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Plk_Lesiak last won the day on June 22

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About Plk_Lesiak

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    Honorifics Hater
  • Birthday 05/31/1989

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    Anime & VNs, writing, popcultural studies
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  1. Hentai games

    It's not intuitive for an average person in the West for porn games to offer anything more than a bare-minimum story. Porn and meaningful stuff just don't go together in our culture and romance itself is not a particularly respected genre either... So unless someone has decent insight on what high-budget eroge actually look like, disregarding them as dumb fodder for horny weebs is the most natural thing to do. This might change with time, as Japanese eroge get more prominent in the West and people stop being such prudes... But I wouldn't hold my breath. :>
  2. Eldritch University (Yuri VN Review)

    I wrote about it a lot in the past, but definitely, EVNs have a much wider range of approaches to LGBT issues and tons of yuri EVNs are actually made by minority creators. Of course, sometimes you have a lesbian creator making fluffy GxG porn because they enjoy that stuff, but generally, you'll have a lot more games implementing a semi-realistic approach and trying to build a believable dynamic for the GxG romance. Even something like Love Ribbon, which might look super-fetishistic at first glance (sister incest), has some very interesting scenes of one of the sisters discovering her sexuality and trying to make sense of it. It feels way more authentic than how Japanese writers usually do it (if they even bother to touch the topic), and that's at least to some extent because Razzart, the author of that game, actually knows what she's writing about. :> To be fair, this game's writer is a guy, but did a very good job here – and that is despite using a cliched "all-girls school when everyone is assumed to be a lesbian" setting for the first game... In a way, this series is a really cool example of Western influences and influences of otaku media clashing and melding into this weird amalgamation of themes that do not always agree with each other, particularly in Academy, where the fluffy romance formula did not synergize with the horror plot at all. Maybe playing just the sequel is the way to go after all... '^^ Edit: And only now I realized how sad it is that games conditioned me to consider "main plot" and "romance" as separate entities and be genuinely surprised when the two are connected in a truly meaningful way. Video games suck.
  3. Eldritch University (Yuri VN Review)

    Note: I was provided with a free review copy of the game by the developer. All opinions are solely my own. Sequels to obscure, low budget EVNs are always a slightly awkward topic to tackle. They are inevitably tied to games which few people are familiar with and which can be, at least in some aspects, of subpar quality simply due to their indie nature. This makes giving a meaningful rating and recommendation for potential readers tricky – at the very least, any kind of conclusion about them will be served with a good number of caveats, related to the interplay between titles in the particular series and the value proposition they represent both together and on their own. The latest title to create such a conundrum for me is Eldritch University by Jackkel Dragon. Released on Steam in June 2020, this game is a sequel to early 2019’s Eldritch Academy, a supernatural horror VN combined with a fair dosage of high-school yuri romance. While amusing in its romantic arcs, the prequel had several issues: unlikeable protagonist, repetitive routes, below-average visual and, in my opinion, an unreasonably high price for the level of quality it represented. University, while borrowing the setting and tying itself loosely to the core intrigue of that game, represents a major improvement in most aspects – a better-looking, more focused experience with a price tag way more representative of its entertainment value. Is it, however, good enough to make the whole series worth it, or to be a viable read as a standalone experience? Well, it depends on what you want from it… The troubled relationship between the protagonist and her girlfriend is the most interesting part of the game – and the most satisfying, when you finally see them succeed Eldritch University follows the story of Kasumi, a college freshman that was recently reconnected with Misaki, the girlfriend she was separated from three years earlier. A secondary character from Eldritch Academy, Kasumi was the person who unwittingly unleashed the supernatural threat that game's story revolved around and nearly got killed in the process. Still bearing some emotional scars from the incident, she was mostly able to regain her easy-going attitude and is happy to work on rebuilding her relationship with Misaki. However, when the wound she sustained back then starts giving off strange symptoms, and creepy stories of apparitions begin popping out around the campus and the surrounding town, it becomes clear that the horror is far from being over. I won’t try to hide it: if there’s one thing I deeply enjoyed about Eldritch University it is the love story between Kasumi and Misaki and the way it is tied with the overarching supernatural intrigue. Initially, Kasumi herself is a bit of a bubbly airhead, while Misaki is more timid, but also kind and friendly. As, in the prequel, we briefly observe the couple in their high school days, they are outgoing and over-the-top affectionate to each other. However, the circumstances of their separation (forced by Misaki’s conservative mother) and the time they spend apart change that significantly. Misaki’s is weighed down by the social stigma and rejection she suffered due to being a lesbian, while Kasumi struggles to adapt to her changed behaviour and the doubt on whether the connection they once had can be fully rebuilt. In both of the non-dead-end endings, this dynamic gets resolved in a satisfying and heart-warming fashion, while never overdoing the drama and keeping the emotional and psychological profiles of both girls very believable. Coupled with a romantic, non-explicit sex scene, this makes Eldritch University a real treat for yuri fans such as myself – I was genuinely surprised and impressed with how impactful it was. The game’s supernatural story feels somewhat rushed and underdeveloped, but also avoids repetition and filler content that plagued Eldritch Academy The horror intrigue is less developed and is probably the only aspect of the game which I would consider weaker than it was in Academy, which focused a lot on stress and desperation of fighting against a supernatural threat. It ties directly to the events of the first game and creates a few genuinely tense scenes, but its main value is, once more, in the well-executed interplay with the love story. The character most important for the horror arc, Kasumi’s friend Hinata, plays into her insecurities and confusion about Misaki’s behaviour – this leads to a few interesting choices influencing the main couple’s relationship. On the other hand, the are also blind choices with unpredictable consequences in horror scenes and the pacing of the whole mystery plot feels rushed. With frequent time skips and rapid story developments, the sense of looming danger and despair, for which the game was definitely aiming, is only half-there. Also, surprisingly little was added to the series' overall lore and worldbuilding – it neither showed anything truly new about its supernatural elements nor opened interesting story threads for possible continuation. Then we get to the issue of secondary characters, who can be hardly described as anything more than plot devices. Two girls helping the protagonist and Misaki, Yuri and Shizuka, are a tie-in from the author’s book, Shireishi, but without the extra context someone who read that would probably have, they’re simply exposition props. Other minor characters barely show any personality either – Kasumi’s other friend, Hiroshi, is probably the only meaningful one among them. And at last, there’s the issue of actual relevance of knowing Eldritch Academy, as the really important parts lay not in the main plot of that game, but in the unlockable bonus content – short episodes showing the circumstances of Kasumi and Misaki getting separated and the way they adapted to their new situation. They add weight to the drama of University, but hardly justify investing time (8-10 hours) and money ($12) in the prequel. Honestly, I would just prefer to see a recap of Eldritch Academy and the scenes expanding on Kasumi’s and Misaki’s stories in University, as a skippable prologue – it would make it much easier to recommend it not only to people familiar with the first game (or interested in reading it), but also those that want to jump straight into the sequel. Outside of Kasumi’s two friends, Hinata and Hiroshi, the secondary characters in the game are more plot devices than anything else – and even these two receive relatively little development The visuals are a clear improvement over Academy, but are still pretty basic. While the sprite designs look more clean and expressive than they did in the prequel, the low amount of detail and simple shading are still very much visible. CGs look solid most of the time, but are ultimately on the same level as the sprites and occasionally even struggle with perspective. The end effect is hardly an eye candy, but very serviceable. The same can be said about music, which… Exists. It’s a very generic set of background tunes, but never gets in the way or fails to match the climate of the scene, which is good enough in my mind. So, what’s my conclusion on Eldritch University? It’s a game that struggles a bit with its identity, stylising itself as a horror story but hardly committing to this theme. However, for yuri fans that enjoy a more grounded approach to LGBT+ issues, it has enough to offer to easily justify the $6 price tag (for 3-4 hours of content). Also, for people that enjoyed Eldritch Academy or specifically look for the combination of supernatural thriller and GxG romance, it should prove satisfying. For anyone else, it might be a much harder sell… But if anything I wrote here sounded interesting to you, I still suggest giving it a chance – if not for the full price, then at least grabbing it on sale. And if this dev’s work continues improving in this manner, their next game might be very easy to recommend, even to a broader audience. Final Rating: 3/5 Pros: + Excellent romantic subplot + Likeable and well-developed main cast Cons: – Average-at-best visuals – Rushed/underdeveloped supernatural horror storyline – Underdeveloped secondary characters VNDB Page Buy Eldritch University on Steam or Itch.io
  4. Who Cares About The Visual Novel Category?

    Wow, with so many subtypes this makes it a three-layered category! We should implement these categories to user profiles on VNDB and make everyone even more miserable/confused.
  5. Who Cares About The Visual Novel Category?

    Welp, just like wanting people to stop throwing Unity asset packs on Steam as original games... Shovelware will be Shovelware. Quite likely the only reason you don't get fed up with miserable-quality crap made by Japanese people is that it doesn't show up in the storefronts/sites you use.
  6. Who Cares About The Visual Novel Category?

    I think otome and BL fangirls deserve their own place on the archetype list. :> The one thing tying all the categories outside of the storycuck and the autist is convenience. People are willing to accept obviously "false" categorisation because they reflect the kinds of games that tie the community together. Ejecting only things that stretch the definitions of the genre beyond that point of utility. Just like Erogamescape lists all those obviously non-ero games, because they appeal to similar audiences and use similar storytelling conventions as eroge. Because, in practice, we use VN both as a genre description, with a very precise set of storytelling conventions and mechanics (basically the Key/Type-Moon formula), and as an umbrella term. What Palas was trying to do was to justify the use of the umbrella term by coming up with a legitimate definition for it. Something that can't really be done in a strict manner, but can work to inform the boundaries the community sets for itself. I think I even used the "pure story or gameplay serving the story" idea in an academic paper I wrote... But that was only justifiable because I was focusing on the community and fan translations, and not trying to push a legitimate genre definition. So, Zaka, I feel sorry for you and every other genre-definition-pedant, but I think that as long as we don't separate the narrow genre definition from the umbrella term, your position is utterly hopeless and you're meant to suffer for all eternity from AAs and Danganronpas of this world being miscategorized.
  7. Anime Expo News Replacements

    I'm still surprised they didn't double down with Ragnarok though. It seems to share a lot of the same appeal as Frontier, while also being that kind loose sequel that has extra value for people that liked the original but doesn't require the player to be familiar with it. Kind of makes me wonder whether the Frontier project proved more lucrative as an expansion to the Western market or as the expanded/remastered Japanese re-release. It still feels to me that Ragnarok would be a more obvious choice if this was mostly about building up the English-speaking fan base...
  8. Girl... I don't think that's the issue here... :wafuu:

  9. I'm on number 3 today. On which are you? :meguface:


    1. Mr Poltroon

      Mr Poltroon

      As of tomorrow I'll have gotten rid of this, so there's some good news.

  10. What is your least favorite type of route plot?

    I'm not sure if this will make sense to anyone, but I'm kind of sick not only of arranged marriage plots but generally of the "defying the parents" drama, whether its about marriage, career or whatever. I know it's a very realistic trope, but as the main source of conflict and/or character development for a heroine it just lost all appeal to me a while ago, mostly because of how much it's done not just in VNs but media in general. Crystalline is a good example of using it in a way I loathe, because the already bland central heroine got her "character arc" through her parents opposing her becoming a knight... And it felt exactly just as empty and superficial as everything else in that game.
  11. Spring 2020 Anime Discussion

    Yeah, but still, LNs go way beyond what S2 is alleged to cover and I think they're not finished yet with releasing new volumes. Essentially, this is a harem story and expecting those to get adapted to the point of romantic conclusion is hopeless. But if they go with Maria ending this will be the first LN I ever read. There's no way I'm missing out on that.
  12. Spring 2020 Anime Discussion

    So, I finally got my shit together and started catching up on this season's shows. Bakarina was rather delightful, although it went pretty overboard with how dense the protagonist is... Although I guess that's necessary to maintain that insane harem scenario. Which means, it features some of the typical pitfalls of harem fiction, only putting a clueless female in the middle instead of a clueless guy. The main things saving it are how genuinely funny and wholesome the story is. Even though Catarina does many things for dumb/misguided reasons, from time to time we get a glimpse of how genuinely empathetic and caring she is and this makes the whole experience warm and satisfying. It's also very nicely paced – whenever I got tired of Catarina's silliness there was a transition into something more meaningful to keep my interest. I still feel that making Catarina a little less of a moron and making her respond to the romantic tension around her would make it even better (9/10 material), but still, a solid 8/10. Also, if they'd both made Catarina less dense and went with a yuri pairing for her (I adore Mary, but I guess Maria would make more sense and be a funnier twist)... That'd be a straight-up 10/10 for me. I heard Maria is actually a legitimate contender in the LNs, but we'll never see enough of those adapted to anime to get to that point. Gleipnir is nearly over and surprisingly enjoyable is its uber-trashiness. It could use slightly more consistency with its characters, but generally, it has a similar vibe to last season's Darwin's Game – insane powers and a pansy protagonist who eventually has to become brutal to not lose everything he cares for. The dynamic between Shuichi and Claire is actually quite interesting, production quality very solid and super-transparent edginess enjoyable if you're into such stuff. I'm wondering why I like it while I deeply hated Happy Sugar Life, another ultra-edgy show, but I think it's mostly because this has no pretences of being a psychological horror and gets creative with its supernatural elements. I never really knew where it was going in advance and despite all the gratuitous violence and fanservice it shoves in, it's not stale and not that obnoxious. I'll be curious what other people's reviews are going to look like at the end of the season, but for me, it's likely going to be a 7/10 – way higher than I've expected from the premise and even watching the first episode. Now, I should probably try to catch up on Kaguya-sama...
  13. Nazi VN Idea

    Honestly, because I agree completely with what Clephas and Zalor wrote, I would simply fictionalize it. Making a quasi-WW2 setting in a fictional country gives you a lot more of creative freedom to discuss issues you want to discuss and not be tied so heavily by historical accuracy and the possibility to insult real-life groups. This VN is a cool example on how it can be done – it has a lot of flaws and the setting is a bit weird, but the way it handles the loyalist route is actually quite excellent, I think catching surprisingly well some of the allure and mechanism of totalitarian power. Still, doing research is super-important. Even if you drop setting your story in Nazi Germany as such, you want to get your description of the totalitarian machine and how society functioned under it as accurately as possible, if you want your story to mean something.
  14. nothing & nowhere (Western VN Review)

    Well, you're right of course, but I didn't want to explain Lynne in detail either, but rather give some point of reference... I might rephrase is later, but it's kind of hard to do as briefly as I wanted to do it – it'll be reductive no matter which angle I emphasise.
  15. nothing & nowhere (Western VN Review)

    Note: I was provided with a review copy of the game by the developer. To talk about the latest slice-of-life VN by ebi-hime, nothing & nowhere, we have to start in a less-than-obvious place. Nearly two years ago I made an overview ebi’s freeware games and one of the most memorable and unique of them was Lynne: a heavily stylized, pixelart horror game about a teenager crumbling under pressure from her toxic and demanding familycrumbling under the pressure from her dysfunctional family and societal expectations she's unable to truly meet. Full of suffocating atmosphere and visceral dream sequences, it is to this day one of the most effective horror experiences I’ve seen in the medium and one that ends on an abrupt, but appropriately disturbing note. Nothing & nowhere, while representing a completely different climate and stylistic, is basically an alternative timeline spin-off of that game, offering something probably every person that read Lynne wished for – some form of respite and hope for the future to the game’s tortured protagonist. Interestingly enough, after being released in mid-May 2020, nothing & nowhere was not marketed directly as a sequel or spin-off of Lynne. Even the Steam page only mentioned the connection at the very end of game’s description, suggesting it’s above all a standalone story, despite sharing the central character with its horror predecessor. In my experience, however, it was exactly that link, and the extra context being familiar with Lynne provided me with, that made the new game a truly worthwhile. More than that, I’m willing to argue it's likely be the same for most potential readers, for a few crucial reasons. The mystery behind the main character’s appearance near Cora’s village is not particularly compelling (and nearly turned void if you read Lynne), but the real appeal of the story is her path to overcoming the persistent issues that made her escape her previous life The core story of nothing & nowhere is a very slow-paced, nostalgic slice-of-life story, similar in feel and scope to one of the other recent titles by ebi, Rituals in the Dark. Through third-person narration, it presents the story of Cora, an eccentric writer living in a small village in rural England, and a mysterious girl she finds one morning on a local beach, exhausted and drenched from the cold, autumn rain. Assuming the Girl (that’s the only way she’s referred to for most of the game’s story) run from home, she decides to give her shelter, opening the story of their unusual and slightly strenuous cohabitation. The main axis of the story is about the Girl and her path to overcoming the depression and anxiety that drove her into running away from her previous life – however, her specific circumstances and motivation are not the only, and not the most interesting mystery. That honour undeniably goes to Cora – an extravagant and successful young woman, living a reclusive life in an old-fashioned cottage in the middle of nowhere. Always perfect in her appearance and borderline-boastful about her achievements, she gives few hints on what drove her to this lonely way of life. Even while her relationship with the Girl grows deeper, she reveals very little about her past and wittingly diverts any attempts at prying into it. Here, however, we’re already landing on the biggest issue I have with the game – the reveals, when they happen, are not as impactful as I hoped for and the path that leads to them have too few memorable moments. The dynamic between Cora and the Girl is pretty amusing, with Cora using her rhetorical skills and life experience to not only solve the “mystery” of the Girl’s presence in the remote village, but also steer her in a direction of overcoming her deep-seeded problems. Her patient and considerate attitude, hidden under a layer of teasing and caricatural self-confidence, is heartwarming and makes a great basis for a believable story of healing and finding a new path in life. However, especially combined with the Girl’s depressive passivity, it does not create many impactful scenes or spark genuinely interesting tension between the two women. This results in an experience most appropriate for people with a really high tolerance for relaxed slice-of-life content, with no real twists of shifts in pacing involved. While the context of Lynne adds a lot of meaning to nothing & nowhere’s story, it also exposes its biggest weakness – lack of tension and few emotionally impactful moments Here we come to the aforementioned connection with Lynne and its significance. The main reason I think it’s important, is because it gives a much deeper look into the Girl’s backstory and the suffering she went through, making her recovery way more meaningful and satisfying to see. Also, the epilogue is filled to brim with references that will mean relatively little to people not familiar with the previous game. At the same time, I can’t shake off the feeling that deeper crossover from Lynne’s storytelling devices and unsettling climate would make nothing & nowhere a more compelling experience. Referencing more directly the girl’s traumatic nightmares and intense suffering we saw in that game would make the process of overcoming them and Cora’s involvement a lot more engaging to follow. I respect the fact that was not the kind of story ebi wanted to tell and that’s at least one of the reasons she didn’t tie this game to Lynne so explicitly, but it makes me particularly worried about its viability as a standalone experience. Without the appeal of an alternative take on an already-known story, there’s not that much here to hook the average reader with – even romance, the most obvious magnet for a broader audience, is relegated to brief backstory section for Cora. On the other hand, what might draw people in, outside of the story details, is the art, high in quality and utilizing a distinct, non-anime artstyle. As usual with this kind of stylistic, I needed a bit of an adjustment period after approaching the VN and I’m still not sure how I feel about the eerie, doll-like look of Cora’s sprite. However, the general impression from the game’s visuals was definitely positive. The backgrounds were nicely detailed and all assets felt very consistent in style and level of detail. The CGs were few, less than 10 in total, but the minimalistic story hardly demanded more custom illustrations to fully get the message across… Although just the fact I can’t think of another scene I would like to see illustrated, other than maybe the last sequence of the epilogue, reinforces my point about the (relative) lack of memorable moments. The non-anime art in nothing & nowhere has a peculiar, doll-like feel to it, but all the assets are unquestionably high-quality and very consistent in style The last thing that has to be mentioned is the music – very relaxed and rather minimalistic, which puts it perfectly in-synch with the overall tone of the story. Generally, the cohesion between all layers of the experience in nothing & nowhere – story, art, GIU and music – was extremely high, which is something I deeply appreciate. I still, however, wished that the substance of it all was a bit more dynamic and hard-hitting. I’m tempted to say that the soul-crushing experience such as Lynne deserved a just as deeply uplifting sequel, but even disregarding that point, I simply feel this story idea demanded execution either longer and more in-depth, or more vivid and dramatic. Some will surely disagree with me, but this is the only honest assessment I can give. At the same time though, if you enjoyed Lynne or if you’re willing to read it before buying this game, it should be very much worth experiencing – and with the prequel being free and this game costing just $5, there are few reasons to not give them a try. Final Rating: 3/5 Pros: + High-quality, stylistically consistent visuals + Pleasant music + Satisfying, uplifting alternative scenario for fans of Lynne Cons: – Pretty forgettable as a standalone story – Very slow-paced and minimalistic storytelling VNDB Page Buy nothing & nowhere on Steam or Itch.io