adamstan reacted to bakauchuujin for a blog entry, A review of Date A Live Rio Reincarnation as well as pictures of the PS4 limited edition (japanese release)
With Date A Live: Rio Reincarnatio being confirmed for an english release I figured I should make a review of it.
Date A Live Rio Reincarnation is actually a collection of two Date A Live VNs that released on PS3 as well as a new story that I think can kind of be seen as a fandisc. The two PS3 VNs are Date A Live: Rinne Utopia and Date A Live: Arusu Install while the extra story is just called Date A Live Rio Reincarnation. For this review I will focus on each individual part on its own.
A quick summary of Date A Live Rinne Utopia
Date A Live Rinne Utopia takes place sometime after the first season on the anime and includes the characters introduced in the first season. Other than this there is also a new character Rinne a mysterious girl who seem to be Shido's neighboor as well as his childhood friend (they were never reunited, she was always there). Other than this there are some other odd things going on, for instance there is a huge tower in the middle of the city that only Shido finds odd and he has these dreams of a spirit appearing before him. During the common route there are of course also date events where you can choose between Kotori, Origami, Kurumi, Touka and Yoshino. After some of these date events you get into their routes and get an ending with them. After having gone through all the different endings you then unlock Rinne's route where I would say the meat of the story can be found.
For my opinion of it I would first like to say that I think this is a really good Date A Live VN. It takes full advantage of the setting of Date A Live and I think it does an excelent job both telling a large impactfull story while also giving lots of nice moments with each of the different heroines and pretty satisfying endings with each of the heroines. For the heroine routes there is always something going on whether there is an internal conflict for one of the girls or it is something else going on, because of this it felt like each of the routes managed to carry themselves as their own story and also make the romance between the heroine and Shido feel satisfying. For the overarching plot I think they do a good job building it up throughout the VN during the different routes and I think the story it tells is something that works perfectly within the setting of a VN. Rinne's route at the end then works as a great climax for the story with lots of epic as well as emotional moments.
A quick summary of Date A Live Arusu Install
Date A Live Arusu Install takes place sometime after the second season on the anime and as such also includes Miku and the Yamai twins. The main setup of the story in Arusu Install is that Ratatoskr has made a new dating sim for Shido to practise on which is a fulldive experience that has a recreation of the city they live in as well as the people living there. There Shido is supposed to go on dates with AI's with the same personality and looks as the spirits. However early in the game he meets an odd girl called Arusu, that he has never seen before and shouldn't exist in the game, she ask him what love is as she is curious about it and don't understand it. As this happens Kotori who has been talking to Shido when he was in the game loses contact with him and the people on the outside are unable to get him out of there, meaning he is stuck within the game. This then makes all of the girls hook themselves up to the machine to enter the game so that they can save Shido. This means that they are all stuck in a replica of their city going to the same school and living in the same house. So this means that it is essentially as if they were in the real world other than the fact that side characters are npc, they are forced into roles that fit a dating sim and there is Arusu using her powers to make special date events that happens in the dream of Shido and the heroine that puts them in special suituations with the aim being for them to get closer so she can learn what love is.
As for my review of Date A Live Arusu Install I guess I should start with the begining. I think that the way they use the setting of Date A Live to set up the story is really cool. Referencing my little Shido with the fulldive machine is really fun and I think it is a really smart way of getting the characters into suituations they otherwise wouldn't be. Other than this it also sets up a nice overarching mystery with Arusu and them being stuck in the game. Also because of the game's setting there are lots of things that are able to happen that wouldn't otherwise make sense and this is used to make lots of different scenarios with the girls. This I would say works well as fanservice for the girls not necessarily sexual fanservice, but more so seeing them in lots of different suituation like magical girl Kotori or shrine maid Origami which also provides some nice interesting artwork. A problem with this though is that these scenarios don't really do any job with building a good emotional story for the girls or get you connected to them, it just feels like pure fanservice with no substance. This made the routes for the individual heroines seem quite hollow, something that really hurt my enjoyment as this is the majority of the VN. The true route I feel does a good job on the emotional side and just in general having a pretty good and satisfactory story. So overall I would say that the setup and the true route are really good, but that it suffers from the other routes feeling empty only offering hollow fanservice that mainly just show different suitations with the characters in what seem like what if scenarios, though they do have good art and I would say some are quite enjoyable (magical girl Kotori is one that comes to mind).
Date A Live Rio Reincarnation works pretty much like a fandisc for both of the previous VNs. I don't think I can really go much into it without spoiling things from the other VNs, but what I can say is that they meet a small girl named Rio who looks for the most important thing (she doesn't know what it is just that she is looking for it). As for the content of Rio Reincarnation it features a few nice scenes with the heroines as well as give a bit more of a proper ending for each of the VNs. I very much liked this addition as I really liked the different endings in it as well as the story it told in general being interesting.
Just some quick remarks about the visuals, the visuals are really nice looking, which is to be expected as the artist is Tsunako, the artist behind the Neptunia series and Fairy Fencer F as well as being the illustrator for the original Date A Live light novel. However I found some rather annoying problems with the PS4 CGs. While most of them were as they should be, some of the CG variations had parts of the art that had been missplaced by a pixel or two or there being a difference in colour between two parts of the CG put together. Under are two examples with some red circles added just to show the area you need to look at. While these aren't really that noticeable I found it annoying as I like to screenshot all of the different CGs and have them on my PC to look at later and I don't want them to have these kinds of flaws.
Cover of the limited edition
Back of the limited edition
Cover of regular edition
Everything included with the limited edition
Cover of limited PS4 edition and regular PS vita edition
adamstan reacted to Plk_Lesiak for a blog entry, The End of an Actress (Western VN Review)
Human beings are contradictory creatures, whose behaviour is rarely as consistent as we would like to see and whose motivations are often complex, to the point they’re not fully understood even by the specific person themselves. This fact is often minimized in fiction, which instinctively strives for clear narratives and characters that are ultimately possible to fully understand and assess according to some kind of moral standards. At the same time, there’s undeniable value in exploring the ambiguity of the human condition and ebi-hime is one of the EVN authors that do it with a borderline-painful consistency, often creating harsh or melancholic plots and populating her stories with deeply flawed, realistic-feeling characters. And her latest release, The End of an Actress, definitely do not break this trend.
Released on Steam in late February 2020, this new title by ebi is loosely based on the last years of Marie Antoinette’s life, where she was imprisoned by the revolutionaries and eventually executed for her perceived crimes against the French people. It transfers these core events and many features of the queen’s biography into a fictional setting, closely resembling 18th-century France, but without any pretences for full historical accuracy. However, instead of a grant political tale, what plays out on this stage is a very intimate drama involving the deposed queen, Liliane, and Marcus, a revolutionary who led the assault on her palace and unwittingly became her jailor. In isolation and hopelessness, the relationship between the two will be redefined in a few possible directions, fluctuating between naïve fascination, hate and, possibly, mutual understanding and affection, making for a rather captivating literary experience and one of my new favourites in ebi’s catalogue. But what makes it this special?
Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
adamstan reacted to MayoeruHitori for a blog entry, Summer Pockets Review
Summer Pockets Review
Before I begin, I'd like to point out that the Frontline Japan review is excellent. The only part I didn't like is that they indirectly reference one of the most important hidden elements of the story (but it's possible some people won't notice or think too hard about it) and that they say it's too short.
Edit - Just to re-emphasize, this is an atypical style of VN review. If you want a more normal review, check out the Frontline one.
This is intended to be a spoiler-free review. I never reveal anything concrete about the story itself or its themes, that isn't clearly evident from the first hour, or assumed if you know anything about Key (like the fact their games are nakige).
Key's Creative Intent
If you didn't know, Summer Pockets is the next major Key title (not a short VN like Harmonia) that came out recently.
In Key's promotional interview back in December of last year (translation), the director and writer Kai revealed that Key staff tried to have a "fresh approach" and come up with ideas for the next Key title internally, but didn't like any of the proposals. Then Maeda Jun spoke up and said, "Uh, I have this one idea..." And they said, "This is Maeda Jun!" and went with it. That's the core of Summer Pockets.
Maeda was unable to write for Summer Pockets due to medical problems. Key had already hired Niijima Yuu by then, and Kai worked with Niijima to flesh out the story. Hasama and Imashina Rio also wrote part of the scenario.
How Summer Pockets Actually Turned Out, Overall
Summer Pockets is easily the most Key-like game since Clannad. It's not an unconventional title like Rewrite.
Niijima's influence definitely stands out; he was responsible for many of the most important parts of the scenario, and from what I've seen, fans have praised those parts most. However, Kai's role shouldn't be understated, since he was the director and worked closely with Niijima.
Despite some people's fears, Summer Pockets was not turned into a distinctly "Niijima" work like Majo Koi Nikki or Koikake. That was only to be expected, since Niijima didn't come up with the concept behind Summer Pockets, and he wasn't the sole planner either.
Although Niijima is no Maeda, IMO he's the best Maeda they could possibly find, because their overall styles are similar. There was no sense of discord with Niijima as the lead writer.
The parts not written by Niijima weren't problematic in any way, either. At the worst, you could say they were typical Key routes. To me, each route felt very unique, and each heroine had her own charm and appeal, so even if the prose didn't wow me, I always had fun.
The production quality of the rest of Summer Pockets was also extremely solid. They seriously didn't skimp on the CGs this time. Since Angel Beats! -1st beat-, Key's art has been (in my personal opinion as a non-Itaru fan) much more beautiful and expressive. The seiyuu are top-notch too. But it's too bad that the male lead Hairi wasn't voiced. Key always has nice music, too; I've spent hours with the jukebox in the extras menu. Orito's tracks are typically my favorites, and I also like Maeda's "Sea,You Next" and "Pocket o Fukuramasete". Normally I'm a major Mizutsuki Ryou fan, so the fact she's overshadowed by two people just makes me think, "Yep, that's Key for you." My favorite track from her in Summer Pockets is "Yoru wa Mijikaku, Sora wa Tookute".
What It Feels Like to Play Summer Pockets
From here on out, this review will be "less spoiler-free" simply because I'll talk about stuff like... the extent to which the heroines interact with one another in the common route, or the common route's structure. Don't worry, I never reveal anything concrete about the story itself or its themes, that isn't clearly evident from the first hour.
At the story's start, the male lead Hairi arrives on a small island that's located off the coast of his home city. He's ostensibly there to help his aunt dispose of his recently departed grandmother's possessions, but she tells him, "I'm still sorting through everything, and don't need your help yet. Go out and have fun!" So he has no choice but to wander around the island every day.
A major part of the charm of Summer Pockets rests in the island and its inhabitants. As Hairi wanders around, he becomes friends with the handful of locals who are his own age. They already know each other well and have their various humorous character dynamics, so it's wonderful how they accept Hairi into their circle despite the fact he's not from around there. To quote someone on EGS, it's "an island atmosphere filled with kindness and consideration." Many people love this aspect of Summer Pockets. It probably appeals to players even more than the nakige aspect does (judging from the EGS tags).
The fixed part of the common route is very short, and from then on you have to repeatedly choose who you want to spend time with in order to select a route. It's very typical.
In the heroine routes, you'll learn about the hidden sides of the heroines and come into contact with various mysteries. Unless you've never heard of Key before and want zero expectations (don't confuse "intended to be spoiler-free" with "completely blind"!), I don't think it is a spoiler to say that you should expect to deal with drama that arises from supernatural plot devices.
The average reading time of Summer Pockets on EGS is 30 hours. That's the same length as Air, and longer than Kanon. Of course, it's much shorter than Little Busters EX, Rewrite, or Clannad.
The Bottom Line: How Good Summer Pockets Is
Just look at the numbers. Summer Pockets has an extremely robust score on EGS, a median of 89 with 200+ votes. For comparison, the only clearly better-received VNs in the past 5 years are Sakura no Uta, Rance 10, and ChuSinGura 46+1. It's similarly well-rated on VNDB.
What appeals to people most is, as you'd expect, that this VN successfully nails the Key formula: comedy, lovable characters, and of course, tears. As one person put it, "Key isn't dead. I've been convinced."
And like I said earlier, the production values are excellent. Key's VNs used to be known to skimp on art (of course, the music was always solid) but they've broken away from that limitation. There are so many nice CGs in Summer Pockets, as well as sprites. It seriously improves the experience. Summer Pockets is truly a modern VN.
There were other improvements over previous Key VNs, too. Kai probably deserves credit for them. He mentioned in the December interview that for Summer Pockets, they tried to make the heroines interact with each other more, and they also added handsome male side characters. Key pulled this off well; while the level of inter-heroine interaction still wasn't at the level I hoped for (I know I'm crazy to want harem love comedy situations in a Key VN...) it was still solid. The two boys, Tenzen and Ryouichi, resembled Kengo and Masato (from Little Busters) respectively. Although they clowned around a lot, and rarely seemed as reliable as the Little Busters boys. Not that they didn't have their cool sides. But if you're Kyousuke-sexual, you probably won't find what you want in Summer Pockets. If anyone, perhaps Ao was the "Kyousuke" of Summer Pockets, socially. Despite being a heroine, she's a friendly person who's easy to talk to and well-connected on the island, so there were plenty of roles for her to play in every route of Summer Pockets.
I would say that Summer Pockets has 2 notable "flaws". The first is that some routes are better (worse) than others. Frankly, this should surprise no one who has read Key VNs--or VNs at all. Not all writers are equal, and Key often has multiple writers work on the same VN. But as I said before, none of the routes are especially bad in any way. I personally enjoyed every one of them. Only 1 of them felt fairly predictable. To offer you an idea of what my tastes are like, I was decently entertained by every route of Little Busters aside from the ones Tonokawa did (Komari and Kurugaya). So if you're someone who would say that every route but Refrain and maybe [some other route] was terrible, then maybe you actually will think that ~2 of the routes in Summer Pockets are terrible... Tastes vary.
The second "flaw" is that it's fairly derivative of other Key VNs. Maybe now you see why at the start of this post, I related the little anecdote from the interview. It shows how Key attempted to innovative, but in the end, they went the safe route with a very Maeda-esque story. Since I read this interview before I played Summer Pockets, I didn't expect a revolution... Anyway, I personally don't think it makes Summer Pockets any less excellent, except to the extent that it doesn't blow anyone's mind because they've played VNs like this before. A lot of people realize that Clannad copied from a certain other classic VN, but that doesn't make Clannad any less of a masterpiece which achieved success beyond that classic. Even if Maeda recycled some themes or plot devices when he came up with Summer Pockets, the fact of the matter is that Summer Pockets delivers them in an unpredictable way, with plenty of red herrings. You can tell from the impressions people left on EGS that few people care about the parts that are derivative. And for the record, it's not completely derivative thematically. For example, the themes about summer and summer vacation are potent and unique to Summer Pockets. The final title drop especially wowed me.
Niijima VS Maeda
I want to talk about Niijima's style. A lot of people assumed that a Key VN wouldn't feel like a Key VN without Maeda Jun, with comparisons to Rewrite.
But a Key miracle happened. Summer Pockets has been just as successful (I mean, when you adjust for the fact that the industry is smaller than it used to be) as many of Key's past titles, like Air. Credit where credit due: Niijima Yuu, the same person who wrote the hit Hatsuyuki Sakura (#1 VN of the year 2012, as voted by 2ch), who has been praised by many writers in the industry, did for Key what I presume someone hoped he would when they hired him: he utilized his Maeda-like style to capture the sort of atmosphere that they'd previously relied on Maeda to deliver.
For the record, I'm not denying that there are still many people (even those who loved Summer Pockets) who, after they played it, still think, "I miss Maeda." Niijima and Maeda are not exactly the same. I personally love them both. From an objective standpoint, Maeda is probably better. However, Niijima has his own strengths.
Both Niijima and Maeda like to write comedy that involves eccentric side characters, with male leads who tends to wander around like a loner. They both write scenarios that make the player cry at climactic moments. They both lean toward narratives with unlockable routes and true ends. They both tend to incorporate the supernatural into their plots, yet at the same time don't completely rely on it, or employ it as a kind of metaphor.
A major part of what I feel is Maeda's charm is that there is a deep sense of intimacy, or camaraderie, between his characters. The characters don't subconsciously keep each other at a distance--they form a unique bond almost immediately which deepens as they come to know each other, in a way that every reader loves to see, especially more socially isolated Japanese readers. Niijima's flaw is that he can't quite do this--it wasn't until some of the scenes toward the latter part of Summer Pockets (perhaps not written by Niijima) that I really felt I could sense a heartfelt connection between Hairi and the side characters. There were many parts of Summer Pockets where a character would have some sort of comic reaction, where they became really upset or passionate, but then 2 sentences later when another character switched the subject to move on with the conversation, that upset character suddenly was calm and matched the pace of the conversation, as if they'd instantly quelled their emotions with zero explanation, or as if their previous reaction had been totally fake. I'm sure that Maeda would have depicted more smooth conversational transitions. Niijima's humor has its own brilliance, but often it feels like the characters just relate to one other with humorously eccentric behavior at a superficial level, without the sense of closeness of Maeda's character dynamics.
On the other hand, Niijima's text appeals to me a lot more as a fan of eroge. His humor may not be quite as... hmm, "creative" and "unprecedented" as the weird situations Maeda comes up with, but it feels less childish too. One very Niijima-esque technique is to have a set of ~3 side characters who talk back and forth to each other about the male lead in the male lead's presence for comic effect. In other words, he pokes fun at misinformed attitudes and social expectations. Compared to Maeda, Niijima's humor is a bit more, hmm... "mean-spirited"? It feels like the humor often revolves around one character who teases another based on a misconception. Connected to that, it often feels like there's more of a flirty atmosphere. Well, honestly, Summer Pockets was still a lot less lewd than I expected from Niijima. The lewdest parts of the VN weren't even written by him. So the overall more "eroge-like" atmosphere of Summer Pockets may owe itself to the director Kai more than Niijima. But I think that Niijima's style is what enabled this. Anyway, this is the first Key VN I've read where I actually really wished it had ero.
Still, as a Niijima fan, I wished I'd seen a little more of his style in the fabric of Summer Pockets. While it's true that the text definitely felt Niijima-like, and one of the routes that Niijima wrote deeply resembled a route he wrote in a certain other VN... Part of what I had really hoped to see Niijima introduce to Summer Pockets are elements of action. It's not like I expected the amount of combat to match Hatsusaku, but at least once or twice, I would've liked to see a few short battles. The nature of the way Niijima writes such clashes, as half-metaphors which emphasize differences in perspective, leaves the story's atmosphere intact, so it wouldn't have hurt. But I'm afraid that Kai may have wanted to avoid any Rewrite-like action, as Key attempted to return to their foundation with Summer Pockets. In any case, without this, Summer Pockets suffered from a deficiency of 盛り上がる要素 (excitement/tension). Despite the fact that in many ways Summer Pockets felt like a modernization of Key's style, it still lacked one of the most prominent elements of modern console ADVs--action.
Kai may have perhaps clamped down on Niijima a little too much, but I'm still very happy with Niijima's role in Summer Pockets. The "summer vacation" that's at the core of the story (adjacent to the parts that Maeda came up with) as it's developed is 100% Niijima thematically, and is also the most memorable part of the story to me, besides just how fond I am of the characters.
Key, After Summer Pockets
Actually, I'd rather ask you, theoretical reader of this post. Do YOU know what Key plans next? Has anyone at Key said how they feel about the positive reception to Summer Pockets? I haven't heard any information yet, but then, Summer Pockets only came out recently.
All I want to say is that Key's future is on my mind. I'm hopeful they will make a fandisk, because they've made a fandisk for every other major Key VN besides their first 2. If so, they will probably keep Niijima around for a little while more. I want Maeda back, but I think Key is an excellent fit for Niijima, and maybe Key can allow him a tiny bit more creative freedom next time to repay him for Summer Pockets. I wouldn't mind if they let him direct a smaller-scale project like Harmonia.
That's all from me. Have a nice day.
adamstan reacted to Plk_Lesiak for a blog entry, Chemically Bonded (Western VN Review)
Ds-sans is a British VN developer whose work I've been following since the times I started writing my blog, first being charmed by his free romance game Sounds of Her Love, (check out my review of it here). Released on Steam March 2017, this very tame and heartwarming, small love story was extremely by-the-numbers and rather cliched, but stood out through its solid execution and likeable heroine. Later, I’ve checked out this author’s first VN, Lost Impressions, which also proved enjoyable despite being something of a mess visually and including edgy story elements typical for many beginner VN writers – a rather standard amateur project, but showing traces of genuine talent.
As you can imagine, I was quite interested in reading ds-sans’ first commercial VN, Chemically Bonded, announced and successfully crowdfunded in late 2017. It promised to continue the wholesome, romantic climate of Sounds of Her Love, but with a more in-depth, branching story and better production values – pretty much a product catered exactly to someone like me, who enjoys fluffy slice-of-life content in VNs over pretty much everything else. After a full year of delays, the game finally came out on November 2019, proving to be… Very much a mixed bag. But, what could go wrong with a concept this straightforward and such a promising background?
Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
adamstan reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, How to know if you have a true favorite VN
People who drop themselves into the abyss of otaku media tend to have their sense for things dull over time. Action scenes don't excite like they used to, rom-coms aren't as funny, ecchi isn't as hot, and only the densest stories succeed in scratching the itch. This is what I (and some others) call becoming a 'jaded veteran otaku'. Jaded veteran otakus often become 'genre specialists' (meaning they only play one type of game, watch one type of anime, and/or refuse to play specific types), and only the most hypocritical have less than ten favorites in their medium.
However, how exactly do you tell that a VN (in this case) is one of your favorites? There are a number of signs.
1. Does watching the opening get you excited no matter how many times you've seen it?
2. Does a great phrase that shattered your personal gate of tears do so again on a second playthrough?
3. Can it still make you giggle?
4. Can it still delight you with new discoveries or even only confirming the ones you made the last time you played?
5. Does defending it to everyone around you fill you with passion and do you have an intense desire to chain every other VN fan in site to a chair in front of a computer to play/read it?
6. Do you find yourself wistfully wondering if you'll ever find anything else like it again?
7. Do you feel like a junkie coming down off a great high after you finish it?
These are just some of the signs of a VN happening to be your favorite... and one of the strange side-effects of being a long-time addict of otaku media is that your favorites become ever more distinct to you as time passes. I have literally forgotten the contents of more VNs than most people have played, but the ones I love remain in my memory with surprising detail, even after years without playing them. Not all of my favorites are kamige (in fact, surprisingly few of them are), but to me they are irreplaceable friends similar to the books I can never bring myself to get rid of.
adamstan reacted to Plk_Lesiak for a blog entry, Bewitched by Graven VNs – That One Visual Novel I Tried Proofreading...
Today I wanted to talk a bit about an interesting project, and one that provided me with a unique opportunity to, for the first time, act as a proof-reader and do minor editing for a sizeable VN. Because of this personal involvement, this won’t be a full-on review, but more of a loose rant, highlighting both the worthwhile aspects of the game and my somewhat-peculiar experience with it. The VN in question, Bewitched is indeed a rather interesting one, as all games by Graven Visual Novels are – just as they are weighted down by extremely awkward translations from Russian and inherent flaws of their author’s prose. This time, however, the developer made their first attempt to work on properly polishing the game’s English script with the help of a few volunteers (including my gloriously dyslectic person). This move was quite likely inspired by the discussions I had with them regarding their previous projects and the problems with their English versions. If my involvement in the EVN scene ever made a tangible difference, this is the most concrete example of it, and I hope you’ll be willing to join me as I briefly explore what that difference actually is…
Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
adamstan reacted to Plk_Lesiak for a blog entry, 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.
Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
adamstan reacted to Plk_Lesiak for a blog entry, Blog update + my VN FTL university project
Hello there, all you good people still following my content-starved blog! There will be no regular review post this week (I’ll be catching up next week with one about Reine Work’s Our Lovely Escape, and hopefully a week after that with one of the long-overdue games sent to me for review), but I’ve wanted to take this opportunity to share the reasons behind the recent slowdown on the site and talk a bit my plans for the future. A warning: this will contain a lot of personal musings that most of you are probably not very interested in. However, I kind of need this opportunity to vent and reset. I’ll add a tl;dr version at the end of this post.
Outside of my, not-extremely-successful attempt to jumpstart a new wave of activity on Fuwanovel, there have been a few other things happening behind the scenes. The major one was my academic project on visual novel fan translations, which led me to submitting a paper for an international fan studies conference in Cracow. Preparing the speech in English (this was the first time I wasn’t speaking in Polish on such an event), running a survey with people involved in fan translation projects… It all took a lot out of me and gave me little time and energy to actually enjoy VNs as such. It also coincided with a minor health issue, which despite its non-threatening nature made it impossible for me to sit straight for nearly two weeks – a truly infuriating thing when you should be working on your computer and are basically running out of time. This was probably a major factor which destroyed my motivation for working on the project, which in turn made it be the most painful and depressing one to date. I, however, still made my short presentation in the presence of prof. Matt Hills, one of the most influential researchers in my obscure field of study, and learned quite a lot from other speakers. Here’s some photographic proof, courtesy of my girlfriend who once more agreed to help me inflate my ego by documenting my speech. 😉
As you can see, I was asking the Heavens to help me and my listeners to get through those 20+ minutes of my horrible English accent. Not sure to what degree my prayers were heard, but at least there were no fatalities. Oh, and in the lower-left corner, it’s Matt Hills. That was both awesome and terrifying.
And here’s a rare moment where my conference ID wasn’t hanging backwards! You can see the fear in my eyes – one would think after nearly 10 similar presentations I’d be a little bit calmer, but it’s apparently in my nature to stress out over everything.
And here’s me taking one of two questions that were still possible to ask after I’ve used all the discussion time for my way-too-long PowerPoint slideshow. And yup, I will insert Flowers whenever that's even remotely appropriate. Suou x Rikka forever. You can't stop me!
While, in general, my project was fruitful and I’m satisfied with my performance, I also ended up so physically and emotionally drained that I’ve ditched the other two days of the conference, just enjoying my time in Cracow. Even after coming back, I had a day of what could be described as a full-on breakdown before I kind of got my shit together. All this, of course, has some very real consequences for the blog: for quite a while, I didn’t have the time and energy to really read VNs. And, obviously, without any new material to cover, I didn’t write anything either. It’s the first time since establishing the Blogger site that I have no “emergency” posts to use or quick ideas to supplement more involved write-ups with, even despite switching to the biweekly schedule. And honestly, I don’t expect to write much in-advance anymore. The “one post every two weeks” frequency is here to stay and I’m going to be flexible about it, switching content and dates when necessary.
The other thing is that I still want to make the blog a little bit more of my personal space. I’ve kept up the regular stream of content both to become a better writer and to prove a few things to myself. I think I’m satisfied with what I’ve achieved, and while I’m definitely not discarding the general profile of the blog and the responsibilities I’ve taken upon myself (like covering the games sent to me), I’m going to have fun with it too. Write silly stuff connected to the weeb culture and my peculiar experience with it. I’ve already hinted at this at the beginning of the summer, but I’m even more determined to make it happen now. No hobby I’ve picked up over the years was this intellectually stimulating and satisfying as this one and I want to do all I can to keep it this way– I can't let things go too stale.
And while I’m doing all this weird stuff and overthinking things, I hope you guys will stay and still read my crappy writing. Exploring the creativity and passion of EVN devs is not something I’ll ever get tired of, and I hope we can enjoy their stuff together for years to come. Thank you all for following my work, and until next week!
tl;dr I’ve been to a fan studies conference which, together with minor health issues, ate a month and a half of my life. I’ll get back to “serious” posting next week, returning to the bi-weekly schedule. I might sneak in some weird posts about Japanese popculture between “proper” EVN ones. EVNs are love, EVNs are life (still). See you next week for actual content!
adamstan reacted to Plk_Lesiak for a blog entry, Shall We Date? Blood in Roses+ & NTT Solmare's Despicable Business Model (Predatory Mobile VN Review)
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.
Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
adamstan reacted to Plk_Lesiak for a blog entry, No One But You (Western VN Review)
In our obscure EVN market, there are rarely games or events that could be described as major controversies – even the most unfortunate releases or Kickstarter disasters usually don’t involve enough people and money to gather the attention of the community for a longer period of time or spark a mass backlash. Along with Aeon Dream Studios’ k-pop fan game debacle (a really amazing story of incompetence and borderline-fraud, if you care to follow it), No One But You is possibly the most controversial and polarizing EVN ever released. Appearing on the relatively-barren landscape of early 2015 and promising experience similar to the high-budget Japanese VNs, it sparked a lot of interest and hope for the second coming of Katawa Shoujo – an EVN that would not feel overly niche or amateurish, but actually capture the charm of beloved Japanese titles and rival them in its storytelling.
The reality, of course, proved much more underwhelming. The unexpected Kickstarter success (the campaign reached over 1200% of the initial, $1200 goal) resulted in a highly upscaled and complex project, developed within just a year by then still-unexperienced Unwonted Studios. Involving a network of over a dozen writers and artists, and a heavily-rushed release (which was never moved from the initial KS campaign claim despite of many major features being added through stretch goals), No One But You was eviscerated by many reviewers, with Fuwanovel notably giving it lowest possible score in two separate articles, and received only a mixed reception from the readers after showing up on Steam on January 2016. In a way, it remains one of the most infamous story-centric EVNs, possibly only beaten by the cheap ecchi titles such as Sakura games in the amount of hate and ridicule it gathered. However, looking at it three years later and with all the fixes and additional content added post-launch, is it really that bad?
Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
adamstan reacted to Plk_Lesiak for a blog entry, Shining Song Starnova (Western VN Review)
Love in Space, authors of the highly-appreciated Sunrider series, are a very peculiar kind of EVN developer. In their games, they unapologetically cater to weeaboo sensitivities, copying the Japanese storytelling tropes and stylistics pretty much in every aspect of their games. Sunrider: Liberation Day, the second Sunrider titles was the clearest example of this, with its Japanese speech mannerisms (which look at least a bit questionable in English prose), Japanese voice acting and pompous, Japanese opening song – each of them included despite the story being placed in a fictional sci-fi world with no clear connection to Japan, and being directed pretty much exclusively to Western otaku audience. Thankfully, the studio also was able to supplement its second-hand Japanese identity with some interesting ideas, consistently high production quality and, for the most part, compelling stories.
After the second Sunrider game was completed (and after the backlash from its controversial conclusion was partially mended with an alternate-timeline DLC), Love in Space decided to double down in their turbo-Japanese formula, announcing Shining Song Starnova – a game about a Japanese idol producer trying to turn a team of misfits into major stars of the entertainment business. Funded both through a large Kickstarter campaign and substantial Patreon support, it became the studio’s most ambitious project by far, promising, among other things, seven heroine routes, partial VA by a cast of experienced eroge seiyuu and a high-quality soundtrack appropriate for the game’s music-related main theme. After long development and delays caused by Steam policy changes, SSS was finally released in July 2018, to quite a lot of fanfare, and sparked genuine interest from the VN community. But, was it able to deliver on its ambitious goals?
Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
adamstan reacted to Zakamutt for a blog entry, Translation by example #1: わた死
I recommend reading this one on my blog as forum formatting makes tables look like shite. Your choice though.
I’ve mentioned earlier that I think one of the reasons there haven’t been a lot of translation blogs on Fuwanovel is that a lot of advice the editing blogs are peddling could equally well be applied when translating. But how would that look? In this blog (and maybe series, but me and regular effort don’t tend to get along), I’ll try to show you the process of translating with an eye to using the structure of English writing rather than following the Japanese.
The great thing about being the translator rather than the editor (or editing while knowing Japanese, but that’s a luxury) is that you don’t have to go ask the translator if the structure of the Japanese prose, when copied, looks weird. You can just make the adjustment yourself, without worrying that you’re distorting the original meaning too much.
This post is primarily aimed at translators, but should hopefully be useful for editors as well. It is probable that some of the patterns shown here could just as well have been picked up by an editing blog; the main difference will be that I can also show how it looks in Japanese.
I am by no means perfect, and any comments or suggestions are appreciated.
In the spirit of leading by example, I’ll be quoting my in-occasional-progress translation of 私は今日ここで死にます (Watashi wa Kyou Koko de Shinimasu; ‘This is where I die today’). Me and Asonn have settled on the shorthand “shinimasu”, but the author’s comments actually use わた死 (“Watashi” with the last syllable using the kanji for ‘death’ that appears in “Shinimasu”). Thus the title.
Let’s start with three lines from the very beginning of the novel. Our protagonist 京介 (Kyousuke) has just seen a girl jump off a bridge, gone after her by jumping himself, and managed to get her out of the river and onto land. The reader doesn’t know this yet, however – the start just talks about what you’d do if you saw someone about to kill themselves.
Japanese Literalish translation Adapted translation 「入水自殺、か」 “Suicide by drowning, huh.” “Tried to drown yourself, huh…” ぽつりと呟きつつ、腕の中でぐったりとしている“それ”を見る。 While mumbling a few words in a staccato manner, I look at “that” resting limply in my arms. I look at the girl resting limply in my arms. まだあどけない顔をした少女だ。 It is a girl with a face that is yet cherubic*. Face innocent as a newborn babe’s. The adaptated first line is based on trying to get nuance right. While I mostly did it on instinct, we can motivate it more logically. In English, the literal version feels like something you’d say when starting to talk about a topic – I’d expect Kyou-boi to expound on the subject of suicide by drowning afterward. But in context he’s commenting on the specific act the girl in his arms has attempted. Another consideration is brought by the second line, which shows that Kyousuke is looking at said girl while saying this. So we’re looking for a line that sounds reasonable spoken to a person that can’t hear it. Which is a weird category now that I think of it, but not entirely uncommon. The ellipsis is questionable, especially when cutting ellipses is something editors do all the time in j>e translation, but I have a reason; it’ll be in the next line analysis.
The second line features a thing frequently found in Japanese visual novel writing that doesn’t really agree with English style conventions at all: describing speech after it’s already been said. Frequently this is entirely redundant information in a visual novel due to speaker tags, but in some cases it will contain some kind of judgement or opinion of the viewpoint character that you might want to preserve. These kinds of redundant lines is a good reason to ask whoever’s doing technical work on your translation if you can just plain remove lines (for example, they might be able to program something that detects the translated line being exactly “SKIP” and cuts those lines.) However, it should be noted that cutting these redundant lines will change the flow of a text. If it’s frequently used in a passage, you may end up with a very different feel than the Japanese ― perhaps this is worth it, but it’s something to take into consideration. わた死 doesn’t do this that frequently, however, so we probably don’t need to worry.
This gives a bit of motivation for adding the ellipsis in line #1; it makes the line more mutter-y in a way that doesn’t make it look weird. This is one strategy for dealing with structural incompatibility: move the piece of information where it does fit.
There’s more. The line doesn’t mention “that” being a girl, revealing this in the next line. I’m not sure why the author did this －maybe the lines read better in Japanese that way, and Japanese lines in succession often depend on each other － but the technique just looks weird in English. Thus, we move the information from line 3 to line 2 in our adaptation.
The third line is annoying because while we technically do have a word that fits あどけない fairly well, cherubic － angelic, innocent, and youthful － few people are likely to know it and it doesn’t really fit the register the Japanese word uses. As such I’ve tried to reword it, though honestly I’m not really satisfied. I’m also not entirely sure if I’m missing a nuance of まだ (yet in the literalish translation) I should be getting; it’s probably just consonant with あどけない as “still looking young”, but it could also be referring to her state of unconsciousness causing it or something. The next line that I’m not showing talks about her looking young for her age though, so we can at least use that. The other thing of structural interest is that we’ve moved the “girl” piece of information to the second line, as mentioned.
…Man this took a while and I only did three lines. I think I’m just going to post. Like, comment, watch the Shinimasu translation progress here, design a double-sided daki with both Yukas on it for me if you’re feeling generous.
As a bonus, have a few other examples of describing things after-the-fact and how I’ve currently handled them:
As you can see the pattern isn’t limited to just speech. Here I decide to go IN and use context to write a line half new.
Another thinking version.
And here’s one with 返す. Also this has mixed speech and narration, which I’ve tried to work into the English as well. Though I’m going to go change this to present tense now since I picked that later, fuck.
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adamstan reacted to Darbury for a blog entry, POLL: To San or Not to San (Honorifics in VNs)
I just had an extra big breakfast, so I thought I'd pull up a chair and solve one of the most hotly debated issues facing the English-speaking VN community today. No, no need for thanks. Just name a stadium or sandwich after me at some point. Or both.
Ready? Here we go. Honorifics or no honorifics? Should translated visual novels maintain the traditional Japanese cavalcade of name suffixes — san, kun, chan, sama, and so forth? Or should they adopt a more familiar Western approach, dropping honorifics entirely and/or replacing them with English titles — Mr., Mrs., Sir, etc. — only where situationally appropriate?
San? Or sans san?
I've thought long and hard on the matter and I think I've finally figured it out. Here's the answer you've all been waiting for.
ARE YOU FUCKING INSANE?
Haven't you been reading this blog? Did you really think a self-professed amateur VN editor would suddenly crack the code wide open and save the day? I’m quite literally an idiot. My wife will back me up on that one. And besides, this isn't some question with an obvious answer, like "Should I put ketchup on my steak?" (Answer: No. And if you do, you're an awful person who probably pushes elderly nuns in front of buses when you think no one's looking, then steals their mangled nun panties.)
In fact, that question doesn't even have an answer, per se; it has a decision tree. Imagine your friend asks you, "Should I get a tattoo?" There are a lot of considerations to run through before you can give an answer. What kind of job do they have? Bankers and bartenders each have different leeway when it comes to full-sleeve tats. What's the context of their question? Is your friend asking you this over coffee? Or looking up at you from a vomit-filled toilet bowl in a way off-Strip Vegas casino? And what's the tattoo of? If it's Tweety Bird, then it's off to prison with them, along with all the steak-on-ketchup panty sniffers.
Same for honorifics. There's no one-size-fits-all answer — only questions and considerations. And the first big branch of that decision tree: Who are your readers and why do they read VNs?
The Battle Lines Are Drawn
By and large, we can break VN readers down into two camps: story-seekers and culture-seekers. It’s an overgeneralization, of course — there’s some drift and overlap between these two groups — but it will give us a useful starting point for our discussion.
Story-seekers tend to read visual novels for the plot, for the romance, for the giant mechs, for the faps, and for THE FEELS, MAN, THE FEELS. The fact that these stories are Japanese in origin is kinda cool, but secondary to the overall experience. As a group, they value readability over verisimilitude. They don’t get their stolen nun panties in a bunch because Ixrec’s translation of Rewrite doesn’t capture every last nuance of the Japanese, or even gets a few lines wrong at times. They just sit back and enjoy the ride. And for them, honorifics are often just weeaboo speedbumps that interfere with said ride.
Culture-seekers, on the other hand, tend to read VNs not only for the story, but to indulge their passion for Japanese culture. They might speak Japanese, or they might be in the process of learning to do so. Visual novels are often a means to an end: they read VNs in part to practice their Japanese. (And they practice Japanese to read VNs. Loopity-loopity-loop.) Culture-seekers enjoy the inherent Japanese-ness of the medium — seeing the subtle social interplay of honorifics at work, for example — so for them, stripping away “san” to please some Naruto-watching noobs is like throwing away part of the story.
As a translator or editor, you will inevitably piss off one of these camps. Sorry, that’s just how it is. You’re dealing with two groups of people who have inherently different motivations for reading the same work. And you can only translate/edit one way. Sucks, right? To extend my steak metaphor, it’s like owning a restaurant that, for logistical reasons, can only cook its steaks to one temperature — rare or well-done. And it’s up to you to pick which. If you go with rare, all the well-done lovers will give your little bistro one-star reviews on Yelp. And if you choose well-done, the folks who like their steaks blue and bloody will come at you with knives drawn.
In a way, this becomes sort of liberating. No matter what you do, you will annoy a good chunk of your audience. This is fait accompli. So you’re now free to do what you actually think is right for the work, knowing it won’t really affect the outcome much.
Of course, you’re also probably in one of those two camps yourself. (I know I am.) As such, you probably have an clear bias toward a particular approach — san or sans san. And you know what? That’s fine. Recognize your bias. Embrace it. Make friends with the fact that you prefer to translate/edit one way or the other. Then remember the advice I gave a few blog entries back: You are not your audience. Your close friends are not your audience. The message boards you follow are not your audience.
Your audience is your audience; its needs may differ from yours. And the novel is the novel; its needs may also differ from yours.
So here’s what I propose: Rather than take a one-size-fits-all approach to every VN, just accept that, all things being equal, you will probably prefer one approach to editing/translation over the other. And then leave yourself open to the possibility of changing that approach based on the specific needs of the VN and the audience for that VN. Handle it the same way you would that friend asking about the tattoo. Is getting inked right for them right now? And is including honorifics right for the audience and right for the novel?
Let’s walk through some questions you might ask yourself while making that decision:
Who’s the primary audience for the VN?
Are your readers primarily story-seekers or culture-seekers? Is your VN some niche title that appeals only to otakus, or is it a game with broad crossover appeal? A stronger case could be made for honorifics in the former situation; less so in the latter
What's the setting of the visual novel?
If your characters are all alien catgirls on a spaceship 23,000,000 light years from Earth, it's harder to justify keeping in honorifics than if you’ve got a cast of high school students in modern-day Japan.
Are the honorifics plot-relevant?
Is there any good story-related reason for all the sans and kuns to be there? Is the central conflict of the VN about whether the protagonist and his best girl are ready to go first name-only? If so, you have a better case for keeping honorifics than if they're just there as subtle social shading.
Is the visual novel voiced?
This one's common sense. You’ll have an easier time not including honorifics if the reader isn’t hearing them in VO. And vice versa.
How annoying are the honorifics?
This one is totally subjective, but it needs to be asked. Some writers tend to favor narration over dialogue, so their scripts will have fewer honorifics to deal with. Other writers love the rhythms of slice-of-life dialogue, so their prose might be a minefield of sans and chans. Read the script aloud. How jarring is it to the ear?
Is this an OELVN?
Stop it. Just stop it already. You don’t need honorifics. You’re writing a novel in English for an English-speaking audience, for crissakes. Don’t make me come back there.
Run down the decision tree. Be honest with yourself. Is there enough evidence to make you reconsider your approach to this novel? Are you an anti-honorific type editing a VN set in feudal Japan, where one missing “sama” could mean the difference between life or death for the characters? Consider keeping them in. Are you a pro-honorific person translating a VN about competitive bread baking in Paris? Consider ditching them.
I’m a story-seeker. Given my druthers, I will choose to omit honorifics from a VN for the sake of more readable English prose. I’m fairly certain that if it’s possible to translate Murakami and Kurosawa into English without honorifics, it should be more than possible to do the same for some random high school moege.
I admit you might be losing a certain amount content by omitting those honorifics — clues about the social standing of various characters in relation to one another, not to mention their personalities — but as far as I'm concerned, it’s content that can either be (a) baked into the script via other contextual clues, or (b) written off as redundant — that is to say, most of what those honorifics are communicating will already be apparent through the rest of the dialogue and on-screen action.
I also admit that my sans-san approach won’t be the right one in every situation. Same goes for the opposite approach. Every work and every audience demands its own solution. Your job is to stop for a moment and ask yourself what that solution is.
And then be willing to listen to the answer.