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  1. Like
    Aleister reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Random VNs: Like a Butler   
    As part of my series of posts on AXL, today I finished replaying Like a Butler, one of AXL's earlier charage-type VNs.  This VN is of a type that hadn't really been touched until AXL opened it up... the ojousama-ge.  Just to give you a little history, until the release of Haruka ni Aogi, Uruwashi no in 2006, there hadn't been any really good or famous ojousama-ge made.  It was only after 2010 when the sub-genre exploded outward into the ridiculous numbers we've seen since (with Ensemble alone producing fifteen in the last eight years, if you include fandiscs). 
    I'll be straight about it... ojousama-ge are the type of charage I'm most likely to like besides fantasy type charage.  I have a definite positive bias toward this type of game, so if I don't like an ojousama-ge, it really is crap, lol.
    Anyway, Like a Butler starts with the usual ridiculous premise upon which about 80% of all of this type of VN are based off of... the protagonist transferring to an academy for rich people (usually for some kind of absurd reason).  In this case, his osananajimi Kanade (who is a pure-hearted, dog-like, extremely friendly girl with an absolute trust in the protagonist that is a bit extreme) gets chosen as a scholarship student for an academy for the children of the ultra-rich (think hundreds of millions of dollars).  Kanade begs Kazuki, the protagonist, to serve as her butler at the school, so she won't be alone amidst a bunch of unfamiliar people.  He, being weak to her requests, eventually gives in.
    A lot of the earlier parts of the VN are as much about culture shock as anything else (it's mutual, needless to say).  Kanade, being Kanade, manages to burrow her way into the hearts of her fellow students relatively easily, and Kazuki, as her butler, begins to accustom himself as well. 
    Some notes about AXL's style with this type of game... unlike more modern ojousama-ge, which tend to avoid snobbish heroines and main characters, AXL doesn't hesitate including the characters' prejudices and cultural blind spots (again, it is mutual), so expect some friction between the characters as a result.  This is especially so for Sarasa and the protagonist, as Sarasa is the epitome of the 'super-rich girl who believes in her own fundamental superiority' and Kazuki has a fundamental dislike for being looked down upon.
    One of the best parts about this VN, other than the usual AXL antics, excellent storytelling, and wonderful character development, is the way they did the heroine paths.  Rather than being a straight road to a set ending, each of the heroines (save for Kiriko, the extra heroine) has a three endings... one good, one bad, and one extra good.  The first good ending is an abbreviated version where the protagonist's final situation is something of a result of 'going with the flow' of the relationship.  These endings resemble the standard charage ending, save for the fact that they have 'years later' epilogues.  The second good ending is always the best... in both the path itself and the epilogue, you see the results of the protagonist seeking to better himself and his environment, as well as confronting the obstacles in his way to form a better and more permanent relationship with the heroines.  To be blunt, I cried with joy at Sarasa's and Mizuho's second good endings, and with good reason.  The trials and tribulations, as well as the wonderfully designed epilogues made it feel like the protagonist had actually grown far beyond his beginnings in each case... and the heroines were generally much happier.
    Overall, for those who like this type of charage, this is a must-play.  The only downside from some people's point of view is that the visuals are typical AXL, meaning that they've looked pretty much the same for the past ten years, lol.  (go to hell, art bigots)
  2. Like
    Aleister reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Yomegami   

    I'm going to say this straight out... Awesome job, Alcot!!! 
    There is a peculiar balance needed to make the perfect fantasy story-focused charage... and it has literally been years since the last time a VN has managed it.  I should know, since I play everything fantasy that isn't a nukige and some that are. 
    Alcot's formula of comedy (in particular sexual comedy and situational comedy) is pretty straightforward and easy to enjoy, going across cultural lines fairly easily.  As such, it doesn't require much effort to enjoy.  That provides one element of this VN that 'completes' it. 
    Another element is the setting.  Is there a solid setting?  Is that setting vital to the story and utilized well to enhance it and give it life?  That is definitely the case with this VN.  The fantasy elements are vital to every aspect of this VN and touch upon every element of the story.  I am happy to say that this VN is one of those rare fantasy VNs (non-chuuni, non-rpg) where the setting is so integral to the story as to make it inseparable.
    Third is the heroine paths.  Are the heroine paths consistent with the setting and the story of the common route?  Are none of the heroines overly favored?  Is there a good balance between ichaicha, drama, and plot?  I can say yes to all these questions with this VN.  The heroine paths are universally solid, with none of them exceptionally favored over the others.  I was seriously impressed at the creativity of the writer when dealing with the endings, since they pretty much universally deviated from the 'golden road' of charage in peculiar ways while keeping to the spirit of the genre (happy endings for beloved characters).
    Fourth is the characters in general.  Do they fit into the story?  Do the relationships between the characters feel 'alive', even if they aren't necessarily always believable from an excessively realistic point of view?  For that matter, does the protagonist 'fit' into his role as the center of the story (and the heroines' affections)?  Again, the answer is yes to all.  While the protagonist isn't necessarily exceptional in most ways, he has many qualities that both make him attractive enough to make the romance portions feel real, as well as the roundness to justify such a protagonist-centric story.
    What this all comes down to is that this VN is fairly close to a perfect example of the best of the sub-genre, as well as being an example of why I still play charage, even though most of them are crap hiding the gems.  For people who like a strong element of fantasy in their charage, as well as a strong plot for both the characters and the game in general, this is an excellent choice.  For those who prefer to avoid seriousness and stress at all costs, it might be a too much though.  Also... SPOILERS BELOW
  3. Like
    Aleister reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, My opinion: Pitfalls of a Fantranslator   
    This is a simple post putting forth my views on what the largest pitfalls are for a fantranslator, both in the immediate sense and the long-term.
    1. Making promises: Anyone who starts a translation is bound to do something stupid... such as setting a deadline or predicting how long it will take them to do something.  Even experienced translation groups trip and fall into this particular trap.  Nothing good comes of making promises, primarily because rl exists.
    2.  Agreeing to translate/edit/proofread something you aren't interested in: This links to motivation.  To be blunt, no fantl will be able to finish work on a VN if they don't enjoy the original or at least prefer the genre it is in.  Fantls are a labor of love not a workplace with a set salary and a boss telling you to get back to work or he'll dock your pay.  Passion about the subject matter is necessary to get anywhere on a fantl project.
    3.  Taking on a job you aren't qualified for: This mostly applies to beginner fantls... to be blunt, don't take on something you can't read easily.  If you can't read and fully comprehend the text of the VN you've agreed to translate, don't even make the attempt.
    4.  Machine translations: Don't work.
    5.  Looking up your name/reputation/etc: Some people get addicted to looking for positive reactions to their work.  Unfortunately, this also means that they stumble across the negative responses and can damage their confidence in ways that can destroy a project. 
    1. The choice to announce  a project or not: Many who translate VNs use community comments to help them build motivation.  However, choosing to involve the community in your project is a two-sided sword... it cuts both ways.  Negative comments, people asking you when it will come out, and complaints about the translation of any partial you put out can obliterate your motivation and cripple the project.
    2.  Internal group chemistry and mechanics:  No matter how you look at it, the translator is the origin and star of any given project.  Without the translator it goes nowhere... but translators can't be the ones going around motivating the group to keep working.  It's inefficient and emotionally draining for the person in question, and it is the number one cause of project failure I've seen related to group chemistry, when the translator finally falls apart.  An editor's role only seems minor to a translator.  It is actually a job that can be equally frustrating to that of the raw translation, and a decent translator's secondary job often becomes tlcing and explaining his own work to the editor.  Thus, my advice to any fantranslator is find an editor you can talk to and get along with, or you'll regret it later.  My advice to editors is: Be patient.  Many translators really don't like going back over their own work, so just keep an eye out for potential signs that they are at their limit. 
    3.  Burn-out: This can potentially happen to any fantl position.  It is also related to all the things above, since it is a state where all motivation is lost and the individual in question basically just drops out of the project.  Apathy toward the project and ignoring group members are fairly common signs of this.  Whether it is permanent or not depends on the individual, but it can take years to recover mentally and emotionally once you've reached this stage *speaking from personal experience*
  4. Like
    Aleister reacted to Dergonu for a blog entry, Kimi e Okuru, sora no hana   
    I have been wanting to write something about this VN since the second I finished it, but never actually got aroud to it. Now with the TL announced, I figured I might as well write something. Might be a good thing to note that I absolutely adore this game, and it is probably my favorite VN of all time, so I'm a bit biased, just saying.
    So, first, an introduction. Kimi e okuru, sora no hana is a nakige made by Cabbit. The game is about ghosts, people who can see them, and their attempt at a life together in a special school that trains its students to handle their powers. The main character, Shuuya, has been able to see ghosts since he was a child, and he has always wondered why. When the mysterious ghost Matsuri approaches him with the offer of a school that can teach him about his powers, he just couldn't say no. As he gets to the school he meets many others with similar powers, and they all seem equally eager to learn what their powers are. But, there is a slight twist. People with these powers are not the only students in the academy. About a third of the student body is also made up by ghosts. Now, this is a big deal, because, well, they are ghosts. Dead people with psychic abilities isn't exactly your ideal classmate. Naturally this causes some disturbance in the classes, but the presence of the ghosts is an absolute condition for the school to operate, and everyone has to handle it if they are going to attend the academy. (Even the headmaster is a ghost, and boy is she an... interesting woman, lol.)

    The game is a nakige like I said, but it also has some other elements as well. The entire game isn't constantly story driven, and so people who hate "generic school settings" might be slightly annoyed at certain points in the game, even though these "plotless" moments aren't a dominating factor. Because of the way the game is structured, even normal days at school might suddenly turn into something dramatic, because of the relationship between the humans and the ghosts, as well as the ever present danger of a ghost going berserk. Still, there is definitely a decent amount of slice of life moments in this game, though I found them very enjoyable because of the rather unique take on the setting. Despite the fact that we have a "generic school setting", half of the students in the class being ghosts makes for a different experience. First of, it opens up for new types of humor, (people can't see ghosts, so if you walk alone with one, people think you are jut talking to yourself, for instane,) more drama (there is a lot of tension between everyone because of the ghosts), not to mention that the romance itself in this VN is very unique, as the ghosts can't actually touch anything solid. (I mean, they are ghosts.) So this opens up for a very fresh and interesting take on these overused elements. In addition, the game itself is 10-30 hours long, and with 5 heroine routes with at least 2 endings each as well as a common route, this means the routes aren't too long, so the "boring slice of life" moments in between the story is rather minimal in comparison to other, longer games. Still, despite all of that, you will have to suck it up and get through some slice of life if you want to play this game.
    The game has 3 human heroines and 2 ghost heroines, as well as a few other short, special routes that you can unlock upon completing certain endings. The human routes are more similar to what you usually find in general nakige/ charage, and An's route is probably a bit more similar to a moege route at times, but all three human routes still use the ghosts as a part of their main story. The ghost routes, however, are very different from the standard stuff, and on top of that, the two ghost routes are very different from each other, making them both feel quite unique. Also, I have to point out that Matsuri is the "main heroine" in this game, and so she has 3 endings instead of the standard 2, and is a lot more in focus during the common route. Some people might not like "main heroines". I personally really liked Matsuri, but personally would have liked a bit more focus on some of the other routes, like Sekka's and Hinagiku's. Still, Matsuri is a really great heroine.
    When I first played the game, I started with the Sekka route, and it just blew my mind. Mainly because Sekka was a character I honestly had no real expectation of at all. She just looked like a normal, cute and shy character who had nothing else to her. But once her route started, I couldn't stop reading.

    Each ghost has a reason for... well, being dead. Something ended up killing them at some point in their life, though what this is varies. (duh.) In Sekka's case, whatever it was caused her to become extremely shy around other people, and she is so insecure she can barely even speak to others. She spends most of her time on the roof of the school, staring into the sky.
    Shuuya is the only person in the school who actually ended up approaching her despite of her insecurity. He kept talking to her, which made Sekka open up a lot more, but at the same time, this created more insecurity. It's hard for Sekka to understand normal, human relationships, and she doesn't really get what friendship means in general. On top of that, a ghost's mental condition is directly linked to how well they can control their powers, which means Sekka is already in a bit of a shaky spot as it is. This route's entire structure was very unique and interesting.
    Sekka's route is probably one of the most dramatic, and in my opinion it's one of the best, though it is a bit on the shorter side, sadly. Reading both her endings in succession is strongly recommended, and starting with the bad ending is the most ideal for sure. The reason for this is that the structure of her route is a bit different from what you tend to see in most games, with the order of how things happen turned a little on its head. In addition, Sekka's bad ending is longer than her true ending, and it also contains important information that will make the true ending even more impactful.
    The difference between the human and the ghost heroines in the game might look slightly strange to some people. Why use both? Why not just one? On one side, you have nakige elements and drama, and on the other side you have standard charage material? Why?
    Well, this game does a very good job of keeping the two connected. It's not two completely alien entities that exist totally independent of one another. For exmaple, An's route is the cutest and most slice of life driven route in the game, but even this route deals heavily with Shuuya's powers and his attendance at the school, as well as his past and the origin of his powers.
    ... But really though, most people should just want to play An's route because of how freaking adorable she is. I mean... come on.

    Anyways, moving on. The other two human heroines, Kana and Hinagiku have more dramatic routes compared to An, but they are still quite different from the ghost routes. I found Hinagiku's route the most entertaining of the three, mainly because of her character. (Like, because she was a very interesting heroine, not just because she is so pretty! Well, she is incredibly pretty though. I mean... look.)

    (The art really is nice in this game.)
    I could rant on for hours and hours about the game, but I think I got the most important stuff out of the way. This is a very solid VN, with great characters, an interesting plot and some seriously tear-jerking moments. If you like nakige, you'll like this one.
    For the people who can't read Japanese, you should definitely keep your eye on the TL project. (You can show them some love by joining their discord, checking out their website or even offering to help out with the project. All the info you need, as well as the links to their website and discord etc, is here on this link.)
    That's about it, hopefully my bias didn't rub off too strongly in the post. (But hey, even if it did, it's my blog so who cares )
  5. Like
    Aleister reacted to Arcadeotic for a blog entry, Dracu-Riot Saga Part 4: Elina Olegovna Oven   
    [This entry will have massive amounts of bias within it. If you don't want to hear me gushing about Dracu-Riot, I'd suggest turning away now. Also spoilerz.
    You have been warned.]

    Elina is a vampire from Russia. She is a pervert, who will say dirty joke at any possible event. Later in her rout it is revealed that she is a masochist. As a special vampire, she can only drink vampires' blood, human blood has no effect. She works in a casino.
    Honestly, this route is really good, and I can definetly see why this route is the favorite of so many people, although I'm positive that this being the only translated route for so lomg has quite a lot to do with it. 
    Anyways, in the Common Route, the groundwork for Elina is given to her personality and in the finale of the Common Route we see her ability and how she is "special" from other vampires, but different from Yuuto. After that she and Yuuto have a discussion, in which Yuuto promises to keep Elina's secret for himself and at the same time aid her. This character development in the Common Route is probably the second best based purely by the character interactions and screentime, only losing to Miu.

    The start of the heroines' routes are fundamentally the same across the board, and Elina's route is no different. It starts by Elina and Yuuto interacting more and more, getting close at the same time. However,this is done really well in Elina's route, mostly by Elina and Yuuto's pleasable interactions and events, but also because of Elina's special condition. It brings a nice sense of unity.
    Overall, this part is really nice and fluffy, and it gradually gets more serious with Elina's condition getting more severe, and then this part of the route is brought to its eclipse from the two Elina's attacks against Yuuto.

    Shortly after they start dating. This curve from close friends to partners is actually quite smooth in this route and it's one of the better ones in this game.
    The dating part however is not. It's more or less the same as Azusa's: It's nice, but it really lacks that difference from before they started dating. But unlike Azusa, the story-part here is present the whole time and built upon continously. 
    The H-scenes are all in this part. They are quite close to each other, but they aren't clumped together like in Azusa's route. It would've been nice if there was some leftover for the latter part of the route, but the finale really doesn't give time for that, and that's why After Stories exist. The H-scenes however are one of the best in the game, along with Miu's. The way Elina moans has some kind of black magic within it, because it's out of this world.

    The final part of this route consist of Yuuto and Elina running away from Russian research site from a false accusation. This version of the finale is one of the best in this game. The pacing and the input of the lesser characters are brilliantly executed. The final part with the casino blackout is made so good by the input from the other characters from before. The revelation of Elina and Yuuto's secrets could have been executed much better, but that's a minor nitpick.
    The scheme and the final showdown with Sayo and the Russian official was really good. There were hints to give the player some way to find out about the solution, but they barely miss out. This time around Motoki plays a minor role in the finale, and the introduction of Sophia brings a nice side to Elina's character.

    The aftermath after the credits is arguably the best. It tells how all the other characters feel about the absence of Elina and Yuuto. The return of these two is also made so, that it isn't overly sweet nor disappointingly dull. It's pretty much perfect.
    Whats my verdict? Well, taking all of these things into an account, this route places as my 3rd favorite. It gets some nostalgia points for being my first route, and the same could be said tomthe majority of people, but it can't beat Miu, and I liked Rio's character, her route's events and direction, and Motoki's involvement in her route more.
    This route is by no means a bad one, quite contradictory. This route is really good, but not to my liking enough. As a character, Elina is suberb, but I like Miu more.
    To be fair, only a heartless person wouldn't like this pervert Russian. She's cute, sexy and kind. There's nothing not to love.

    Now then, by process of elimination, the only character left is Miu. I will be playing her route right away, so look forward to her.