excessively kind, making it difficult for her to consider hurting others, despite her choice of a future profession.  Despite her kind-heartedness, she is a power-fighter, breaking opponents with smashing blows and enduring attacks to lash out at the right moment rather than using technique or speed to overwhelm them. 
    Her path is... interesting.  It has the protagonist going farther into confronting his personal issues and past than in the common route, and as a result a rather nasty chain of events occurs that leads into the story's drama after the competition.  On a whole, that made this an interesting path... but I was left feeling a bit bored with the rather predictable ending bits.  This path could have done with a more bittersweet note in the ending, despite this being essentially a charage (thus requiring good endings).
    Tsubaki is the school champion and a member of the Suzakuin Family... a family that symbolizes the ultimate swordsman in their sport, because they do everything themselves, from training and fighting to management and the making of the Origami.  Tsubaki considers herself to be like an older sister to Touki, whom she lived with for three months as a child when she was learning how to make Origami.  Her style is efficient, defined by refined technique, foresight, research, and a cold drive to win.  As a result, she tends to let enemies come to her then destroy them with counter-attacks.
    Her path forces her to confront her own limitations and break the boundaries set by her family, and most of the drama comes from Touki helping her stand on her own feet and realize there is something beyond her training and family's expectations for her to live for.  It was a good path, overall... but it completely ignores the issues lurking in the background that erupted in Shion's path, so it left me feeling a bit unsatisfied.
    Freesia is the daughter of the CEO of a major arms-maker in America.  Upon meeting Miyako (Tsubaki's older sister) she became obsessed with Jindou and eventually discovered a talent for making Origami.  She is at the school as a special student, exempted from class because of her high scores and her father's connections.  Early in the story, she becomes obsessed with becoming Touki's student.  She is very aggressive and straightforward, never bothering to conceal her feelings about anything.  She is a perfect example of the fine line between a genius and an idiot (or a madwoman), as some of her Origami are... strange (when she made a light saber, I had to rofl).
    Anyway, her path is about the way of the craftsman, and it is kind of interesting... However, I feel that they approached it all wrong.  First, during the climactic face-off in her path, the results are sort of disappointing.  The fight itself is nice, but it feels too much like 'oh, she is the heroine, so lets let her have her way!'  Moreover, I am honestly confused that they chose that as the climax, since there is relatively little emotional buildup immediately before.  As such, I had to rate this path the lowest of the three I've written about so far, by several levels.
    Saya is Touki's childhood friend (though he doesn't remember her at first), a brilliant swordswoman who, at first, has no idea of how to use an Origami.  Her attitude toward Touki is very much that of a close friend, rather than a deredere heroine, which is unusual for this kind of setup.  In addition, she is the 'true' heroine, though if you want to unlock her without playing the other paths, you can do so through the extras menu.  As a fighter, she is a speed type, quite simply the fastest of all the heroines by several levels.  In addition, she is also highly skilled, though perhaps a few levels below Tsubaki due to her inexperience with Jindou. 
    Saya's path is the 'true path' of this game, and the game treats it as such.  The storytelling has even more depth than Shion's path, and it delves far deeper into the past - both Touki's and that of his bloodline.  The fights in this path are several levels better than in the previous paths, at least partly because some of them are 'real' (you'll see what I mean if you read this).  In addition, several characters whose true desires and intentions never came into the open in the other paths come into play in this path, thus making it... your standard true path, lol.
    Like a lot of 'true path' games, this game neglects the non-true heroines to an extent and places far too much emphasis on the true path.  However, as a whole, the game is a fun read.  The three non-true heroine paths read like charage paths, whereas the true one is almost a chuunige there at the end.  As a whole, the game is a bit higher in quality than Shirogane Spirits or Unionism Quartet, because it manages to feel 'real' at times (something neither of those games manages, because they never escape the 'combat sport' aspect of their stories).   In the end, it was a decent VN, and in another month would have been a decent candidate for the VN of the Month.
  22. Like
    ChaosRaven reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, My odd experiences with Anime icons   
    Anime, if you limit it to Japanese animation (the actual word in Japanese refers to all animated shows, but I'm limiting the definition to J-animation), has been around since 1917, but anime as we know it, in its earliest distinct form, was born in the 1960's.  My personal experience with anime (where I understood it to be anime, as opposed to my Voltron experience in the mid eighties as a kid) began in 1992, with Record of Lodoss War (the OVA series, not the TV series), drawing me in and making me a fan instantly. 
    At the time, certain anime were considered to be 'icons' of the medium... Astro Boy, Dragonball, Ranma, Mobile Suit Gundam, etc.  After becoming a fan of anime, I was introduced to them, and by the time I moved to Austin in 1998, I'd already seen three of my old favorites achieve 'icon' status (The Slayers, Tenchi Muyo, and Yuyu Hakusho).  Now, it is really, really weird to see something you watched almost as it came out being referred to as 'iconic'.  Moreover, seeing something you liked become referred to as genre-defining (Noir, Love Hina, Ai Yori Aoshi) can leave you with complicated feelings... it tends for me to be an odd mix of pride and embarrassment.  
    Now, most of the time in the US, TV shows are generally only considered iconic when they've run for many seasons or won a number of academy awards... but most of the time, anime that are considered iconic are made so by fan acclaim, and the line where famous ends and iconic begins tends to be rather murky. 
    I doubt many with a strong knowledge of the last forty years of anime would fail to consider Legend of the Galactic Heroes or Tenchi Muyo to be iconic.  However, if you were to ask one who had lived through those times at what point they became so, you would probably just get a helpless shrug  in return.  Legend of the Galactic Heroes is considered by many to be the peak of the now-deceased anime space opera sub-genre (since only a few have been made since and none even came close to it in scale or quality).  The fact that it manages to maintain a massive fanbase amongst sci-fi anime fans despite its dated visuals says everything that needs to be said about the artistic value of the series.  Tenchi Muyo, on the other hand, is considered a genre-definer.  It combined one old and time-honored anime genre - science fantasy - with at home slice-of-life antics with a spice of romance, essentially pioneering the idea that action science-fantasy series could also have a strong basis in daily life comedy and romance (If you can't figure out how that has effected things to this day, then you aren't looking hard enough at the trends in otaku media over the last twenty years). 
    These are just two examples... even in the last ten years, I've seen anime that I watched out of boredom suddenly become idolized a few years after their release as genre pioneers or an example of what is best in a genre...
    In other words, this whole post is just a ramble about how I'm starting to feel old when I look back at how long my otaku live has been, hahaha.
    Edit: To be clear, anime was my first entryway into the otaku life as I knew it.  I love anime to this day, and while I'm sad at how the medium has stagnated (like most otaku media have stagnated in the last ten years or so) I have faith it will eventually recover.  After all, I find at least one new anime worth adoring with each year that passes.
    Edit2: A few more things... I've also seen treatment of anime fans by society change dramatically since I was a kid.  I don't remember the last time I heard the question 'Are you watching cartoons?' and if you shake three people in an urban area, at least one of them regularly watches the newest stuff on crunchyroll.  It is odd not to be an extreme minority in an extremely niche community, considered to be childish or strange for watching a gory fantasy anime rather than a sitcom, lol.
  23. Like
    ChaosRaven reacted to Narcosis for a blog entry, VN's Forever: Regarding ChuableSoft's bankruptcy or the sad state of modern, japanese vn industry   
    As you may (or may not, at least yet) know, ChuableSoft has filed for bankruptcy on 7th of July. In his Twitter, Ishida P - ChuableSoft's director - stated they had no other choice than to close, simply because it was not possible for them to continue with the company in it's current state. This may come of as slightly surprising, considering their previous game - Watashi ga Suki nara "Suki" tte Itte! (SukiSuki for short) won the 2015's Moege Awards and was met with warm praise - both from the fans, as well as community. The rights to the game were also acquired by MG and it's slated for an english release in late 2017/early 2018. How was it possible, that a rather well known japanese studio known for it's high quality charages went bust like that?
    As a fan and avid reader myself, I've been keeping an eye on the japanese vn industry for the past 15 years; More than a decade, with all it's ups and downs and various events, that shaped and changed it's face overtime. It's not hard to summarize, that even if the start of the new millenium had proven to be a highly productive period for japanese developers, things don't look as bright when you start to look past 2010. To put things short - it's golden age is already long over and creators are currently facing numerous issues, which had been slowly but steadily piling up within the last years.
    Market oversaturation is often being considered as one of the biggest culprits behind the increasingly difficult task for japanese developers to stay afloat as working businesses. The competition is fierce and industry itself is partially at fault for that; The ammount of new game makers rose expotentially after 2000's, while majority of them stemmed from the same exact community of fans. People, whom - as they grew up - changed from consumers into creators themselves. The otaku market is incredibly closed off and as such, consumes almost everything it produces by itself. It's a self-regulating social wonder of sorts that slowly grew for as long as 80's. Sadly, things finally came to a halt where it produces far more it's capable to consume. As such, to keep up with market's rising competition and social changes, creators had to start minimizing risks, often by lowering standards or switching entirely to budget works; if successful, such couple shorter games could support their more important, high quality productions, at worst make them stay afloat. This system worked for a couple of past years, but the more aware fans often kept pointing at the detoriating quality of games and nonsensical stories, which more than often subdued to popular tropes and cliches. Certain companies found delicate safety within particular niches, protected by circles of avid fans and doujinshi works. It's really difficult to presume, how long will they manage to keep up with the rising requirements, especially when trends change and people swap their interests. "A lot" does not necesarilly equate "good", neither will the fans remain forever loyal. The constantly lowering standards also caused a response within the market itself - people slowly got used to cheaper, lower quality games and as such, their needs grew smaller as well. This came to a turning point, where a lot of people began to feel content with low quality works and won't bother with better releases, mainly because they are a lot more expensive, far longer and usually harder to approach.
    Instead producing high quality games, companies turned to churning out budget-type games, often serialized or episodic in nature, but how are you supposed to keep up with a market, that literally has thousands of competing companies, each producing exactly the same type of games? Formulas that used to be highly succesful in the past are now often a nail to the coffin for many starting studios. This is especially prevalent for moeges and charages, often built around slice of life genre; the "coming of age" stories, that used to be so popular are now considered completely cliched and overused to the point, where multiple games released often feel alike; there's little to no distinction between them at first glance and this causes the fans to feel resigned and makes them lose their motivation to get involved with anything further. At the same time, thousands of games are being sold to thousands of consumers; each company has to make a living and that wouldn't be a problem, when the population of fans would be kept at a steady number. Unfortunately, the japanese demographics are clear on that - the population is aging very quickly, with losses greatly superseeding gains. The same can be said about the market itself - the ex-fans, who are currently producing their own games have less and less potential customers, as their generation became incapable to supply the population with a steady birthrate. It's a tale of an aging market, with people who slowly drift away from being fans, as the modern, day-to-day japanese life consumes them almost entirely. In the end, this means less and less total available revenue to creators. Less money available within the market means less available budget to create future games. This means everyone has to settle for less and cut costs, which further lowers the quality of the final product. It's a vicious cycle and one that is increasingly difficult to break from, once you get caught.
    In a world of merciless competition for disappearing population of consumers and aging fans, this means pretty much a single flop - especially an incredibly expensive, high quality game - can lead to a complete downfall. Growing risks prevent creators from retries and keep them pinned down to a life, where they barely scrape by from production cycle to another. As the costs grow, they finally find themselves in a difficult situation - often indebted and without funds, because their games didn't bring the expected revenue - where they simply have nothing else to do, than declare bankruptcy. This is more, or less what causes many studios - such as ChuableSoft - to finally close down. Sadly, I presume this is just the beginning and we'll see many more of our beloved companies closing down in the near future.
    The only hope now currently lies within the western market - a body of almost infinite possibilities, with a massive and constantly growing fanbase, always thirsty for new games. Perhaps it's time for the japanese developers to finally embrace that possibility and move on.
  24. Like
    ChaosRaven reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, The pitfalls of creating a unique setting   
    I'm currently playing Ai yori Aoi Umi no Hate, AXL's latest game by their 'unusual slice-of-life' team, and the setting is seriously bothering me.  It isn't that the concept is boring... there is nothing wrong with the concept of people living on a massive self-repairing ship hundreds of years after the demise of land-bound culture due to global warming.  No, the problem is the concept of the game and how it interacts with the setting. 
    Ok, I can live with the idea that advanced culture was lost - deliberately or otherwise, and I can also live with the characters centering about 80% of their attention on day-to-day affairs.  That is normal in a self-sufficient community.  However, the idea that recreational culture not existing at all - music being lost entirely, for instance - is ridiculous.  Wherever you get a community of humans, you have some kind of recreational culture, whether it is simple sports, drinking contests, tests of strength and stamina, or card games.  To put it simply, people might be willing to let go of high tech, but they'll never give up being able to hum a tune while working.
    It is such a huge hole in the concept that I just had to shake my head in exasperation. 
    This isn't the first time I've run into this kind of thing...  for some reason, some writers, when they create a fantasy or sci-fi setting that justifies their story, gloss over elements like this that drive me nuts.   Moreover, they ignore human nature and history.  Even in a confined environment like the one in this setting, people still need recreation and will create it, regardless of the intervention of authority.  The first couple of generations might have successfully abandoned culture as they knew it, but the later generations would have inevitably birthed a new recreational culture of some sort.  So, the concept is just too ridiculous, at least in my eyes.
    Edit: In other words, 'If you are going to create a new setting with a purely human society, you have to justify every difference in a way that makes sense given human history and nature!'
  25. Like
    ChaosRaven reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Haruru Minamo ni   
    I first encountered Clochette with Suzunone Seven, a game recommended to me by a friend who lives in Japan.  Suzunone Seven is one of the more memorable charage I've played, both for the depth of its story and the depth of its setting and characters.  Now, Clochette is frequently jokingly referred to as 'oppai central' or 'The Oppai Corporation'... or any number of other similar names, with good reason.  Their style has it so that all the heroines are either close to flat or... the opposite.  It is a source of ironic amusement to me that this company produces some of the best fantasy charage in existence on a completely consistent level.  In other words, I've yet to see a kusoge from this company, though Amatsu Misora ni wasn't memorable compared to its fellows.
    Speaking of Amatsu Misora ni, this game utilizes the same world setting as that game... a world where the kami of Japan exist and have a close relationship with the Shinto priests (guuji) that enshrine them.  If you want a crash course in Shinto concepts, this and Lovekami are two of the best non-dark VNs to turn to, in that way.  The protagonist is the descendant of a long line of such priests and is the older brother of an arahitogami, which is a kami that possesses the form of a living human being (in the legendary histories of Japan's Imperial family, the founding Emperor was also an Arahitogami).  His little sister is the 'kami of the mountains', the second generation to possess that title, and as a result both of them have been bound by her fate as a kami.  The protagonist, as a result, has become an overly serious, immensely capable youngster who is far too wise for his age when it comes to the doings of supernatural beings.
    At the beginning of this VN, a new 'Umigami' (kami of the sea) has been sent to take up the role in the town below the mountain, and it is Tatsuiki's (the protagonist) job to help her settle in.  Unfortunately, Kanau (her human name) is a bit... immature as a kami and is only barely able to use her powers and completely incapable of fulfilling the role demanded of an ubusukami/tochigami (a kami who protects a region and its people from harm).  As a result, he gets stuck helping her mature as a kami... a role he is surprisingly willing to take on. 
    The heroines of this VN are:
    Kanau- A girl who lost her parents in a traffic accident and was deified in the process.  She is kind-hearted, gentle, and extremely strong-willed.  However, she is also more than a little clumsy and slow on the uptake.  Nonetheless, her ability to keep going on in the face of suffering and misfortune is definitely a positive.  She is the game's true/main heroine, so I seriously suggest playing her path last, as it is the deepest of all the paths.
    Miori- The protagonist's little sister and the second-generation kami of the mountains.  Raised as an arahitogami and worshiped almost from birth, she carries out her role as a tochigami seriously but with the ease of long practice.  She is also immensely powerful, as she is also the overall tochigami for both the land and sea, though an ancient vow made by the first generation binds her to the mountain.  She is definitely a brocon imouto, but she is also very similar to her brother in her wisdom and perceptiveness, so she isn't one of those little sister heroines who does her best to seduce oniichan from beginning to end.  Her path is full of tribulations, though not the ones you would expect from an incest path.  In her path, the origins of the dual tochigami system in place in the region is revealed, as is the reason why the protagonist has such extreme effects on the various supernatural beings there.  I suggest reading this path after the other three heroines but before Kanau's path.
    Ema- Ema is Miori and Tatsuki's osananajimi.  Kind-hearted and intelligent, she almost instinctively does her best to help those around her.  The only downside is that she and Tatsuki have one of 'those' osananajimi relationships...
    Asumi- The daughter of a fisherman's family, she is an atheist by choice, despising all kami while doing her best to ignore their existence... kami of the sea in particular.  While she is apparently quiet and stand-offish, this is revealed to be a simple function of the fact that she is terrible at showing how she feels on her face.  She is very perceptive and instinctively grasps concepts that others take months or years to figure out in moments.  However, when she doesn't have any interest in something, she can be unnaturally ignorant about a subject.  Her path delves pretty deeply into the concepts of enshrining the dead and natural disasters to turn them into 'nigimitama' (the gentle side of a deity) from aramitama (the wild side of a deity). 
    Mei- Mei is a young raijin (kami of thunder) who comes to the city to help Kanau.  However, soon after arriving, she ends up wanting to be enshrined by Tatsuki (a phenomenon that is by no means unique to her).  She is a bit of a tsundere, with the typical extreme deredere mode that most tsundere obtain after they reach a certain point in a relationship.  She is also extremely innocent and naive when it comes to humans and interacting with them, as she was born from pure lightning.  Her path explores some of the pitfalls of the aramitama and the duality of the nature of a kami, and her personal growth is rather pleasing during the path.
    Now, let's discard the Shinto jargon for a moment and go back to what this game is all about... I'm going to be straight when I say that if you've played any of Clochette's games you probably have an idea of their style.  Their heroine paths have some of the best balance between ero, ichaicha, character development, and story that I've ever seen in the genre.  As a result, they are extremely easy to read, if you aren't made incredulous by breast size issues.  That said, the writer's fetishes definitely come out in the h-scenes (he definitely has a thing about impregnation), and I had to rofl at some of the sexual references during the heroine paths.
    The endings in this game are exactly what you'd want from a story-heavy charage.  They are reasonably detailed and extend far beyond the 'present' in which the main story is based, giving you a good idea of where the characters are headed and the happiness it has brought them.  As such, if you want to see what my idea of an ideal charage ending looks like, this is a good company to look at.
    Overall, this is a first class charage... one that reminds me of why I still dig through the rubbish for the gems. 
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