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Prideful

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  1. Like
    Prideful reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Random VN: Primal x Hearts   
    Primal Hearts is a game I have an odd relationship with.  At the time I first played it, I don't think I gave it a completely fair assessment.  The reason why?  I was hitting the first of my many 'charage doldrums' periods.  However, in retrospect, it grew on me... sort of like mold.
    First, I should note that the game is actually fairly old-fashioned, despite its modern visuals.  The wacky concept, larger-than-life characters, and the sometimes ridiculous 'coincidences' that pop in all hearken to a previous era.  At various times, this game channels such famous games as Haruka ni Aogi, Uruwashi no, Majikoi, Shuffle, and any number of 'golden age' games.  Of course, it doesn't go as far as any of those does, but the makers' fanboyism is fairly evident throughout the game on a second playthrough (something I didn't notice on the first playthrough).
    First, the resemblance of Majikoi lies in the larger than life characters and sometimes crazy abilities some of them have (the protagonist included).  The protagonist's casual manipulation of the other characters for his own amusement (and for their own sakes, more often than not) is very much reminiscent of Yamato, without ever actually approaching his level. 
    Perhaps the strongest resemblance to Haruka ni Aogi, Uruwashi no lies in Haruhi's path... to be blunt, Haruhi is a redesigned version of Miyabi, with Kanna a reformed version of Lida who also happens to be a heroine.  The resemblances and relationships are so obviously drawn from fanboyism of that particular kamige that I just had to shake my head during this replay. 
    Shuffle is channeled, along with a lot of other early charage, through the setting.  While the specifics are drastically different, the wacky, overblown occurrences, the general madness surrounding the 'elections', and any number of other factors in the setting make me nostalgic for the middle of last decade (soon to be the decade before last). 
    I perhaps didn't notice all this the last time because I was focused on heroines... and I was playing charage rather mechanically already, two years into VN of the Month.  A peculiar element that you generally don't see in most charage in general is character designs like that of Mizanori.  Most charage tend to make all their regular characters (the ones at the center of the cast) attractive to one degree or another.  However, Mizanori stands out as a character who was made comically unattractive, which struck me as hilarious at the time, since I used to make some of the same excuses he did to eat more as a teenager, lol. 
    The common route of this game is excellent.  The relationships between the characters are formed and deepened appropriately, and it actually makes sense that the heroines would fall for the protagonist by the end.  It helps that the protagonist is really a 'great guy' in every way, though he can lack common sense at times.  The decision to avoid mediocrity in the protagonist and those around him is one that is rarely made in charage, which just made it that much better as a result.
    Sadly, after the common route, this game stumbles somewhat.  The heroine routes lack some of the depth the common route does, perhaps because the shift to romance automatically debuffed the intelligence of the writers.    Oh, the heroines are unbearably cute when they go dere (Sera's dere makes me giggle hysterically even now, and Haruhi's is as strong in its own way), but the 'drama' included in the heroine paths pales a great deal in comparison to the drama that pops up in the common route.  In that sense, it felt almost like they were running out of ideas at the end...
    Overall, this is an excellent charage that manages to escape mediocrity by channeling some of the best parts of a number of famous VNs into its characters and setting.  I won't say it is a kamige (because it isn't), but if you are just looking for a good charage to add to your collection, this is a good choice.
  2. Like
    Prideful reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, A year or so later: My change in outlook   
    Since ceasing VN of the Month, I've been slowly recovering from my years of over-reading VNs, the vast majority of them ones I normally wouldn't have taken an interest in.  While I still play VNs regularly, I do so at a slower pace, reading more conventional literature and playing normal games as much as I do them.
    I recently began to regain some of my VN stamina (though I will never get back to where I was), and I've found that even the SOL VNs I choose to play are far less stressful than before.  It is nice to reconfirm that I truly love VNs, after so many years playing far too many charage threatened to make me hate them. 
    However, I've also noticed that I am far less tolerant of obvious blunders and poor choices on the part of writers, regardless of genre.  When something touches on my pet peeves, I immediately drop the VN, and I lose all urge to play it, often for months after.  This was the case with Sorceress Alive and it is also the case with Raillore to Ryakudatsusha (dameningen protagonists with no interesting or redeeming traits are one of my pet peeves). 
    On the other hand, my stamina for 'sweetness' and 'ichaicha' in a VN has recovered somewhat, and I can play a route in a charage with no troubles... However, I no longer desire to play any routes other than that of my favorite heroine.  I used to mechanically run through all the heroines in a VN without hesitation or slowing down, but now I only go for the one or two heroines that interest me, ignoring the others entirely.
    This change in my own behavior leaves me somewhat bemused, though I can see where it comes from rationally.  I simply got tired of plowing through huge numbers of boring heroines that almost buried the good ones, lol.
  3. Sad
    Prideful reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Venting sorrow: I lost my cat today   
    I love my cat.
    Let’s get that out of the way from the beginning. Even though she is gone, as of today, I have never, for one moment, believed that I would ever stop loving her. For seventeen years and eight months, this calico wonder has made her home in my heart, never failing to wrap me around her paw and jerk me around by my heart strings.
    As the undisputed mistress of all she surveyed (all eleven rooms and corridors of it), she has dominated the lives and conversation of our family for almost long enough for a child to have graduated from high school. In a very real sense, she was one of the most important pillars of our family, and her presence both lightened the atmosphere and gave us something to talk about even in the darkest of times.
    My cat loved people… primarily because she knew a few stares and quiet nuzzles could get any given person to pet her or give her what she believed she wanted at any given moment. She liked being with people, even if it was just in the same room, completely ignoring one another (incidentally, her favorite game).
    In her youth, distant as that is to me now, she was a rambunctious and hyperactive ball of calico fluff, her medium-length fur usually disheveled from one event or another until she chose to let us smooth it out. When we got saltillo tile on the first floor, she could be found with red dust on her belly constantly until it was sealed. When new carpet was put into the master bathroom, she was the first to roll on the floor, and when new furniture was brought into the house, she was always the first to ‘test’ it. Heck, I couldn’t keep her out of my computer chair when I wasn’t sitting in it.
    As she grew older, she retained many of her kitten-ish traits, being enthusiastic and affectionate to often extreme degrees, given our previous experiences with cats. She purred loudly, meowed insistently, ran at ridiculous speeds only to slam into walls, and generally made us laugh and smile.
    When we went out of town, she always made her displeasure known upon our return.
    She was an inside cat, mostly by our choice. While she enjoyed short periods outdoors, she could generally be trusted to want back in whenever her slaves decided to go back in, due to an incident with a coyote in her misspent (I can hear her indignant meow at the thought of her time ever being misspent in my head, even now) youth. If her life was a somewhat boring one by feline standards, she made up for it by being loved and lovable in general.
    When she first became ill, over a year ago, I had my first close encounter with absolute panic. The cat, as we always referred to her (subcontext: Empress) as being, was listless, had lost her appetite, and she had, for some reason, decided that my sink was her new home.
    We took her to the vet, where she was diagnosed as having thyroid problems, as is typical in elderly cats (as she was by this time). We began giving her medicine on a daily basis, and for some time, she was doing relatively better, even if she never quite regained the spunk and vigor of the now-lost past.
    However, a month ago, what vigor had returned to her was rapidly lost. She gradually ceased to eat, began to have bowel problems… and she began to starve to death. The only time she seemed happy was when she was sleeping on one of us, being lightly caressed, comforting herself with her own purrs.
    It was with a heavy heart that we listened to the vet start speaking of quality of life, a typical speech made whenever a loved one nears death… and, our hearts already broken, we eventually assented to euthanasia.
    Less than five hours later, I don’t know if it was the right choice. Was it a mercy, an act of love? Was it a betrayal of the absolute trust one can only gain from an animal when that pet is treated as family? Or was it something in between… I can never know. While I understood many things about my cat, I will never know what she thought on this, her last day, what she felt toward us as she went into the final sleep.
    I will never know. There are so many things about that last day that I will never know. I feel my heart breaking all over again as I write this. I feel the empty feeling of loss. The standard words are no comfort. The euphemisms and trite words of comfort that come out of people’s mouths at times like this feel like excuses and obfuscations. The bitter flavor of grief sours food in my mouth and makes the world a darker place.
    I can’t even make the excuse that she wouldn’t want me to grieve for her… because she is a cat, and no cat would ever miss out on a chance to be the center of attention.
  4. Like
    Prideful reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Creative Corner: Brainstorming a character   
    Usually, I focus mostly on the perspective of a consumer when I write in this blog.  I do this because I am and always have been primarily a consumer of material rather than a creator.  However, that doesn't mean I've never created anything... just that I haven't published anything (well, under my own name... ghost writing doesn't count) since some early fiction on Deviantart over a decade ago. 
    So, since I'm not writing as many reviews, I chose to start a small corner describing the techniques I use when I'm writing fiction (which I still do as a hobby, though I stopped posting it after the last site I posted massively on went under).
    Today's corner is about the techniques I use when creating a character (usually the protagonist and his immediate surrounding characters, as well as the antagonist) in the brainstorming process.  There are two types I use... the flow of thought type and the 'important points' type.
    The flow of thoughts (similar to flow of consciousness style of writing) involves simply writing out all the qualities, the basic history, and abilities/talents/weaknesses of a character as they occur to you in prose form.  This is very similar to the character summaries given on official websites, but in much more detail, with specific important points (to you) described in detail.  Immediately after I complete this process, I ink out the setting (I usually create a setting in parallel to the characters) and then I start the 'sculpting' process.  The sculpting process involves slowly shaving away or altering parts of the character that don't quite fit with the full setting, are excessive (it is easy to make fantasy protagonists over-powered, for instance), or just don't seem to be internally consistent in retrospect.  The final step is to try to write an intro scene for that character that would make sense for that character in the universe you've created, giving you an impression that you can use to form their role in a story.
    The second method I use is more mechanical.  In this case, I write out all the qualities in list form, based on what kind of character I'm interested in making.  I usually use this for side-characters, as it is a much 'dryer' approach.  Essentially, I create Personality, History, Relationships, and Abilities/Talents/Quirks/Weaknesses categories.  Relationships is generally the first category I focus on, connecting their strand of the web to that of the protagonist and/or other characters.  The second is usually either History or Personality.  The reason is that this defines the nature of the Relationships, giving it a more distinct form.  Last is the Abilities/Talents/Quirks/Weaknesses category.  To be blunt, while this is important to their role in the story, it is the aspect that is most likely to be subject to change based on what is necessary to keep the plot going.
    These are the basic techniques I use... to be honest, since I've never been formally educated in creative writing, I don't know how close my methodology is to that which is commonly used, but I find that this works best for me.
  5. Like
    Prideful reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Kimagure Temptation   
    Kazuki Fumi and Silky's Plus Wasabi's newest game has arrived.  This is the third game in the series that began with Nanairo Reincarnation.  I will say this outright from the beginning... this game isn't as good as either Akeiro or Nanairo.  It does have its high points, but it needs to be noted that this is not on the same level as the previous two games.
    This game uses the Emote system heavily, with the sole heroine (Annelise) being extremely 'animated' (think constantly swaying boobs) to a degree I haven't even seen in other games that utilize this system.  Similar to the other games in the series, this game has excellent artwork that differs from most other Japanese VNs. 
    The music in this game isn't as good as Akeiro's or Nanairo Reincarnation's was.  To be blunt, in both the previous games, the music played a strong role in making the game what it was, and the music direction (when to use what BGM) was on the highest levels I've seen in the VN industry.  Unfortunately, this game falls far short of either of those two in this area, with a much weaker set of BGMs.
    The game focuses around the protagonist's efforts to solve the mystery behind the mass suicide of the denizens of an apartment in the same town Nanairo Reincarnation was based in.  Based on what is said in-game, the canon path that reaches to this game is Kotori's path in Nanairo and Youko's path (the Tsukihime-style normal ending) in Akeiro.  Also, based on certain 'events', it is apparent that around two decades have passed since the events in Nanairo, for reasons that will become rather obvious early in the game (in other words, play Nanairo and Akeiro first if you don't want to be spoiled). 
    To be blunt, this game has a much tighter focus on the mystery element than either of the previous games, with less immediate sentimentality and more confrontation with the dead people 'living' in the apartments.  In addition, Anne's constant advances help it retain the goofiness that was present in both the previous games. 
    This game has multiple endings, but I chose to only play the true one, as I figured (and I was right) that it would have the best possible result for everyone involved.  Of course, when everyone besides the protagonist is dead or inhuman, that can be somewhat bittersweet.
    If you were to ask me whether it was worth crying over what happened in this game, I would say yes... in particular, I cried for Kanon and Akira (two of the victims), as their lives and final deaths were the most tragic and their natures (surprising in the case of Akira) were the least inimical to others. 
    The true ending is definitely a tear-jerker...though it doesn't pull the tears out of me to the degree that either of the previous games did.  Part of this is that both Akeiro and Nanairo are long games with extensive, detailed, and deep character development and superb presentation. 
    The other part is that, while I predicted the truth behind what happened about two-thirds of the way through, I found that the mystery 'investigation' system crippled the game's ability to draw me in and keep me in.  To be blunt, if a game only has a single heroine, I only want minimal choices to be present, and I certainly don't want to have to deal with this kind of gameplay.  The gameplay is too perfunctory to be enjoyable, and it is too intrusive and intrinsic to the game as a whole for the reader to be able to stay fully engrossed in the experience.
    In conclusion, this is a game where the concept was good and the staff was first class, but where the attempts to be clever (such as with the gameplay system) fell flat.  It is still a reasonably high-level game, but, considering what Kazuki Fumi has managed to do in the past with this universe, I can't help but feel it could have been handled better.
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