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  1. Like
    Bolverk reacted to Zalor for a blog entry, I Am War: An Exploration of an Archetype   
    “War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner.”
    ~Judge Holden (Blood Meridian)
    “My love is destruction. Its flames ache to devour all that exist: Heaven and Hell, God and Satan; all things in Creation, from the first universe that was, to the last that will ever be.”
    ~Reinhard Heydrich (Dies Irae)
    The archetype of a sentient embodiment of war continues to persist, and has morphed considerably from its mythological origins. Having finished Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian, considered by some literary critics to be the great American novel. I am left transfixed by a particular figure, a haunting presence that defies death: the Judge, Judge Holden. The Judge is a complex figure, and there are many interpretations as to who he really is. One common interpretation is that he is the embodiment of war itself. This, along with his function in the novel, reminded me quite of bit of Reinhard Heydrich from Dies Irae.
    Reinhard proudly claims to be war itself, and so in this respect he is not subtle. What makes Reinhard standout as a villain, is how evil yet seductively charming he is. He wants destruction for its own sake, or really; for his amusement. To him war is fun, and an eternity spent warring couldn't be a more ideal form of the afterlife in his conception. He would be in complete agreement with the judge on this point:
    “Men are born for games. Nothing else. Every child knows that play is nobler than work. He knows too that the worth or merit of a game is not inherent in the game itself but rather in the value of that which is put at hazard. Games of chance require a wager to have meaning at all. Games of sport involve the skill and strength of the opponents and the humiliation of defeat and the pride of victory are in themselves sufficient stake because they inhere the worth of the principals and define them. But trial of chance or trial of worth all games aspire to the condition of war for here which is wagered swallows up game, player, all.”
    Easily some of the best parts of both Blood Meridian and Dies Irae are the speeches and dialogues given by Judge Holden and Reinhard respectively. At some point Reinhard in the midst of battle famously states, “I love everything, therefore I will destroy everything”. The judge says something essentially to that effect as well. Possessing a near expert level of knowledge on nearly every subject (something true of Reinhard as well), he is once asked by a fellow crew member why he always meticulously jots notes of artifacts they pass by. The Judge responds, “to expunge them from the memory of man”. What he's saying there is that he wants to record everything so that he can keep track of what he destroys, with his ultimate goal of destroying everything from the “memory of man”. This ties into another famous quote of his, “Whatever in creation exists without my knowledge exists without my consent.” In order to have dominion over everything (to become a “suzerain” in his own words), you must first know everything. For you cannot conquer what you don't know.
    There is however a key point of contrast between these two characters who share this same archetype. Judge Holden is visibly terrifying, with the image I included in this post being my favorite depiction of him. Reinhard on the other hand, is gorgeous. Compared to the Judge's bald head and completely hairless body, Reinhard is characterized with a mane of flowing blonde hair. The importance of this contrast in outward appearances is that the two characters signify different aspects of war.
    Reinhard best represents the seduction of war, and the glory as well as rewards it promises. In the prologue alone, he convinces countless Nazi soldiers faced with imminent defeat and slaughter against the Russian troops storming Berlin, to instead give up their own lives and souls to him. Encouraging them to participate in a group suicide that would put the largest of death-cults to shame. They went along with his command, because he promised the glory that Hitler failed to deliver on. It is also noted when that happened, “This could not have been the first time.”
    If Reinhard is the seducer of war, then the judge is its rapist. Indeed, there are several instances in the novel where it is heavily suggested that the judge was responsible for a brutal rape, but it is never concretely confirmed. But his fetish for violence is no secret. While the judge is capable of persuasive charm, his preference for violence is clear. Even when he does display his persuasive abilities, the threat of violence that his domineering stature imposes must surely add a feeling of extortion to any request he makes. To list the unfathomably gruesome cruelty of the judge would still not accurately communicate how truly horrifying he is. I think the best example is when he was left in charge of the gang and a group of hostages when the gang leader, Glanton, had to leave for other business. When Glanton finally returns, one of the hostages comes desperately running to him only able to say, “That man, that man.” What Judge Holden personifies, is the horror of war itself.
    I suppose the last point of comparison I would like to touch on, is how both Reinhard and judge Holden are based on real people. Reinhard Heydrich was a high ranking Nazi official. They tie this in an interesting way in Dies Irae, but obviously the overall depiction of Reinhard in Dies Irae is mostly fictional. Judge Holden on the other hand is much more mysterious.
    Both the real and fictional Judge Holden was the second in command of the Glanton Gang; mercenaries who in 1849 temporarily worked for the Mexican government to genocide Apache Indians. However, the Glanton gang (lead by John Glanton) also slaughtered peaceful tribes in order to collect more Indian scalps which they could exchange for a higher bounty. At the end of 1849 the state of Chihuahua outlawed the gang, and put bounties on their heads. Samuel Chamberlain, who at one time worked for the Glanton gang wrote about his experiences with them in his memoir: My Confession: The Recollections of a Rogue. Mentioned several times in the memoir, it's the only document that attests to the existence of Judge Holden. In it he is described as, “a man of gigantic size called "Judge" Holden of Texas. Who or what he was no one knew but a cooler blooded villain never went unhung; he stood six feet six in his moccasins, had a large fleshy frame, a dull tallow colored face destitute of hair and all expression. His desires was blood and women.” In the memoir he also notes, “Holden was by far the best educated man in northern Mexico; he conversed with all in their own language, spoke in several Indian lingos, at a fandango would take the Harp or Guitar from the hands of the musicians and charm all with his wonderful performance.”
    It is the fact that the only testimony of the Judge's existence is in several pages of an obscure, forgotten memoir that makes him more terrifying for me. Given how similar the description of the real Judge Holden, and the fictional one is, it makes it that much more difficult to draw the line between fiction and reality.
    What can be said though is that “war endures”. As long as there are masses of people desperate for glory, then Reinhard will be there to seduce them. And as long as there are blood soaked battlefields, the towing silhouette of the judge will be there to lead men to their doom.
  2. Like
    Bolverk reacted to Zalor for a blog entry, The Function of Ellipses in VNs   
    VNs sometimes get criticized for their overuse of the ellipse (…). And I suppose I'll start my defense of the use of ellipses in VNs, by extending an olive branch. VNs do misuse the ellipse to an astounding degree, and I have an interesting little anecdote demonstrating this point. In college, me and some friends decided to spend a Friday night getting drunk and reading the worst VNs we could find. We stumbled upon Gender Bender DNA Twister Extreme. There is a LOT wrong with this VN, but a glaringly consistent detail of bad writing we all noticed was the excessive use of ellipses. After we all collectively noticed and pointed out how often ellipses were being used, we decided to start counting every instance of an ellipse we spotted. Keep in mind, they had already been used plenty before we even started to count. Before we even reached a total playtime of 1 hour, we counted over 100 uses of ellipses, and gave up counting after that. I share this anecdote for two reasons. Firstly, as a petty example that Gender Bender DNA Twister Extreme is horrible and I almost want to say it has no right to exist. And secondly that overall I am in agreement that ellipses do get misused often in VNs. So I am not entirely attacking this point of criticism, but I do think that many who do champion this specific criticism of VN writing miss one very important function that the ellipses achieves in VN writing, that it can't achieve in traditional print.
    The written word as it is presented in VNs is transient. With each click you typically receive one line at a time. And after a certain point all the lines disappear and you are greeted with fresh words from the top of the screen if NVL, or the top of the dialogue box if ADV. Furthermore often (though not always), sentences aren't displayed whole at once. But rather they get displayed in a sort of typewriter effect. This means that regardless of whether the narrative is in past tense or present tense, the occurrence of the text and the story to the reader will always be in the present. Character dialogue, internal monologues, narrative descriptions, it is all being presented to us in real time.
    A book on the other hand has everything written out and open to display. You can scan the whole page as well as the next page, and you have equal access to every page of the book at any given time. Want to skip to the ending? Well the medium can't stop you. This is not true of VNs. You can fast-forward, but you can't just skip to the end. The only way you can typically access specific parts of a VN is by creating a save point and therefore being able to load it up whenever you want. But you only have that option for everything you already read, you can't just pick and load sections you haven't experienced yet. Because for all intense and purposes, that's in the future. It hasn't happened yet. In other words, there is a sense of time in how the narrative of a VN gets expressed.
    Well in VNs, the ellipse can be used to demarcate time and expression. In this way, VNs can literally show the passage of time, without having to tell it. And I always thought the golden rule of writing was “show don't tell”, in this function the ellipse is being used optimally to show and not tell.
    Here is an example of how I would write a certain passage if I were writing it for a book/short-story, and then I will proceed to rewrite it for a VN.
    “I don't know about that,” she briefly paused while biting her lip, “you sure it will be okay?”
    Visual Novel coded in Renpy:
    “I don't know about that...{w=1.5} you sure it will be okay?”
    The {w=1.5} is a wait command in Renpy that pauses the text for 1.5 seconds before resuming the rest of the line. Without having to tell the reader “she briefly paused”, we literally showed the pause by manipulating the speed in which the text gets displayed. The ellipse helps signal to the reader that the character is hesitating to express her thoughts, while the {w=1.5} command is running in the background.
    Now if the detail of “biting her lip” is also important to you. You would have to script things slightly differently, but you could make it that after the ellipse her sprite changes and bites her lip and you hold on that image for 1.5 seconds, before transitioning back to her previous expression and continue the text. So now you not only showed her hesitation and the gap in time it took for her to finish her thought, but you also showed her expression change. This is a way you can “show and not tell” with VNs that you could never achieve when writing for traditional print media.
  3. Like
    Bolverk reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Tamayura Mirai   
    Tamayura Mirai is the latest game by Azurite, the company behind Shinsou Noise and Akumade Kore wa.  Unlike the previous two, it is not a guro mystery.  Instead, it is a fantasy with an extremely similar setting to Monobeno (which had a great setting, even if the lolicon elements were outright disgusting).  It also shares a writer (Touta) with such excellent games as Kin'iro Loveriche, Floral Flowlove, Gin'iro Haruka, and Ojousama wa Gokigen Naname.  
    Before I go any further, I want to speak as to why I compared the setting to Monobeno.  Fukano, the town/valley in which the story is set, is a backwater where youkai, humans, and deities coexist.  Folk traditions, such as deities within the home, are still alive and well, if not entirely understood (the death of the last folk shaman in the area ensured that, from what is said).  The protagonist's role is very similar to the role of the miko in Monobeno (keeping harmony and balance between the supernatural and mortal), and, though the younger generation isn't, a certain level of superstition remains in the older generation.  In addition, the protagonist's choice to live isolated in the mountains in a run-down and modified old Japanese school (think the school from Higurashi no Naku Koro ni) also echoes the isolation of the protagonist's home in Monobeno.  That said, the atmosphere in the game isn't as severe as Monobeno's, though the protagonist's 'duty' is harrowing at times.
    All that said, this is definitely its own game.  The general atmosphere is a bit somber, and the characters all have some kind of serious problem that leaves them a lot less at peace than they seem on the surface (the protagonist included).  The protagonist is a mage who wields runic magic (Norse shamanic style), and he has the role of keeping peace the mixed-origin supernatural community of Fukano, the setting.  He lives in an abandoned school in the mountains with a succubus named Midari, who has the dual problems of being afraid of men and deeply fearing her own nature (though her upbringing shows through at the oddest times).  At the school he attends, he frequently meets with a water spirit information broker named Hanako (one of the heroines).  Occasionally, he meets up with his oppai-loli 'oneechan' (who is very childish and has a really poorly-executed accent that just comes off all wrong in the VA...). 
    The story begins with his encounter with Yukina, a girl with naturally high levels of spiritual energy who is completely untrained (and is thus a danger to herself and everyone around her, since youkai and monsters can gain power by eating such people, and others make assumptions about what she can do based on her spiritual power).  I won't go into details about their meeting, because this is a game best experienced the first time without too many preconceptions.
    This is essentially a nakige, and it does a pretty good job of bringing out the tears.  The protagonist's duty often brings him into contact with situations where he must deal with various tragedies, sometimes from the present, sometimes from the past.  His own previous life isn't exactly bright and flowery either, lol.  The protagonist has a tendency to see himself as weak and selfish, but he has a seemingly endless capacity for getting obsessed with solving other people's problems... which actually makes him perfect for his work (considering the nature of the mountain deity and certain hints given during the common route, it is pretty clear that he was given his role specifically because of that tendency). 
    The heroine routes, quite naturally, focus on the issues with the heroines... to be specific, dealing with the issues that bother them the most deeply.  Equally quite naturally, the first heroine I picked was Midari, the succubus.
    Midari is a member of the succubus nobility who was exiled from her homeland because of her fear of men and inability to feed properly (essentially have sex with men...and lots of them, preferably).   Worse (from her perspective), she fell in love with the protagonist on their first meeting, thus dooming her in the eyes of her people and filling her with a constant conflict between her impulses and her love for the protagonist.
    Midari has a very gentle and refined manner, and she has the grace that one would expect from a noblewoman...  However, on occasion, she makes remarks (usual casual references to sex acts or her sisters and mother's sluttiness) that reveal rather blatantly that she isn't human and her basic upbringing wasn't either.  Her path is all about dealing with her internal conflict and its real-world consequences... and this leads to a lot of nice emotional drama and a decent catharsis... though, to be honest, the cathartic scenes two-thirds of the way through the common route were better.
    For those who understand the reference, yes Hanako does hang around in the girls' toilet.  Hanako is a water youkai that came over from China six hundred years before the story began and eventually rose to become one of the top figures of all the water youkai in Fukano.  She is actually pretty powerful, and she serves as an information broker for Mutsuki (the protagonist) as he performs his duty as the Mage of Fukano. 
    Hanako's route is a weird one and it isn't as emotional as Midari's route was.  To be honest, a large part of the reason why is that the relationship part starts really quickly and feels somewhat forced...  Hanako has a reason to like Mutsuki, but Mutsuki doesn't really have a good reason to fall in love with her, so it feels weird.  This is in opposition to Midari, who has been at his side for some time when the story began and is insanely devoted to his well-being (not to mention sexy and graceful at the same time, lol).  This route could have been handled much better by using a tactic similar to the Midari route, where they become closer during the course of him carrying out his duties... unfortunately, the way the route was handled was sadly inept for such a potentially interesting heroine.
    Yukina is a young woman with a natural gift for the use of spiritual power (so much so that she can attack youkai with her bare hands and blasts of raw energy).  Her characterization is a straight out tsundere, so anyone who reads this VN with some experience with the character type will probably be able to predict her reactions in most situations.  I started laughing at a few points when she said something so typically tsundere that I couldn't believe any writer would still use the lines...lol
    Yukina's route is all about her personal issues, both her past and her present ones.  I do feel that this route's romance was far too hurried (like Hanako's) in the sense that their relationship should have had more time to develop into something deeper before things began to accelerate.  
    That said, the actual events after the romance solidifies are well-written and described, and you gain a lot more insight into Mutsuki's motivations and the depth of his personality than you do in the other paths.  I recommend this path be read after the other two heroines available at the beginning, simply because the revelations made here are too overarching to allow you to truly enjoy the other paths without reservation.
    Shiro is the protagonist's loli-oppai oneechan, who speaks with a weird houben (regional accent) that is poorly used by the VA to the point of being wince-worthy (yes, this is worth mentioning again).  
    Shiro and Mutsuki's issues are the core of everything that has shaped Mutsuki to be the person he is.  As such, it was only natural that Shiro would end up as the true path heroine... indeed, her path begins after the end of a non-romantic Yukina path.  I'm not going to spoil what those issues are, but I should note that Shiro was the motivation that drove Mutsuki to become a magus. 
    In the setting, magi are seekers of forbidden truths, similar in some ways to the magi of the Nasuverse save that they don't seem to have a large-scale organization or influence on the mundane world.  As such, they frequently take actions that are amoral in the pursuit of their path of research, and many naturally think in ways that are out of sync with humanity.   The Mage of Fukano is a rare exception, in that the deities of Fukano have made a role for the holder of the position in the natural existence of the valley and mountains.
    Mutsuki's path of research is about as immoral as it gets, even if he still has a conscience and his motivations come from a very human place.  As such, it takes a central role in the major dilemma of the path, as anyone who has read Yukina's path would guess anyway. 
    In the end, this was the path (other than the common route) which drew out the most tears from me.  Shiro and Mutsuki's story is full of sorrow but ends with joy, so I can honestly say this falls into the classic 'nakige' style. 
    I have a few things left I want to say before bowing out on this game.  First, I wanted a Feles (Mephistopheles) route, since Feles is ridiculously deredere (in a yandere way) over the protagonist.  Another issue is that I thought that leaving the protagonist's deeper issues out of Midari's and Hanako's paths was something of a poor choice.  Yukina is presented as a mirror to the protagonist as well as a heroine, so it is understandable that she would play such a vital role for setting up the true path.  However, I felt that failing to properly deal with his personal issues in either of those two paths was a mistake.  Mutsuki does have VERY serious issues that can't really be glossed over... not to mention that I seriously doubt Midari's issues would end just with what we saw in the path (living with a succubus in a state of perpetual near-starvation will inevitably have its ups and downs). 
  4. Like
    Bolverk reacted to kivandopulus for a blog entry, DiaboLiQuE / -デアボリカ- [Alice Soft]   
    Foreword: I don't believe Alice Soft - they can only make eroge and bakage. But this game was highly praised overseas. Who knows, maybe it's the game that can overcome my aversion.

    Title: Diabolique
    Developer: Alice Soft
    Date: 1998-05-28
    VNDB link:https://vndb.org/v2261

     Synopsis: In this world, here are two kinds of intelligent beings. One are humans and the other are Diaboliques. Diaboliques possess power, violence, intelligence, and eternal life. Their life form was categorized into four levels, the lowest division lacking intelligence, reproduction ability and beauty and the fourth being very intelligent and able to change form.
    For thousands of years, human race has been suppressed by the danger of diabolique. However, a legend has passed on through generation that there's diabolique that kills its own species. This diabolique was Azulite - one of the only five Lord Diabolique (the ones of highest category). Being known as the "species killer," Azulite has come up to kill diaboliques. At here, he met a girl named Letticia. Her innocence and tragic background has attracted Azulite, and soon Azulite fell in love with her. However, the two lovers were separated after Letticia was killed. They promised to see each other when she was reincarnated. Carrying with the promise, Azulite once again set off on a journey looking for Letticia.

    Structure: There are roughly five big parts corresponding to five different time periods.
    Length: 16 hours
    Game type: Command selection adventure
    Difficulty: Easy. Story is one way road and bad ends are possible only if make a bad decision in battle. Even then the game kindly suggests to load from the beginning of the battle rather than finding your earlier savegame.
    Character Design rating: 8/10
    Protagonist rating: 10/10
    Story rating: 10/10
    Game quality: 9/10
    Overall rating: 10/10

    Rating comments: Two games in a row with a 10/10... either my standards are that low or the games are that good. I actually stand for the latter. My only complain to game quality is that it's not voiced and music only lasts for couple minutes and fades before the next scene is reached. And I did not particularly like the way the five Lord Diaboliques were presented. We get short scenes with them between the main Azurite story parts and only by the mids of fifth final part we're told their names and their governing elements. So through the game they are just random guys and when we get acquainted to them, there's already a climax part pending. I'd like to get more of Lord Diabolique characters.

    Protagonist: Azurite is absolutely fabulous as a protagonist. He lost most of his memory, but he knows that he's the strongest of Lord Diaboliques. He remembers he's searching for something and wanders around killing his kin and getting food and shelter for that. He travels in a human form and he looks like a very tall elf with his long hair, slender body and big sword. But in this cruel world drowned in blood he's the only gentelman. He's very polite, kind, good-mannered and modest. He never drawn his sword against any human no matter how bad he's bullied or hunted (well, not in human state at least he-he). And he's a one-woman man. From the moment he met Leticia in humiliating conditions he felt a deep sympathy towards her. He's never laid an eye on any other woman and when one woman throughout the story tried to force herself on him, his manhood could not react at all. He's very loyal and that makes the story unique. Well, he's quite sensitive too and he can afford to cry when he's with Leticia. He's a great cook and at mornings he always greets Leticia in an apron and with a ladle inviting her to have breakfast. 
    Characters: Each of the five story parts has its own set of characters. I adore party adventures and story part 2 and 3 were about adventuring in two different parties and that was absolutely cool. I really liked those different party members with fancy characters, but they don't play significant role. Only Leticia follows throughout all the parts (actually, even she's absent in one part) and enemies. There is also Aria girl that has an important role in 4th and 5th story parts, so let's look at those two girls.

    Leticia: Well... she's different. Part 1 shows us canonical abused scary girl. Part 2 is an absolutely different, bold and picky personality and a different appearance. Part 3 is again totally different from those two, but I would not like to spoil here. In Part 4 she's absent and in Part 5 she's basically canonical Leticia again, but she remembers all the previous reincarnations as well. Well, she's quite a typical heroine like in many single heroine stories. Sensitive scared crybaby who knows next to nothing about the world and that gives Azurite an opportunity to act protective and teach her basic facts about the world. But as for me, Part 2 and Part 3 Leticia reincarnations are much cooler, totally different personalities and great stories.

    Aria: She's a usual native Indian girl, curious and brave. She recovers Azurite body when he falls into a trap and takes care of him while he recovers. But Azurite falls into the same trap for the second time (well, he's not wisest man) and she dies stepping up and getting all the blows that were ment for Azurite. That's an inevitable spoiler because there's not point discussing Aria as human. Azurite makes a misfortune (intelligent creation) of her she stays protecting those ruins and waiting for Azurite. Well, that's the biggest charm about this girl. She's becomes a killing machine, but she regains her memories - she looses humanity, but she has intelligence and senses. She's condemned to wait for Azurite for hundreds years in that dark den and eventually he comes... not alone, but with Leticia. There's a very touching scene of jealousy risen inside Aria towards Leticia and that and her damned fate make her a very memorable character.

    Story: Story is superb throughout first four story parts. There's a lot of diabolique fights, lots of death, lots of adventuring. Part 2 and 3 features adventuring inside two different parties and that's just the best moments of the game. Part two is also a perfect slice of life on top of that. So we get to know Leticia in part 1 and eventually lose her. In part 2 after 60 years we discover her soul in a different girl and eventually lose her. At this point I already thought I knew what would happen in leftover parts. But part 3 is totally shocking - there's no Azurite in it, there's no Leticia in it - main three characters are a pub girl, a huge warrior woman and pub girl's brother who wishes to go adventuring and joins that huge warrior woman. For two hours the story lingers and you start to put up with the fact that's it's a totally different story when - BAM - Azurite appears in a totally unexpected way - BAM - Leticia appears and the chapter shortly ends. Ok... now I adjusted my expectations and the leftover stories were bound to be the same Azurite is searching for Leticia, but in other humans forms, easy as that. And fourth chapter gives another shock - there's Azurite in his usual for throughout the whole chapter, but Leticia does not make appearance in this chapter at all - not her soul, pretty much nothing! Just wow. So fifth chapter should finally be about meeting of two heroes, right? NOT. For one and a half hour you watch a slice of life about 7-year old reincarnated Leticia and her 7-year old friends. And I'd like to assure you that watching a slice of life about 7-year old first graders is not fun in any way - that was the most torturing part of the game. But fifth part is the longest one (about 5 hours long), so there is enough time for heroes union and new confrontation setting and final resolution. I'll tackle the fifth chapter in Themes more.
    CG: There's a lot of CG, actually. I'm totally satisfied by is quantity and quality. Here are some gore CG for the taste of it. There's a lot of CG, actually. I'm totally satisfied by is quantity and quality. Here are some gore CG for the taste of it.


    HCG: Believe it or not, but there are only two and a half hentai scenes in the game. Two scenes for 16 hour long gameplay. I'm sorry, is this really Alice Soft? Well, it is. In order to make up with just two H-scenes there are a lot of half-naked/naked shots. A lot of enemies are drawn the way to amplify eroticism. There are a lot of flashbacks and occasional nudity scenes, so don't worry, it's very much Alice Soft, just adapted to fit the pure love eternal reincarnation story. And the only Azurite and Leticia H event is one of the most memorable in my gaming experience. There's no music and no voice during that. Only the rising and fainting gusts of wind are heard. The scene is maid as manga scrolling strips overlapping each other with up to 4 small screens deployed at one time. Very beautiful and touching.

    Sound: Sound is my biggest complain. I'm used to unvoiced games, that's ok. But each bgm fades after some two minutes and during the rest of the scene there's dead silence so I really often had to check whether I forgot to turn on sound or something. Actually, there are also nice sound effects during actions, but everyday life scenes lack them a lot.

    Themes: So first four chapters were pretty much brainless merry adventures with some sad resolutions. I loved those the most. But then came final fifth chapter and game suddenly turned into a nakige. The great diabolique/human war broke out and our heroes are hunted from both sides as well as by four Lord Diabolique. Leticia shakes in hysteria crying that's she's tired of running and hiding asking to leave her alone. Azurite is totally depressed as well because he can't give anything besides his feelings to the woman he loves. Those are very depressing scenes that last throughout the whole fifth chapter. But at the same time a lot of serious questions are raised.
    1) Time brings change. Leticia was hiding in the forests with Azurite for 11 years and now she's 18 and she's tired, she wants a normal life. Feelings alone aren't a solid basis of relations.
    2) What's better - to reincarnate, lose memory and start anew or to keep on living? Surprisingly, I feel like the game says that reincarnating even with memory loss is much better. First four chapters are a vivid example of it. It used to be a great romance story, but once heroes got together and Leticia turned 18 things have changed. She'll soon get old and die of boredom in the forest. Bearing the burden of past lives memory is already difficult. So when fire kings visits her alone in the forest and suggests to wipe her memory she's pretty much ready for both memory wipe and even death and reincarnation since reality has turned into such a heavy burden.
    3) What's good and what's evil? Diabolique Lords are almighty cruel creatures that enslave humans, but with the story flow we start to see their characters, their griefs, their losses and they aren't seen as evil anymore. Humans used to be on losing side, but with the invention of firearms the balance shifted and humans started to kill even 24 Diaboliques getting very close to hunting Diabolique Lords. While diaboliques mostly used humans for sex pleasures, humans started to torture diaboliques just for the sake of revenge and those tortures were inhumane. At fifth chapter we're given the ultimate choice - shall we support the Diabolique Lords or shall we keep on hiding and fighting diaboliques. Supporting Diabolique Lords leads us to the first game ending with Azurite regained memories and power of Lord Diabolique of darkness and Leticia happily living with him. This is not a true ending, but I don't see it as a bad ending either. Humans with their lowly desires are hardly better than diabliques. While they were weak, they used to humiliate their own kin. And the story of Leticia in Part 1 is a vivid example of that. Now they got the power and they start to torture and humiliate even diabolique gods. Under diabolique lords dominance the Earth survived for thousands of years and they never really cared much about the humans, never tried to wipe them. And there's big question whether the human dominance going to be better. Azurite understands that and he chooses the third way. No spoilers.
    Humor: I don't really need humor to enjoy the story, but it can be a very nice addition to the story. In this game those seldom humor moments present were of Alice Soft bakage heritage. Here's one example of its "humor". Chapter 2 Leticia takes Azurite's clothes and gets to wash it while Azurite sits covered with a blanket. He wants to get breakfast and set coffee, but Leticia notices that it's dangerous and he could get a scorch. Azurite suggests that he wears an apron to prevent that. -But you don't have anything to wear, all your clothes is being washed! -I can wear an apron as I am! -NO! PLEASE! NO WAY!

    Overall comments: Atlach-Nacha was the first game of Alice Soft to shake my beliefs in Alice Soft as a sucky company. But it's Diabolique that made me surrender and shake off all the grunts. Diabolique is really an astonishing adventure and pure love story. It's ever surprising, mysterious nature keeps the thrill on all the time and I finished this 16 hour story in just two sittings. It has plenty of touching moments and an ultimately satisfactory ending. It's a waste to bury such story just because the game is old, has command selection gameplay and meciocre sound support. You can always glimpse on the game through my video playthrough as well.

  5. Like
    Bolverk reacted to fun2novel for a blog entry, The best most epic most awesome JRPG ever made!   
    A lot of people kept asking me where have I’ve been and why haven’t I updated my blog in the past 4 months. The reason is that I hit a rock bottom, I was in a huge slump from games and vns and any stories in general. It is all because of one single game that I played at the time, Hoshi o Miru Hito also known as Stargazer for the ancient but beloved Nintendo Famicom system. It wasn’t simply a game it was an experience. The knowledge that nothing like this has ever been made before and since the game’s release brought a sense of emptiness and depression on me. These past months I couldn’t get into anything, no book was good enough, no vn was able to grab me, no anime was entertaining, no game was fun anymore. I just couldn’t do anything anymore. This happens very rarely to me and I can count on one hand the stories that made me feel this way but even then it didn’t take me so long to recover. I don’t even know if I can make this game justice by writing about it, everything I write and everything I read looks like shit these days anyway but I also feel like this is something I have to tell people about. It makes me even sadder to know that almost no one knows that this game exists and as time flies the game has less and less chance of being discovered by a new generation of gamers and maybe eventually fade into the ether of empty dark void of obscurity. I don’t know if I’ll ever come back to playing other games or even be able to enjoy any other kind of story in any medium not only video games or jrpgs, visual novels or even books and movies. That is what Hoshi o Miru Hito left me feeling and I don’t see what else could fill this emptiness in me so I might as well just give up on everything right now. Where should I go now and how am I going to move on with my life when there is nothing that comes even close to a game like Hoshi o Miru Hito. I used to think I know what a good story is and there are some that I kept really close to my heart. Stories that moved me, got me thinking, taught me so much, and inspired me to write and use my creativity to create, build, and grow. What am I do? I guess you want to know what brought me to this state so let me tell you all about it. I hope you’ll listen to my story and some day try to play Hoshi o Miru Hito on your own and maybe I’ll have someone else to discuss a game nobody seems to know about. So here we go, let’s begin with my review. Not exactly review, I guess just an opinion piece but whatever. Let’s begin!
    Play the game without a walkthrough. This is the first thing I want to tell people who decide to play this masterpiece. It is an old jrpg from the first Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy era and it has some of those gameplay conventions however it mostly avoids it with original take on similar old ideas. I say old ideas but at the time those ideas were still fresh in games so if you think about it even for its time Hoshi o Miru Hito broke new grounds by refusing to do things the traditional way. Having said that you do need to grind but not as much as its contemporaries and usually you’ll know when you need to grind. The game does a great job giving gamers an idea when is a good time to grind and for how long. But don’t get discouraged since there is so much more to the game than grinding. So take your time with the game you won’t be able to rush through anyway because there is a lot of story here get through and you should take your time enjoy the characters and what they are going through. Have fun reading the mental witty dialogue between them and the very profound narration and descriptive sentences. It all flows so naturally you won’t even notice how everything jells into each other from plot to backstory to info dumping and back to plot. The game never puts the player in an unfair unforgiving game braking frustrating situations like most jrpgs of that era and at every point it also maintains an amazing pace between story and gameplay sections so you never get tired of one or the other. It’s as if the game was play tested and polished for over 10 years and if that’s true then the game is even more ahead of its time. No two words about it, the developers should be celebrated every year for making this wonderful game. There should be a Hoshi o Miru Hito holiday or something. Well, maybe not. But it damn sure would have been cool to celebrate every year.
    Roughly speaking the story is the biggest attraction of Hoshi o Miru Hito and it is about 90% make up of the entire game. Even right from the very first minute the story hooks you and throws you and the characters on an unbelievable journey of discovery, love, tragedy, loss, comedy, irony, growth, coming of age, despair, mystery, mind screws, life, philosophy and whatnot. It is difficult to categorize the story into a single genre because there is so much happening it is genre transcending in a scope beyond what can be encompassed in a single genre. At its core this is a science fiction story and it’s as hard as they come, I mean there will be long and awesome info dumps about pretty much every relevant topic you can think of, everything from genetics, neural energy, psychological effects of going through therapeutic ecological deformation, different kinds of bacteria, nano technological medicine, self replicating soils capable of separating themselves from earth and form their own planets, historical and futuristic philosophies, the Schrödinger equation (they give the best explanation I have every read), viruses transferred through light, microbiology, ecology and its effects on environmental evolutionary perpetual life igniting systems, financial markets, complex mathematics, quantum entanglement, super symmetry, super position, anti-gravity physics, particle physics, liquid and rigid body physics, astrophysics, skin discoloring light projectors, movie books and newspapers, molecular mutations, and it goes on and on. I could feel an entire encyclopedia with every new technical term the game throws at you and that’s just terms if I was to write down every info dump then we would be here forever until maggots will feed on your raw stinky rotting carcass when your bones turn to ash and we won’t stop until the year 3000 rolls along and maybe not even then. But the game doesn’t have a TIPS system unfortunately so if you want to review some terms you won’t be able to so you better either write things down or remember or you can just do nothing and simply enjoy the story. It is unfathomable how they even fit so much text into so little space because nothing short of some math genius could come up with such a sophisticated fast and powerful algorithm that even Google couldn’t come up with. At a time when games struggled with telling stories developers couldn’t fit much text in a game so much of the story was delegated to the game’s manual but here we have a game with so much text and it’s all in there, in the game and nothing story related is in the manual. The game also never had any extra printed materials like art or fan books. Not even an anime or novel adaptation. It’s probably for the better because an adaptation would butcher the wonderful writing and prose.
    If you thought this was all then there is even more. The characters will be having lengthy and profound discussions about deep philosophical and transcendental issues relevant even today. Many questions will be raised (some will be answered) such as what is life, what is a true death, has the universe just came to be or is there a grand design, do we have the right to evolve our biology and technology, should we simply live not concerning ourselves other than procreating, are souls real, does life even has a meaning (the game will give you an answer and it’s not what you expect), evil really exists or just a different perspective. Throughout the game you’ll face many of these topics and trust me when I say this is less than 10% of what is covered in this story. The most surprising thing is how the game handles each theme and topic. By not just giving you long (but fascinating and never boring) info dumps it actually shows you how things play out throughout the story. Why and how ecology can shape life’s existence. How a change in one branch of quantum physics led to a new prophesized philosophy which in turn change some scientific beliefs and led to huge evolutionary jumps so much so that eventually people started developing ESP powers. It goes really deep into how ESP works and the inner workings of the ESP developed brains. I won’t be surprised if one of the writers has 3 PHDs in Neuroscience. Thankfully you don’t need to be a PHD yourself as the game goes to extreme lengths to make things clear and easy to swallow as possible. One wonders if the developers knew they are making a game for adults because it’s all a bit too heavy for children to read and understand. You can turn off the long expositions and info dumping in the options screen but you’ll be missing so much good stuff I don’t recommend you do it. Besides, when you turn it off you loose on the story’s great pacing since the information is very very carefully spoon fed to you almost entirely pre-calculated when, how, and how much stuff is revealed to you at every single moment. It’s not an easy style of writing to master but somehow the game manages to avoid the usual clichés and pacing destroying slowdown dragging in the mud unbearable  game breaking issues with unsatisfying game play to story ratio.
    Largely the story is scientifically sound with most of it real existing or theoretical science having been proven and came into existence. But the writers didn’t shy from diving into pseudo science and sometimes even adding fantasy elements as well. Things like ESP are obviously in the realm of pseudo science and not something we can confirm by any scientific theory or do an exact experiment. However the writers put a lot of special attention to give you a plausible explanation how this might possibly work and they do that with a straight and serious face and you as a reader are compelled to believe that yeah this is real science right here. There is no hand waving and suspension of disbelief every tiny idea is backed up by scientific reasoning that supplement real life theories and practices. One of the sub plots (the game is linear so all the topics are tightly waved into a single coherent story) is one of the main characters is captured and the rest of the team has to save her. The story leads into a laboratory where some crazy experiments were being conducted on humans which we later discover that through some incision into the a very tiny part of a brain (the incision is made with a thin, less than .0002 micrometer knife) a tiny machine is inserted into the brain called the GME, or Genetic Memory Extractor, as its name goes the tiny microscopic material extracted from the brain possibly contains the soul of a human and with it the entire genetic memory all the way back to the first ancestor. Yes, you just read it right. When the characters finally find their friend her condition could only be describes as a deep transelucidery state. Eventually to save her life two of the characters extract their own soul and fuse it with her to fill up what she has lost. This causes them to lose some of their own souls too. But no matter what she already lost her soul and will never get it back. This a bare minimum of that plot there is so much more going on and this is one of the least interesting least emotionally charged and least powerful events in the game. I tried to avoid spoilers as much as possible so I plucked one of the lesser parts of the game to give you an idea how much the characters have to go through before the epic finally comes to its conclusion.
    Furthermore there is so much more going on I can’t possible describe it in a single blog post. Actually I don’t think even a short summary can be less than 100 pages. And that’s if I avoid all the spoilers. The game’s long scrip unfortunately has led to some graphical and auditory compromises. The graphical tiles are somewhat repetitive at times even more than what you’re used to see in similar games like Dragon Quest. But even here the developers were clever enough make up graphics that are used in service of the story rather than just being there. There is so much detail you won’t even notice it on your first playthrough. But later you’ll notice how things are arranged in a very special way. How at first something looks like a tiled background making up the overworld but suddenly the imagery is a visual representation of the main character’s state of shattered mind. The soul searching journey incubating throughout the story will come into full view once you decide to take your time and really think about what is it the game is trying to show you. The audio took the biggest hit. Obviously they had to compromise here and it is the place where the most compromising was made. There are just too few music tracks for such a long game. Yeah the music is awesome, at least most of it but some tracks are just there. These tracks serve no purpose and it would have been better to use the resources somewhere else. Just a waste of effort in my opinion. The sound effects are a miss as well. They aren’t any better than what you get in any archaic jrpg of the era. The effects do their job so there’s no complain but with a little bit more effort they could have turned it into so much more. None of these problems ruined the experience for me in any way and I was able to get used to these sounds very quickly and with no trouble at all. The developers squeeze every single juice out of the Famicom’s cartridge and every space and memory the system has available. It was an issue of balance of how much memory they dedicate to the presentation and how much to the story and cutscenes. Anymore attention to presentation would force the developers to cut the story and any putting more effort into the story (beyond what’s already there) will probably turn the game into an interactive fiction without any images or graphics and sound. Game development pushes people to their limit but sometimes you got to sacrifice something in order to achieve a better and a more equally balanced end result.
    On the subject of actual story, it’s not possible to talk about it without showing why it is so good and what makes it so special among other jrpgs. So beware that I will discuss the story but also beware that the story is so huge and so long that I’ll barely scratch the surface. Our story begins with four young men and women waking up in the middle of what at first seems like a forest but very quickly appears to be an illusion. The only thing they know is that they don’t know who they are and they don’t remember anything. Once they enter their first town they discover a rumor about child kidnapping in the nearby forest. The children come back but they aren’t the same almost as if they are empty and soulless. The group decides to rest at an in. Before they go to sleep they decide to share everything they know or can remember about themselves. One of the female characters starts twitching unnaturally, her eyes roll back and she starts screaming some kind of number sequence. The entire group panics and tries to help her but their efforts were fruitless. Eventually she stopped and came back to her sense. She didn’t remember anything that happened just minutes before. Later than night while one of the characters taking a shower he noticed a very tiny unnatural bump in the back of his knee, he cuts it and reveals something that looks like a stone. He talks about it with the other crew and all of them seem to have the same object in the back of their knee. Next day they are asked by a woman if they saw her child, feeling pity for the woman they decide to try and find her child. This sub plot leads them discovering a strange experimental genocidal weapon. I won’t spoil this part of the game but lets just say that if you stay sane after this you’re simply not human. After the tragic event the group comes back to town only to have it destroyed by a mysterious circumstance. The story continues from there following our characters as they go on their journey of discovery and understanding of life, world, and the universe.
    Over the course of your journey with the main cast you’ll meet many other characters and everyone is fleshed out enough to feel real, even the so called bad guys aren’t bad at all and every villain has incredible depth no matter how cruel their tactics may seem to you. It almost feel unnatural how all these people feel like they are living breathing personas as if you knew them your whole life. This is a mastery of writing shining through and through in this game. Some characters you meet only exist during a single sub plot and side quest but they are all unforgettable. One subplot involves a female mechanic who lives a lonely life but later we discover she was the one who developed the Rociter Feractic Ensimenal Propulsion system used by almost every flying craft in the world. She lost her first son when an experiment went wrong and he got caught inside the machine. Her 2nd son turned into liquid when using one of the machines she built started to melt because of the wrong dosage of Hyplicyclisic Estomonigmon (in game term, basically a power liquid used instead of electricity). Her husband left her soon after the death of the second son and only a month after that he died too, when one of her machines explodes and kills him along with other 200 people. In another part of the plot the characters enter the 4th dimension in search of God, it’s quite an amazing journey and it’s the best depiction of the fourth dimension I have ever seen, they way they visualize the world through and it was simply brilliant. The story is not all tragic and horrifying of course. There are plenty of bright and happy moments that will make you feel all fluffy inside. There are also a lot of really hilarious moments as well, like that time when they all go drinking and suddenly discover than one of them is underage. Another hilarious sub plot is one of the main characters is scared of dogs (later we discover why and it will make you cry) and this leads to lots of insanely funny scenes whenever some dog shows up, one time while he is in a shower, lol. Speaking of showers, the game doesn’t shy of naughty moments either and you can peek in a women’s shower though you don’t see anything and one of the characters even gets soup in one of his eyes for a few in game hours.  
    Lastly I must talk about the ending. Don’t worry there aren’t any spoilers here but I really feel like I have to say a few things about it if only to prepare you for what’s to come. The ending is… well it is a happy ending but it won’t leave you happy. After all that the characters went through, after all the happy times and mostly dark twisted tragic heartbreaking soul wrenching events you go through, after all the deaths and carnage the happy ending is an irony of circumstances. Could you really feel happy surviving and staying alive when you paid for it with so much bloodshed and loss. Can you call yourself happy when there’s no one to share it with. The writers knew they were taking too much risks so the final scenes of the epilogue (the epilogue is only story and no gameplay and it’s 50 minutes long) try to uplift your spirits. They try to give you hope and to look into the future, to live a better life, to become a better human being. But the question still remains is it all worth it in the end. The many twists and turns the story took, the unexpected deaths, the bloodshed, the slaughter, the warm happy, and the hilarious moments, the pains most of the characters go through and the tragic end to it all will be hard on some of you. Even if the ending tries very hard to be happy the memories leading up to will prevent you from smiling, only tears will be welcomed, only tears.
    So I hope this gave you a small idea why I couldn’t recover for months after playing Hoshi o Miru Hito. I’m still not fully recovered. Hoshi o Miru Hito is the most grand and epic story with a huge all encompassing scope and the best story ever told in any jrpg.  No in any video game. No, best story every told in any medium ever invented by a man. As a side note, there is a hack for the game to change up the graphics and balance the gameplay but it completely misses the point of the original meaning. There is also a modern 16-bit style remake made by fans of the game but without spoiling it I just want to say that there is a reason why the game works best in its original form and a remake cannot live up to the original in any way. Why would anyone even want to remake and redo a perfect masterpiece anyway it’s not like people who played it wished for it and the rest don’t even know it exists. It’s like taking a Mona Lisa painting and remaking it to have a better smile and blue eyes and maybe a blond hair and a flower garden in the backgroun and a blimp in the sky. You don’t tinker with classics and not when they are already so much as perfect as Hoshi o Miru Hito.
  6. Like
    Bolverk reacted to Tyrosyn for a blog entry, Introduction   
    This is an introductory post and since I probably don't have to introduce myself anymore (you already know me ), I guess I advertise my future blog texts instead.
    Tyrviews are not reviews. Instead of writing reviews, I'm more interested in discussing and exploring the themes of an eroge and talking about all the related topics like the writing, the tropes or the history of eroge or the Japanese entertainment industry in general. I might also talk about anime, j-dorama, games, movies, books or JAVs.
    I'm sure you will find something new or interesting when you read my articles. You may not necessarily agree with what I have to say (and if you find the strong urge to comment, please do so, and you can be sure I will respond), but I'm certain you will find at least some new ideas worth thinking about.
    When I write about a certain topic I’m interested in, I'm often using specific products (which inspired me to think and write about this subject in the first place) and these will serve as an example to verify the points I make.
    With that said, unless I explicitly state that a Tyrview contains spoilers, it won’t. However, I might give away some directions a certain game will take. Nothing, you wouldn’t also find on the official website, but if you are like me and you would rather read an eroge without any a priori knowledge, it might be better if you come back later after you have finished the game in question.
    The first blog text will be about my favorite games of 2016. I also have an article about Black Cyc in the pipeline since I have recently finished most of their games and am now looking forward to their newest release this month. I will probably also write my impressions about some anime I recently watched which are worth talking about.
    If there is anything you would like me to write about or you want to read my opinion on something, I will be open to suggestions.
    I will end my introduction by showing you a picture of my bathroom, so you get some value out of this pointless blog post.
    Please rate it, I think it's pretty kuso which I've chosen as the theme for my toilet room. Do you get it?
    Thanks for tolerating me and happy new year~~ 
  7. Like
    Bolverk reacted to fun2novel for a blog entry, Fatal Fury Series - Part 1   
    Fatal Fury: King of Fighters

    The fighting and shmup games were the most popular genres among both the hardcore and the mainstream gamers in the 90’s. The fighting game genre can be traced way back to the 80’s but it is Capcom’s Street Fighter 2 where the storm really began. Street Fighter 2 was on a completely different scale and blew everything that came before it. Nobody thought a video game could reach this kind of amazing quality. Many companies where getting on the hype train and started to develop their next big fighter to crush the success of Capcom’s darling, many tried, very few came close. Unfortunately the genre’s popularity has dwindled to microscopic proportions mostly developed by hardcore fans for hardcore fans, it’s a small but a very loyal market and fills the void appropriately.
    Takashi Nishiyama was the man who created the very first Street Fighter when he was working at Capcom. The goal according to him was to make a game with really deep characters so they wrote a lot of detail for each character everything from what kind of foods they like to what family structure they belong to. None of that made into the game but Nishiyama wanted to make something cinematic and believed all that work helped to deepen the characters.
    At the time Capcom had three development studios with the head of the studio the sole visionary of the entire project. This didn’t sit well with Nishiyama who worked on concepts and ideas but wanted others to have the freedom to flesh out those ideas to give the work a much needed fresh and unique spin. This didn’t sit well with Capcom’s higher ups and soon after the release of Street Fighter Nishiyama’s disagreement with his supervisor led him to leave Capcom and become head of development at SNK where he had a complete freedom to work exactly how he wanted helping SNK to become Capcom’s biggest competitor. Very few made polished fighting games the way SNK did even though Capcom’s giant towering success was impossible to bring down.
    The first major project Nishiyama did was working on the Neo-Geo arcade system and was the first person to propose the idea for both the arcade and the home console systems. Arcade machines were very expensive at the time with no guarantee the arcade owners will make a return on their investment. Changing games was also a really painfully delicate process requiring the owners to tinker with the mother boards which could take a few hours of work. Piracy was also a difficult issue to handle and even led some companies to make self destructive machines if they detected something is wrong with the original game, like Capcom’s own CPS-3 machine.
    Neo-Geo tackled all these problems in a very efficient way. First it was more like a home console than a bulky arcade machine, it worked with cartridges and was as easy to change games as on an actual home console, some systems even had as many as four cartridge slots saving time on switching games. The Neo-Geo was a really powerful machine and with every year it seemed like it was getting more and more powerful, when Super Nintendo and Genesis games held 24 Megabits at most, the Neo-Geo games started at around 32 megabits and went all the way to the 700-800 megs. This was insanely huge and helped Neo-Geo be an exciting attraction with every year as each game looked, sounded, and played better than previous year enticing returning players to see what awesome new games they can try. The games cost only about $500 which is huge compared to the home consoles but are three times cheaper than most other arcade systems. The high quality of games and the cheap price helped to fight piracy and contributed to SNK’s success. There were two main versions of the system, the MVS which is the arcade system and the AES system and was a home console version. In the following years SNK released a few more consoles but none reached the incredible popularity as the AES system.
    Nishiyama’s desire to make a movie style martial arts fighting game with a story and deep characters led to the creation of some of the most interesting games in the genre. Nishiyama considers Fatal Fury as his Street Fighter 2 and had many ideas he couldn’t make work in the original Street Fighter including the character depth and a story driven game. And that is where things begin to roll in the first game in the series, a story that will span all through the entire series. Released in 1991, Fatal Fury: King of Fighters is known in Japan as Legend of the Hungry Wolf: The Battle of Destiny and will set SNK on a new path.
    In Southtown a city somewhere in America two men studied under the martial arts master Tung Fu Rue. The name of these two men were Jeff Bogard and Geese Howard. Geese had very brutal ambitions and intended to use the skills he learned to gain power over the city’s criminal business for his own gain. A rivalry start to grow between Geese and Jeff but their master continued to impart his knowledge to both. Things fell into disaster when the master chose Jeff to be his successor,  jealousy and resentment ate at Geese’s mind. Shortly after he started to gain power he confronted Jeff and killed him. The incident had a witness, Jeff’s older son Terry Bogard also known as the Hungry Wolf. Tung Fu Rue took him in and started to train him the skills he once imparted on his two students just a few years before. Jeff had another son Andy Bogard who was sent to Japan to train under a different master.  At the same time somewhere in Thailand a Japanese born young man, Joe Higashi, was training in the arts of Muay Thai. Now ten years later the three men heard about the fighting competition sponsored by Geese they decide to sign up in the hopes of defeating all his fighters and taking revenge.
    Story was very important to SNK and their early games followed strict narrative rules even if it means limiting what the player could do or which characters can be selected. In the first Art of Fighting a single player game had only one of two characters to choose otherwise the story just didn’t work. Same thing happened in first Fatal Fury, you can only select one out of three characters because story wise it wouldn’t make sense to select the other fighters. SNK pretty quickly stopped doing that with their later games and opened the entire roster of fighters to choose from even in the single player modes.
    As you begin the game you get to choose one of three fighters, Terry Bogard, Andy Bogard, and Joe Higashi and then select your first opponent to fight against. And things continue from there. The focus on the story prevails even during the game and between the matches you’re shown what Geese is saying about you as he gets more and more angry as you get closer to winning the tournament.
    Characters are one of the most important aspects of any fighting game. The game can be very fun to play but it is the characters and their visual aesthetics  what attracts the gamers. SNK fighting games always had some of the most best character designs of any fighting game, unfortunately Fatal Fury is not one of them. Besides very few personas none of the characters are all that interesting to look at.
    Characters and animation is one of the most important aspects of a fighting game second only to gameplay and even if the gameplay is generic the characters and visual aesthetic is what gives the game its real identity and it is also the first thing that attracts gamers into putting more quarters into the arcade machine or run to the store and buy one of the console ports. Unfortunately most of the characters in this first Fatal Fury game in the series lack the visual eye pleasing attractive bright smooth clean-cut designs the kind that made Street Fighter 2 characters favorable among gamers. The three player characters, the final boss, and perhaps one more character had engaging likable designs while the rest felt like an afterthought almost as if they weren’t important enough and cast aside like worthless incompetent and completely pointless.
    With later games SNK will change their visual style and will push the limits of 2D graphics in games to the limit. However their games were also full of really unbelievable amount of details and unexpected surprises in their fighting games. Fatal Fury had a lot of these wondrous details in each character’s stages as the morning will turn to dusk and the dusk will turn to night after each round. This might not sound that neat but unlike today’s 3D games where you can just adjust the lighting and change from day to night just by changing the color a light and with today’s physically based shading changing the lighting is a snap, however in older 2D games the artists had to recolor each stage from scratch to fit each time of the day and since each stage has at least three different color schemes it means there are three different color renditions for every stage.
    In Tun Fu Rue’s stage the first round starts at an early evening with lightning flashing in the sky way in the distance and in the 2nd and 3rd rounds the characters will be fighting under a heavy rain. The Capoeira master’s Richard Myer stage has light railings on the ceiling where he can hang of and do his special rotating kicks which can be hard to avoid because of Richard’s long legs. In Hwa Jai’s stage when he has less than 75% of health one of the spectators will thrown him a bottle and he will leap up grabbing the bottle then drink it and become berserk, all in the middle of a fight. That spectator, it turns out, under Geese’s employ. Billy Kane fights with a red cane and if you brake it or if he throws it at you but fails to catch it back then after one of the spectators will throw him a new cane. Billy Kane’s stage also has this truck on either side of the stage and if he kicks you in that direction you’ll actually land on the truck and bounce off it as the truck shaking off and tries to straighten itself. It’s these cool details that set the game apart from the rest.
    Oh but the fun doesn’t stop here. If another player joins in then instead of interrupting the fight and having a player vs. player battle the 2nd player will actually join you in a 2 against 1 co-op battle. This  evolutionary gameplay idea was unfortunately never used again and even never tried by anyone else. The tag team gameplay might have spawned of off Fatal Fury but with tag team you switch between characters on the fly while in Fatal Fury you two players controller their characters at the same time. It seems that not even Fatal Fury knew what to do with this because once you defeat the enemy the game forces the players to fight against each other and the whoever wins will sadly continue to progress through the game the game alone unless the 2nd player throws in another quarter into the machine. Perhaps that was the real intention.
    With only  one button for punching, one button for kicking, and one button for grabbing and throwing your enemies, the gameplay appears to be deceptively simple but this three button setup provide for a lot of complexity and a great volume of attacks and special moves to execute. The characters can also fight on a different depth plane. One character might escape another’s attack by jumping into further back it to the background plane. This is something that was done only in Fatal Fury and if felt like there is a sense of depth to the environment while the characters hop from plane to plane dogging their opponents while at the same time trying to find the best opening to hit that one winning kick and end the round.
    There are also bonus stages like in Street Fighter 2, the first Street Fighter had bonus stages too, however in Fatal Fury it is disappointing to see the same stage repeating without any sort of variety. The bonus stages themselves are an arm wrestling game against an a digitized opponent the player just needs to mash the A button repeatedly and hope for the best. It’s fun the first time but some variety would have been good for the player to chill after a long series of fights.
    Fatal Fury: King of Fighters could not stand on equal grounds with Street Fighter 2’s visual fidelity, catchy upbeat music, great characters and gameplay, and it is not even one of SNK’s better games but it was a beginning, their first steps on the road to becoming the king of fighting games as each new game would get better on all aspects with polished graphics, sound, controls, gameplay with an unmatched comprehensive experience.
    Fatal Fury 2

    Released only a year after the first game, Fatal Fury 2 started to show the direction SNK will be going for in production and design quality. The game is much bigger this time around with a bigger and more interesting character roster with improved and additional gameplay elements from the original released only a year before.
    This time around SNK dropped the story limiting character choices from the original and decided to have all the fighters available for the choosing right from the start. There are 8 characters to choose from instead of 3, and each one has an appropriate fighting style and a distinct personality. The new characters will turn up to be some of SNKs most popular characters like the Tae-Kwon-Do practitioner Kim Kaphwan and the fan favorite the kunoichi, a female ninja, Mai Shiranui.

    The gorgeous knock out red ninja, Mai Shiranui will become SNKs most memorable and most popular character of all time. Being SNKs first female fighter she was give a very special attention by the designers and made her a conspicuously eye catching seductive full of sex appeal and is one of the most well recognized fictional women in history. People who never even played the games know who Mai Shiranui is and can instantly pinpoint who she is. Her design is a combination of two previously completely different incomplete work in progress characters for Fatal Fury 2, one was a male ninja and the other a female Japanese pop idol.
    "the character wears a revealing outfit that accentuates her buttocks and displays large amounts of cleavage” Entertainment Software Rating Board.

    The inspiration for her great assets comes from two pop idols Fumie Hosokawa and Ai Iijima, one inspired the breasts the other the ass respectively. Her sexuality and jiggling is  keeping true to the stories and legends of kunoichi, the female ninjas as they used their sexuality to accomplish dangerous life threatening missions.
    “One day, Mai's designer asked me if they could add some more animation for Mai's resting pose (aka 'neutral' pose, when the player is not taking any action). I thought we still had a little extra memory left (in fact, we did not) so I quickly said "Go ahead." When the designer came back with that 'swaying bosom', it was so amazing that it left us awestruck, jaws agape. By the way, we had to censor that animation for the overseas console release.” The King of Fighters '94 development staff interview, All About KOF'94.

    Dimmed too sexual for her own good she was also a character who will get the most flack and will be censored countless times for the international and some console releases. Nevertheless She remains a strong woman and the leader of an all female team from the King of Fighters crossover games. She one of SNKs most iconic mascots and she is truly one of a kind.
    Every fight in the first game took place in single location but in Fatal Fury 2 the player travels around the world to defeat his opponents. It’s a larger game in both scale and technicality as well as a more variant background graphics and cultural designs.
    The visuals now are more colorful and vibrant with really a much higher contrast between the lighter and the darker tones of the image. It still has the same art style as the first game but added color depth made the designs really pop up from the screen compared the darker and lacking style of the prequel.  In addition to new characters there are also a lot of moves and actions for each fighter however animation has not improved from the prequel and the lack of frames makes everything look jerky. There is just too much stuff going on and not enough frames to do it.
    The time of day changes between the round are still kept but the backgrounds have a lot more detail so much in fact that they some of them even look as if they took precedence over characters. Many stages are fought on a moving platform with a scrolling background images in the back showing off the wonderful drawn detailed art SNKs artists are so well known for. Cheng Sinzan’s stage is in Hong Kong and is full of dazzling nightlights almost like an eastern looking Las Vegas. Mai Shiranui’s level is on a raft floating in a river with some old drowned city and a giant drowned ancient statue scrolls by. Jubei Yamada’s stage has wall screens between the game’s 2d fighting planes and if you jump from plane to plane while the screen is in the way then the screen will shatter in our path. If you get on the plane behind the screens then the characters will be obscured by them. It’s a pretty neat thing and really shows off the creativity SNK puts in their games as well as makes the environment appear like a real place where the characters are battling.
    Another fun little thing is when the first round begins Yamada takes of his footwear, kicking one backwards and another towards the screen. Once again, it’s a neat little trick to see as one of his shoes flies towards the screen and gets bigger. He will even take out an apple and eat it in a bite or two in the middle of a fight. In Terry bogard’s level the characters fight on a train with a detailed drawing of the Mt. Rushmore scrolling in the back. Andy Bogard’s stage is in Venice on a boat floating on a river as you see the entire city scrolls by with some buy on a bicycle watching the fight as he rides along. Kim Kaphwan has a someone riding a motorcycle between the two fighting planes and if one of the characters jumps between the planes the driver will fall and crash the bike.
    The bonus stages are more exciting but as disappointing as the first game. The first bonus stage has a stone pillar the player has to destroy, once a pillar is destroyed another one is dropped and this continues until the time runs out. The 2nd bonus stage is exactly the same only instead of pillars they drop a pack of stones but it’s exactly the same thing as the other bonus stage.
    The characters can now quickly step back of the back direction is quickly tapped twice. The can even crawl forward if the player holds diagonally forward and down, a feature never seen in a fighting game before. There are additional special evasion and desperation attack moves. Evasion moves just like they sound let you evade the other player’s attack if you time it correctly. Then the character’s lifebar is 25% or less it will start flashing red to indicate that a desperation attack can be executed, this is a very strong attack that can devastate the other fighter and drain a lot of his life and tip the balance of the fight.

    There are also a few unelectable boss characters some old like Billy Kane and some new like Axel Hawk, a boxer who looks like one of the characters from Punch Out. On his stage the fighters battle in a boxing ring surrounded by flashy electrified ring side ropes. Laurence is a Spanish bullfighter and the fight against him is in an arena with a lot of raging bulls funning from right to left as they leave dust under their feet. It gives the game a really bombastic design and showed off stuff you cannot do on any other console at the time. Finally there is epic fight against Wolfgang Krauser a tall giant German fighter with purple hair. His level is in a lobby of a giant castle with a live orchestra on both sides of the two spiraling staircases playing Dies Irae from Mozart’s Requiem – Sequentia. Perhaps this is the part that inspired Takashi Masada, or probably not.
    Fatal Fury Special

    Almost a year later SNK released Fatal Fury Special as an updated version to Fatal Fury 2. Fatal Fury Special is to Fatal Fury 2 what Street Fighter 2 Turbo is to Street Fighter 2 as the gameplay in Special is a little bit faster. All the characters from Fatal Fury 1 and 2 are available for selection right from the start including the bosses from both games.
    In Mai Shiranui’s stage has flag poles this time around. She had them in Fatal Fury 2 but this time the are between the fight planes and she can bounce of them and do an air attack. Duck King has a really cool stage. It begins with an epileptic flash of lights before it reveals that the characters are fighting on a rock concert stage with laser beams, a matrix of tvs playing in the background, smoke machines and dancing fans. It’s one of the most impressive stages in the game, these days it’s nothing amazing but it was really amazing to see back then.
    Geese returns from the first game with a vengeance with his own introduction before the player it pit against him. He’s pretty much the same as in the first game just a little more agile and faster but he is not the last boss, this honor is still left to Wolfgang Krauser and his stage is just as impressive as in Fatal Fury 2. Actually it is the same but there wasn’t any need to change it either. If the player fills a special condition the after defeating Krauser he will be challenged by Ryo Sakazaki, one of the protagonists from the Art of Fighting. It’s a cool little surprise but doesn’t add much to the game except maybe a nice looking background with splashing waves against a rock.
    The game feels bigger, more refined, and makes Fatal Fury 2 obsolete but it’s an otherwise the same game just with a bigger selection of fighters and some additional great looking backgrounds. Even the endings are the same as in Fatal Fury 2. There’s a lot of skill and fast paced strategy necessary to succeed and it’s still a very fun game to play today but other than a few neat quirks it doesn’t have much life span compared to other fighting games or even the sequels.
    Fatal Fury 3: Road to the Final Victory

    WARNING: It’s a fighting game so the story has nothing really awesome going for it but if you still prefer to be surprised by playing the game yourself then be aware that I spoil the ending.
    After Fatal Fury Special SNK was working hard on the next installment in the series with a longer development time than previous games so far with new gameplay innovation and visual upgrade, once again pushing the Neo-Geo and fighting games to the next generation.
    Fighting games are all about two characters beating the hell out of each other in a tournament style brawler till the last man standing. The fights in Fatal Fury 3 feel a lot more brutal than previous games as each punch flies and smashes into the opponent with a bone crushing sound effect as blood, sweat and spit burst into the air. Gameplay is fast and furious and when punches and kicks meet their opponent it opens even more opportunities to inflict even more and faster attacks. Using every move with speed and accuracy are a real key to success in this new game in the series. Coming back as a series staple is the ability to crawl slowly forward while trying to be careful not to be hit is very intense because you never know what the enemy might do and where the next kick is going to hit you if you aren’t quick on your wits and in a hurry to defend yourself.
    This time there is only one plane to fight on however the game a new oversway system which allows the characters to jump into the background or the foreground for a limited time and avoid an incoming attack or do a quick punch or kick dash towards the opponent. Jumping has also been refined a bit and it’s possible now to do wither a long or a short jump depending on how long the player holds the up direction, kind of like in most platform games where the longer you hold the jump button the higher you will jump.
    Ever since Mortal Kombat started filling the screens with buckets of digitized blood seeing a fighting game with blood is nothing new and in fact is much more appropriate than a lot of other genres. But unlike Mortal Kombat, SNK went a different way to create a more subtle and realistic depiction of blood spills with less focus on the blood and more on the actual gameplay. SNK already tried their hand at drawing blood in Samurai Showdown/Spirits but that game has razor sharp blades and swords, Fatal Fury 3 only has bare knuckles and when a punch makes the other opponent bleed it has a much brutal and shocking impact on the occurring explosive battle displaying on the screen.
    The game also ranks the player on how well he fights and gives a score at the end of each round. Fight fast and quick with no health lost and you might get a high ranking for the current match. Come alive out of a fight with barely any life left and no smart tactics and you might get a very low rank. High ranking is a great motive to try harder and learn to fight better and unlock a few additional surprises because the ranking system is closely tied to the game’s central plot.
    Like any other video game in the fighting genre defeating one opponent moves the player to the next and repeats until the final boss battle at the conclusion of which the game ends. However in Fatal Fury 3 SNK had a few surprises up its sleeve. As the player defeats his opponents and moving from one stage to the next to fight his next opponent standing in his way to victory the player can be interrupted  and challenged to a one round duel by a new unknown character which is later revealed to be Yamazaki. As it turns out this is the final boss, the real final boss of the game  and he keeps a close eye on the rankings you get for each round because he won’t show up unless you earn a high enough rank from your previous battles. But that’s not all, there are actually more surprises to come. You see, once you defeat Yamazaki the true villain appears, Jin Chonshu, some 2000 year old sorcerer who seeks a scroll that will grant him immortality he only appears if you get an even higher ranking. And if you thought that was the end then if your ranking is even higher the game finds another way to pull the rug right under you and another boss appears, Jin Chonshu’s older brother, Jin Chonrie. After seeing his brother defeated (perhaps even dead) Jin Chonrie gets absolutely enraged and looses his marbles and the real final battle begins after of which the player is treated to the true ending as the long and hard battle is finally over.
    The character roster is smaller this time around compared to Fatal Fury Special with only 10 characters to choose from. Some of them are returning characters such as the fan favorite Terry and Mai along with Joe, Andy, Blue Mary, and even Geese is a selectable character which doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for the new fighters. There are a few cool details here too like when the first round starts the game will have some kind of short presentation such as Franco Bash sitting in a chair waiting for the match to start with his trainer massaging his back and then tapping him notifying about the beginning of the round and as Franco stands up his trainer kicks the chair but hurts his own leg. Some of these animations depend if the fighter is the player or not because if Franco is the player then he will just drink something from a small bottle and thrown it away. Blue Mary will have her jacket on and as soon as the round starts takes it off and throws it while he dog catches it and runs away.
    The backgrounds are even more impressive than before with some of them having a lot if really detailed drawings. Joe’s stage looks like an Amazonian village (although it says National Park) with a lot of greens and exotic animals like a crocodile and a huge turtle as well as huts and statue heads and there are even some greenery in the foreground as well. Mai’s stage is in some kind of underwater park (it says East Side Park) with a huge glass wall in the background with some old structure and a lot of sea life swimming about with sharks, penguins, whales, and other types of fish. Hon Fu’s stage is very interesting and takes place on a rising platform with at first only some building can be seen but as the fight continues the platform goes higher and the entire city is revealed with some really cool details it makes one of the best stages in any fighting game thus far. When moving between the stages the player is shown moving on a map and the player’s graphic changes depending on which character he chose. If it’s Blue Mary you’ll see traveling on her bike, if it’s Geese you’ll see him driving his car and if it’s Franco then you’ll see him running from stage to stage.
    Character designs have been improved too and taken many level ahead with what can be done with 2D games. Animations are a lot more smooth and fluid compared to previous games with every move has all the necessary frames that removes some of the noticeable jerkiness from previous games. The details and the coloring on the characters has also gotten better by using much more lush and vibrant attractive color schemes creating a much more pretty look than how things were done in the older games in the series so far.
    Fatal Fury 3 changed the formula from how things previously played but it was a risk SNK felt was important to take to keep the series fresh but still familiar to older games alike. This was one of the games that pushed 2D visual aesthetics further but it’s not where things will stop and in a few years SNK will eventually take a few more steps into an even more impressive graphical fidelity but it will take several games to get there.
  8. Like
    Bolverk reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Lamunation   
    ... wow, it has been a while since I've come across a VN where I can't use meta terms to explain everything. 
    If I had to put a genre type to this, it would be 'random/comedy/ecchi'.  There are a few really unique elements to this VN that I should probably explain before I go any further.  First, narration in this VN is almost nonexistent... roughly 98% of the game's text is dialogue, though the h-scenes are narrated.  Second, this VN makes no attempt whatsoever to be serious at any point.  I'm not kidding.  There are literally no serious points in this VN (I at first disliked it, then when a stuffed penguin appeared with the same brand of beer my father drinks in hand, I completely lost control and started rofling).
    ... which is its attraction.  This VN feels a lot like an eroge-version of an American cartoon of the same type as the Simpsons or Family Guy, right down to the movie references and low humor (repeated jokes, sex humor situational comedy, and jokes related to defecation and other weirdness).  There are also a huge number of old American movie references (mostly 1980's to the turn of the century) and a few references to TV shows that were old when I was born, such as the Lone Ranger.  To be honest, this VN is all over the place...
    This VN is immensely fun if you are fine with the kind of insensitive, low humor that is common in the American cartoons I mentioned above, as well as Japanese humor.  However, if you don't like that kind of thing, this will probably be pure torture. 
    PS: All the heroines are bisexual.
  9. Like
    Bolverk reacted to Darbury for a blog entry, Killing the ellipsis (“...”) in VN translations   
    Let’s not mince words here. The ellipsis is a blight upon English translations of visual novels. It must be uprooted and killed with fire.
    Before the slaughter begins, however, let’s review some basics. As the name suggests, the ellipsis represents an elision — that is to say, omitted content. It functions as the “yadda yadda” of the English language. It is the “Step 2: ???” before the all-important “Step 3: Profit!” A writer deploys those three little dots to indicate either the intentional removal of something that once was there, or the pointed absence of something that should have been there.
    That’s it. That’s what the ellipsis is supposed to do. You wouldn’t know this, however, by reading nearly any English translation of a Japanese visual novel. Ellipses are scattered across the text like so many rhinestones on the sweatshirt of a Midwestern mom. They’re at the beginning of sentences, the ends, stuck randomly in the middle — sometimes even chained end to end like a writhing Human Centipede of punctuation, each little dot in the chain crying, “Kill me now!” into the anus of the next.
    It’s an absolute abattoir in there.
    This particular road to hell is paved with good intentions, however. You see, all those ellipses are also present in the original Japanese and, in an attempt at faithful translation, the TL teams have left them all sitting there for you to enjoy. The original writer had a reason for putting them in, the reasoning goes, and it’s our job to offer the purest translation of his/her vision possible.
    This, of course, is bollocks. Punctuation operates differently in different languages. Japanese ellipses are used much more liberally than their Western forbearers, particularly in popular culture (e.g., manga. light novels, etc.) Want to indicate a pause? Ellipsis. Silence? Ellipsis. Passage of time? Ellipsis. Need to fill some empty space? Ellipsis. Is it Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday? Ellipsis, ellipsis, ellipsis. When ported over to English, most of these usages look less like carefully crafted sentences and more like a transcript of a particularly drunken Snapchat session.
    Put simply, what works in one language doesn’t always work in another. When I’m translating a Line of Text from German, for Example, I don’t capitalize all the Nouns because that’s how it was in the Original. I normalize it for English. The same needs to be done in any VN translation.
    My current rule of thumb while editing — I’ll bold it for you in red here — is as follows: Remove/replace all ellipses in a line of Japanese text unless doing so irreparably breaks the sentence or significantly changes its meaning.
    Luckily for us, English has a toolbox full of punctuation to get the job done. Commas, semicolons, periods, dashes — they’re all your friends. So let’s discuss some common situations in VNs and how we might handle them.

    The trailing ellipsis
    You’ll see lots of these littering the ends of sentences and lines, mostly to little effect. More often than not, they indicate a thought closing on anything other than a 100% full and decisive stop. Since they don’t hold the place of omitted text, we can almost always replace these ellipses with periods.
    There are a handful of situations, however, where keeping a trailing ellipsis makes sense. These include:
    The Pregnant Pause: 
    When something’s strongly implied at the end of a sentence/line, but left unsaid for dramatic effect.
    The ellipsis fills the place of the implied content, so it gets to stay. (Fun bonus fact: pauses are the only things that can get pregnant in VNs.)
    The “And So On”:
    When a statement is implied to continue for an unspecified length beyond the end of the sentence/line.
    The ellipsis here indicates there may have been a few more beers after Michelob, but the writer has decided to spare us and jump straight to Bob’s objection. Had this been more interruptive in nature, with Bob cutting Joe off immediately after “Michelob,” the ellipses would have replaced with an em-dash (—).
    The Trail-Off: 
    Similar to the “And So On,” but with the character choosing to let a statement taper off into nothingness, rather than the author.
    The opening ellipsis
    You’ll see these slightly less often, but they’re by no means infrequent. Typically, they indicate some slight hesitation at the beginning of a line of dialogue. But again, the nuance ends up being so slight and the impact so watered down through overuse that you’re almost always better off removing these ungainly beasts. An exception can be made for:
    The Reverse Pregnant Pause: 
    Just like the original Pregnant Pause, but it appears at the beginning of a sentence. Often holds the place of something a character doesn’t want to say.
    Rather than just pausing in passing, Joe is actively not admitting he thinks Joe is a jackass. That makes this line a strong candidate for an ellipsis.
    The mid-sentence ellipsis
    So, so many of these. You’ll close your eyes at night and they’ll haunt you. They’re almost always meant to indicate a slight pause in speech or thought, but trying to the read the resulting text is an exercise in frustration. There are... just so... many unnecessary... gaps. (Full disclosure: When writing scripts for TV, I’ll use ellipses like this a lot. But that’s for a very specific purpose: helping to communicate the particular rhythm of a line to the actor(s). I always avoid this in audience-facing text.)
    In almost all cases, unless there’s a marked pivot in thought, a comma will suffice.
    If the ellipsis is holding together two complete yet interwoven thoughts, a semicolon will do nicely.
    If the ellipsis is holding together two complete and independent thoughts, a period should be used.
    If ellipses are used to indicate an interruptive thought, one that breaks the main flow of the sentence, em-dashes can be used.
    Again, there are a couple situations where these mid-sentence ellipses can remain:
    The Ta-Da:
    When a pause is used for obvious dramatic effect, the ellipsis should be kept.
    The Shatner:
    When halting or stilted speech is intended for dramatic/comedic effect, ellipses may be retained.

    The empty line ellipsis
    You’ll see a lot of these. Holdovers from manga and light novels, they are explicit indicators of silence, being at a loss for words, holding one’s tongue, etc.
    In English prose, these silences would normally be held with narration — e.g., “Baconator just sat there, dripping ketchup.” You’d never see a sentence such as: ‘Harry Potter said, “...” and continued looking out the window.’ That’s because, unlike most VNs, traditional novels don’t have the crutch of character sprites and name cards appearing alongside dialogue. Due to such VN conventions, along with the technical limitations of translation — it’s frequently impossible to replace character dialogue with unvoiced narration — you should almost always leave these ellipses in place. Based on your best judgement, you can also choose to leave such variants as the questioning silence ("...?") and the excited/alarmed silence ("...!").
    It should be noted that such empty line ellipses can also be used outside of dialogue. Often, these will just indicate time passing. There’s also a long tradition in Japanese art of the “pillow” — a held moment of contemplative emptiness. It’s the bit of formal textual throat-clearing at the start of a poem. It’s the 10-second cutaway to a babbling brook that connects two scenes in a movie. In a VN, this pillow can evidence itself as a single line of narration, empty save for an ellipsis. There’s no good English alternative for this, so it should be kept wherever you encounter it.
    Extra credit: The multi-line ellipsis
    I saved this one for last, because it’s a bit of a special case. Against all my better instincts, it involves adding ellipses in places where the original text has none. It’s painful but it’s for a good cause.
    Sometimes, when editing or translating a VN, you’ll run across sentences that spill over onto two or more lines.
    Unlike in poetry, which uses line breaks to very deliberate effect, these multi-line monsters are almost always the result of the VN writer just running out of highway and choosing to keep on driving. Whenever possible, you should attempt to restructure such sentences so they don’t break across lines. Often, splitting an overly long sentence into two smaller ones will do the trick. If it resists your best efforts, however, maintain the break and indicate it with ellipses — one at the end of the first line, the other at the beginning of the second.
    How many dots? ALL THE DOTS!
    Another peculiarity of ellipses in Japanese VNs is that they don’t always have three dots. Depending on context and the arbitrary whims of the writer, you’ll typically see anywhere from two to six dots at a time. I’ve even seen 27 in a row once. I think it was a sex scene. Or a fight scene. Maybe both.
    Don’t let this worry you. If you’ve been following my advice, you’ve already purged most of the ellipses from the text. Of those that remain, almost all can be reduced down to familiar three-dot English ellipses. But as always, there’s at least one exception.
    Content-bearing pauses: In most cases, it’s of little concern to us whether an ellipsis consists of three, four, five, or even six dots. They’re all slight variations on the standard pause, but since English punctuation doesn’t make any such distinction, neither will we. An exception comes when the length of a pause not only adds flavor, but provides content. Consider the case of an ever-lengthening silence:
    The lengthening of the line suggests the passing of increasing amounts of time; the scene isn’t the same without it. Or consider an explosive outburst after a deafening silence:
    If you opt to stretch out an ellipsis like this, only do so in increments of three. If you’re musically inclined, think of three dots as a quarter note, six dots as a half note, etc., each one holding the silence just a bit longer than the last. Following the rule of threes keeps the text visually streamlined and helps if you ever need to convert a bunch of soft ellipses ( “...”) to hard ellipses (“…”) late in the translation process.
    A quick note about spacing
    I opt to keep things simple. If an ellipsis is at the start of a sentence or line, put one space between it and the first word. If it’s anywhere else, use no space before the ellipsis and one space after. If it’s a string of ellipses, it should be an uninterrupted series of dots with no spaces in between.
    There are also differing schools of thought as to whether an ellipsis at the end of a sentence should also be followed by a period, resulting in four dots total. Again, I opt for simplicity here and advise three dots in all cases.
    The mark of the beast
    It’s easy to tell professional translations from fan projects, it’s said; just count the number of dots. While not always true – plenty of slapdash commercial releases exist in the wild — there’s definitely something to this. More often than not, fewer ellipses are a sign that someone has taken the time to not just translate a text word for word, but thoughtfully localize it.
    Seriously, just dump the dots, folks. Your readers will thank you for it.
  10. Like
    Bolverk reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Shoujo-Tachi wa Kouya o Mezasu   
    To be honest, I wasn’t really interested in playing this VN, as you might have noticed if you read my previous entries.  However, I ended  up playing it because, once I stopped taking the pain meds (thus going into withdrawal… viva Bucket and Water Bottle!), I had a mind just clear enough to read something on the level of a charage or slightly more complex but not enough to read something like Dies Irae or Jeanne.

    I’m going to be straight up about this VN… like a lot of stuff Takahiro gets involved with, it is a bit outside of the ‘mainstream’ of VN culture, even setting aside the fact that there is no ero in it (which is actually out of character for Minato soft, considering the general ‘free sex’ feeling of their Majikoi/Tsuyokiss world games).  Why do I say this?  Simply put, it is because it actually has real drama throughout the entire VN, rather than just one or two per heroine path.

    That’s not to say this is a terribly serious VN… to be blunt, if I were just to talk about serious drama, Tsujidou and Majikoi have both better and darker drama.  However, the general ‘light and joking’ feeling of this VN coupled with the more serious aspects of the game-making made for a pretty interesting read… until the endings.

    There are no exceptions… the endings in this VN suck.  I don’t say that to be mean.  I say it because it is the truth.  This feels like a VN where the producer/director intends to create a direct sequel and never had any intention of ‘closing out’ the story conclusively.  To be honest, if they do make a sequel, I would like it to be based at least a few years onward, since they pretty much exhausted the possibilities of the school setting for this one.

    The VN is funny, the content is interesting, the drama – even if it isn’t always emotionally engaging – is interesting intellectually… but the endings (and oddly the romance) are just crappy in this VN.  It didn’t make me angry, because I was never very emotionally invested in this game (sadly, this game fails somewhat in this regard, but it doesn’t seem to have been a focus in the first place).  However, it did leave me feeling this vague sense that I’d left something unfinished… and not in a good way (in other words, I’m not really looking forward to a continuation).  This is actually becoming something of a habit for any project Takahiro gets involved with, and it is the primary reason I stopped looking forward to this a few weeks before the release.

    Overall, it is hard to figure out a group of people who will specifically like this VN.  If you just want to spend most of a VN laughing despite there being interesting drama, this is a good choice.  However, if you just want to do the ichaicha moe-moe thing, this isn’t a good choice.  It also isn’t a good choice if you look at it through the eyes of someone who played the previous VNs that had Takahiro involved.  However, being a Romeo fan is probably a plus for this VN, as his scenario/plot style covers a lot of genres.  This is, in a very real way, a VN that touches on the grim realities of the eroge industry (well, for the creators, not so much for the money-people), especially in Teruha’s path.  The fact that it does so in a humorous fashion only outlines this more clearly.

  11. Like
    Bolverk reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Sakura no Uta part 2: Rin and some linguistic comments (edit: added Rina and yuri ending)   
    Yeah, I said I was going to wait until I'd played at least two more heroines before I posted again... but Rin's path has enough impact that I felt a distinct need to post on it ahead of time.
    Misakura Rin is the protagonist's osananajimi... a childhood friend and one another's first love (this is said pretty much from the beginning, so it doesn't really count as a spoiler).  For reasons the protagonist deliberately only hints at (typical Sca-ji) he has been avoiding any sort of contact with her for years... since she transferred out of the area.  This is despite the fact that his memories with her are some of the ones he treasures the most from his childhood. 
    To be honest, though Makoto's path is really good, the engagement with the protagonist and heroine is completely different in Rin's path.  Unlike in my past experience with Sca-ji, the progression as Rin's personal issues are revealed in detail is carried out in a manner that is neither irritating nor excessive, and even the building of their relationship feels more natural than you generally see in a VN.  Understand, if you have read a lot of Japanese literature, it is really easy to figure out where Sca-ji is going with Rin even without getting on her path.  He lays the hints on pretty thickly, and the reaction of a certain fushigi-ko character (not a heroine) to Rin is the final nail in the coffin.  If you honestly haven't figured out why the protagonist is so intent on avoiding building a relationship with Rin early on, you are probably pretty dense... though the details are - of course - only revealed in her path.
    In addition to the purely physical issues, there is a significant amount of psychological weirdness involved, and I have to make the suggestion that you keep in mind that Sca-ji can't seem to avoid inserting mysticism into any and all his stories on some level, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that read Ikikoi the way he tries to keep certain issues ambiguous throughout this path.  I have to wonder if he himself has an ambiguous relationship with faith and fantasy, considering the way he writes about them.
    I honestly cried during the climax scene of Rin's path, and I was surprised to find myself actually ranking the path pretty high up there as emotional VN paths go... right up there with the true path of Irosekai and a few others that had me in tears.  A lot of it is that the protagonist has that bad habit a lot of my favorite protagonists in emotional games have... he has an odd disregard for his own safety, health, and future when he puts them in balance with someone he cares about or even someone who simply needs his help.  While I love pragmatist protagonists and even ones who can be cruel, that is mostly for the same reason as I like this type of protagonist... people that exist at extremes of the range of human personality are inevitably fascinating... far moreso than some humdrum 'normal' schoolboy, lol.
    Linguistic issues
    Now on linguistics... I don't think most people who read VNs really understand how a simple choice of words can alter how someone views a whole issue.  Above, in parenthesis, I said 'typical' Sca-ji in relation to what I referred to as a bad habit in a previous post.  Now, if I were a long-standing fan of Sca-ji, I probably would have said 'classic' Sca-ji.  What is the difference?  By using 'typical' there, I inserted a note of sarcasm/cynicism into an otherwise neutral statement.  If I were to have said 'classic', that would have altered it to sound somewhat fanboyish... I wonder how many of those who read this blog even realize how much reviewers manipulate you through simple word choices like these?  Not only that, ninety percent of a writer's skill is in figuring out how to insert emotion using subtle word choices like this. 
    The reason Masada - the writer of Dies Irae - attracts writers and reading-addicts like flies is because his prose really is a work of art, designed to gain a very specific reaction without entirely making you aware that he is doing it.  The reason Sca-ji tends to irritate people like me is that he lacks subtlety from the perspective of people like me.  Now understand, he is perfectly subtle from the perspective of your average reader.  I doubt most people will pick up on more than ten percent of the hints he gives... but for people used to figuring out subtle hints as second nature, it feels like he is laying it on a bit thick, to the point of extreme repetition.  Sometimes this works (Rin's path is an example of this) and at others it doesn't (my experience of Subahibi).  This is an entirely subjective issue and not one that the mainstream will ever even recognize is there without some jaded jerk like me going out of his way to point it out.  However, I felt a need to say just why my bias is always going to be against Sca-ji, because I can't stop it from coloring how I write about him.
    Rina and the Yuri path
    Rina's path is in some ways darker than Rin's.  For all the depth of emotion involved in Rin's path, the entire thing was almost entirely between Rin and the protagonist, with only occasional intervention from third parties.  However, throughout Rina's path, Yuumi plays an intimate role together with them.  Indeed, a good portion of the path is devoted to a recounting of Rina's and her past from Yuumi's point of view, as well as the first meeting between Naoya and Rina.  Yuumi as a child is pretty... messed up inside, at least partially because she is an honest to god born lesbian.  In a moege, there would probably be a 3P path here... and while that kind of path is generally fun to read, it wouldn't have the depth this one did.  After the recounting of the past, it splits into Rina's heroine route and a Yuri path between her and Yuumi.  To be honest, I don't think I would have gotten as much from Rina's path if I hadn't chosen to do the yuri ending first, so I can honestly recommend it as something that adds some depth to Rina's ending, putting some things in perspective.  Rina's path... is equally intimate to Rin's, but it lacks the kind of high-emotion cathartic drama that Rin's had (at least for me), at least in part because a great portion of the path was devoted to recounting the somewhat messed up formative time of Rina's and Yuumi's relationship.  From a purely intellectual point of view, it was an excellent choice, but it had the effect of making the path deeper intellectually at the cost of emotional engagement, an occasional problem with that kind of flashback recounting.
  12. Like
    Bolverk reacted to Darklord Rooke for a blog entry, News   
    I know what you're thinking - 'Rooke has news? He must be taking a leave from the site.' Well... HA! Not a chance, bub. No no no no no. I must annoy Tay, and I cannot do that while off in the never never.
    I merely thought I might highlight the day's news. Keeping up with the world is important if you want to remain learned and engaged. PS: Please don't hurt me  
    'Driverless cars can now ‘see’ around corners,' is the first headline I see, an enviable trait lacking in inferior, organic organisms. This new ability is truly wondrous and will be of great benefit to everybody’s safety… until the sensor breaks. Not like you’ll notice, because the light on the dashboard that glows green when there’s a problem with the sensors will also be broken. But it's not like you’ll care, because the cars ability to tell its left from its right will also have taken a vacation, causing your lucky self to be driven straight off a mountain pass to your briefly thrilling but ultimately painful doom. Nobody at the manufacturer will know what caused this weird phenomena, and your death will be written off as a ‘software glitch, ain’t that just weird ahahaha.’
    No thank you, I’ll walk.
    More technology:
    ‘Volvo cars get advanced kangaroo avoidance tech in Australia’ – it’s called drivers with a working set of eyes, hands, and feet.
    ‘Malcolm Turnbull’s (Australia’s current Prime Minister) visit to Indonesia could reset our relationship with our sometimes-beloved cousins to the North.’ What blessed voodoo is this? The ability to reset relationships at will? How can I get my roguish, rugged hands on whatever it is he's obtained?
    Just last week he was busy flaunting his newfound powers when he ‘reset the Government’s relationship with science.’ It's just freakish. And convenient. And enviable. Mostly enviable. Because I’m sure most people have an ex-partner they’d wish to reset their relationship with... after they cocked up badly like so:
    Social Issues:
    'An all-female, Russian astronaut crew was asked (by journalists) how they’d cope without makeup and men.' One of the astronauts (or cosmonauts) replied 'we are doing work, when you’re doing work you don’t think about men and women’. At this point every man listening scoffed and choked. Why? Well, take a look at the dude opposite you, the one enjoying a burger and some fries. Is he thinking about how delicious all that fried oil is, and how he's going to die young and full of regret? Of course not, he's thinking about sex. The guy who’s on his cell, in the cinema, arguing with the tax office while having shoes thrown at him, well he’s thinking about sex too. A man could be in the middle of the Arctic, during the worst blizzard of the century, being threatened by a man wielding a machete and with 3 Timberwolves snarling at his feet and he would still be thinking about sex. This idea of thinking about 'work' when doing 'work' is alien, and foreign, and clearly too radical to take off.
    Sometimes I weep for real journalism 
    A recent study produced this headline: 'Why do 55% of women report a lack of interest in sex?' Because of their partner’s appearance. Too easy. Next.  
    World news:
    ‘US releases plan for solar flares and space weather disaster’ - Aims to launch the first of many strongly worded letters into space early next year. That will show them the US is not to be trifled with.
    'Fifty Shades Darker’ release date delayed?' Are you heartbroken? I know I am…
    Feel Good:
    And we end on a happy note. ‘A 97 year old woman who was forced to leave high school 8 decades ago when her mother fell ill, broke down in tears this week as she was presented with an honorary diploma from her alma mater.’ A wonderful moment for someone who sacrificed selflessly for her whole life. 
    Now, don't we all feel so much more informed?
  13. Like
    Bolverk reacted to Darbury for a blog entry, Oh, The (Tricky) Editing Mistakes I Have Made (Part 2 of ∞)   
    This blog is all about owning my mistakes and putting them on public display, so let’s do this. And yeah, I knew this one was going to come back and bite me in the ass. This was my albatross. This was my giant ass-biting albatross.
    The great “tricky” debacle of 2015
    So there’s this word that shows up in the English translation of Koisuru Natsu no Last Resort. If you’ve read it, you might have noticed it once or twice.
    Umi, the main heroine, falls back on this word a lot to describe the protagonist. She uses it when he’s being nice. And when he’s being a jerk. And when he’s chewing food. And any other opportunity she can think of. Basically, I think she gets paid 100 yen every time she manages to work that word into a sentence. And let me tell you: girl is pulling down bank.
    Of course, this is a translation, so she’s not actually saying “tricky.” She’s saying something similar in Japanese. And therein lies a tale of woe and sorrow.
    The backstory
    But let’s rewind a bit first.
    When I came aboard the KoiRizo team, it was to edit a single route: Nagisa’s. Makes sense — I was a first-time VN editor, and Nagisa’s route was the shortest in the game. Moreover, it was an unlockable, which meant that comparatively few people would end up reading it. Other editors were already hacking away at most of the remaining routes anyway, so that was all fine by me.
    As I worked my way through Nagisa’s scripts, I saw the word “tricky” pop up once or twice in Umi’s dialogue as a personal insult and it just seemed ... odd to me. Tough math problems are tricky. Opening a stubborn jar of peanut butter is tricky. People? Less so. I’m an editor, though, not a translator, so I did what I was supposed to do: flagged it for TLC review, left a comment with my concerns, edited the line as best I could, then moved along. The translator on the project had made it clear he wouldn’t be reviewing any edits until all the routes were finished being edited, so that’s about all I could do at the time.
    When I finished cleaning up Nagisa’s route, I was asked if I wouldn’t mind tackling Shiori’s scripts as well, which no other editor had gotten around to yet. “Sure,” I said, and set about tidying that up as well. The word “tricky” popped up a couple more times, so I did the same thing: flagged it, reiterated my concerns, then kept on editing.
    I finished Shiori, and was asked if I’d pick up the common route and Umi’s route; the editing on both of these had apparently stalled. Okay, what had started out as a quickie project for me was slowly turning into something much more time-consuming. I could see that. But I was still having fun, so I agreed. I started with the common route, where Umi has more screen time, which meant I started seeing the word “tricky” a little more often.
    And I started to worry.
    I flagged it, left a comment along the lines of “See my earlier notes on tricky,” and kept editing. I was determined not to get hung up on one silly word. It was becoming clear that this was sort of a catchphrase word for Umi, and I didn’t want to change the translation in my scripts if all the other editors’ scripts were keeping it as is. It’d be like if a screenwriter on The Simpsons decided that “D’oh!” sounded dumb, so Homer should say “Ooops!” instead — but only on the episodes he/she worked on.
    Anyway, I finished the common route and moved onto Umi’s. And lo, I gazed into a bottomless abyss of trickiness.

    You sly dumbass, you.
    Now let’s talk about the actual word. In Japanese, it’s “ずるい” — “zurui.” And, true to its definition, zurui’s a tricky word to pin down.
    It’s often translated as “unfair.” (Or so I’ve been told. Again, I’m an editor, not a translator. I took a Japanese class or two a few years back, so I have a basic familiarity with the rudiments of grammar and vocabulary. I’m good for: “Hello, I only speak a little Japanese. Sorry! What time is it? Where is the train? I am a very cute peach.” And that’s about it.) But there’s a little more nuance to it than that. Getting cancer is unfair. Having your advisor take credit for your thesis is unfair. “Zurui” implies a level of deviousness, impishness, slyness, craftiness, and yes, even trickiness. Someone who’s being “zurui” knows they’re getting away with something — and they’re okay with that.
    Moreover, it has a secondary meaning of being miserly, which is something that definitely applies to Soutarou, the protagonist of KoiRizo. I have to imagine that wordplay was not lost on the writers ... or the characters.
    There’s no one good English word to capture all those layers of meaning. When Umi uses this word to describe the protagonist in KoiRizo, it’s clear from context that her emotional shading varies from line to line. Sometimes she’s straight-up pissed at him and is telling him off: “You jackass.” Other times, she’s more of a late-game tsundere and says it playfully, even affectionately: “You sly dog you.” But she uses the same Japanese word every single time. Sometimes she’ll even say it six or seven times in a row without taking a breath.
    “Zurui. Zurui. Zurui. Zurui. Zurui. ZURUI!”
    It was her catchphrase. And in pretty much every instance, it had been translated as “tricky.”
    If the word only appeared once or twice in KoiRizo, I could have swapped in the contextually appropriate English replacements and been done with it. (I actually did this in a handful of places throughout the VN, usually when it was clear she was at one extreme of the word or the other.) But given how often it showed up, I felt somehow obligated to honor authorial intent. This was Umi’s pet phrase for this guy she’d fallen in love with. At one point, I think she even uses it as all the parts of speech in a single sentence. If I started changing “zurui” to different words every time, she’d lose a fairly important character quirk.
    After looking at all the options, the translator’s choice of “tricky” started seeming like it wasn’t a half-bad compromise after all. It got across that Umi thought the protag was dealing from the bottom of the emotional deck, but it also had a playful, teasing quality. It was never the best word in any particular instance, but it seemed like it might be flexible enough to be just sorta kinda okay in all instances.
    That argument makes sense, right? I thought so at the time, anyway. And so I left “tricky” as it was.
    Boy, was I wrong.

    Mea culpa
    I overthought it, plain and simple. I forgot my personal rule of writing and editing: Make the journey as frictionless for the readers as possible. Don’t let them get snagged on odd phrasings or slightly off words. Keep them immersed in the story.
    I’d forgotten how jarring that “tricky” word seemed those first few times I saw it in translation. As the months passed, some sort of editing Stockholm Syndrome set in and I actually started thinking it might be an acceptable option.
    In short, I messed up.
    When I read Umineko for the first time, Battler’s use (and abuse) of the word “useless” seemed so ill-fitting to me in English prose that I almost gave up reading the VN right then and there. But now, I sort of understand how the Witch Hunt team might have, over time, come to see this ungainly adjective as the best compromise for their main character’s catchphrase. It doesn’t make me like it much more, but I can see how they ended up there. (But don’t get me started on “turn the chessboard over” vs. “turn the chessboard around.” The latter works; the former leaves you with a bunch of chess pieces on the ground.)
    So here's the deal: It doesn’t matter that I had to make literally hundreds of judgment calls like this over the course of editing KoiRizo — what to do with Yuuhi’s numerous nicknames for the protagonist, as just one example — and 99% of them turned out okay (I hope).
    What matters is there’s a big lump of tricky sitting in the middle of the visual novel. And it doesn't work.
    I signed off on it. And I take full responsibility for that.
    So what to do? Not much, to be honest. It’s one of those things I’d love to revisit if given the chance, but a 2.0 KoiRizo patch seems unlikely at this time. MDZ keeps his own counsel, but he seems to have moved onto other pursuits.
    And that, as they say, is that.
    As I mentioned, the original intent of this blog was to put a spotlight on my many missteps as a first-time VN editor. That hasn’t changed. I might also try to throw in some helpful life advice from time to time, but I’m mainly happy to let my blunders serve as good object lessons for other aspiring editors.
    That means you should feel free to discuss any boneheaded decisions you think I might have made. Odds are I’ll own up to them. I've got a very thick skin, after all. I just ask two things:
    1. This blog is about editing. If you have issues with someone’s translation choices, I kindly ask that you take it elsewhere. I hear Fuwa has really nice forums for that sort of thing, y'know? But if you have issues with how I edited someone's translation, then bring it on.
    2. Please don’t be a giant pixelated dick about it. No one likes a pixel pick.

  14. Like
    Bolverk reacted to Darbury for a blog entry, Oh, The Jokes I Have Broke (Part 1 of ∞)   
    As any translator can probably tell you, Japanese jokes are a huge pain to capture in English. There are unfamiliar memes, cultural references, wordplay, riffs on kanji characters — none of which are particularly easy to convey to Western audiences. If you get lucky, a few nips and tucks in editing are all you need to make one of these unwieldy beasts work in English. If you get unlucky, however, you end up having to grab the rib spreader and do some major linguistic surgery.
    Sometimes the patients pull through. Sometimes they die on the operating table. These are their stories.
    Joke 1: Pearls before swine
    In this scene from KoiRizo, Soutarou has just finished giving one of the girls a bit of helpful advice passed down to him by his grandfather. The raw translation is below:
    Soutarou: “... That's the motto that they followed back then, I think. Well you know, according to my grandfather.”
    Riho: “Your grandfather's ball bag?”
    Soutarou: “A-Although I think that he got it from my grandmother...”
    Riho: “Ha ...?!”
    Soutarou: “...”
    Riho: “I just said a really strange thing ―!”
    Get it? Get it? No, of course you don’t. KoiRizo was intended as a literal translation, and read literally, this makes zero sense. At this point in my editing, the only choice I had was to go back to the original script, break out the Japanese > English dictionaries, and see if I could figure out what the hell was going on here.
    As near as I could figure, Riho meant to use the word “chiebukuro” — literally, “sack of wisdom.” She intended to say something about Soutarou’s pop-pop being a pretty smart guy, chock full of good advice. Instead, she uses “tamafukuro” — literally, “ball sack.” You can understand Soutarou’s confusion when Riho starts talking about his grandfather’s wrinkly old nuts. Nice guy that he is, however, Souatrou tries to give her a graceful out, suggesting it was actually his grandmother who provided the advice. Riho realizes her error and is appropriately mortified.
    Great. We’ve puzzled it out ... but at this point, the joke still doesn’t work in translation. “Sack of wisdom” isn’t a common English phrase, so the reader won’t catch the intended meaning behind Riho’s mistake. It just sounds like a plain old non sequitur right now. So our next task is to change her line to something that (1) works as a Freudian slip, (2) comes out of the blue, and (3) is sexually shocking enough to catch Soutarou off guard.
    The version I eventually settled on ran something like this:
    Soutarou: “... That was the common advice back then, I think. Well, you know, according to my grandfather.”
    Riho: “Your grandfather must have really liked giving you pearl necklaces, huh?”
    Soutarou: “A-Actually, it might have been my grandmother who liked giving out pearls of wisdom ...”
    Riho: “Ha ...?!”
    Soutarou: “...”
    Riho: “I can’t believe I just said that ―!”
    Here, we’ve keep the same basic structure, but rather than “sack of wisdom,” Riho tries (and fails) to say “pearls of wisdom,” a much more common English idiom. And now, rather than Grandpa’s gnarly ballsack, we have the even more shocking image of the old guy giving his grandson pearl necklaces on a regular basis. Soutarou still gets to save the day by pivoting to his grandmother, and then the rest of the joke plays out pretty much as originally written.
    Does it work? I hope so, but one could just as easily argue that I broke it. It’s a different gag; there’s no doubting that. But at the end of the day, I’d rather have a joke that works and maintains the original’s spirit than one that’s accurate to a fault.

    Joke 2: Deflowering the girls
    Here’s a joke I know I broke during editing. Smashed it to the ground and danced on the pieces. In my defense, it was looking at me funny.
    In the raw translation of this scene, resort manager Nagisa has just asked the staff to gather in their swimsuits for a big announcement:
    Nagisa: “I have a reason for calling you all here like this today.”
    Nagisa: “I'd like everyone to become the 'detergent' of the facilities.”
    Sango: “Detergent? Us?”
    Nagisa: “Oh, sorry. By detergent, I was referring more to advertising material.... In other words, I need you guys to photograph for an advertisement.”
    Again, another joke that makes no sense when read literally. And the only TL note I had to go on said, “This translation won't work in English.” Agreed. So I hauled out the J>E dictionary again, but had much less luck this time. At best, I came away with a wisp of a shred of a guess. My hunch was that Nagisa was using one very specific meaning of the word “senzai”— the foremost part of a garden, the loveliest flowers intended to set the stage and entice visitors in deeper — and Sango interpreted it as another more common meaning of “senzai” — namely, detergent. Nagisa clarifies her meaning, everyone has a chuckle, and the scene continues.
    I wasn’t sure if I was right — I’m an editor, not a translator — but lacking any better options, I decided to go with it. And I promptly flailed about like a clown being drowned in a bathtub. Right off the bat, I knew there weren’t any good English sound-alikes that would work here. So instead, I wrote about a dozen variations on garden and flower puns, but none of them managed to weave plausible misunderstanding with Nagisa’s actual meaning. Worse yet, they just weren’t funny.
    Next, I tried a few bawdier versions, but quickly abandoned those as well. This scene is going to get more risqué in a minute, but throwing in a sex joke right now would be tipping our hand too soon. (In one draft, I had Nagisa say she wants the girls to be the hook that lures visitors to the island. Sango replies, “What?! You want us to hook for you?” — i.e., she thought her boss wanted to pimp them out as resort hookers.)
    Having hit brick wall after brick wall, I decided to strip the joke down to its essence. What’s the basic structure here? Nagisa says she wants to use the girls to help sell the resort. Sango suffers a comic misunderstanding. Nagisa corrects her. The end. So that’s what I wrote:
    Nagisa: “There’s a reason why I’ve called everyone here like this today.”
    Nagisa: “I've decided to sell you.”
    Sango: “Sell us? Is that even legal?”
    Nagisa: “Oh, sorry. By ‘sell,’ I meant using you to help advertise the resort ... In layman’s terms, I need you guys to model for some publicity photos.”
    We lose the poeticism of the original — that image of the girls as flowers drawing visitors in — but in exchange, we get something that actually works as wordplay in English while still delivering the necessary plot info (Nagisa’s marketing brainstorm). It’s still not a particularly hilarious gag, but then again, neither was the original.
    In both examples, I ended up completely rewriting large chunks of each joke. And while I'm not entirely satisfied — I wish I could have kept more of the original language — I'm okay with the result. Editing is a balancing act. You want to remain as faithful to the original text as possible while maintaining the audience’s immersion in the work. If the reader suddenly comes across a joke that clearly doesn’t parse in English, that immersion is broken. They stop. They scroll back and re-read it a few times, trying to make sense of it. They wonder if they’re missing something, or if the TL team just messed it up. BAM. They’re now completely out of the world of the visual novel. The magic is broken.
    Because magic is only magic until you notice the strings. Or that dead clown in the bathtub.
  15. Like
    Bolverk reacted to Chronopolis for a blog entry, Japanese Learning for VN's: Skills   
    When it comes to reading VN's in Japanese, required skills can be grouped into four areas: Vocab, grammar, basic parsing skill, and kanji skill. In this post, for each area I'm going to explain:
    -what knowing skills in the area are good for
    -how you might study them
    -how much you'll need to start reading.
    I'll also give some related tips.
    The requirements mentioned below are a conservative estimate. I've known people who've jumped in to playing VN's with less or much less, but I'm giving a safe estimate. A level which at most people, without any special knack for learning languages through immersion, should be able to gain traction. If you learn this much before starting an easyish VN, the amount you are completely lost should be significantly less than the percentage you are able to pick up and improve from.
    This is not a comprehensive how-to guide by any means. Just an informative post.
    1. Vocab
    Knowing enough vocab to study your grammar resource without being bogged down by vocab:
    -About 30 verbs and 50 other words for Genki 1/ Tae kim Basic.
    -By the time you get to Genki 2/Tae Kim Essential you'll want a good set of verbs (about 100), and maybe about 300 total vocabulary.
    -~600 words about how much you'll want to be able to study N3 grammar without getting bogged down in vocab.
    Having enough vocab to start your first VN:
    -I recommend over 1000, but anywhere from 800-1300 is good. I remember trying Clannad with only 800, and I felt like ramming my head into a wall. It's also important to pick an easy title. It will still feel hard no matter what, but an easy title will be much more helpful and rewarding to play. You also must just translation aggregator and ITH. They are the reason why Visual Novels are the best medium for learning Japanese out of anime/books/movies/drama/etc.
    Vocab Lists:
    There's a dedicated verb list here: http://nihongoichiban.com/2012/08/13/list-of-all-verbs-for-the-jlpt-n4/
    Verbs are helpful to learn, because they are often the most important part of the sentence AND you need to to have stuff to conjugate.
    In general JLPT-based vocab list is here: http://www.tanos.co.uk/jlpt/jlpt5/vocab/
    Regarding English definitions:
    Be mentally open and flexible. If the english definition doesn't quite add up, don't try and think about it too hard. Focus instead on associating the word with the situations where you see it.
    For example, you might be confused by the word 都合 and it's unhelpful definition J-E definition, but if you seen 都合がいい used in a situation where you know it means "is convenient for me" from context then remember that occurence. There might be (there are, in fact), other usages of the word 都合, but that doesn't hurt you in anyway. The next time you see 都合 you can pair it against this meaning and see if that makes any sense.
    2. Grammar Skills
    With N5+N4 grammar you will be barely able to start making your way through a VN. Without N4, you will have quite limited gains in the long term from reading visual novels. (Equivalent to Genki 1+2.)
    -Required to be able to play VN's
    With N3 grammar, everything will feel a lot clearer, the amount of grammar you'll understand will exceed 60%. (Equiv. to Intermediate approach to Integrated Japanese). Highly recommended to study this before or soon after you start your first VN.
    N2 grammar further cuts the amount of unknown grammar you face in three.
    N1 is kind of like a bonus that gives you a lot of uncommon or formal expressions. It's NOT comprehensive at all, in terms of covered all Japanese phrases. From my experience, some of the phrases you learn in here show up often in novels (ばかり、んばかり), others quite less. Good to know, though
    Expressions not covered in JLPT
    There are a lot of patterns and phrases not covered in JLPT that you will see in typical native reading material. Examples (社長に議長, phrases like なんだと!? Xってなんだ? ですって!? ~てくれないかな。 オレって、なんてバカなんだ ) Not to worry, many of them can be picked up as you go. For the rest, once you get settled into reading, you can start noting down those phrases you don't get and google them or ask other people.
    Imabi for grammar
    You can also try studying from http://www.imabi.net/. It's a phenomenal reference, it's just goes into tons of depth, too much. I think there's 2 or 3 times as much information there is covered by JLPT up to JLPT 1. As such it's going to be overwhelming for a beginner and is much better suited as a reference for intermediate or advanced learners.
    3. Basic Parsing Skill
    Knowing the different types of words (Covered by doing a vocab list of about 100 verbs, and then the JLPT 5 list. You also have to have done or be doing Tae Kim's Basic Guide, since he explains what na-adj's, i-adj's, and other word types are, etc.).
    -(nouns, suru-verbs/nouns, verbs, na-adj's, i-adj's, adverbs, temporal adverbs)
    -Required to be able to play VN's.
    Knowing the basic sentence structure and how words can modify each other and fit in a sentence.: (adjectives modifying nouns, verbs).
    The knowledge is covered by Tae Kim Basic + a mix of Essential Grammar and Genki 1/2. I personally find Tae Kim's explanation good even though the learning curve is steep and his lessons aren't good for review like Genki books are. He tries to convey to you the big picture.
    -Required to be able to play VN's.
    Being able to breakdown sentences and spot the different types of words based on their position.
    -you can practice this by reading bits of text in your genki textbook, but more likely, the first time you really gain this skill is going to be the first month in which you read a visual novel with TA. Heavily practiced during your first month or two of reading VN's.
    4. Kanji Skill:
    Learning to spots radicals in kanji (could be covered by doing the 214 radicals, about 1 month. You could also do this ongoing basis, learning how to spot the radicals that make up a kanji, for the words you learn.)
    -not needed to read VN's with TL aggregator, but extremely helpful for learning new words which have new kanji.
    Learning to remember kanji, ie. start recognizing when words share the same kanji. (it is a long ongoing gradual process. You can start doing this with the vocab you learn once you are comfortable learning vocab. You can also pick out words you see in vn's and check whether they use the same kanji by typing them out (example 朝(あさ) and 朝食(ちょうしょく) use the same kanji.). Oh course, to be able to easily produce the kanji you want to compare you need to remember how to spell a word that contains it (in this case 朝). So, as your vocab expands, you'll be able to compare more kanji. Note that to be able to do this comparing you must be able to spot radicals in kanji (previous level skill).
    -moderately helpful for learning vocabs. The same way remembering radicals helps learning with kanji: if you know the kanji clearly, you can remember a word just by the two kanji it uses, which is very precise and doesn't take a lot of mental bandwidth. It also means that you will much more rarely confuse words which have similiar looking kanji.
    The following two skills are for more advanced, they won't be particularly useful until much later. You might not notice the problems they solve until later as well. I include them mainly for completeness.
    Learning on-yomi for many of the Jyouyou kanji (start when you are intermediate-advanced, a medium-long process)
    -helpful for exactly what it is, reading kanji words and compounds correctly.
    -don't need to worry about this. From learning vocab you might pick up some of the common ones, but there's no need to pursue this actively for a while.
    Learning kanji meaning: (start when you are advanced, and can use a J-J dictionary)
    -suffixes like 府、省、性、症, as well normal kanji whose different meanings apply to clusters of words.
    -helpful for kanji compounds which won't directly show up in dictionaries
    -helpful for developing a native level understanding of vocabulary (not everything can be learned by exposure). A lot of literary words are fairly influenced by their kanji meanings, though sometimes consulting the word differentiation explanations can be more helpful.
    One last topic...
    On learning enough grammar and jumping into works too difficult for you.
    Reading a VN isn't the best way to learn basic sentence structure. However, it's a great way to reinforce grammar points you've learned. It's also a great way to get an understanding of conversational patterns you won't find in textbooks or JLPT. But you won't have the presence of mind to pay attention to that if you are bogged down by not knowing basic grammar.
    There are benefits for venturing early into native material or difficult vn's, but you wouldn't give a grade two student Tolkien, or even Harry Potter to improve their English. All the fancy prose and unusual concept would distract you from the more immediately useful things like, say: basic sentence structure.
    There are works which are the right level, and there are VN's which you really want to read. For the best experience, it's best to find some combination of the two.
    Ok that's all for now. Feel free to ask any questions: I didn't really go into the details of how to study, instead focusing on the, well, skills involved. But it's also hard to remember what it's like for someone just starting out. I remember parts of studying very clearly, but I forget the thousands of things I used to be puzzled through varying stages of understanding but now take for granted.
    The process was all I could think about for the longest time. Now I don't give it much thought, it's just a regular part of my life, reading and a bit of studying. It's not bad idea, to just find a type of study that you know is helpful, stop thinking about all the right ways and wrong ways and magic tricks which don't exist, and just do it, for a while. Regularly. For a month or three.
  16. Like
    Bolverk reacted to Darbury for a blog entry, Oh, The Editing Mistakes I Have Made (Part 1 of ∞)   
    I make a living in copywriting, but KoiRizo was my first attempt at editing a visual novel. Suffice to say, there were a few bumps along the way. So in the spirit of this blog, here are just a few of the many, many things I wish I had done differently.

    1. I should have started out using a style guide.
    From the very beginning, I should have picked one of the major styles guides and made it my bible. Instead, as I came across questions — Should this be hyphenated? Should that be capitalized? — I just googled the answer. As long as I had a browser open, I might as well have gone to Orbitz and bought myself a one-way ticket to Inconsistencyville. Population: this guy.

    Thankfully, I quickly realized the error of my ways and was able to minimize the damage early on, but save yourself some pain and don’t repeat my mistake. Pick a style guide. Use it. My formal training is in journalism, so I’m partial to AP style, but most any style guide should do just fine: Chicago, MLA, MHRA, etc.

    But if you don’t use the Oxford comma, you deserve to die alone.*

    2. I should have (mostly) ignored the VO.
    In hindsight, I spent a bit too much time worrying about how the English script would match up to the exact cadences of the voice over. As a result, I kept in far too many ellipses from the original Japanese. So … at times … the script reads … like this. And, as it turns out, most of those VO pauses weren’t even perceptible enough to warrant their inclusion in the English text. Feh.

    Lesson learned. Next time, I’ll give priority to the written word. After all, it’s called a “visual novel,” not a “visual audio play.”

    3. I should have established character voice cheat sheets early on.
    This ranks pretty high on the list of things wish I had done differently when editing KoiRizo. The base translation was very literal, so, at least on the page, the characters’ speech patterns all read pretty much the same. The actual content of their dialogue gave them some level of characterization — oh Yuuhi, you so crazy — but still, I wish I’d been able to give everyone a more distinct voice ...

    Next time out, I plan to make up an index card for each main character with notes on speech patterns, vocal tics, and catchphrases. And then, I’ll spend sufficient time with the translator agreeing on how each character should speak. (I'm just an editor. The nuances of untranslated Japanese speech are a bit beyond my pay grade.) Do they drop their “g”s when talkin’? Does one use painfully proper grammar when one speaks? This should go a long way toward making sure each character maintains a consistent voice, particularly if multiple translators and editors are involved.

    4. I should have picked a visual novel I liked more.
    I know, right? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with KoiRizo. It’s a perfectly fine moege. It’s light and fluffy and inconsequential. (Except for the dramatic bits, which are angsty and fluffy and inconsequential.) I guess that’s partly why I chose it; far easier to hone my craft on lighter titles like KoiRizo, then move onto more substantial fare.

    But yeah, it never really clicked for me. (My VNDB rating for it has been hovering around a 6, if that tells you anything.) I tend toward VNs that take more narrative and metatextual risks, whereas KoiRizo is perfectly happy being an average, trope-heavy, cookie-cutter moege. Moreover, it had way too many H-scenes for my taste, often at the expense of plot. While it forced me to learn how to edit those types of scripts very quickly — more on that in a later blog post, I’m sure — it wasn’t something I always enjoyed.

    But still, I never let any of this affect the quality of the output. I work in advertising, and we very rarely have the luxury of actually liking the brands we create campaigns for. You either learn to compartmentalize, or you get weeded out fast. All of which is to say, I always tried to honor both the original authorial intent and the lead TL’s vision for the project as best I could.


    So there you go. Just a few of the many editing mistakes I have made, presented here for your approval. May you go forth and learn from my facepalms.

    Because, as Goro says, forewarned is four-armed.

    *Or surrounded by cats.
  17. Like
    Bolverk reacted to melo4496 for a blog entry, First year of learning Japanese   
    A year has already passed since I started, so I decided to write something about the things I did and some things I have learned.

    I did say a year but actually, I informally began from the time I started watching anime. What I did was to listen attentively to the lines of the characters while associating them to the subtitle and to the scene. Doing this, I learned basic grammar and basic vocabulary.
    The formal endeavor started on Sept. 10, 2014. I learned kana and some 300 basic kanji through writing. I doubt someone will do this but still, I do not recommend to do the same as writing takes a lot of time and it doesn't help that much in reading. Reading can only be learned by doing the actual reading. (But doing something others cannot, is always fun.)
    I came to fuwa, met rains, then found a good news. Learning japanese can be done while reading visual novels.
    After 3.5 months, I decided to read my first raw vn since I already learned basic grammar, basic vocab, kana, and some 300 kanji.

    My first game was a moege. I started with this type of game because I heard around the forums that moege is the easiest type of game. But it was not easy.
    I'm a perfectionist so I worked hard to understand every single line, while reading it several times aloud, until I can speak it fluently. Darn perfectionist. Because of this method, a month has already passed yet I haven't even reached the 1st choice. Something has to change.

    I changed my approach. This time, I just move on after getting the gist, while keeping in mind to guess how the repeating word is read, before looking it up in the dictionary. It's faster and is a lot more fun than what I was doing before.


    I didn't completely comprehend everything but I still knew what's going on, thanks to the support from several factors:
    a. context of the scene
    b. background music
    c. characters' facial expression & gestures
    d. characters' tone & nuance.
    These things are very important, as it fills the stuff I didn't get from reading.

    The first game was specially tough. The key is not to give up. As much as possible, one should avoid reading two or more games at the same time and concentrate on a single vn. Avoid reading a vn then dropping it, then continue to repeat the cycle. Finishing a VN completely, gives motivation to read more. Also, one should not rely too much on Jparser. Atleast have a dictionary program for support. These are my suggestions for guys who are planning to read raw vns.
    My goal is to enjoy visual novels without tools.
    My initial impression when I was starting was, before attempting to read VNs, I should have a good grasp of the 2136 Jouyou Kanji first. This is a common misconception. Having solid basic grammar is the "go signal". Grammar acts like a backbone/outline/foundation in understanding Japanese.

    As for kanji, grinding them one by one, is not as enjoyable & effective as remembering them in VNs wherein kanji is used in actual words.
    For some words, I start by identifying them as a "unit" and not as "assembled parts". For example, the word 自動販売機 (jidouhanbaiki / vending machine). I think of this as【自動販売機】and not as 自+動+販+売+機. The first and the last characters are my main focus. Through its repeated appearance, I slowly recognized the characters "inside" the word and their respective order. Then eventually learned their on-yomi as well. 自 is "ji", 動 is "dou", 販 is "han",etc.

    Also, I found the hiraganas that succeed the kanji of a word very useful in remembering the words. I'll just call them "hiraganas" here.
    Say I'm not sure what the word 確かめる means and how it is read. But I can read the hiragana part so it will look like this in my mind. 〇かめる
    "Now, I don't know any other word with 'kameru' as its 'hiraganas' aside from 'tashikameru'. I'm not sure though if that's correct. Hmm. *checks the dictionary* Oh yeah, it is 'tashikameru'."
    Due to it's constant appearance in the lines, I started to associate the appearance of 確 with かめる and with it's corresponding reading and meaning. Then eventually recognized 確かめる reflexively. It also told me that 確 is "tashi", therefore, 確かに is "tashikani".
    I believe that Repetition is key to learning any skill. Maji.

    About 2 months ago, I began watching anime again but this time, without subs. Watching raw anime improves my vocab and it gives me satisfaction and enjoyment more than those with subs, since there is no distraction.
    Now, I'm going to give few comments about the airing anime series this season that I am watching, which I arranged according to difficulty from how I see them.
    Easy to understand
    1. Danchigai - 3.5 mins / episode. A really soothing series.
    2. Ore Monogatari - 好きだ!
    3. Gakkou Gurashi! - Cute girls doing cute things, in a not so cute situation.
    4. Prison School - Funniest thing on earth.
    5. Ao Haru x Kikanjuu - Has similar premise as Ouran HSHC. This one though is action.
    6. Charlotte - story by Jun Maeda (Key). Charlotte's episode 7 is one of the best episodes I have ever watched. Started to get quite complex on episode 8.
    Not so easy
    7. Shokugeki no Souma - Best anime. The cooking terms are not easy.
    8. Ushio to Tora - Youkai terms. I normally hate noisy songs but I love this series' OP. Has a tsundere.
    9. GATE - Military. Honestly I have no idea what's going on with the plot aside from the obvious.

    Well, that's the end of this.
    Screenshots from Le Labyrinthe De La Grisaia
  18. Like
    Bolverk reacted to Chronopolis for a blog entry, Gurenka Part 1: Common + Elsrise's Route   
    Gurenka (vndb) is made by Escu:de, a VN company which has a fairly long history of games I've never heard about. I stumbled upon the title on vndb (The naked red-haired girl in the screenshots had nothing to do with it, I swear!). As a Chuunibyou story, I thought I'd try to make a new start to the genre. My previous experiences in Chuunibyou ran me aground with 11eyes -Tsumi to Batsu to Aganai no Shoujo, which featured lack luster school slice-of-life combined with endless battles I couldn't see a point to. I ended up dropping it fairly early on.
    As far as I can tell, Chuunibyou is all about embracing your the young teenager in yourself, the way some of us might have played "pretend games" with spies, secret organizations, and superpowers when we were kids. Chuunibyou involves combat where the circumstances of the fight fall secondary to the rolling emotions and the impact of the characters. Perhaps it because the characters themselves didn't make an impression but I couldn't get into the characters emotions during the 11eyes's fights. But that is fine, because Gurenka was a lot better in that regard.
    From the UI and title song, I immediately felt the atmospheric component of the game. From the the lack of visible characters on the title screen (it's just wall of hazy red), I also thought the story might be more tragic, with the atmosphere acting stifling at times. When you finish a routes, you can toggle a character display on the title screen. Such a different impression from that red wall! All in all, the system aspect is very well polished. It's great.
    {Note: This post is made having finished the common route (or at least one side of it) and Elsrise's route.}
    In the first few hours, the presence of the supernatural is quickly established. Unlike VN's who start with a supernatural prologue and then fall in slice-of-life, the MC has the supernatural be, quite literally on his doorstep.
    It isn't long before Otherworld's start popping up. To be honest, when the protagonist starts invoking his powers and dealing with the situation, I was pretty left in the dust. I get what you're probably capable of combat-wise, but I don't know how it works, don't know how it solved the problem, don't know how I should think about it, nor where things are going to go from here.
    From there on, the VN is a flurry of conversations with the characters, investigating the strange events, and new outbreaks. The incidents exist very much in an on-going fashion, with them happening and being dealt with in a non-linear fashion.
    Now that I look back on it, most of the conversations were kept short and light. The few extended scenes themselves were varied, including a slice-of-life conversation and the conversation between the teacher and Saori in the hallway. I liked how that one stirred the pot of possibilities up while hinting at the two's characters. Good pacing overall.
    The latter half of the common route and beginning of the route had some important fights involving Kuon, Ryouji and Elsrise. I enjoyed how past confrontations often got brought up later in the story. Sometimes things that happened are explained, other times the characters mention things that were strange that they noticed. Doing so made the fights feel important to the story.
    I also think the middle part of the novel had pretty good flow. The relevant conversations, shifting of relations, and successive scenes all felt quite smooth.
    The final segment of Elsrise's route was one big showdown. Suffice to say, it was exciting. Kuon is badass. When the trio was pinned down in the city, despite it just being a fight (there was no huge plot build-up nor greater purpose they were fighting for), just the renewed danger made it feel like full-on crisis mode. Though, it was a bit hard to follow along with the Otherworld plot, as it wasn't obvious what was going to develop into the next source of adversity. The origins and objective of the "foe" probably weren't fully explained in Elsrise's route, though I expect them to be in Kuon's route.
    Plot structure:
    The overlying plot was Kuon staying by Kyouji's side until she sealed enough Otherworlds. As is common for stories with an initial nebulous overarching objective, its progress wasn't focused on much, other than Kuon noticeably becoming stronger as time went on. As Ryouji took towards sealing the Otherworlds, he quickly found himself caught up in much more immediate matters. Then, towards the end of the story, when Kuon breaks the news that this next incident might be the last, the reader, at least I was, filled with nostalgia/reluctance. This doesn't strike me as anything groundbreaking, but still, I can approve of a VN that can properly induce those emotions. There are a few BGM tracks that only play once or twice near the end which help set the different moods. There were a lot of little enjoyable things in the novel.
    Besides sealing the Otherworlds, there wasn't really a major concrete goal to work towards. This was pretty different from what I was used to.
    If I had to say, what made the plot feel moving forward was:
    1. The protag gradually gaining an understanding of the Otherworld. At first he was just thrown into the fray, but later he makes observations and hears speculation and explanations of the other characters. [1]
    2. The protag gradually learns more about Alsrise and Alize. [2]
    --Moderate spoilers--
    [1] We first viewed the Otherworld as something that encroaches on the real world, and which attaches to (ie. haunts) a person.
    Then comes the hypothesis from Saori, that the Otherworld and the real world being two seperate worlds with can be crossed by making them overlap slightly.
    Then we get the explanation from Elsrise that the Otherworld is basically "masses of power" present all over the world, which reacts to people's strong emotions and manifests them.
    [2] At first we only know that she doesn't mind leaving the Otherworlds alone. Later on we learn that she is worried what will happen if too many are sealed and gathered in one place, instead of being allowed to dissipate naturally. Lastly, we learn about Alsrise's homeland and her nature, being the product of people's dreams/longings.
    --End of spoilers--
    I think I understand how the Otherworld forms the plot in the common route. The idea is that a ill-defined source (the Otherworld) leads to seemingly very-different scenarios, but which have some similarities to each other once we understand more of the details. The way Gurenka does it seems like one approach to using supernatural phenomena to fuel plot events.
    I find it exciting how the nature of the Otherworld makes keeps the supernatural element relevant even for the human heroines. The humans routes will almost certainly focus more on the internal struggles of those heroines and how they are realized by the Otherworld.
    At the start I mentioned Gurenka's polished menu and UI. Gurenka's one of the few novels which I've really felt how much the production values improved the experience (another that comes to mind is Eustia). The sprite and visual effects do a solid job in accentuating the characters motions. That, combined with the music, art, and sfx helped immerse the reader in the fight scenes.
    I did had some minor complaints for the fights, nothing too much. It might be me not being used to reading fight scenes, but some of the effects CG's didn't seem match with the text description. Also sometimes attacks from different people used the same cg, which was confusing and made it harder to picture the action.
    On the personableness of the opposing heriones
    I like how Gurenka handles potential enemies interacting and sharing the same space. What I mean is this setup can lead to some constrained and predicable scenes (Tsukihime and Fate/Stay night). In Gurenka, they bump heads occasionally, but it isn't drawn out, and so it ends up feeling very smooth and pleasant while still being believable. Though, the latter might have only been possible thanks to the broad-mindedness of Kuon and amiableness of Elsrise.
    Both kuon and Elsrise are in a position where they can further the main plot, without dumb quarrels (of course, if their quarrels had been story-worthy, that would have been a different matter).
    I thought the Elsrise was going to be kuon's direct enemy, with their history being somehow tied to that, but she ended up being an unrelated existence, which was unexpected, but nice. The story might have felt constrained and a bit of a rehash if Elsrise's route was just another side of the same quarrel.
    Kyouji and Elsrise's relationship development is a quite abbreviated, but their relationship is given an appropriate amount of along-the-way thought considering the space and the fact that the VN's plot does not hinge on their relationship. In terms of plausibility, Alize surprisingly succeeds in making the two's quick development more believable, but here also Elsrise's personality plays a large role.
    On the MC's lack of personality:
    Ryouji's thoughts, comments and reactions are sufficient to make the the VN scenes flow and be interesting, but he doesn't have a strong personality you can pin him down to.
    Having an MC with a stronger personality would let the reader appreciate him as a character when he interacts with the other characters. It would also might include his character development. As he gets closer to Elsrise, you can see most prominently in her reactions. I can't recognize a change in him, because I can't grasp him as an individual in the first place!
    A stronger personality might have also made his conversations with Saori more animated, with a back-and-forth dialogues instead of one-way conversations.
    On the MC acting and thinking like a middle school student:
    Ryouji being a bit of a kid actually interacts well with the characters and parts of the story:
    Kuon is doesn't mind having fun together with, and at the expense of, a teenager like Ryouji.
    Elsrise, at first, treats Ryouji as a noncombatant [3] (in that she has mercy on him), because of their gap in power and experience and because he is a human. However afterwards, she considers him properly and doesn't dismiss him for being a teenager.
    To be honest, Ryouji having the mind of a teenager didn't effect his ability to get things done. There were no tactical geniuses in this VN: he was just about as competent as everyone else. It just is clearly visible occasionally, such as during Elsrise's route. It would have been nice if he gave more thought and consideration to Elsrise, towards the individual she might be.
    Ryouji's human friends operate on pretty much the same frequency, so that fits too.
    The other thing that works well with his young self is the fights in Gurenka. While they have a sense of crisis and "oh shit", they don't have a grave seriousness like a more serious title would. Because of that, perhaps his teenager's fighting spirit is more appropriate than an adult's would be. I'll be sure to compare the emotions at play when I read other Chuunibyou VN's like Evolimit and Tokyo Babel.
    [3] リーゼ「これで分かったでしょう?あなたの所にいるあの化け猫の所にお帰りなさい」
    Closing words:
    So far it's been an enjoyable ride. The characters are impressionable. Kuon is a riot and occasionally a storm, Elsrise is admirable, Fumika is adorable when she is pouting, Saori is the intelligent deducer of the group: I will be pleased if her route reflects the intelligence she displays so far. The miko is by far the character we know the least about. She has almost no telling lines in the whole route. I hope she gets a long enough route and makes an impression later on.
    For the next route, I'm going to resume from the closest branch on the flowchart (flowcharts 最高!!!). Onwards to Kuon's(?) route!!!
  19. Like
    Bolverk reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Sumire   
    Wow. This is definitely a case of not being able to judge a book by its cover... or by its summary, either. I don't think I've encountered a VN with as much emotional impact as this one since Houkago no Futekikakusha, last summer.

    Sumire is by Nekoneko Soft, one of the oldest existing VN brands... They are one of the 'founding names' of the moege umbrella genre, while also producing more serious works through their subsidiaries, such as Cotton Soft (of Reconquista and Owaru Sekai to Birthday fame).

    Sumire is rather unique, by the standards of current VNs. The protagonist, rather than being a student, is a salaryman in in his mid-twenties, a socially inept man who was an otaku but has lost most of his passion. He goes to a virtual chat room/online game that imitates a school, where people use characters from Nekoneko Soft games as avatars. There, he is part a sub-community of four people (including him) of people that are similarly awkward.

    This story is... emotional to say the least. So far, I've finished two arcs of the story (there is only one actual path, though there are apparently multiple endings) and I had to spend the last thirty minutes or so easing myself out of crying-mode. What is so good about this? Generally speaking, I have to say it is the overall presentation and characterization, as well as the narrative.

    The depth of the characters lent by the narration and dialogue - keeping in mind that they are the same type of person, generally speaking - is impressive, considering how relatively short a time I have been playing. At the same time, the story itself - for all its odd aspects - is one that is mostly easy to understand. It reminds me of some of the best works of last decade (2001-2010) in that it tries to just tell a story rather than pretending to be something in particular (ex. a charage, a nakige, etc).

    So, unless they seriously screw things up, this is VN is a definite candidate for VN of the Month...

    Edit: Changed this post so it reflects the whole game.

    Now that I've finished the game - and yes it is that short - I will go ahead give my final word on it. This game stops a bit short of kamige-level (the ending is a bit too short and 'things are looking up' optimistic for that), but it is nonetheless an excellent game.

    Now, for the overall... first, I should say that there are a total of three arcs. There is one focused on Sumire, then Hinahime, then Akari. Sumire is the main heroine, with the other two girls having 'extra' h-scenes in the omake section or as an extra on the second playthrough.

    The first two arcs are both straightforward - relatively speaking - stories of alienation and redemption, with a bit of love and friendship thrown into the mix. Really, in the first two arcs, you can't really get a good lock on what is motivating everyone, which isn't surprising, really. About two thirds of the game is in the characters rl and a third in the virtual space (it is more like half and half in the early game and ends up mostly rl at the end).

    For those who like mild mindfucks... Akari's arc will fulfill your desires to an extent. You'll find out the last few undiscovered secrets of the characters, including what links them together. In addition, you'll also have to choose between one normal, one bad, and one true ending. The true ending is a nice conclusion, though it is very short. The normal ending is sad, and the bad ending is a bit... depressing looking at it from the outside.

    Overall, this is an excellent VN, though short. I'd recommend it to those who want something unusual to break out of their usual reading habits but don't want something violent or with lots of sexual drama.
  20. Like
    Bolverk reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Silverio Vendetta: Common and Milly   

    This VN was made by the same team that did Zero Infinity and Electro Arms, and it shows (in some ways). They have definitely improved their character balance and the way they present them, as well as the overall storytelling. The common route is fairly long (think about ten hours for me, about the same amount of time it takes me to completely finish a small charage), and it covers a rather large amount of content (there is no wasted time in this game at all, and yet it still manages to be as long as any of the other VNs by this team).

    For those who are unclear about the setting, it is based a thousand years after a disaster that ends our civilization, due to a huge breach in the dimensional walls that basically renders our most important technologies worthless, giving us the power of Astral instead.

    First, the protagonist... Zephyr. He is the antithesis of a hero, to be blunt about it. His nature is very base (he isn't a rapist though), with a tendency to prefer self-protection above all other things... except when it comes to Milly, the adopted little sister who is the focus of his current existence. In battle, he tends to either be evading... or dismembering/decapitating his enemies, using insults, misdirection, and brutal tactics to take them down, without any trace of mercy whatsoever. To be blunt, in battle he is either running around or a cold-hearted killer, lol.

    Second, the heroines... Milly, Chitose, and Vendetta. Milly is the protagonist's adopted little sister, with whom he escaped the massacre that killed her parents and over 73,000 others in a single night. She is kind-hearted, a skilled technician, and a natural sweetheart to everyone around her. She is literally incapable of hating anyone, as far as I can tell. Chitose is... Milly's opposite. She is aggressive, strong-willed, and utterly merciless with those she considers to be her enemies or those of the state. Vendetta... well, lets just say that Vendetta is a bit inscrutable, though she comes across as a nagging older sister most of the time.

    Third, I think that whether you like this game is going to be primarily dependent on whether you can like the protagonist (if you are already able to read Light-style writing, that is, lol). For all that he is basically pond-scum (and quite well-aware of it), he grows on you once you get past it. The common route defies the usual classifications for the simple reason that Light action VNs tend to be a bit hectic, lol.


    Milly, as described above, is the kind-hearted little sister. Her route is fairly heart-rending, if only because of the way things fall apart so fast, once they pass a certain point. Her route shows off a number of interesting characters, ranging from the hedonistic fist-fighter Asura to Milly's master as a technician, Jin.

    As always, I'm avoiding spoilers, so it is hard to figure out what I can say... Milly's route definitely has impact. I cried numerous times along the way, and Milly does manage to escape being another Kasumi (reference to Dies Irae), in that she isn't hopelessly out of place in the story, despite being the only 'normal person' heroine.

    It is a bit frustrating that none of the biggest mysteries get revealed, but the fights were brutal enough to satisfy my bloodlust, though they followed the usual pattern that Light prefers, of the protagonist almost always being at a horrible disadvantage.

    The ending is quite satisfying, though bittersweet (you can't avoid lots of character deaths in Light VNs), and I honestly was happy with how it turned out for Milly and Zephyr, though I did think that falling short of actually finding out everything that was going on behind the scenes means you will probably have to play this one first to avoid feeling unsatisfied with it.
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