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Plk_Lesiak last won the day on November 4

Plk_Lesiak had the most liked content!

About Plk_Lesiak

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    Anime & VNs, writing, popcultural studies
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  1. Being a Visual Novel Fan or in the Industry is Suffering

    I object. I play bad games all the time and sometimes they are the most glorious experiences.
  2. Being a Visual Novel Fan or in the Industry is Suffering

    Life is suffering. In my experience, being a VN fan is one of the least miserable things about it. But that's maybe because I have more backlog than I might be able to read in my whole life and can't relate to all that translation/KS anxiety. Also, wouldn't being a JOP mean the possibility of talking about eroge with Japanese fans? And how many people do you really need to have a good conversation? The Japanese-only sections in major VN communities don't look that barren...
  3. Dark Nights [Mystery/Romance/Fantasy/Horror]

    I'm not the fastest reader, so I always assume 10k words = one hour, so... I would take quite a while for me to complete it. '^^ But yeah, I'll definitely leave so feedback when I get to it though. Maybe I'll try to tackle it over the winter holidays.
  4. What are you playing?

    After a long time, I've finally finished reading Fragment's Note 2, the rare mobile-only Japanese VN that actually is a pure visual novel and not some kind of gacha crap. This series is such a weird one that I can never truly make my mind about: it's got a lot of lazy writing, obnoxious pseudo-psychology and the first part got unbearably bloated and repetitive after the main plot got resolved, basically adding a few full hours of dumb drama and pointless fluff after it simply should've ended. I liked the main story in it and at least some of the characters, but then literally skipped through an hour-worth of content in each route to not get bored to death. The second game has fewer issues with pacing, but is separated into two, basically standalone routes: in Japan they were two different apps, but got merged together for the English release. And these routes are definitely NOT equal. The first one, which the game suggests you to start with, focuses on Shizuku, protagonist's younger step-sister who shares with him the trauma of losing her original family in a plane crash. In the end, they see taking care of each other as the main motivation to keep living and this leads to various unpleasant consequences – including deeply disturbed incest romance. Still, all that wouldn't be so bad, if the girl had any kind of personality, or even visible traits beyond being traumatized and a brocon. The romance feels just as bland as she is and the whole route is pretty much pointless trash. It has some reveals that the second scenario only vaguely explains, but it's really neither necessary to understand everything nor worthwhile to read. The second route, on the other hand, Yukitsuki's, focuses on the antagonist of the first game as the love interest. She's not a very deep character by any means, but has a bit of personality and context to her (at this point she's something of a reformed villain, burdened by her previous misdeeds). Her story connects the new characters and major plot points to the events of the first game, giving both the new cast and herself proper closure and tying neatly all the loose ends. It builds proper romance instead of the poorly-conceived loli incest plot. If you ever decide to read FN2, go straight to this part, especially because the core structure of the story is essentially the same and many fragments are literally repeated word-for-word between the two routes. The imouto route can just burn in hell. Assuming Shizuku's route doesn't exist, 6,5/10
  5. Dark Nights [Mystery/Romance/Fantasy/Horror]

    This is... Massive, for a solo project. Looks interesting too. And free? Seems more like something that should be paid $15 for. ^^ Can't really pick up a VN of this size right now, but this makes me super-curious, I'll definitely give it a try at some point.
  6. There were few EVNs in the last few years that I’ve seen seriously hyped up by other VN fans and brought to my attention through multiple recommendations and positive reviews – particularly beyond titles by a handful of relatively well-known and respected creators such as ebi-hime. The game I’ll be writing about today, Soundless -A Modern Salem in Remote Area-, is one of such exceptions, enthusiastic opinions about which intrigued me to a major degree, even though it ended up being two years before I finally picked it up. And this is not where the curious and unusual things about it end: this freeware visual novel was released in late 2017 by a small circle under the name of Milk+ and is heavily influenced by the denpa subgenre of horror – one reliant on distortion of reality and chains of bizarre events, true meaning of which is usually hidden under multiple layers of mystery. It mimics extremely well the visual style and climate of the early 2000s’ Japanese games, offering a now rarely-seen call-back to parts of visual novel history highly nostalgic to many fans. And thankfully, there’s a lot more to it than just the interesting stylisation and riding on memories of the past… Soundless is not an experience for those faint of heart, but is more about psychological abuse and social exclusion than plain violence Soundless offers a multi-layered story and some of its themes are impossible to talk about without major spoilers, which I’ll do my best to avoid. Most of the main plot, however, consistently revolves around Mercy, an ostracized teenage girl living a miserable life in an isolated village led by a strange religious cult. Her apparent mental illness, involving various hallucinations and delusions, led her to being embraced by the community as a mystic, however, when a certain chain of events turned her visions dark and disturbing, she was proclaimed a curse-bearer and started being perceived as a danger. Abused both by the village’s “clergy” and the children in her school, she suffers through incredible pain and loneliness – until a new holy woman, appearing in the village after the tragic death of the previous one, shows her kindness no one was willing to offer for years. All this, however, is just a surface of a very dense story, taking many unpredictable turns and slowly revealing the meaning behind various developments and subplots. Then, the last missing parts of the puzzle are provided through bonus content, uncovering the final set of mysteries connected to the game’s setting and crucial characters. Soundless’ most immediate themes are those of mental illness and social exclusion – we observe the whole story through the distorted lens of Mercy’s mind, which warps the reality around her in a disturbing fashion. She’s not really an unreliable narrator, but one that filters the world through a layer of dark delusions and deeply-internalized identity of a cursed person, who deserves being excluded due to her impurity. It’s an excruciating study of scapegoating, in a way more disturbing than the witch trials the game’s title references through its long-term and systematic nature. It’s not a story of a violent incident, but an ever-growing spiral of abuse targeting a person stripped from their human dignity and protection connected to being part of the community. Mercy is an outcast, but is also necessary as a symbol – a personification of “the other”, a visible threat cementing the unity of other villagers under their religious leader. The game approaches this topic in a detailed and gruesome manner, before it shifts to other, similarly disturbing issues. Soundless doesn’t shy away from using strange visual effects and distorting the story to represent the protagonist’s mental illness, but it's hard to accuse it of prioritizing form over substance Writing in Soundless can be only described as excellent. Above all, the game excels at creating a dense, depressing atmosphere of entrapment and hopelessness that dominate Mercy’s life. Following her struggle was disturbing and captivating at the same time and when I was expecting the story to reach a predictably-grim conclusion, it struck me with a serious of surprises, most of which I didn’t even vaguely anticipate. Other major characters, such as Delilah, the heir of one of the prestigious clergy families, are interesting and believable enough to give the story proper depth. From the title, one could easily expect Soundless to be just a tale of faceless mob prosecuting a defenceless girl, but Mercy’s tragedy is very personalized and reflected in her interactions with crucial members of the community. Most of them also have roles to play in the plot’s sudden turns. If I had to complain about something in the context of Soundless’ story, it would be its final chapter, focusing on what can be described as light yuri romance between the protagonist and Auma, a holy woman newly-arrived in the village and insistent on ignoring Mercy's status as a pariah. While it has its own set of themes, it feels fairly disconnected with the flow and tone of the previous story segments. It’s also where the game's denpa stylisation kicks in the hardest, with whole segments presented through strange collages and child-like drawings, coupled with heavily distorted dialogue. While I don't think it was bad by any definition, it was hard for me to adjust to the new direction of the story and I enjoyed it less than everything that came before it. It also underlines the fact that Soundless is probably not for everyone – between its disturbing moments and sheer weirdness and confusion that occasionally kick in, I can easily imagine some readers finding it pretentious or overbearing. The yuri subplot which develops in the latter half of the game is probably one of its weaker parts and evolves into a really strange and confusing direction Presentation-wise, Soundless truly feels more like an early-2000s Japanese doujin than a modern VN, despite being made in Ren'Py. The photographic backgrounds, the style of the drawings, NVL text display and even the UI just scream “old Japanese VN”, and if someone showed it to me as an obscure fan-translated title, I’d have no reason to doubt their word. This mimicry is not just kitsch imitation though, as Soundless really captures and spirit and thick climate of the better VNs of that era, while telling a really original and impactful story. It’s also far from being stale or unimaginative, mixing various techniques (like full-colour and sepia drawings) and artstyles depending on what fits specific situations. The relative simplicity of the presentation leaves a lot of space for the excellent prose to do its job, while the minimalistic music and creepy sound effects further enhance the overall climate. In this, it reminds me of another title I’ve read recently, Nitroplus’ Phenomeno – just with a much more robust story and many more things to say. As it’s pretty clear by this point, I enjoyed Soundless a lot and consider it easily one of the best horror EVNs I’ve read so far. For such a small (6-8 hours of reading) game, and one so simple from the technical standpoint, it’s an impressive storytelling achievement and stands out from most VNs in its category. It was obviously crafted with a lot of care and the author improved upon his initial work with the 1.2 and 2.0 versions, the latter published a year after the initial release of the game. As a free title, I see little reason for any VN fan to not give it a chance – unless the denpa horror formula is really not your thing. And if it is something you particularly enjoy, this game is an absolute must-read. Final Rating: 4/5 Pros: + Engaging, multi-layered narrative + Great sense of tension + Effective handling of multiple dark themes Cons: - Tiny resolution and (purposefully) clunky feel - Goes slightly off the rails at the end VNDB Page Download Soundless for free on Itch.io
  7. Birthday thread

    All Best Wishes to @Akshay! (I just realized I always pronounced your name wrong... )
  8. Just as another piece of clarification, this is something Crystalline did on purpose to differentiate itself from the majority of VNs – I think it was a cool idea, just done poorly and the story ended up being bland and unsatisfying. You can basically expect any VN with a "Romance" tag and without "Only a Single Heroine" one to be a multi-route story with a few romance options. But this still have side heroines/side-route romances too, doesn't it? I think proper examples would be Gahkthun or Fatal Twelve, where there is some story variety but just a single love interest.
  9. New Project + Recruitment

    You should definitely start with something short, like a free doujin! Koi Iro Crescendo for example! ^^ My fetish for obscure yuri games aside, good luck with your project.
  10. Surprise landing and whatnot [Re:CAP++]

    Hey, you missed the part when we resurrected the main site for one week so it could die again, full of false hope. That was kind of brutal, like something from Maggot Baits. ... Welcome back, Maggie! Cool to see you again. ^^
  11. Maggot Baits (JP VN Review)

    Maggot Baits is something of a Holy Grail of dark eroge, highly anticipated guro fans within the Western VN community and often hyped as possibly the greatest achievement of the company that produced it, Clock Up. As one the most gruesome VNs ever produced, and quite likely the most brutal one ever brought to the West, it contains dozens upon dozens of violent sex scenes, all accompanied by intricate CGs, with small variations in them so numerable that they sum to nearly 2500 unique illustrations. All of that placed in a highly-unique, modern-fantasy setting populated by amazingly-crafted characters and tackling interesting philosophical and religious topics. While it’s pretty much the furthest possible thing from what I usually write about on this blog, few games intrigued me as much as this one, particularly after my inconsistent, but extremely interesting experience with Clock Up’s another famous title, euphoria. Everything I’ve heard about Maggot Baits suggested that it was both more extreme and overall better than studio’s other bestseller, and after reading it to completion, I felt the need to share my thoughts about it in detail. Both because it’s a pretty fascinating case of strengths and pitfalls of this breed of eroge, and to warn those interested in it as a piece of storytelling – while in many ways an incredible achievement, this game is extremely hard to recommend for a “normie” reader such as myself. Why is that exactly? Before I go into story details, it’s most important to deal with Maggot Baits’ greatest issue – its structure and general storytelling formula. This game is, at its core, a guro nukige and it’s incredibly dedicated to this template. It throws h-scenes at you at very consistent intervals, disregarding whatever might be going on in the story and sacrificing any sense of pacing or tension so it can constantly offer a new piece of violent hentai. Quite often, the scenes are not important for, or even directly connected to what’s happening in the plot, pretty much pausing the whole narrative to insert a new piece of fanservice. In this, it goes even further than euphoria, which did a much better job intertwining its scenes with the story and had a bit more restraint in the most dramatic and meaningful parts of the plot. Maggot Baits even goes to the length of adding a major side-branch in the first chapter of the story, which is nothing but 3-4 hours of futanari porn leading to a bad ending. All of it narratively empty and pretty much derailing your experience if you expect any kind of interesting reveals or a meaningful conclusion within it. I still don’t understand why it was a part of the main story, and especially inserted so early in the game, before you build any connection to the characters involved or can understand the full implications of what is happening in those scenes. Maggot Baits’ possibly greatest strength lays in its characters – both “heroes” and “villains” have complex motivations and their actions, as cruel as they might be, are hardly ever plain good or evil There’s also one more crucial issue that should be made clear for anyone approaching this game simply looking for a dark, gore-filled story. The fetish-serving character of Maggot Baits means it’s full of a very specific brand of gore – sexualized violence on female characters. The near-immortality of the witches is a useful gimmick allowing the game's creators to push the abuse to its logical boundaries without killing off characters every time (although even this goes with a caveat that rape is way more prevalent in the h-scenes than actual bloody torture). While there’s a bit of general blood and guts, and a bit of chuunige-style fighting, most of it is conveyed in the form of text rather than shown in CGs. The massive focus on porn also means the actual story content is smaller and less developed than both the length of the game (20+ hours) and the incredible amount of visual assets would suggest. I’ve spent hours simply skipping through h-scenes that didn’t seem to have any plot relevance and quickly scanning through those that I felt could offer some bits of worthwhile information or character development, trying to get to the next story bit. While in euphoria one could argue there was some kind of balance between the story and hentai, here all the efforts were ultimately aimed at serving the guro porn, with the narrative being the icing on top of it and never really prioritized. And that’s to the point where even some guro fans might find the experience a bit overindulgent and tedious – there’s only that much stimuli you can take in before going numb. At the same time, it’s absolutely impossible to argue with the game’s production quality. The writing is excellent, including the greatest h-scene text I’ve seen to date. While the visuals left me mostly indifferent after a short while, despite their truly extreme and detailed nature, the gruesome, vivid descriptions accompanying them did a good job at keeping me uneasy. In many ways it surpassed writing of euphoria, really focusing on the psychological dynamic of the torture scenes rather than just absurd lines spewed by the heroines (those are still present, but I’m not sure that part of h-scene dialogue can be done in a way that doesn’t feel absurd to me). All of it is accompanied by extremely unsettling and suggestive voice acting and sounds, both done in a way that is probably hard to find anywhere outside of Clock Up games. Music is properly gritty and dynamic, underlining the brutal and hopeless atmosphere of the whole experience. While the game’s writing is, for the most part, stellar, even if it can’t escape some awkward exposition and over-the-top edginess But, I haven’t even started on what this game is exactly about? Maybe I’m subconsciously avoiding this part, as it’s both not easy to explain and hard to talk about without spoilers. The general outline features Tsunuga Shougo, a former policeman, on an extremely-bloody path of revenge against powers controlling Kantou’s Pandemonium – a lawless city carved out of modern Japan, infested by powerful, supernatural beings known as Disaster’s Witches. Those apparently immortal women, unbeatable through conventional means, are what transformed the Pandemonium into an exterritorial den of vice and murder, populated by the worst scum this world knows – their origins and purpose, however, are a complete mystery to both the outside world and the witches themselves. During the game’s plot Tsunuga’s self-destructive quest, aided by a few of the witches and most closely connected to the one known as Carol, will (accidentally) uncover the meaning behind the existence of Pandemonium and all the insane happenings within it. And all of this happens with the brutal "witch hunts", capturing the seemingly-invincible women and thoroughly testing the limits of their immortal bodies, happening in the background. The setup, despite relying on some tired eroge tropes (primarily “the magic of semen”, which serves as one of the main sources of power for the witches), is pretty awesome and the primary characters in the story are even better. There’s little place for black and white morality in Maggot Baits’ world, with even the protagonist and the three “good” witches allied with him committing various atrocities. At the same time, outside of random, sadistic henchmen and thugs, there’s also no evil for the sake of evil. Shimon, the main antagonist of the story, is a prime example of this, having his hands in some incredibly despicable acts, but doing all of them as part of his work towards a very surprising and arguably noble goal. Even the other memorable villain, the brutal witch Sandy, proves to be much more than just a sadist murdering people and hunting her own kind for sports, despite the first impression she gives. As the story progresses, few things in Pandemonium stay as they first appeared to be and I found most of the twists and reveals the game offered quite fantastic. The love story component of the game is both well done and in line with the dark, tragic nature of its setting, despite a few questionable narrative choices There’s also the romantic subplot between Shougo and Carol, the thing which earned the game its “pure love story” categorisation. This develops between two playthroughs: after you finish the game for the first time and reach the first proper ending (at this point there’s just one choice in the whole game, leading to the aforementioned futanari side-arc), you get a few extra choices unlocked, making it possible to steer Shougo in a slightly different direction. This allows for the troubled romantic subplot to blossom and the game to reach its true ending – not necessarily “better” than the first one when it goes to its overall tone, but more fulfilling from the viewpoint of the protagonist. There’s actually a very interesting dynamic between the two endings, as the first one introduces some extremely intriguing religious and philosophical themes, like various understandings and meanings of love, and concludes the story with a utopia being born out of the hell of Kantou’s Pandemonium. For me, it was absolutely the most engrossing and thought-provoking moment in the game – to the point that the true ending, even though it iterated on the first one's ideas and featured a few interesting twists of its own, felt kind of bland in comparison. And all of this would be truly great, if not cut into tiny pieces by the relentless stream of h-content. The game bends itself at every turn to squeeze additional fanservice and outdo itself in its extreme nature. Sometimes it’s truly unique and disturbing, sometimes plain laughable (my personal favourite being the pig sex scene from the aforementioned futanari arc). Most importantly, though, it’s simply not worth going through for anyone reading VNs for the story and not being specifically interested in guro porn. I don’t regret reading Maggot Baits, as I was simply too curious to not check it out, but it’s quite likely the last game of this type and the last Clock Up title I’ll ever read. And ultimately, I can only suggest avoiding those to the vast majority of VN readers – while euphoria had its share of problems, it compensated for it with the excellent climate and by expertly integrating much of its h-content with the flow and leading themes of its story. This game, on the other hand, is just a dark nukige – a damn good one, but truly worthwhile only for the very specific subset of readers for whom guro is a reward in itself, and the story is just a fun bonus. If that’s you, you can grab this game without a second thought. If not… There are infinitely better ways to spend 45 dollars and 20+ hours of your time. Final Rating: 3/5 Pros: + Awesome quality of the visuals + Tons of CGs + Excellent characters + Great Soundtrack + Serious approach to its main themes Cons: - No consideration for pacing - …like, none at all - A lot of h-scenes feel forced and repetitive VNDB page Buy Maggot Baits on MagngaGamer Store
  12. VN in a workplace setting

    It sucks though... Eroge! comes to mind, but it's a nukige. I can also think of a few where the protagonist is a working adult, like DameKoi or even Kara no Shoujo, but they don't really have much to do with the workspace environment...
  13. Fall 2019 Anime Discussion

    I end up barely watching anything this season, but my inner masochist forces me to continue Fire Force... Holy crap this new OP. So insanely bad, and after the first one was so good it feels like a parody or a bad fan video. What is wrong with this anime? 0.o
  14. grisaia visual novels review no spoilers

    That kind of stuff happens... I guess GnK didn't need a sequel, but I still think it's a huge shame it never got an amine adaptation.
  15. grisaia visual novels review no spoilers

    [No Spoilers] Yes