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Everything posted by Plk_Lesiak

  1. Unlimited Chat Works - Random Talk

    I'm kind of suspecting the author herself has those every other day and that is pretty relatable from my point of view. ;p Seriously though, I don't think Rituals in the Dark is going to be a gloomy story. It looks more like something sympathetically poking fun at its goth girl cast.
  2. I’ll be completely honest: I didn’t have a good opinion of NTT Solmare even before approaching the game this review is about. After exploring their sole non-otome visual novel, Moe! Ninja Girls, I was absolutely stunned with the predatory monetisation and poor quality of that title. I was still curious about their otome projects though and decided to check out one featuring the theme I personally enjoy a lot: vampires. Thus, I ended up playing Blood in Roses+, one of the over 20(!) games in the Shall We Date? series and what I found there was an extension of my Moe! Ninja Girl experience, along with some interesting surprises (which doesn’t mean any of them were particularly pleasant). First, however, a bit of context is required. NTT Solmare is a Japanese company producing e-books and mobile games primarily for the Western market. Shall We Date? Otome games are their flagship product and can be split into two categories: paid apps, which are mostly Android/iOS, English-localized ports of Idea Factory otome VNs and free apps which are produced by NTT Solmare themselves. Since 2011, they’ve released literally dozens of cheaply-made, but aggressively monetized games, particularly in the free-to-play segment. This is also the category where Blood in Roses+ fits in, being a fully free-to-play mobile VN, in which you can theoretically experience an impressive and constantly-expanding pool of content without paying anything. There’s a catch though… Or a dozen, which are all worth discussing in detail due to the unbelievable abuse of the VN format they represent. The consistent setting and a cast of characters shared between the many alternative-universe scenarios are among the game’s few redeeming qualities Before I get to ripping the game to pieces for its business model, what is Blood in Roses about? At its core, it’s a supernatural romance featuring a human protagonist becoming involved with a group of powerful vampires and other fantasy creatures – nearly all of them in the form of ridiculously-attractive ikemen, of course. Every one of the 25(!) hero routes (there’s a token yuri one too) revolves around the Hotel Libra Sincera, a castle built at the crossroads between the human and magical world, and a core cast of characters, including Alfred and Rupert, the vampire twins in charge of the hotel. There’s also the mystical rose garden present within the Libra Sincera's walls, which the game takes its title from and which usually proves to be of crucial importance for the heroine. Every arc can be considered an alternative-universe scenario, telling a self-contained, conclusive intrigue and romance scenario. While there are some recommended “beginner routes” that works best as introduction to game’s lore, the only thing you probably shouldn’t do is starting with one of the arcs featuring the “hunter” protagonist – the second version of the lead character, added in one of the later updated to the game, original one being the “witch”. Those play a lot on the previously-established lore and will be more fun to experience if you know the “core” stories like Alfred’s and Rupert’s. While, in general, the game’s writing is generic and sometimes quite uninspired, most routes have their interesting moments and the ability to see so many version of the story and different perspectives is quite fun, making the game more enjoyable the more you play it. The protagonists (they’re explicitly two versions of the same person from different timelines, but are also different enough in their skillsets and behaviour to be considered separate characters) are also rather fine, with a major caveat that I mostly enjoyed them when choosing “moonlight” dialogue options. This is part of the game’s karma system, determining the ending you get: moonlight choices usually involve the protagonist being more decisive, aggressive and openly affectionate towards the hero, while the opposite “sunlight” route basically means her being a bag of wet noodles (or in other words, a stereotypical otome protagonist). Especially in the case of the witch, who starts her story as a prisoner of the vampire brothers, sunlight choices are rather jarring to observe and often lead to submissive endings that rubbed me the wrong way. The avatar system and all the gameplay mechanics of Shall We Date? games are more roadblocks preventing you from experiencing the story, than actual sources of fun Thus far, it doesn’t sound so bad, right? What’s the issue then? Well, the first problem is that you read the story in tiny, 1-2 minute bits (scenes), each of them costing a story ticket. You can get up to 6 free story tickets per day (with up to 5 stored at once), but if you want to read faster, you have to buy premium tickets at an insane price of $2 apiece. This already creates an extremely stilted reading experience, exasperated by the Blood in Roses’ clunky UI and very high input lag – the client acts pretty much as a web browser, with all the nasty implications you might be familiar with if you played old browser games in the early 2000s. If you think, however, that you’d be able to just buy $200 worth of story tickets and read a full route in one go, you’re sorely mistaken. The game also forces you to participate in the crude minigame called “Miss Rose Contest”, where you compete with other players to farm two in-game currencies: Tokens and Lady Level. You require both to bypass “Love Challenges”, literal roadblocks that prevent you from reading the story any further until you buy a specific avatar item for Tokens or reach high-enough Lady Level. This is, of course, another way to extort money from you, although bypassing these challenges with cash is so expensive that you should probably forget about doing so unless you’re a Saudi sheikh. There’s another layer of scummy to Love Challenges: using premium currency to buy special items in some of the challenges will reward you with premium version of the story, with special dialogue and an extra CG that will save to your library (quite often for a price of a full route or two in a much better game). The Love Challenges are also designed to show up often enough and with so high Token prices required to bypass them, that you’re likely to get stuck for literal days farming currency to just continue reading (no matter how many story tickets you might have). And if you wondered there was some aspect of the VN experience that wasn’t monetized yet, the aforementioned moonlight/sunlight endings also have a trick to them. You cannot go back on your choices without resetting the whole route (each consists of ten chapters, or around 170 scenes total) and losing all the story tickets you used and Lady Level you farmed (it always resets after finishing or switching a route). This means that if you mess up the dialogue too many times and don’t get enough points in either alignment, you’ll end up being stuck with a short, bad “Farewell Ending” – that is, unless you use the premium currency to boost your points. What makes all this even worse than Moe! Ninja Girls is that while that game also represented shocking levels of greed, it at least had the decency of consistently awarding you premium currency through events and rewards for finishing story chapters. Here, you can only rely on your wallet to get you any of the game’s premium features. Speaking of events, as you can imagine, those are pretty impossible to complete in without going full pay-to-win – in my first experience, even using up all the very significant starting bonuses (around 70 premium story tickets and other expensive item you get for free in the first two weeks of playing) I could just barely keep myself in the top 1000 ranking and earn some worthwhile rewards. Interestingly enough, after I already invested a lot into said event (they work in 20-day cycles), the game sabotaged me in a way by starting a new character’s launch bonus, giving five times the diamonds for reading chapters in his story, which I had no interest in (and would have to abandon the route I was two-thirds into and actually enjoying). The sudden need for choosing between reading something I had little interest in and shooting myself in the foot gameplay-wise was not something I enjoyed. Some of these heroes might look like abusing assholes at first, but ACTUALLY, they are abusive assholes with minor redeeming qualities, which magically make everything they do acceptable...? Of course, the are minor prices in the events that you can get to just by playing consistently and one of the Blood in Roses’ features I actually like comes into play here too – you can get a lot of minor bonuses, like extra diamonds for events, extra energy for Miss Rose Contest and faster story ticket recovery by watching ads. This is something I consider a much more reasonable option that just asking you to pay up, but it hardly changes the predatory nature of all the game’s core features. In this topic, I should probably quickly go through the avatar system, which lets you equip items you get from mandatory Love Challenge purchases, the events, the "Make a Date” gacha (another thing that is fuelled mostly by the Miss Rose Contest, as every 5-win streak will award you tokens for the gacha machine) and unreasonably-expensive premium gachas. For a non-paying player this is another source of frustration, as while there’s a number of cool items you can buy for Tokens, if you also want to read the story consistently, you’ll pretty much never have any extra ones to buy an item you actually want, rather than the ones you need to progress through the roadblocks. Also, there’s a pretty strict limit on how many avatar items you can own, possible to expand through pricey consumables – another limitation that seems to have little purpose other than making you pay up If you’re not lucky enough to earn those from events or gacha and you run out of space. In the end, literally everything in Blood in Roses is an aggressive, meticulously-crafted scheme to extort money from the player. The depth of predatory monetisation is so severe that I have a hard time to consider it a game, or especially a visual novel – it’s a scam disguised as one. It might look and sound decent-enough at first, but quickly shows its ugly face of a cynical money-making machine that puts manipulating the played into spending money over any kind of fun or creative integrity. While the daily routine of interacting with the game might not be wholly-unenjoyable, I find what it truly represents nothing short of disgusting, mostly because it’s not an isolated case, but simply an iteration of NTT Solmare’s utterly corrupt business model. This is mobile gaming at its absolute worst and a gross bastardisation of the visual novel formula – if you care about our niche at all, otome and beyond, please don’t support this company and other ones utilizing similar practices. They don’t deserve it. Final Rating: 1,5/5 Pros: + The art isn’t bad + Most routes have their moments Cons: - All-around despicable business model - Overly simplistic, tacked-on gameplay mechanics - Clunky UI that makes daily tasks an absolute chore - Ultimately shallow storytelling VNDB Page (Please don’t) play Shall We Date? Blood in Roses+ for free on Android or iOS
  3. Not sure how much of that is by choice though...
  4. In this exact order, I assume?
  5. Eiyuu*Senki Gold Translation Project

    You know, Stormwolf, I'm always amazed by you uniquely friendly manner of expressing things. Whatever you're trying to say, you always manage to make it sound so positive and nice.
  6. Really? What an unfortunate bug! How did I forget the most important tag?
  7. Plk_Lesiak ♂ Height: 181cm Birthday: 31 May Hair: Brown, Parted to Side, Short Eyes: Grey Body: Pale, Slim, Young-adult Clothes: Glasses, Jeans, Polo Shirt, Sports Shoes Personality: Curious, Cynic, Girls' Love Fan, Lazy, Otaku, Pragmatic, Reserved, Smart Role: Blogger, Boyfriend, Not a Virgin, Part-time Worker, University Student Engages in: Apostasy, Reading, Sarcasm, Teasing, Working Out, Writing Subject of: Disappointment, Neuroticism, Teasing Engages in (sexual): <hidden by spoilers setting> Subject of (sexual): <hidden by spoilers setting>

    Hmmm, I guess the yuri games that escape the fixed pairings formula are usually doujins or EVNs and those rarely include that many routes... There's a number of good EVNs doing multi-route GxG romance or having multiple male and female LIs (Starlight Vega, Magical Diary: Horse Hall, SoulSet, a lot of WinterWolves games), but I indeed have a hard time thinking of one that would have over three heroines. They're simply too small to handle more without diluting the experience too much. Even that one Kickstarter project whose developer said it's a yuri game but "a moege at heart" has only three routes (it also went radio silent a few months ago after the game was supposedly pretty much finished ). On one hand, it would be cool to see yuri games with more option but on the other, I kind of like the more-focused stories they usually tell? Like, Flowers has only very limited route variety and there's always an obvious canon ending, but the little branching it does go for is usually really interesting. I'd love to see Seisai no Resonance translated one day and some games to follow its formula, but ultimately, I was never really dissatisfied with yuri VNs that are already here...
  9. Unlimited Chat Works - Random Talk

    Sounds cool, but I'm not sure it's that different from all those gameworld isekai where protagonists performs their avatars' over-the-top/dumb personas. Just going even deeper on grotesque humour and avoiding some male protagonist tropes.
  10. Eiyuu*Senki Gold Translation Project

    I think your heart is in the right place, but I'm with @Nandemonai on this. If you go for long enough, JAST will pretty much have no choice but to react to defend their interests. And this is the kind of conflict that the fan translation community and even this site were pretty effectively avoiding for many years. You'd be unlikely to get in serious trouble over it, but ultimately, it would be best for everyone involved to let this project go. I know it's never a nice thing to do, but as Nandemonai also mentioned, there's a lot of interesting VNs you could train your Japanese with. Including dozens upon dozens of interesting, freeware doujins that no one will ever fault you for translating.
  11. What Anime are you watching now?

    I finished watching Happy Sugar Life and... I'm kind of puzzled how people can enjoy that. I mean, I read what people defending it claim, but I feel like they watched a completely different show. Calling it a psychological anime makes School Days looks like a PhD thesis in psychology. People call it a comedy, but I haven't seen a single trace of genuine humour or self-parody in it. It's not even outlandish or incompetent enough to be "so bad its good", it's just disgustingly stupid. Haven't seen something this alienating and obnoxious since Calamity of the Zombie Girl, which proudly sits as my only 1/10 on MAL. Happy Sugar Life had literally one somewhat believable character (Hida) who I was slightly disturbed to see murdered, thus it's a 2/10. Disgusting trash. Oh, and I guess it was some visual and sound gimmicks that could be considered marginally interesting if they were used for a better cause. Not good enough to deserve credit with how pathetic the actual substance of it all is.
  12. Those horror games today... They go too far.
  13. Birthday thread

    All best wishes to @adamstan and @Nayleen!
  14. Conjueror passed away

    What the hell, this year truly is cursed... Damn... [']
  15. https://fuwanovel.net/reviews/2019/08/10/the-language-of-love/ Feel free to discuss the review/the game, if anyone is actually interested in that, but I created this mostly to celebrate the fact that we have first content on the main site since exactly one year ago (not counting VNTS). And while publishing a single article on August 10th every year would be an interesting gimmick, I kind of hope to see more life there (and not just my EVN reviews too, that would be in really bad taste). If you find in yourself some energy for writing about a recent release, I'm sure no one will scoff at even one-time contributions, if they keep a decent-enough quality. We don't have a review team leader ATM, but if you contact me or @Emi, I'm pretty sure we'll be able to figure it out. And the blog staff recruitment post is also still up. :3
  16. Well, TBF, I'm not sure Sol Press is doing poorly, they're just doing poorly in VN department, which they can somewhat afford as it's not their main venture. But damn, this does look bad, and considering it's not even the first time this happens. I wonder if it's even worth having their own store when they get all their income cut for months-on-end? What kind of cut would J-LIST take for hosting their games?
  17. IMHHW(Nintendo Switch)

    Yup, this will be the same broken crap we know from the Steam version. If Pulltop actually cared, they would release the Cruise Sign PS3 port (a high-effort all-ages version that didn't exist when the first IMHHW localisation was made) in English with fixed translation, but that would require actual effort and investment. Why bother when you can make a cheap cash-grab.
  18. Best Kiss Scene In A Visual Novel

    I really can't be bothered to look for too many screenshots now, but yuri games often have nice kissing scenes? Mostly because everyone has a face and the protagonist beign showed off is part of the appeal? Flowers have some pretty cool ones, Heart of the Woods too, a lot of smaller EVNs I've played... Some of my favourites might still be the ones from Starlight Vega. There's a kissing scene in each route (and some kissing in the 17+ love scenes too): I'm not even sure if these are good by anyone else's definition though. I mean, what makes for a good kissing scene? It kind of either gets me or not, and the build-up has just as much to do with that as the art itself. :3
  19. I don't see anything special/unusual about this description. ;p
  20. IMO the only way to promote the forums is to promote the Fuwanovel as whole. And the site will get promoted – through meaningful content, which is currently in the works. The site was more or less dead for two+ years and the Forums started dying with it, but people are now working to turn it around. If it succeeds, it's quite possible we won't even need weird publicity campaigns (which doesn't mean I discourage anyone from promoting the Forums within their own means – you can do nearly as much as admins can TBH, it's not like we have a marketing budget... Or a budget in general :p).
  21. Unlimited Chat Works - Random Talk

    Behold, the ULTIMATE EROGE REDDIT THREAD. Please thank me for enlightening you and
  22. Mein Waifu is the Führer

    Knowing DEVGRU-P (and history) this story can only end badly, although the excerpts suggest invading Europe is indeed a part of it...
  23. Kyoto Animation arson

    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-49027178 Some madman barged into KyoAni offices earlier today and lit the building up with gasoline. The BBC article claims there's 33 dead, but I imagine the number will go up, as there's both many people being treated in hospitals with heavy injuries and I don't think it's even clear there are no more bodies in the building. Holy fucking shit. Edit: And for the context, KyoAni was responsible for all the highly-rated Key adaptations, that is Clannad, Kanon (2006 version) and Air. Also Kobayashi's Dragon Maid which is still one of my all-time favourite shows. It looks like many high-rank employees died in the fire, including the director of Clannad anime (thankfully, it seems this one was just a false rumour) and well-known animators.
  24. Sakura MMO Trilogy (Yuri VN Review)

    Winged Cloud, creators of the infamous Sakura series, are visibly past their prime, which shows not only in their diminishing Patreon support and smaller interest in their games in general, but also the lack of marketing effort and innovation. For two and a half year now their VNs are only becoming shorter, simpler and more iterative, making the already not-particularly-impressive projects from the peak of studio’s popularity, such as Sakura Nova or Sakura Fantasy, look like absolute heights of quality and ambition. At the same time, the company seems heavily disinterested in actively promoting their work or opening new niches, even nearly dropping the production of straight eroge for the sake of pushing out more yuri games, feeding of this niche's popularity with Western audience. And few things symbolise this sorry state of affairs quite like the Sakura MMO trilogy, the latest three entries in the mainline Sakura franchise, this time tackling the grossly overused theme of gameworld isekai. Coming out between October 2018 and June 2019, with little fanfare (the second and third game pretty much appeared out of nowhere, with no communication from Winged Cloud’s social media accounts before the releases) and to a rather lukewarm reception from players, Sakura MMO games still stand out in some ways from Winged Clouds usual output. Particularly, it was the first time since Sakura Beach that a game in the series received a direct sequel, and the only instance one received two. This, at first glance, makes it look like one of most ambitious projects Winged Cloud ever attempted, but one thing should be said in advance: all three Sakura MMO games are very short (3-4 hours) and heavily overpriced, with each costing $10. For the amount of content you’d usually find in one 10-15 dollars VN, you’re asked to pay 30, while also having to deal with issues that wouldn’t be there if it was all released as a single product or a well-constructed episodic game, like your choices not transferring between parts and somewhat shoddy continuity. But aside from it being a shameless cash-grab, is there something worthwhile within this trashy sub-franchise? Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
  25. In the EVN world dominated by clichéd romance stories, titles by InvertMouse, a long-time indie developer from Australia, stand out in a few significant ways. Staying away from most common genre tropes and easily-marketable story elements, the games he creates often focus on topics such as friendship and struggles of everyday life, rather than grand tales of romance and adventure. The three short VNs in the Without Within series are particularly unusual and interesting in this regard, tackling themes of ambition, motivation and talent in life of an artist, in the rare setting of modern-day Australia and South-East Asia – all of this in a highly comedic style, but not without serious messages underlining the, most of the time, silly storyline. Another thing that makes these games interesting is their complicated development history. The first Without Within was a very short, freeware title, published in December 2014 as one of InvertMouse’s earliest works. The second, commercial entry followed nearly a year later, showing up on Steam in December 2015 and offering a much more substantial story, but in a very similar production quality and tone. The final game, however, didn’t release until mid-2018 – by this time its creator had a lot of more experience and technical prowess, which makes it a visibly different experience from its prequels. Still, with how short and thematically-consistent the three games are, I’ve decided to tackle them as a single package – the third part ends in a rather open-ended way, but with InvertMouse moving away from VN development, it’s pretty clear that the whole trilogy should be treated as a complete story and there’s little chance for any kind of continuation. So, what is Without Within series about exactly and what makes it worth your attention? Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com