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kivandopulus

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kivandopulus last won the day on September 3 2017

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  1. Lipstick Adv.EX [Fairytale]

    Foreword: I have very high evaluation of the games of the series and since this is the only Windows game of the series (I'll play Lipstick ADV.4 as well just out of spite, but it's universally despised by the fans of the series), I just had to play it. It took me quite some to realize that wish, but finally it's there. Welcome to the Lipstick ADV world! Title: Lipstick Adv.EX Developer: Fairytale Date: 1999-04-23 VNDB link:https://vndb.org/v7334 Youtube walkthrough:https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLENAECnNmAq_wBpUoznkGk-MxcM3tBVDt Synopsis: Hidaka Koume heads a detective club at an all-girl school. Ichijou Megumi is a detective who got dragged by Koume to be a councilor for the club. Everything starts with stolen underwear at school, but then girls start to be assaulted with a knife right at the school and terrorist acts start to happen around the city. At that moment Megumi gets quite an ordinary surveillance order that turns out to be a much bigger deal. Is it possible that terrorist acts and mysterious case are connected somehow? Structure: 7 acts with the zapping system of switching between two protagonists. Length: 10 hours Game type: School detective story Difficulty: Very easy, but it seems to be possible to miss couple CG. Character Design rating: 10/10 Protagonist rating: 9/10 Story rating: 9/10 Game quality: 9/10 Overall rating: 9/10 Rating comments: Game's absolutely marvelous. Luxurious graphics, full voicing including protagonist, bright palette, absence of character sprites in favor of CGs, intriguing story and quite many mysteries that get unwrapped one by one. So, why not a perfect score? There are some flaws. Story is mostly developed by Deus Ex Machina even though each of protagonists eventually manage to find a clue to the culprit. Between the chapters there are often girl assault events shown right at school, but for some very convenient reason all the girls just keep silent about that till the very last chapters. The ending part is quite pressed with events as we get from total despair and no clues to finale in a mere hour. Ending is too convenient and there is no epilogue (although there are CGs in the ending which show the future of heroes, so it's suffice for an epilogue). Game mechanics is a bit troublesome during the major part of the game as you need to visit some 15 locations and click through all the objects. It gets especially tiresome with people as you need to click on their mouth, face, hair and costume a lot of times till the dialogue goes on - and it's hearing all the same "Don't look at my face/hair/suit so much" over and over again. But I happily clicked through all those moments and some of the plot moments that were in the following as well (since you never know when new dialogue starts - after clicking on face/hair or suit for the tenth time or more). But, believe it or not, all those shortcomings aren't really enough to lower the score. I just did not feel satisfaction from the rushed ending and that hurt the aftertaste. Protagonist: Let's make it clear - game was meant to be a new Eve: Burst Error/EVE: The Lost One. It shares a lot of similarities with that great predecessor. But at the same time game had to be in the vein of past Lipstick ADV games. Ichijou Megumi is very similar to Kojiroh. He holds a one-man detective office, also rents it and constantly has problems with money. But Megumi is really young and much less charismatic that Kojiroh. He's also not a genius and spends too many evenings drinking at the bar (how? at the start of the game his wallet only has 930 yen). In the end he makes a stupid mistake of leaving his office door open and he can't recognize a woman who wore big sunglasses even if he sees her everyday. On the other hand Koume is a traditional heroine of Lipstick ADV games, genki long red-haired girl. She also does not show any signs of genius detective unable even to pacify the only two members of detective club besides her. So each day they spend oh a whip following wishes of its member Rie. Koume was able to obtain her clue by doing the very basic police actions that police absolutely neglected to do. Koume part is much bigger than that of Megumi, because it's devoted to relations between many girls in school, I think eight is the number. It looks organic and nice, but it was really difficult to say where the game was going till the 6th chapter. Characters: As I mentioned, there are some 8 girl characters at school and one woman outside of school, plus some male characters - bartender, police detective, school teacher. But since there is just one route, it was difficult to tell which heroines were important and which weren't. In the end only Koume detective club companion girls had an important role - genki and light-hearted Rie and serious reserved Aki, who is not interested in playing detectives and got dragged to this club by Rie. There's also girl Risa who plays a huge part as a rival of Kouka for Megumi and later on as a witness. And there is another girl who plays a big role because all the serious events start with her death. Story: So the outline is set in the synopsis, but I'll try to elaborate without spoilering too much. First two chapters are just fooling around and improvised dates. Someone steals underwear at school, so it's just jokingly search for the pervert. But then one girl which both protagonists met a lot of times during first chapters, is suddenly found dead in peculiar circumstances. There are about two more chapters just about the shock and despair after that event. But actually only Koume was able to find the clue of the culprit. Megumi found his own clue, but to his own case he was given as a part of his job, and those two cases turned out to be parts of one bigger case and bigger person. The whole bombs part is an inheritance from old Lipstick ADV series and looks quite alien here. The reason for bombings remains vague unlike the murder which has a thorough explanation in the form of culprit diary which we again very conveniently are just led to. So it's not a good a good detective story, but a nice mystery with great characters and valid emotional aspect. CG: 295 CG. We're difficult to be surprised by this amount with modern games often having 300+, but 295 is a huge number for a game from 1999. I especially liked that there aren't really normal H scenes in the game. Most of the HCG are very episodic and just parts of very brief events between the chapters. So it could very easily be an all-ages game. Sound: I like the basic midi sound for being ... expressive, but I enjoyed CD-DA BGM even more in the end. Good tunes and great full voicing. Humor: There aren't real gags here, but dialogues are often very funny in the beginning and those connected with light-headed Rie later on. Title and Themes: So what does EX in title stands for? In my opinion it was meant to mean that unlike predecessors it has very explicit X content, but X could also mean it's the 10th game of the series, so EX was chosen instead. Another question is why the game was not just called 4th part. In my opinion it's because main heroes are different from Gorou and Otomi, even though the archetypes of the characters are quite the same. Overall comments: Lipstick Adv.EX is not a kamige, but is a very delicious treat if you don't expect serious mystery out of it. Point and click sequences may be irritating at times, but bear with it and you'll get one of the best visual novels of the 1990s.
  2. Good VN youtube channels

    My channel preaches hardcore systematic approach towards visual novels. Niche project, but hopefully useful one.
  3. Foreword: I never wanted to play this game, but got a request to make a playthrough recently, so agreed to do that since I was quite curious to see how much the original differs from the remake and why actually PC98 version is described as kamige by some reviewers (1) while remake being trampled to dirt. Title: Ai Shimai ~Futari no Kajitsu~ Developer: Silky's Date: 1994-09-30 VNDB link:https://vndb.org/v1836 Youtube walkthrough:https://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=u8udgdLjN0U Synopsis: A sincere older step-sister and a curious younger step-sister are doomed to become love slaves. One day, a house wife named Yukie has a traffic accident. She is ordered to pay a large settlement to the other party, Taketo, the son of the owner/president of Nogawa Industries. Unable to make the settlement payment, Yukie allows Taketo to have her sexually. At the same time, Takato's father, Nogawa, approaches Yukie's step-daughter, Rumi, and blackmails her. His evil scheme even reaches for Tomoko, Yukie's younger step-sister. Structure: 10 branches with endings, some of which are bad endings and some almost identical. Game takes part during 5 days of Taketo father trip overseas - during that time Taketo must settle the incident. Length: 2.5 hours Game type: Nukige. Difficulty: Quite difficult due to big number of branches, guide recommended Character Design rating: 5/10 Protagonist rating: 2/10 Story rating: 2/10 Game quality: 7/10 Overall rating: 5/10 Rating comments: Even posting a nukige review is a high enough score for such a game, so 5/10 is not that bad. There's no real story and MC is just pure evil golden boy. But character design and graphics overall (including animated pieces) are really nice and all. Protagonist: Taketo can only compete with cruelness with his father, corporate bigwig. Basically he has zero morality, so easily forges documents, drugs the opposite party and blackmails everyone. Don't think there was ever a trace of his humanity depicted anywhere in the text. Characters: Main heroines are sisters Rumi and Tomoko, but their mother Yukie and secretary Yumi also play a very big and picturesque part in all this mess and all possible variations including 3P and 4P. Characters are cute, but not developed at all. What I disliked the most was that the interaction between the sisters is minimal, they remain schematic pieces. Story: It's really all in the synopsis. Taketo's father gets into a crash and imposes dealing with its consequences on his son Taketo (in exchange for giving him pocket money) instructing him using harsh methods and using women weaknesses. And Taketo does just that - invites Yukie to the company office where drugs and binds her making lewd photos of her and forcing to sign a 5 million yen debt receipt. With that document and photos he goes straight to each of the girls at school, violating them as he wants in exchange of partial debt lifting. After 5 days father comes back from the overseas trip and finds out his safe cracked. Basically all the endings differ by the person who cracks the safe and the person who actually gets the safe contents in the end triggering all kinds of good/bad endings. CG: Game hugely lacks non-HCG. It should probably be noted that pc-98 version does not contain censorship. Instead it just... lacks detail in some parts which was quite mainstream way of censorship in 1994. Sound: BGM... I definitely remember there was BGM and I even waited for two minutes for the intro piece to finish. But overall I guess I did not pay enough attention to that. Title and Themes: Title reflects the brainless story - only the fruits of those two love sisters matter here. Overall comments: I really did not know what to write about here, so let's keep this at minimum volume. Silky's had a great success with Nonomura Byouin no Hitobito and with that established a standart of multiple branches, multiple endings for further generations. Ai Shimai is their next game, so it's natural that it was meant to reap the success of that new experimental structure. But while Nonomura Byouin no Hitobito is an intriguing mystery game, Ai Shimai is made as a brainless nukige where multiple branches structure looks redundant. They could prolong the game time from 5 days to like 10 days to include all combinations of participants and add some bad endings, but instead they developed these 10 almost identical routes that don't even have logical endings. Like in one ending hero gets hit on the head and receives the best possible ending as a result and in other cases he gets to jail after the very same loosing consciousness instead. There's no effort made in any branch, so it all looks like a very spontaneous development. I'm just happy Silky's stopped spamming the same structure in their future games in favor of more variety. But Ai Shimai original is not all that bad compared to its remake that's a parade of ugliness. So is this game bad? Yes. But is this game good and significant enough to get a review? Absolutely yes.
  4. Carbon Knight [Palette]

    Foreword: I did not have much hopes about the game, but its introduction came upon me as a whirlwind. Mechanical dolls? Knights without soul? Three armored musketeers? Great demon king in person? A parade of deaths? Those were only a few things encountered in first 10 minutes of the game. Game has a very strong start and a strong ending with some nice battles and character development in-between. What's not to like here? Title: Carbon Knight Developer: Palette Date: 1998-09-25 VNDB link:https://vndb.org/v10914 Youtube walkthrough:https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLENAECnNmAq_kUzzqmi57545i6p5b_Dwl Synopsis: A world devastated by the battle of gods. The surviving people created inanimate "carbon humans" by using the relics of Gods and sealing the soul within. For several hundred years the war lasted. Now carbon knight needs to deter the restoration of the once sealed demon king. Structure: 13 short days. Length: 4 hours for one playthrough Game type: Eschatological fantasy. Difficulty: At least moderate, since there are a lot of choices and I only got lonely ending while there are happy endings with a girl as well. Character Design rating: 8/10 Protagonist rating: 5/10 Story rating: 9/10 Game quality: 7/10 Overall rating: 8/10 Rating comments: Overall score might be even 9 if I got some substantial epilogue that should exist in some girl ending. The lonely ending I got was too abrupt, but actually cool in itself. Characters are funny and cute enough. They look simple at the first glance, but each of main heroines carries a huge secret behind her back, so I like how their personalities played out. Protagonist is very straightforward, but he's probably needed like that for story's sake. Game quality suffers from big loading times between the scenes. Autoskip function is implemented very poorly. Backgrounds are mostly implemented in 3D, but that's rather a feature than a shortcoming here since those look immersive. But as for the story, it seems ordinary fight the demon king tale, but bears much more in it as it goes, so I rate story very high. Protagonist: Isaak is shown almost always irritated and/or shouting. He is too straightforward and short-tempered. He's not the most pleasant MC to deal with, but he's not voiced, so he can grimace as much as he wants in silence. Characters: There seem to be two main heroines - long red-hair Sheckly and short violet-hair Fortita. Sheckly is our usual child friend, tender and caring. Fortita is much more mysterious since she's very short and never aging. She's actually a carbon knight, soulless relic created to fight demonic invaders. She serves to Isaak and his father. There is also father Balzak's fighting buddy girl Gina who gets a H scene if willing. Possibly she can also get her ending, but according to very few and very poor CG gallery that exists for the game good ending confirmed only for Sheckly, just don't cite me on it. There are lots of very colorful side-characters as well. Everyone but MC is voiced, so it's never really boring. Story: So the game starts in a whirlwind of events. Demon king and his army demolish the city and kill the populace. The three armored musketeers are the only ones who try to oppose the demons. Sheckly, Isaak and Fortita try to escape a group of mechanical dolls. Next we're shown the dialogue between the demon king and the three musketeers and how a mechanical doll comes out with three corpses of Sheckly, Isaak and Fortita pierced. Isaak's father who is one of the musketeers goes berserk and demolishes the demon king... Then Isaak wakes up and those events seem to be a dream on the demon king invasion three years ago. Isaak is dreaming of becoming carbon knight master and goes on a journey with Sheckly and Fortita. There they confront demonic underlings who predict the resurrection of the demon king once all his body parts scattered around the world are collected again. These events take roughly first 15-20 minutes of the game, so I would not consider them a spoiler. As you can imagine, all the demon parts are destined to be collected for a grand confrontation again. But what I especially liked was that the battles of carbon knights and demons started out quite plain, but kept on with more and more increasing numbers of fatalities on both sides nearly wiping all the characters in the game. That was absolutely terrific and unprecedented since the time I saw GANTZ. Just so you know, there's much more to the story than just a series of battles. Every hero has a huge secret and uncovering those secrets make the game really exciting. Ending is surprising as well. System: So I decided to devise an optional system section since there are issues that don't fall into other sections well. So here I wanted to rant why I only got lonely ending and not going to pursue true ending with a girl. First of all, I value initial game experience very much - and each consecutive playthrough is a torture for me, especially without a guide. Secondly, I know that I like lonely ending the best since it's so cool, a real mortal combat. Lastly, game has very poor skipping feature that has to be turned on in the menu and you can't really stop it till there's a new choice or till a new scene starts. And each scene loads for some 10-20 seconds. It's really not fun doing it again. There are actually two more issues - big number of selections and very poor save implementation. Each time you load, you're thrown away very far back, so it's hugely inconvenient. CG: Absolutely terrific CG. Just loving it with all my heart. So much detail. Sometimes the blend of 2D and 3D looks weird, but mostly it's in harmony. But the best part in the art is dresses of girls. These dresses show so much skin that they look like the prototypes for all the modern Korean mmorpgs. Truly hilarious and breathtaking. Sound: BGM is decent, but not too memorable. Title and Themes: Game does not tell us much about carbon knights from the start apart of the fact that Fortita is one. But carbon knight theme gets a huge development in the last third of the game and finishes with the absolute domination of this theme, so it's a good choice. Overall comments: So Carbon Knight has its flaws lying mostly in technical part, but they don't belittle its advantages. I consider it to be the first traditional fantasy chuunige and a huge masterpiece of the time.
  5. Ever played a VN twice?

    No. Oh, wait, I played ELLE / エル twice, just because I liked it the first time and played it for the second time just to make a video of it.
  6. Shunpuu Shoujo 春風少女 [Aquarium]

    Foreword: Not the type of work I read usually. But game managed to conquer my heart with its opening song, as well as wonderful and various BGM. Actually, I would call it foreground songs rather than background music since those songs shine during the whole course of the game due to the fact that game's not voiced at all. But of course music alone can't be enough to keep attention. Shunpuu Shoujo has very beautiful unique art style and quite intriguing synopsis about celestial girl emerging in human world - such common synopsis was a base for lots of great visual novel stories of the past. But enough preface, let's begin. I'm sorry for the excessive number of screenshots - it's done because game has no CG gallery available online. Title: Shunpuu Shoujo Developer: Aquarium Date: 1998-10-30 VNDB link:https://vndb.org/v15331 Youtube walkthrough:https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLENAECnNmAq-u71AkUIovdrTzdPdIL0j9 Synopsis: Takuma Takuma is a college student. One day a girl Sari from another world appears before him. She said that she appeared to purify the conscious body possessed by Takuma and the should live together till that time. Takuma friends and girl classmates aren't really happy about that. Where shall the future take him? Structure: 13 small chapters. Length: 3-4 hours Game type: Celestial beings on Earth comedy Difficulty: Easy. Game offers a choice from time to time, but those are either flavor choices or additional CG triggers. Character Design rating: 8/10 Protagonist rating: 7/10 Story rating: 5/10 Game quality: 6/10 Overall rating: 7/10 Rating comments: I always ask myself first whether the game is of masterpiece level or not. And if it's not, it can only get as much as 6. And I've come to a conclusion that it's a masterpiece, albeit minor. Character design is astonishing, but characters don't get too much development. Protagonist is ok, but in the end he's just a passive girlish student. Story is on par with Viper-GTS level, so decent, but nothing too complicated or notable. Game quality gets a huge penalty for absence of voicing and overall small length. Protagonist: Takuma main feature is that he looks so girlish with his small slender body and long pink hair. That looks a bit weird, but only till HCG come in action. Seeing two small angels on the screen cuddling is quite heartwarming. Overall he's a passive graduating student and can't really move narration by himself. Characters: Story does not have branches, so there is only one main heroine Seiri there. But there are also two lively side-heroines - childhood friend that attends the same college and lower grade student who looks up to protagonist as a teacher. Yes... even though Takuma is a college student he somehow participates in practice as teacher for lower high school students. It's relations between these four characters that form the basis of the game and become the stage for lots of humorous situations. Apart of those four characters there are also two more heavenly beings and lots of sub-characters. Story: I rated story the lowest - as 5/10, so I'm not truly content with that. Takuma finds Seiri jumping from the portal and getting to know the cast takes first 5 chapters. Then first celestial being appears and brings some cheap drama followed by bouncing back and merry chapters again. In 10th chapter second celestial being arrives bringing more drama and finishing on Christmas eve sweet date. The very ending is curious though as it gives an answer on the future awaiting protagonists since the default situation is quite sad - Seiri is bound to return to her world and live forever while Takuma has to grow old like any mortal. Happy end is very satisfactory. CG: CG here are so gentle and cute. I don't think I've seen art style like that anywhere before. It surely is a treat after today's absolutely the same polished art style dominating in both anime and visual novels. Sound: BGM is an important actor in the game. For the first hour I was just listening to the BGM rather than enjoy character interaction. Soundtrack is especially cool because there is lots of singing in it. Humor: Humor here is not high quality, but rather in form of funny faces, character sprite emotions, chibi action CG etc. Most of such CG depict someone hitting someone else or such. But same as with CG, even chibi style here is very cute and actually only half-chibi since it's the same body that's deformed and head is proportional to the rest of the body. Title and Themes: Title can be roughly translated as "spring breeze girl". I don't think there's a special meaning to it, but Seiri is really so pure and shiny that she's like a breeze among other games' heroines. Overall comments: Game's actually better than description above. It has special charm that can't be felt without seeing for yourself. It has unique magic due absence of voicing and unconventional CG and BGM. I'm really glad that Aquarium recovered from the ugly art of its first works Carrot Time and Pretty Cat ~Lily and Kyle no Daibouken~. But I also like that the company does not forget its roots - just look at the very first screenshot - it's Nyantaru Pu himself from Toki no Moto e! I'm happy to see Aquarium made it in the 2000s and will look forward to seeing its further eleven works.
  7. Psyclone サイクロン [Vanilla]

    Foreword: I have not put a 10/10 score in a while. Psyclone is a classic cyberpunk story with sophisticated plot and great cast of characters. For genre fan it's an ultimate treasure. But game's not hookable, so I had to manually copy each line from the script for video playthrough. It was absolutely worth my time and I hope it can be worthy of yours. Title: Psyclone Developer: Vanilla Date: 1998-10-30 VNDB link:https://vndb.org/v15546 Youtube walkthrough:https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLENAECnNmAq8KWBAvVAymrEDxV6nl3B0E Synopsis: Psyclone is a cyber-reality city accessed by using bio-interface. Recently it has been under attack of crackers causing anomalies and hurting people, so its inventor "Postman" along with his comrades "Bee", "Peepin Sam" and one of the crackers "Saiko" try to find the source of attacks. At the same time in the real world many young girls get missing in the slums. How can these cases be connected? Structure: There are about twenty micro-chapters, but those are numerated in any manner. Length: 5 hours Game type: Classic cyberpunk story. Difficulty: Easy. Each time you get a game over, you can press try again and get just before the wrong choice. Character Design rating: 10/10 Protagonist rating: 10/10 Story rating: 10/10 Game quality: 8/10 Overall rating: 10/10 Rating comments: It's been so long I put any game a full score. Game is perfect composition-wise and characters-wise. But game quality gets a huge penalty for rhytmic but lacking excitement BGMs, non-full size CG (HCG are almost full size). There were also technical difficulties - inability of hooking and game error on windows switch, but launching with Dxwnd and using the text script ripped from the game did the trick in the end. Protagonist: Postman is a great protagonist. He inherited rights on bio-interface after his deceased father, but he created Psyclone all by himself. Furthermore, he managed to save his father's memories before the brain death, so his father is alive in the form of talking head in the real world and a full-scale actor in the net. The real name of Postman is Thomas Post Stroker. He's got a face and both knowledgeable and cool. Characters: The characters names correspond to the picture above - upper names row to the upper characters and lower names to the row below. There are two main heroines. First one is Postman's comrade "Bee" who is known for being a fast and tough user. She uses both forms of male and female in Cyclone. Her real name is Vi Rubins. She tries to behave rough like a boy, but she is so sincere and protective over Postman that she managed to totally win my sympathies. For example, in one of the bad endings she keeps nursing Postman in the vegetable state after he got his brains fried in the cyberspace. She also saves her virginity for Postman despite behaving all tough and being mocked by Saiko for that. I could not force myself to look at Saiko ending after seeing Bee's one. Saiko is a supercute and supertalented cracker. She has a lot of in common with Postman as they both are regarded as otaku with an affinity to old tech. She's energetic and of modern views. She's a very nice person, but I don't like it that her ending requires intimacy twice during the main course of the game. There is also a third main heroine, but she stands aside of both primary heroines. Kelly is a police inspector with a very important role to play. All I can say is that her ending goes on top of the primary heroine ending and may either happen with any of the heroines or may not happen at all. But look at this cast. There are also plenty of cool characters. Ange with her bright clumsy personality brings a lot of comic relief into the game. Peeping Sam is one of the coolest hackers with a terrific voicing. Postman's father is not presented here, but he is a worthy addition to the team, both for his constant fights with Postman and for his activity in cyberspace. That's a really great cast in here. Story: I don't feel like giving spoilers this time since the story is absolutely worth of reading yourself, but here is what I can share in addition to synopsis. Postman dives into the cyberspace to track the cracker and confronts Saiko there, but she turns out to act all by herself and not connected with the other cases of attack or kidnappings. So she decides to cooperate with the team to find the real culprit. At the same time Postman is being followed by a Cybertech corporation worker Ange who consistently offers to sell the rights for bio-interface. Upon overhearing a policeman we get to know that policemen have to fill quota of bringing two girls per day. So we need to investigate three major facilities - Saiko's information shop where she got information from, police station and Cybertech. And that's absolutely all I can tell without major spoilers. CG: There are not as many CG as I hoped for and it's a pity that CG only take like 1/3 of screen space. But I really like the old-school style and the quality of each CG. Sound: BGM is rhythmic, but without real melody - that can be both plus and minus. Voicing is truly great (only protagonist not voiced). Humor: Humor in this game is not in the form of gags, but rather situational. Ange is the main source of humor situations. I especially liked how she was offered some tart and each time she sincerely exclaimed "Ah, oishiso!!!", but then remembered of the number of calories and rejected the offer. But the fun part was that the same situation was repeated several times during the talk. And she has such a light windy personality that we easily believe that she sincerely rejoices each time forgetting about previous cases. Title and Themes: I always try to guess the meaning behind the title of the game. And this time there are so many meanings in the title. Psyclone = Psyclone city + Saiko + Psy + Clone. Game incorporates the best cyberpunk ideas, but manages to tell an absolutely unique story. Overall comments: I praised the game enough, but how could such a wonderful game be overlooked by Japanese audience? Game's got just one impression that's not even accessible now via web archive. I guess game graphics are to blame. In 1998 users could only try to assess the content by the box and box only features non-flashy images and weird phrases like "Cracker", "Bio Interface", "Texture Ripper". And that cost 8800 yen which was the cost of a top-tier game. Whatever the reasons are, game is just too big to be forgotten and I'll give remaining Vanilla games special attention.
  8. Lofty Form [Aaru]

    Foreword: This game's synopsis shattered my imagination from the first second and only the rarity of the game stopped me from playing it at once. Did my high hopes of the game come true? You'll know soon enough. Title: Lofty Form Developer: Aaru Date: 1997-11-28 VNDB link:https://vndb.org/v15188 Youtube walkthrough:https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLENAECnNmAq-EjfsuBaQRr6x65QIhzOeO Synopsis: Yakushiji Shion is the eldest son from the clan that punishes bad people. But after he assassinated Empire's shadow Kurobe Akiyoushi, it is regarded as a rebellion against the Empire. He gathers the clan and moves towards the North. Every day they are attacked by pursuers. At the same time he is chased by the girl Hiramatsu Yae who fell in love with Shion. Structure: No real structure or branches. Length: 6 hours Game type: Samurai story with some fantasy elements. Difficulty: Very easy. Character Design rating: 6/10 Protagonist rating: 8/10 Story rating: 6/10 Game quality: 5/10 Overall rating: 6/10 Rating comments: Game has quite low production values, but the story was decent and I struggled between 6 and 7 as overall rating almost till the end. I can't deny the coolness of main character Shion who speaks like 5 times during the game total, but the story in the end started to obtain various flaws and ended in a fluke which is unacceptable for a masterpiece level game, thus it's 6. Protagonist: Yakushiji Shion is pretty much everything in this game and half of game's (10?) CG show how cool he is. He speaks only a few times in the game with very short one-word phrases and most of the time we just see "..." whenever he is asked anything. That adds mystery. But he's so cool mostly because he's the only strong character and basically he defeats any enemy with just one strike. And we're being hinted that his clan might possess the secret of immortality which raises evaluation of Shion the Immortal even further. Characters: There is a bunch of characters who accompany Shion. Notably his step-brother Koriyama and step-sister Sayaka. Both of them were found and brought up by Shion's father. Next there a girl Hiramatsu Yae who tags along after she's saved from the hands of country's general who was set to making her a slave doll. There's also the princess girl and the spy girl who accompany the party at the certain point of narration. There is a good number of enemies, but to my regret enemies aren't really charismatic and for the most time that's just some masked ninja. Story: So the country of narration has not had wars for some 10 years at least. Everyone enjoys peace and noone carries weapons anymore. Yakushiji brothers on the other hand keep wearing weapons and bring self-justice to the villains of the country. It's going all right till they murder the great commander and first general of the army who lived in vice. But empire did not want to announce the fact of his death and instead sent remnants of warring clans to punish Yakushiji brothers. Yakushiji clan leader understands that killing general-commander will lead to consequences and because of that he sends his sons to the North and tells the reason of it only to Shion who is not really talkative. So first half of the story takes the journey to the North and that's all I can say without spoiling. More under a spoiler banner. CG: For the first 2/3 of the game there are zero CG! There are some small CG which are like 50x50, but that's not even remotely enough. Then we get to see two almost the same CG of Shion fighting and the end gets packed with like 10 CG in succession. That's a very weird CG placement that leaves a very poor impression of the main story events. Sound: Only BGM and in traditional Aaru style - after melody's over it does not cycle and up to the next story shift there's only silence to accompany you. Humor: There is none, if you don't consider humor those eternal games in silence with "..." repeated over and over by different characters. But one case was so absurd that it made me laugh. Koriyama follows rogue Makino to some house and finds there Makiho and two just killed warm corpses of a man and a woman. But Makiho says it was not him and just left. Then Koriyama is asked by a street girl to kill rogue Makino. Koriyama asks what are her proofs. - He treated me poorly and commited me on many different occasions. - Uh-huh. - He killed Rutarou. - Uh-huh. - He killed both my parents. - Uh-huh. - After that he killed governor of the town Kirishima. - No way! A governor? What a horrible person. Themes: I always try to guess the meaning behind the title of the game. Lofty form - what's that even about? Apparently lofty means of imposing height, thus lofty form means something like "high style". The synopsis indeed features high style narration, but the form and the essence are two different matters and should not necessarily coincide. So after all it's only form that remains lofty here. Overall comments: I probably placed too much hope in this game. Its low production values and plot inconsistencies described under spoiler did not let me really enjoy the game. But it's still a plot driven samurai story with a very impressive protagonist and might be worth your attention.
  9. Foreword: I was prejudiced towards this game after reading Japanese reviews blaming it for scrapping story in favor of H-events, but in reality the setting, plot and characters left me no choice but to get to the ending. Title: Rougetsu Toshi Developer: Softhouse Bonbee Bonbon Date: 1997-12-26 VNDB link:https://vndb.org/v15347 Youtube walkthrough:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BX9cGamwbB8&list=PLENAECnNmAq9uoqPyBvnAsL7316x1C3bc Synopsis: Tokyo at the end of the century got completely blocked from the outside world due to transformation of Kanto plains and emergence of black fog that blocks radio waves. The raise of shady organizations and appearance of strange dreams make people uneasy. Hero acquires mysterious power to oppose those threats. Structure: There are six chapters roughly one hour long each. Length: 6 hours Game type: Mystery end of the world chunige type. Difficulty: Just one route with some commands to choose action and location. Character Design rating: 9/10 Protagonist rating: 8/10 Story rating: 9/10 Game quality: 8/10 Overall rating: 8/10 Rating comments: My rates reflect my hesitation between 8 and 9 as final score. Game felt like a firm 9 during the most of its course and and only in the last third some of its flaws became evident after grasping where the game was finally going. I expected even more epic ending and at least some sort of epilogue. Otherwise it would be 9 since the game is of surprisingly high quality with individualistic characters, old-school charming design and a well-rounded story. Protagonist: Akira Myouji is an average high school student who starts to see strange drams. However he has a formed personality and no real weaknesses thus he has a cool aura. He does not look for H events, but is rather coerced towards it or does it out of necessity. The reason is that crystal bearers have to compensate their negative destructive energy with some positive life creation act... oh well, at least there's some kind of justification. Characters: There aren't main heroines in the game. There is childhood friend Asuka, her best friend Kuriko. There is also police special female team with the following cast: leader and descendant from ancient monsters fighting clan Suzuka, reserved blue long hair beauty Aoto, undercover transfer student Yuka, eccentric burly personality Mai and undercover Health room nurse Shiho-sensei. There are also side characters - strange library girl Kuko and school teacher Biho. Needless to say, they all get H-scene and sometimes much more than one. Most of the characters are grown-ups and everyone is memorable and attractive. My favorite character is Kuriko. We first meet her when she gives Akira a tour around the school - and while at it she badmouths pretty much everyone and gives skeptical comments on everything. Then she suddenly starts to avoid Akira and has a fight with Asuka and in the end Kuriko turns out the the most mysterious person with a huge role to play in the story. Story: Story can actually be described in couple sentences. Akira visits school and sees strange wet dreams about opening of the first game at night. One day he sees TV news broadcast about monster rampaging on the main square and hurries there to protect his friend who might be there. As police forces get thrown back by the monster, Akira manages to create a spirit gun and kill the monster with one shot. After that he's drafted to a special police division of spirit gun users unit and together they try to uncover the mystery behind school girls disappearance and prevent opening of the rest of four gates and the end of the world that ensues after all five are opened. But actually there's much more in this game than this dry outline, like development of relations with different characters and side-lines like the fate of the hooligan band or identity of woman who comes in the dreams or mystery behind Akira power (he can't control it and fails to use it when he wants to). Add to then the apocalyptic dark setting of isolated Tokyo standing on the brink of destruction by monsters or environmental disasters and you get more a less a full picture. CG: Great number of CG and I absolutely love the style and design. Sound: Only girls are voiced. BGM is notable, especially the piano composition by the end of the game. Theme: Title of the game can be roughly translated as "hazy moon city" and the moon plays a big role in it, especially in the second half. There is almost no sun in this world and outside scenery is inevitably dark, but by the end of the game the end of the world happens literally by the Moon sucking Tokyo city in. That's a great sight and decent metaphor. Overall comments: Game turned out to be a big deal and a serious chunige story. It lacks the multiple routes diversity or the philosophical basis of the events, but it's an epic apocalyptic adventure story and game tells it brilliantly and logically. Just don't expect complex elements and Rougetsu Toshi will definitely attract you with its dark charm.
  10. Japanese equivalent of notable OELVNs?

    Doki Doki Literature Club! feels like One ~Kagayaku Kisetsu e~ since you await a very light romance comedy and it indeed starts this way, but ends up something very different. Analogue: A Hate Story reminds me of DOOP as you're stuck in a close space inside the spaceship trying to uncover a mystery. Sakura Spirit resembles Toushin Toshi II for me as both provide a rewarding RPG system with sudden bursts of naked girls.
  11. Liaison リエゾン ~liaison~ [Bell-Da]

    Foreword: Bell-Da as a company has come a long way in visual novel industry, but prior to Liaison there were only terrible macromedia flash tasteless short games. But Liaison managed to turn the tides by presenting a solid story about working adults that kept my attention for over 4 hours till the end. Title: Liaison Developer: Bell-Da Date: 1998-07-16 VNDB link:https://vndb.org/v8155 Youtube walkthrough:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dflf6As2eww&index=55&list=PLENAECnNmAq_3TQ0rXcu0n95aygm3PPQU Synopsis: Kusanagi Daisaku came to Tokyo to attend art university with a dream of becoming a painter, but he clearly lacked talent. One day he meets two women in jewelry store and that casual encounter greatly influenced his life and his upcoming biggest masterpiece. Structure: No division, but choices determine the path of one of the two main heroines or the side heroine. Length: 4 hours Game type: Love triangle story with some NTR tilt Difficulty: Flags are evident and there are usually only two variants to choose from. Character Design rating: 7/10 Protagonist rating: 5/10 Story rating: 4/10 Game quality: 6/10 Overall rating: 5/10 Rating comments: Probably the lowest rating among my reviews. The reason is that I felt betrayed by the story. The first two hours were wonderful and it was not clear where it all was going, then the poor plot became evident, but it was too late to turn back. I still rate characters quite high here as they are memorable and have great voicing. Protagonist: Kusanagi Daisaku is a university art department student. The worst thing about him is that he mostly moves with the flow and after one professor tells him he does not have talent, Kusanagi gives up and gets depressed. It's not fun to look at such a hetare protagonist. Characters: So there are three heroines with enging. Long purple hair Jun and short violet hair Minako work at the same jewelry store and compete with each other in sales every day. There's also childhood friend from hero's hometown Shiori who appears only during short stay of Kusanagi at his hometown and also visits him briefly afterwards once. Characters are quite well done as they don't belong to any archetype and are full of inconsistencies and own troubles. When I don't have clear preference I go for the main heroine and that seemed to be Jun since she had the most of troubles from the start. But the most delivering character for me was Kusanagi mangaka brother Naru. He's an egoistic man, but full of surprises and funny moves. He really invigorates the cast. Story: Since I rated the story as low as "4" I don't need to hold back. Kusanagi is an absolute failure as a man and protagonist. The story starts with an already stupid twist that Jun phones him while working on her sales list of customers, but instead of saying clearly what she wants she invites Kusanagi to the building which turns out to be jewelry shop. Cunning! He comes only to be offered to buy diamonds and miserably retreats. Then by a weird twist of fate Jun skips work with her friend to go to a countryside and they meet Kusanagi in person again even though Kusanagi was not shown going on a trip or anything. The next day Kusanagi decides to visit jewelry shop again and noone seems to care that he comes just to talk and never to buy anything. Somehow that ends up with a date with Jun. And Minako is so obsessed with sales competition with Jun that she decides to... stalk on Kusanagi and get him to karaoke to seduce him before Jun does so. Is there any logic in that at all? Of course Minako boasts of that at work to her rival which becomes the source of cheap drama. Then the real drama in the figure of former Jun boyfriend Daimon, SM relations apostate, appears. So it's a pretty normal relations story with cheap drama, drawbacks and restoration cycle. Former lover kindnapping of Jun and its resolution bring an end to the game. Humor: There were quite a lot of funny moments. While seducing at karaoke Minako asked Kusanagi to guess her cup size. There was a variant of "W" to which she says "What? World cup? Stop fooling around already!". CG and Sound: A very good number of high quality CG. There are only few CG that look weird. BGM is solid as well. Overall comments: I expected the game to move towards artist profession self-realization and creating of a real masterpiece, but there was not even remotely enough time devoted to art. What I got instead is not sophisticated cheap drama without much basis behind it. Even in this state the game is really entertaining for a good half of it thanks to view zapping between the characters, funny sub-characters and fast pace. Later on it does not get worse, but it gets too repetitive and evident to my liking.
  12. Touchuukasou 冬虫夏草 [Petit]

    Foreword: Game had hardy any characteristics but "degraded Kizuato" and I did not plan to make a review of it. However, it managed to keep my attention till the end for over three hours. So maybe it's not really bad? Title: Touchuukasou Developer: Petit Date: 1998-07-17 VNDB link:https://vndb.org/v15352 Youtube walkthrough:https://youtu.be/adRAHxJVaBo Synopsis: In a rural town there has been a series of murders recently. Part of the bodies was lost as if it had been eaten by someone. Toshio Hiyama moved to this town 10 years ago and he was constantly bullied due to his introverted nature to the extent that there might be even another will lurking inside his consciousness... Structure: There are three heroines each with a route. The whole story takes three days. Length: 3 hours Game type: Action mystic beast transformation type. Difficulty: Very easy, there's basically just one big decision for each heroine to flag. Character Design rating: 7/10 Protagonist rating: 6/10 Story rating: 8/10 Game quality: 5/10 Overall rating: 7/10 Rating comments: In my classification that's a masterpiece. Game is integral. It has simple but clean story-line, nice memorable characters, cool battles and most amusing BGM support. Protagonist is too ordinary though and game quality is lacking due to a really old engine with NO keyboard support and with 5 second freezes on BGM change. Protagonist: Hiyama Toshio is pretty much an average high school student Joe who sees strange drams. We don't see his face, so that's it for him. Characters: There are four main heroines. Short brown hair Yuka is your cute and caring imouto. Short black hair Makoto is your shy childhood friend who you meet after 10 years time. And long red hair Akane is... your fun-buddy, without any obligations. Fourth one is short gray hair girl, but she makes a very short appearance in core game time, so can't tell much about her without playing her route. I only played Makoto route since I'm not a fan of imouto and free love. Furthermore, Makoto seemed to have some early memories important for the plot. It turned out that those memories weren't exactly about Makoto, so any heroine of preference can be enjoyed without loosing much on the story. As for Makoto, her route is very sweet and there's a very nice satisfying ending after the battle. At some point she even abandons her shyness and confesses her circumstances which are rather curious. So I'm very impressed with her route, but I don't like other heroines roles and not ready to manually mouse click through their routes. Story: Events develop very fast here. Toshio and Yuka arrive to the school and barely have time to get acquainted with a newcomer Makoto when they get assaulted by a hooligan Shinichi. That's followed by promise to share bento with Makoto daily, some quality time with Akane and yet another same hooligan assault. The next day starts with a hooligan team trap that leads to a massacre. And lastly heroine specific part with a date ensues followed up by old enemy big fight finale. And something to put under a spoiler as well. CG: Very few from the start, but quite numerous closer to the ending. Sound: Somehow I really enjoyed the tunes and the voicing. Everyone but protagonist voiced. Themes: 1) Game is a bit simplistic and fast paced to suggest multiple themes, but the main theme of the game is werebeasts. It goes back to the story about 200 years before about how the wild dogs got massacred and how a shrine and a clan grew from that event in order to commemorate those beasts. There's a huge stone in the shrine connected to the event and it's the touch of the stone that actually raised the wild urges in males of the blood. It's actually very nicely pictured that the memories of clan ancestor are alive in Toshio Hiyama. Those memories and the mystery of the girl shown at the very first scene of the game were the main attraction point for me. 2) What's right - to suppress the beast origin or to seek more power? Unexpectedly, game definitely chooses the second in contrast to Kizuato. In Kizuato hero is being judged of ill-behavior just for his dreams and headaches. In Touchuukasou hero is just destroyed in a bad ending if he tries to suppress his emotions. On the other hand, hero is the only suspect in the massacre where two people died and... he gets away with it very easily. So it's a very simple answer - kill or be killed. Overall comments: Game is not well known and is trashed for being Kizuato clone. And I strongly object to that. Games have absolutely different approach to the beast state. I actually give the preference to Touchuukasou for having an integral fast-paced story with adorable characters over the painfully crumbling structure of Kizuato where nothing big happens in ANY of the routes. Touchuukasou has lots of charming sides and I played the main heroine route to the end. However, I don't see how other heroines can contribute to the story and CG actually confirm that as there are mostly only additional fight CG and HCG of other heroines. [Petit] has grown a lot over the years and I call its last two games Sweepers and Touchuukasou masterpieces. It's really sad to see story-driven works of unique charm overpowered by charage/moege.
  13. Foreword: Game first arouse my interest as alternative version of Subarashiki Hibi. Then I tried to get the glimpse of it by watching hentai OVA... and it was the worst hentai OVA I ever seen, so I was really infuriated since it did not say much about the game. Finally I've picked it up while investigating year 1999 and it struck me as something more serious than a nukige, especially after seeing those demon mind-screw CG. And it's been a while since I enjoyed a visual novel that much. Title: Tsui no Sora Developer: KeroQ Date: 1999-08-27 VNDB link:https://vndb.org/v3246 Youtube walkthrough:https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLENAECnNmAq8vJwICEnwWJOz0Yf6ycKz3 Synopsis: Our guy got waked up by his childhood girl for school. Once they got to their classroom, they found out that a girl classmate jumped from their school roof yesterday. Soon, people started talking about end of the world on day 20th. Some even went crazy, lead by one guy. You get to see the events first through our guy's eyes, then his childhood girl's and two more people. Structure: There are two routes - for Kotomi and Ayana, then there's the route from Kotomi point of view, then the retro-route from Zakuro eyes, then villain route from Takuji viewpoint. And it all finishes with epilogue route for Kotomi and Ayana. Length: 7 hours 30 minutes. Game type: Mindscrew end of the world theme ADV. Difficulty: Easy since there are only 3-4 decisions to make. Character Design rating: 8/10 Protagonist rating: 8/10 Story rating: 10/10 Game quality: 7/10 Overall rating: 8/10 Rating comments: I did not expect such high scores. Characters aren't voiced, but somehow they manage to feel alive. There are so many protagonists in this game that the rest of characters are easy to understand and remember. If it was only for Yukito, protagonist would get a full 10. Story does not seem anything special on the first glance, but with each route it opens up new depths and raises new questions making it a very integral, memorable and personal experience. I can't rate game quality good for the lack of CG, unvoiced heroes and macromedia director engine. Protagonist: Yukita makes the perfect protagonist for me. He cites Kant, Wittgenstein, Kierkegaard, Bible all the time. He looks like a hooligan, but is absolutely faithful and reliable even though he tries to shrug it off with crude words. He's pretty much the only one who stays calm, trusts in logic and comes to everyone's rescue. Kotomi is Yukita's childhood friend. She is quite nice as a heroine, but when she becomes protagonist we get to see her constant hesitations and anxieties. It's a pain to see her crying "I don't know anything anymore", thinking "I must be alone and get stronger" and running away from Yukita at school. Zakuro is the classmate of Yukita and Kotomi. At the beginning of the game she's already dead having jumped from the roof. But her story was the most impressive one for me. But more of it in the story part. Takuji is the villain of the game. A shy small boy who at the same time wants to peel everyone naked and sentence to death. He's really cool as protagonist for having all kinds of hallucinations that make the game a mind-screw. Characters: Who do we have left? There's classmate Otonashi Ayana who has her own route, but is not a protagonist for she's the most mysterious character in the game and her manner of thinking should not be revealed. There's also classmate Yokoyama Yasuko who enters the same kendo club as Kotomi, but at the same time really sympathizes Takuji end of the world ideas. Yasuko brother is the biggest supporter of Takuji as well. There's also guy Ozawa that bullied Zakuro, but at the beginning of the game he's dead. There's a magical girl Riruro, but her existence is under a huge question, hehe. We also have medical department teacher. Story: I can't really tell about the story without some spoilers (although I'll try to hide heavy spoilers under a banner), so be aware. I. Game starts from Yukito perspective 7 days before the disaster and he can opt for either Kotomi or Ayana as the main heroine. The choice only determines couple short scenes of each heroine and determines whether Kotomi H event opens up or not. The contents remains the same. First two days are spent in mass neurosis as classmates keep jumping from the roof and rumors about the end of the world keep spreading. Then there are two days of open conflict of Takuji with the school that result in dangerous cult creation. Next two days are notable for Kotomi kidnapping by the Takuji group and her rescue by Yukito. The final day is not clearly shown. II. Then starts the route of Kotomi which is exactly the same route, but from the eyes of Kotomi. She's there mostly to add girlish thoughts to the narration and of course to show her two days of captivity and torments (read: H events) while kidnapped. So it's kind of non-important fan-service route. III. Well, when you think that the game is over, the next route opens up. And instead a week before the disaster we go to two weeks before the disaster to the body of Zakuro. She got raped and made photos of by bully Ozawa one day and from that time was blackmailed into intimate relations daily. But once she gets a letter saying "Rejoice, your torments will end tomorrow". Since it's the most impressive route for me I'd only tackle it under the spoiler banner. IV. The seven days before the disaster are shown yet again, but from the eyes of main villain Takuji. We get to see how his ideas are formed, what pushes him, how he recruits allies and eventually names himself the savior of humankind. From that point it's hard to determine delusions from truth as he sees monsters, magical girl Riruru, her spirit father and gets instructions from them, but most of the time he seems to just be talking with the graffiti wall. He starts as savior of humanity, but through demonic teachings soon recognizes the need to purify humans before the final skies by killing them. The longest and weirdest route, but at the same time it still feels light. V. Epilogues sheds light on events after the day X and give more questions than answers. HEAVY PLOT SPOILERS INSIDE CG: Too few! But characters standing sprites usually look so good that the lack of CG is not that grave. Sound: BGM includes few, but atmospheric short cycled compositions and there is no voicing at all. Humor: Apart of this funny moment of skirt flipping there was one real joke. Yukito and Ayano stay at the roof. Ayano asks "- What book do you hold in hands?" "- Kant" " Why would you need a book about girl's genitalia?" "Wrong! It's not about that!" "So it's called just CAN'T? Why would you need a book about impotence?" Then he tries to tell her Kant and Wittgenstein theories. "Wittgenstein? Is that the male apparatus?". I don't remember any more moments, but for me it's important to have at least one funny memorable moment. Themes: There are a lot of themes. 1) Is the end of the world possible? Yakuto tries to find an answer in Kant, Wittgenstein, Kierkegaard and Bible books. He uses Kant's antimony to make a conclusion that the beginning of the universe is not provable and thus there can't be the end of the world. 2) The war between light and darkness forces to impede/fasten the end of the world - is it real or imagination of fanatics? One certain route is devoted just to this theme. 3) Who actually saved the world? Was it Zakuro, Ayana or maybe even Takuji? All three came to contact to the higher essences and could influence that. Of maybe the world never needed to be saved and those are just superstition and ignorance? We have to figure it for ourselves. 4) The separate question is who is Ayana? Her every word is mysterious. She does not have parents, but she's always present at the most gruesome events late at night at the school. 5) What this game is even about? Again, you decide, the first two collages of screenshots allow to treat the game as spiritual mind-screw, youth criminal drama or eschatological religious confrontation of heroes and devils. Overall comments: I have not read Subarashiki Hibi and can only judge it by reviews and vndb. But what I see there is that the core of the plot and the characters are absolutely the same. SubaHibi was enlarged immensely to fit the modern demand, but such detail would not be possible without this little weird gem from the 1990s.
  14. Kuon no Kizuna 久遠の絆 [FOG]

    I only glanced at Origin about five years ago and the erotic scenes with the demons only disgusted me back then. But now I have to admit that Origin is much more appealing than the native game since ero scenes spice up the monotonous narration, there are quite a lot of new CG which look much better than the old dry style CG and because there are plot injections. I heard that the endings actually differ a lot and that's a welcome change since native ending is same boring as the whole game. But overall, yeah, I'd pull even Origin out only on a rainy day.
  15. Kuon no Kizuna 久遠の絆 [FOG]

    Foreword: There is a good number of English reviews on this game (1 2 3 4), but those are all kinda short and non-structured. Now I know why and mine won't be an exception. You'll know why soon enough as well. Title: Kuon no Kizuna Developer: FOG Date: 1998-12-03 VNDB link:https://vndb.org/v2773 Youtube walkthrough:https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLENAECnNmAq-CHIuWBfnU3DYzNCEcLjcV Synopsis: This story starts out from the perspective of a high school student. One day a transfer student comes to his school, and tells him she’ll kill him. At the same time, he starts seeing weird dreams and people mysteriously gets killed in his city. Soon he realizes that them two are incarnated personalities of a man and a goddess that fell in love 1000 years ago. Since then, they have been trapped in a cycle of reincarnation and a battle against an evil god. Length: Took me 66 hours for all routes. Game type: ADV with choices and couple easy battles. Difficulty: I followed walkthrough, so not too sure on difficulty. There are some fake choices, but there are also choices that lead to game over. And there are a LOT of choices, so it must be quite difficult. Character Design rating: 7/10 Protagonist rating: 8/10 Story rating: 6/10 Game quality: 9/10 Overall rating: 7/10 Rating comments: This is one of the most ambitious projects I've ever seen. Just imagine - 66 hours. 66 hours of not raising stats, killing monsters or chasing girls over and over. 66 hours of pure text reading time. There's nothing like that in the 1990s and it won't be beaten till 2000s. You know, in many Japanese reviews of the time volume is a very important factor and there's often such criteria as cost-efficiency. Visual novels cost a lot and compared to solid books they used to lose all the time. But everything changed with Kuon no Kizuna. It became a paragon for both volume and visuals. I liked protagonist and characters enough, but they don't become cozy. They remain transcendent beings piercing the veil of time in an epic story, not really likable characters who I could respect for their characters or decisions, that's why it's 7/10. The story is indeed epic, but it does not go smoothly. We jump from reality to three periods all the time and the shifts aren't really explained, they just happen. I also did not like it that the first half of the story is pretty much the same for all three heroines and we just have to read it three times with little variation. That makes story only 6/10. But the quality of the game is superb, especially with full voice (excluding the protagonist though). The graphics are stunning and visual effects amazing. No complaints with the quality. Protagonist: Mikado Takeru is a strong protagonist as he constantly has to protect those who are dear to him and he's the only one who can oppose demonic forces thanks to his demonic heritage. He's a one man army and hardly ever gets any help from the side. He'd be more realistic with voice, but he's quite cool even as he is now. Characters: There are three heroines who have their own routes. Takahara Mayou is our mysterious transfer student who greets Takeru for the first time with words "This time I will definitely kill you". Itsuki Shiori is a childhood friend who Takeru lives with under the same roof. Tokiwa Saya is the class teacher. Story: The rant part. So each heroine has her route... but it's the same route, at least for the first half of it. In the second half some periods are developed for each heroine, but still there's a very strong feeling that you're watching the same story and it irritates a lot. There are four periods: Heian, Genroku, Bakumatsu, and the present. Present and Heian are really the same and those are the most boring parts, especially Heian. Heian focuses on a an ancient period of Japanese history where nothing really happened for dozens of years and that's why it's full of myths and legends - because there was nothing to do there. In Kuon no Kizuna Heian is when beasts invasion starts and it differentiates just a bit in the end depending on the heroine chosen throughout it. I especially liked Bakumatsu period for meeting and fighting alongside Shinsengumi (and sometimes against) and kunoichi. But there is a great problem with these periods - they aren't really connected to each other. People can die there or love there and in next period everything starts from scratch. That creates the feeling of multiple stories and I really dislike that genre. Nothing really happens throughout those stories, then beasts arrive, the short drama and it's over. Heroines aren't really able to hold attention. But what's worse, the heroine of your choice have play very small role till the very end of each part. But then comes the fantastic Special route №1 that arrived later with remake as an attempt to tighten the crumbling main story. Special route №1 lasts for some 7 hours, holds a totally new epic story with really great enemies and is a great ending for all the characters, so I can't praise it enough. The Special routes №2 and №3 are there for comic relief after all that superserious narration. So overall the story really sucks, repeats itself in routes and has poor tempo. But the great special route makes up for it. CG: Just fantastic. See for yourself. Sound: I really appreciated full voicing and beautiful BGM. That kept me from sleeping. Overall comments: This game was created to surprise the imagination. It has huge length and astonishing visuals, but there still was no culture of such huge coherent stories - thus the multiple periods format with lousy links between them. Dialogues are long and not too meaningful, fights are inevitably dull and poorly written, heroines fail to catch attention and the absence of humor makes it all a real torture. The sudden jumps between periods only add to the confusion. But this game bears a huge importance for the industry as it made long story-driven visual novels without gameplay elements viable while only dating SIMs, charage and nukige governed the ball.
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