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  1. Like
    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.

    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
    + The art isn’t bad
    + Most routes have their moments
    - 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
  2. Like
    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 fixed and additional content added post-launch, is it really that bad?

    The opening sequences of No One But You make it look like your typical, cute moege with minor mystery elements, making the whole experience something of a bait-and-switch
    The first thing worth addressing when looking at No One But You is its production quality, which is both one of its biggest strengths and possibly suffered the most from the rushed release. The character sprites and CGs are of really good quality, with all the characters (including the protagonist, who thankfully isn’t a faceless mannequin) being nicely designed and pleasant to look at. The designs of the heroines are admittedly so standard that you can immediately recognize the archetypes each girl represents just after looking at her for a few moments, but that doesn’t nullify the sheer appeal of the character art. The character art is also, unlike many EVNs from that era, quite consistent both in style and quality – the CGs might not be very numerous or spectacular, but they are good enough to do their job effectively and do not clash with the other assets, while the sprites are pretty and expressive enough to carry the more casual/SoL scenes. Backgrounds, on the other hand, are anything but consistent: while some are absolutely gorgeous, many more, including frequently used ones like the protagonist’s kitchen, look overly-simplistic and undercooked. This might slide if you don’t pay much attention to details, but it’s still a huge shame it spoils the great first impression character art offers. Also, the illustrations are at times clearly mismatched with the game’s text or the scenes that lead up to them, the most striking example being a CG in Yui’s route, in which a long sequence happening on a rainy evening suddenly transfers to broad daylight, with blinding sun rays all over the place. Such obvious mistakes devalue the art and kill the emotional impact of some of those crucial scenes.
                    The soundtrack is another interesting topic, as it consists of an impressive number of 34 instrumental tracks, including character themes and melodies unique to important story sequences. It’s not brilliant by any means, but solid enough to enhance the climate of the game and represents a level of effort few EVN devs are willing to put into this area. There’s also the opening song with Japanese vocals, included in an update some time after the initial release of the game – a decent, but arguably pointless addition, as I imagine most people finished the VN before it was implemented and while they could come back for other content added post-launch, such as afterstories and h-scenes, they had little reason to revisit the beginning of the game. This can also be a general comment on how the launch was handled – pushing the game out in such a bare-bones state and fulfilling most Kickstarter promises months later undoubtedly contributed both to many of its persistent problems and the atrocious initial reception it received. Some major promises, like the English voice acting, manga adaptation and a sequel never even materialized, adding to backers' disappointment, while others were realized in a manner that hardly matched what was promised – this particularly applies to afterstories, presented in the campaign as major extra chapters but which proved to be just brief epilogues.

    The tropy heroines and predictable twists make even the better elements of the story, like the Chinatsu route written by ebi-hime, quite underwhelming
    So, what No One But You is actually about? The initial setup is as standard as it goes – a perfectly-generic Japanese high-schooler, Hideaki, moves back to his hometown after many years of living in a bigger city. In the new school he quickly manages to make new (female) friends – a cheerful and strangely clingy student council member Megumi, reclusive beauty Shiro, standoffish redhead Yui and a studious senpai named Chinatsu. He also reluctantly becomes friends with the class clown Ryo and at this point, it looks like nothing will disturb his fun in the new school. Only strange, recurring dreams of drowning suggest an underlying mystery connected to protagonist childhood and the reason his family left the town in the first place. If you thought, however, that this game is a moege with slight drama/mystery elements, you couldn’t be more wrong – in depending on the route it varies between a rather poor attempt at nakige to a full-on utsuge, with over-the-top depressing, edgy plot developments and endings.
                    Past the average and trope-filled, but reasonably enjoyable common route, the game is at its absolute worst in Shiro’s and Megumi’s routes, the former featuring some comically-incompetent yakuza going after heroine’s father, and the latter a paedophile-murderer teacher who apparently managed to stay in the profession after brutally killing a student in broad daylight, with multiple witnesses. To say these scenarios make little sense is an understatement – they are utterly absurd from start to finish and at times plain uncomfortable to read due to the protagonist’s questionable behaviour. Or course, the worst of his actions are usually completely unavoidable (like the extremely messed up h-scene near the conclusion of Megumi’s route, but also the over-the-top cruel rejection he gives her in Shiro’s arc) – this easily kills the last bit of immersion the numerous plot holes and absurdities didn’t already murder. Yui’s route is mostly on the opposite side of the spectrum, being quite down-to-Earth and using a relatable theme of bullying, spoiling it slightly through the inclusion of some anime romance clichés (notably forgotten childhood promise), but being ultimately pretty sweet and satisfying. It also offers one of the two genuinely good endings present in the game, where for once no one dies or get traumatized for life (that's, of course, only if you make the right choices, as her worst ending is also notably over-the-top). The second positive conclusion available in No One But You is a major surprise – it shows up in Ryo’s route, which might at first look like a throaway scenario for those players that didn't manage to get any of the girls, but quickly transforms into a slightly vague, but still easily-readable BL scenario. Storytelling-wise, it’s arguably the best part of the game – it involves Ryo’s toxic family relations and the feelings of rejection and depression he hid under the façade of a cheerful class clown. Not a particularly novel idea, but still way more interesting than what rest of the VN had to offer and I applaud the dev's courage to include this kind of romance in an obviously male-targeted title.
                    The last storyarc I didn’t address is Chinatsu’s route, notably written by ebi-hime (whose pen name was gracefully misspelt as "ebi-himi" in the credits). It’s a fully-linear scenario that is deeply intertwined with the protagonist’s backstory and is overall very competent. However, the main mystery in it is very easy to read, just with the clues offered in the common route and the storyarc itself suffers from the same problem Shiro’s and Chinatsu’s stories did – the overexposure to tragedy and over-the-top plot developments quickly makes you numb and kills the emotional impact the writer was going for. This is also related to the fact that the route, just like all the other ones, felt heavily rushed – with around 10 hours of content No One But You is hardly short for an EVN, but nowhere near long enough to handle five dramatic, complex storyarcs, or develop its cast of characters properly. In a way, it feels like one of those overly-condensed anime adaptations that cut and modify massive source material to fit it into tight screen time, to the point it loses any semblance of coherence or depth. The one, crucial difference being that Unwonted Studios have no excuse for why they let it happen, apart from chasing the unreasonable deadline they set out for themselves.

    No One But You’s visuals, and its production quality in general are rather good for an EVN of that era, but can only do that much to compensate for often dreadful writing past the common route
    One of the common complaints about No One But You is connected to its extremely shameless copying of JVN storytelling tropes and stylistics, to the point that even its language looks a bit like a fan translation of a Japanese game. To some extent, however, I think this criticism was overblown – while the game’s setup is indeed extremely iterative, adherence to tropes is not really a major problem past the common route. Also, some “inconsistencies”, like the use of honorifics, seem pretty deliberate – Japanese mannerisms show up mostly in really fun sequences of characters texting to each other, which emulate the style of writing teens would use in that context. While the game definitely struggles with its identity and writers had a hard time restraining their otaku sensibilities, I think even most reviewers would easily look past this if the core story wasn’t so kitsch and, well, plain stupid much of the time.
                    One last thing that I should probably mention are the h-scenes – there’s one for Megumi, Shiro and Yui, but I’ll be completely honest that knowing in what context Megumi's scene happens and seeing one still of it on VNDB, I wanted nothing to do with any of it. All scenes were added to the game after release, along some other promised features such as the afterstories (those, BTW, in many cases added very little to the respective routes or even attached a new layer of stupidity and inconsistency to them, particularly in Shiro’s case), being more of a minor bonus then a selling point. Other illustrations might be less broken than the one I was referring to, but it’s still probably not something you should seriously take into consideration when deciding whether to give this game a try. And staying on this topic, I'm not sure I consider No One But You worth buying as anything more than a curiosity – it has its moments and won’t bore you the way the recently-reviewed Sakura MMO would, but reading most of it is still akin to watching a burning trainwreck, rather than genuine entertainment. If that’s what you’re looking for, or are interested in it because of its unique place in EVN history, feel free to give it a try, but… You’ve been warned.
    PS On the final note, No One But You proved extremely difficult for me to rate. Above all, it's extremely inconsistent and its most off-putting elements are mostly confined to just two out of five routes. On the other hand, even at its best it's only decent (I'd probably rate Ryo's route, my favourite in the game, at a 3 or 3,5), while at its worst it comes very close to the absolute rock-bottom of awful storytelling available in plot-oriented VNs. If judged by Megumi's and Shiro's routes alone, it would indeed be a clear 1/5, just as Decay and Tyrael claimed in their Fuwanovel reviews. Thus, on the very limited scale I use here, I had no other choice but to give No One But You a 2/5. At the same time, I want to make clear that its actual entertainment value is slightly above other VNs I've rated this low, especially if you skip the cursed routes or read them just for laughs, fully aware of what you're getting into.
    Final Score: 2/5
    + Good character art
    + Decent common route
    + Yui’s and Ryo’s routes
    - Poor pacing in heroine routes
    - Unconvincing, over-the-top plot twists 
    - Mostly unsatisfying or illogical endings
    - Frequent mistakes both in writing and visual assets
    - Cliched as f***
    VNDB Page
    Buy No One But You on Steam
  3. Like
    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
  4. Like
    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.
    View the full article
  5. Like
    adamstan reacted to SeniorBlitz for a blog entry, YU-NO - The Girl that Chants Love at the Edge of the World [VN Review]   
     Wow! Another review blog? So fucking creative, I’m right? But yeah, I decided to create a blog about… stuff?
     I was actually going to do a Lamento –Beyond The Void- review, but, I have yet to finish Bardo’s route, so I choosed the next best thing…
     YU-NO… I was really interested in this game since it created one of my favorite genres and also because it has similar themes to the Zero Escape series.
     So, during my vacation I got around to marathoning the shit out of it reading it. So without further ado…

    (Remake's cover art)
    0. The Premise:
     The story begins with the disappearance of the protagonist’s father, which were an eccentric historian and a really bad father figure. xoP
     One day, he mysteriously receives a package from his (supposedly) dead dad (Pun intended), containing a bunch of strange objects and whose purpose were yet to be discovered.
     After wandering around town he arrives at a local landmark “Triangle Mountain” where he finds a strange blonde woman who abruptly kisses him, and disappears.  
     Things only go downhill as he is suddenly confronted by a former friend and colleague of his father named Ryuuzouji, his step mother Ayumi,  while one of his colleagues Kanna is watching  them (it makes sense in context).
     When Ryuuzouji pulls out a gun and demands the package that he gained from his old man, thing suddenly turn bizzare as space time seems to distort itself and he suddenly finds himself alone at the base of Triangle Mountain.
     Takuya (Aka the MC) runs home and after rummaging through the package he discover that one of the devices included was actually some sort of dimensional travel that allowed him to jump between alternate dimensions with the usage of special jewels.
    Takuya decides to use the device to look for answers…
    1. The Plot:
     The story is really good, the routes branches out pretty early, and they each build off of each other to create a really nice mystery with sci-fi elements. Most of the characters are pretty nice; Takuya’s perverseness can get really annoying sometimes though.
     There are a total of six routes in the game, one for the Teacher Mitsuki, a kind hearted woman that works as an assistant for the director Ryuuzouji, she seems to have a past with Takuya and Eriko, a delinquent-ish school nurse who doesn’t really care the ethics of teacher, she goes for walks during her worktime, smokes without a care in the world, things that you would expect a teacher not to do; His step-mother Ayumi a hardworking woman that have been taking care of Takuya after his father disappearance; Mio which is the best girl one of Takuya’s classmates, she acts pretty cold towards him and mostly spend her time investigating the mysteries of Triangle mountain;  Kaori a reporter whose intentions are very unclear,  Kanna a mysterious girl who seems to be related to Takuya somehow, and the True route.
     Another plus is that the routes are pretty unique on it, Mitsuko/Eriko’s have you investigating a murder, Ayumi’s a scheme against her, Mio’s the secret of Triangle Mountain, etc. They are all pretty nice. One thing that was really annoying was the excessive use of panchira during event CGs even in more serious events.
     The way that the device is implemented in the narration is pretty neat; sometimes you’ll need items from other routes so you can properly advance the story, though this pretty much makes this a guide game, so have a walkthrough by your side.
    2. Gameplay:
     The gameplay consists of a point-and-click, so you’ll spend most of your time clicking around, doing some puzzles, collecting items, etc. There is barely any direct choice making; you’ll mostly chose where to go which trigger certain events that will lead you to new branches. 
    (The Divergence Map / Flowchart)
     There’s a flowchart to keep track of which paths you have already explored and whatnot, you can use it with the jewels (that are pretty much “checkpoints”) so you don’t have to replay everything from the beginning.
    3. Art and Music:
     YU-NO’s art is extremely pretty, there is a lot of detail to the even CGs and some even has animated details. The backgrounds and character appearances are very distinct and unique, no complains here.
     (Mio Investigating the mountain)
     The music is also really great, the tracks are fitting and not repetitive, each of the heroine also have their own BG theme. "Bonds" and "Touch" are one of my favorites.
    4. Routes:
     I really liked all routes in this game, though I wish there was more backstory revealed about the heroines, since Mio’s and Eriko’s are mostly implied…

    (Event with Kaori during one of the routes)
     Mitsuki/Eriko’s: This route is mostly centered around Ryuuzouji and urban legend related to his house. The route only properly starts after an event with Takuya and Mitsuki in the school Lab Room (nothing dirty silly :yumiko:), it is an introductory route, some terms and info here will be used on other route. Also this Arc doesn’t have the most positive of endings…
     Ayumi: Her route is focused on a scheme that her co-worker seems to be planning against her. Takuya spends the majority of her route trying to convince Ayumi that she is in danger and her naivety can make you cringe a little. This Arc should be played second.
     Mio: Probably my favorite route, Mio is a really nice character; her route is centered on the secrets of Triangle Mountain, so Takuya spends most of his time with her investigating and looking for clues. This Arc takes from both Mitsuki’s and Ayumi’s respective routes, so this should be played after them.
     Kaori: Her route is mostly here to explain a plot point, and is also the shortest route. Though I really liked Kaori’s character, she was very mischievous and cunning.  
     Kanna: Her route should be played before the true route, since it reveals a lot of important info about Takuya’s father. She shares a branch with Kaori for a while, so things mostly get interesting in the end of the Path.
     True Route: Very hit-or-miss, the game takes a turn to whole different genre and it seems like a totally different, unrelated tale for a while. There is a lot of info dump that comes by the end of it which doesn’t make things better.
     After finishing the routes, you’ll unlock bonus content like side stories, CG gallery, extended endings for Ayumi, Mio & Kanna, which is always a plus (Though 100% the game can be a chore).
    4. Conclusion:
     Overall, YU-NO is a pretty good game that becomes very hit-or-miss during the final path, though I’d still recommend you check it out for it's value and contribution to the VN world. 
     Special Thanks to @MaggieROBOT for the help!
  6. Like
    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.


    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.
    Full Disclosure
    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.