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Everything posted by Clephas

  1. Nekotsuku, Sakura

    *pukes a river of sugar* *wipes his mouth clean* Ok, I'm better. This game is very much what you would expect if you came in knowing nothing of Lump of Sugar's past works and only knew the name of the company itself. It is sugary sweet, adorable, and generally interminable to someone who likes a nice balance between the cuteness and ichaicha and other aspects of a VN. That's not to say it doesn't have good points... the common route is pretty funny, if you are a cat lover, and I can honestly say the heroines are attractive, though not all are my type. I will also be frank that I only played one path (and it was long), Tsuki's path. I only played one because, by the time the path was over, I was dealing with ichaicha overdose symptoms (including a headache and a desperate urge to go to sleep). Understand, I could see from the beginning what type of game this would be, but mimikko girls are my primary fetish, so there was no way I wouldn't at least try to play it. If it had merely been a standard charage with a standard-length route and a standard level of ichaicha, I probably would have had a better end impression. Instead I got a game that had me plowing through literally hours worth of ichaicha in the heroine path before the atmosphere changed and there was some nakige drama that I couldn't fully enjoy because of how tired I was. If you want a game with an excessively fluffy atmosphere and a large amount of ichaicha scenes, this is a good choice. Otherwise, there are better games out there, lol.
  2. Random VN: Komorebi no Nostalgica

    Do it in whatever order you please... though, to be honest, Kaja route's version of the common route makes me feel like I'm tormenting Flow, since you have to make so many choices that disappoint her.
  3. Yes, it is another Takaya Aya game... to be specific, his joint work with Morisaki Ryouto (known for his sci-fi bent and work with Applique). This work is also considered to be one of his penultimate masterpieces, which is ironic, since the company he created got bought out almost immediately after this game was released, hahaha. Anyway, Komorebi no Nostalgica was one of two contenders for my VN of the Year 2013 and lost out to Hapymaher. However, given how Hapymaher has proven somewhat difficult to replay (the Christmas arc puts me to sleep every time), and the way I find new things in Komorebi every time I replay it, I'm going to go ahead and say that that decision was probably a mistake, lol. Komorebi is a meticulously-written game, with so much attention to detail on the part of Takaya and Morisaki that it is literally impossible to pick up everything on one playthrough... and more importantly, it has a strangely powerful emotional impact that can't help but make you reflective on the issues it brings up. The setting of Komorebi no Nostalgica is based in the twenty-fifth century, long after the changing climate sank wide swathes of the world's land beneath the oceans and fifty years after a humanoid AI rebellion that resulted in what amounts to a negotiated draw (mostly because the AIs didn't want to wipe out humanity). The AIs in question are self-aware machines that possess human looks and emulate human emotions using a quantum processor and a unique set of self-developing algorithms. They are called the Metosera and live alongside humans in a larger society that coexists with human society while they dwell in 'Arks', large towers in the major cities that take on the maintenance and 'procreation' of their race. The government is now a world government, mostly because the nations that existed before the war were utterly dependent on Humanoids for most forms of manufacturing and manual labor and couldn't continue to exist on their own. This VN focuses on a group of friends that discover an extremely high-spec pre-war Humanoid hidden in the walls of their school building, and the discoveries they make as they rebuild Cinema (the Humanoid in question) and learn from her. Cinema is not a heroine, but she is undeniably the centerpiece of the story. The mysterious 'Store Manager' that customized her (to the extreme) and his intentions become central issues in several paths, and her unique aspects come into play in others. However, the universal aspect is that her presence sparks a number of issues that were dormant to rise to the surface during the course of the paths. Main Characters Shimazu Shouta is the protagonist, a guy who loves retro machines and is great at repairing old hardware and jury-rigging solutions to mechanical problems. By default, he is the homemaker of the family, since the two women living with him (his stepmother Kagari and his adoptive sister Akira) are both programming geniuses incapable of taking care of themselves. What stands out in regards to his character is his adaptability and his acceptance of the way the world is. This is important because it is what makes him an excellent partner for Fluorite in her path and gives the perfect perspective on Cinema. Shimazu Akira is Shouta's adoptive little sister, a natural-born hacker with a neural implant and way too much talent for her own good. Unfortunately, her impulsiveness and intolerance of 'inelegant' solutions to programming problems lead to constant trouble, since she has no impulse control. She is utterly dependent on her brother, to the same extent as her mother, without the wisdom of years to stabilize her. Fluorite Alvega is a Metosera who has spent most of her formative years with the 'group of friends', making her somewhat unusual for her kind, who usually end up spending more time with their own than with humans. While she has the Metosera tendency to think in straight lines and constantly analyze the world around her, she is more self-reflective and tolerant of the flaws and foibles of humans than many, who tend to be overly straight-laced. Kaja Fruhling is the daughter of two of Kagari's (Shouta's stepmother's) coworkers and was born in Germany. She is an easygoing girl who shares Shouta's love of motorcycles and scuba diving, and she is generally easy to get along with. While has some tomboyish aspects, she is surprisingly perceptive and compassionate beneath the surface. She is an all-around athlete who often gets recruited by the athletic clubs for help, but she isn't interested in joining any of them permanently. Sawatari Itsuki is a sharp-tongued young woman who is the most reserved and bookish in a group that is full of straightforward people. Of the group, she is the most 'balanced' in terms of talent, being a general prodigy (as opposed to one-point monsters like Seijuurou/male-Momoka, Flow/humanoid AI, or Akira/genius hacker). She is bookish and tends to get put in positions of responsibility, but this is mostly because she has a surprisingly forceful personality that is at odds with her appearance. She is also feared because of her tendency to wield 'correctness' as a weapon while being perfectly willing to ignore it if it is inconvenient to her personally. Cinema is the Humanoid uncovered in the school's secret room. Last active the year the Two Years War began, she was designed by someone even Akira describes as a 'genius'. She displays reactions that can only be described as 'emotional' and 'alive' in a fashion even the Metosera have difficulty managing, and certain aspects of her design indicate an extremely unusual design philosophy. However, she is undeniably too low-spec to gain sentience in the same way the Metosera did... so the question is just how is it that she leaves such a non-mechanical impression on those who see her...? Samon Seijuurou is the last member of the 'group of friends', a muscleheaded martial artist who is infamous for knocking the classroom door off its rails as he runs in just before the bell. At one point in the past, he wanted to become the strongest fighter in the city and went around picking fights with delinquents from other schools, but he eventually ran out of people to challenge. He is very simple-minded and straightforward and disinclined to question things. He has a good heart, but his inability to understand subtlety often trips him up (not to mention that he is an idiot and an open pervert). Important Side Characters Shimazu Kagari- Akira's birth mother and Shouta's stepmother. A genius programmer who is utterly incapable of taking care of herself (a quality her daughter shares). She has a very childlike manner and tastes, but she is in actuality very intelligent and mature (if in an odd way) beneath that appearance. Her attitude toward parenting is very much a 'wait and see while taking everything in' approach, and this has resulted in her daughter becoming a hacking wild child (who is essentially good natured) whereas Shouta became a mature homemaker despite his natural tendencies. Samon Munenori Seijuurou's grandfather and the master of the dojo that Seijuurou, Shouta, and Kaya attend. He is a veteran of the Two Years War and one of the few veterans who managed to get past his resentment of what amounts to humanity's defeat by their creations (it was only a draw because the Metosera avoided killing humans directly, though some died due to complications later or because they helped the Metosera). Celes is Fluorite's 'mother' and the Elder of the New Capital's Ark, the home of the city's/region's Metosera. She is a veteran of the Two Years War and one of the first Metosera to obtain sentience. She has a gentle manner and is deeply compassionate, and her attitude toward Fluorite and her friends resembles that of a gentle grandmother, as she merely laughs off the antics and trouble they got into in the Ark as kids. She sees Fluorite's oddities, born of her mixed socialization, as a source of hope for the future of her race, and she treasures the relationships that her 'daughter' has formed. Fluorite Path If you want the joy of discovering the details of the setting for yourself, do not open the spoiler box. I'm essentially getting extremely nerdy in the paragraphs in the spoiler box, so if you want my usual completely spoiler-free commentary, just ignore it. I considered just leaving it in the open, but I concluded that some people would not want to be spoiled about the setting to this degree. As I say above in the spoiler box, Flow has a rather stunning gap-moe thing going in her route, with her normally calm, almost flat manner showing serious cracks when she is around Shouta (hints of this can be seen in her reactions to Cinema in the common route as well). The early part of this route is very telling about both Flow personally and the Metosera as a whole, revealing a great deal about how they think (analyzed partially by Shouta himself, who has spent most of his life around Flow as a friend). The latter half is fairly action-focused, with Cinema's issues taking center stage (really, in all the paths this happens), and it is very strongly focused on the legacy of the Two Years War. The climax of the path would have anyone in tears, and I honestly found my heart breaking each of the four times I played this game and this path in particular. The box below has a very general setting spoiler involved with this path. Itsuki Path First I'll say that the romance in this path is fairly conventional. Itsuki and Shouta have known one another for a long time, and they already care about one another, so there is a lot less of a hurdle for Shouta in getting together with her than with Flow, where he had a moral dilemma born of him worrying about how he affected Flow. As such, I won't comment on the romance any further, since it is little more than a device to help the story along in this path. There is an excellent fight scene (by non-chuunige standards) toward the end of this path, and that is something to look forward to for action fans. However, the true spotlight of this path is Yep, that was me geeking out again. Essentially, this path contrasts the Metosera's evolution with Cinema's once again. This is one of the primary themes of the game, and Itsuki's path provides another point to build things up for the reader. Also, the epilogue to this path is as good as Flow's if in a different way. Kaja Path One thing that is interesting about replaying VNs is that you realize the reasons why you forget things and remember others. All of the heroines in Komorebi no Nostalgica are extremely close to the protagonist, and all the ones other than Akira can be considered 'osananajimi' (childhood friend) characters. However, Kaja fits the most perfectly into the osananajimi template, especially in the romantic elements of her path. Kaja's role with Shouta is as the 'friend he doesn't really see as a woman', a trope that gets pulled out a bit too often in VNs for my taste (it isn't so bad when they aren't heroines, but when they are heroines, the romance is usually wince-worthy at best). Because of this, it is no surprise that I avoided this path on future playthroughs, despite the insights it provides on Cinema. I should note that this path is one of those where there is a massive wall of text between the actual love confession and them becoming lovers (meaning the 'worrying about this and that' period is that long). Unlike the previous two paths, this path doesn't have a major action scene, though it does have some drama. While this is a much better path than charage equivalents of the same trope, I still hate that trope, lol. The epilogue, like the previous two, is a 'several years later, after graduation' epilogue, which is always nice, since it is great to know how things turn out for the characters central to the path. Akira Path If Komorebi was based on D&D rules, Akira would have an intelligence stat of 40 and a wisdom stat of 5. To be blunt, Akira is something of a spoiled brat whose talent, mother's social position, and Shouta's tendency to spoil her have shielded her from most of the sticks and stones that would have hit someone like her. Her hacking ability is extremely high (helped by her uncontrollable curiosity and disinterest in restraining herself), but she tends to outright forget common sense in any number of situations. One thing that stands out about the romantic part of this path (other than Shouta over-thinking things, as usual) is Kagari is a great mom, despite being incapable of cooking, cleaning, or doing the laundry (Shouta does all these things, lol). Her tendency to see through Shouta and the others is present in all the paths, but it is particularly in the open in this one. Let's just say that this path has less of a philosophical bent than Flow's or Itsuki's and less of a romance/SOL focused bent than Kaja's. This path's drama is mostly focused around the search for 'Tenchou's' identity and fate after he concealed Cinema. While there is some action, the actual stakes involved are far less than in Flow or Itsuki's path. Last Episode Last Episode is a chapter unlocked by completing all four heroine paths. It is very revealing about how and why 'Tenchou' vanished from the public world, and it also provides a conclusion to the story as a whole. Certain aspects of this chapter change based on which heroine you choose at the very first part of the chapter, as this determines which heroine is your canon heroine, lol. Of course, I always choose Flow... if there is a choice between human and non-human, I will always choose non-human. There are some seriously teary moments in this episode... particularly To be blunt, this chapter is really about Cinema and the final purpose for which she was created. If you, like me, have come to love Cinema by this point, you will probably break down in happy tears. Extra There really isn't anything to the extra chapter (accessed using the usual Takaya Aya code nkmr). It's basically a short joke skit written for people who have finished at least one of the paths. Conclusion A few stylistic comments first. Each chapter of this game has an episodic preview that hints at a key aspect of the next chapter. It is done using the second opening song and credits, and I thought it was worth noting, because while it hints at what comes next, it does so without spoiling things. It is also notable that the second opening song is just as beautiful as the first one (in retrospect, the music in Komorebi is top-tier, but Hapymaher's god-tier BGMs are so beyond the pale that comparing them at the time couldn't help but be a win for Purple Soft's flagship game). Komorebi no Nostalgica is one of a very small number of VNs that is 'complete' in every conceivable way. For better or worse, most VNs leave an opening for fandiscs, sequels, or dlc. However, Komorebi ties off all the loose ends and provides the answers any sane reader having experienced this story would want to know. Moreover, it does so in a manner that is not detrimental to any of the four heroines or their paths, which is, in itself, an incredibly unusual thing (essentially providing a true path that applies to all the heroines). Komorebi no Nostalgica also touches on a wide range of philosophical and ethical topics, in particular relating to AI and information technology in general. That this was done without compromising the emotional aspects of the story at all is a tribute to the genius of the writers. Final Comments If I have any advice for someone playing this game, is that the magic (not the devil) is in the details. This is a game that rewards people who actually take the time to think about or look up things they don't quite understand from what they are reading, and both Takaya and Morisaki rather obviously created this as a work of love and art, not just business. There is food for both the intellect and the heart in almost every (non-H) scene, and the characters, especially the main ones, are all well-written and brought to life well in the course of the story, which is in and of itself both touching and food for thought.
  4. Great Game Music

    Nothing like Nier.
  5. Great Game Music

    What are your favorite game (non-VN) soundtracks? What broke your heart, or uplifted your spirits after a horrific scene? What scared the beejeebus out of you, for that matter? A good game story is as much the sum of its music as it is that of its dialog or visuals. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J46RY4PU8a8 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hllbwq8ElMc&list=PL15D2BF2A0C9D112C&index=37 I remember how this one gave me delicious chills when I first encountered it, haha. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfCV1bVOiGc Magus' theme, of course... and just imagine... they had virtually nothing to work with when they made this music, hahaha.
  6. The protagonist is supposedly a genius at something, but the moment the heroine routes begin, his abilities seem to disappear (Most of the Ensemble games for the last seven years, Tsuki ni Yorisou, Otome no Sahou 2). This convention is a plague on charage in general, since there is a tendency to want to weaken the protagonist's individuality in the heroine routes to fit the heroines' needs. This is an effort to reduce potential for conflict, but it also makes the game less interesting and/or disappointing.
  7. I wish I could find a download version of this for purchase... when I first heard of it, I couldn't find a copy and forgot about it. This went for a lot of Ocelot games, because that company seemed to be horrible at advertising and distributing their works.
  8. Master Magistrate Full-Version Review

    I left most of the game to fun2novel during my period of offloading games I wasn't interested in, but the roles of magistrates in Edo-era Japan included roles of judge, jury, and investigator head. One of the reasons this led to so much corruption in the later part of the era was because it essentially offloaded all responsibilities of keeping order for an individual area of a town, region, or area to a single individual with only the tacit understanding that they were to make sure as little trouble as possible would make its way up the grapevine. As long as there was no real unrest in the populace and incidents were resolved quickly, the higher officials were happy with the magistrates in question. There were declarations and laws that absolutely had to be followed (sakoku for instance), but magistrates were given a great deal of discretion to either deal with things or not. This is why the yakuza and police are usually so thoroughly in bed with one another in Japan's major population centers... as long as the yakuza don't cause trouble in the open, the officials don't care what they do beneath the surface. It's tradition, lol. Well, my point is that when the judge and jury are the same person and people aren't allowed representation, it isn't going to be like Ace Attorney, hahaha.
  9. I absolutely loathe the variation where the protagonist ends up spending the entire game as a coach without ever really getting back on his feet. What's the point of a recovery that isn't a recovery? It's one of the three reasons I hate Aokana (along with the protagonist's reason for quitting being pathetic and all but one of the heroines being boring). It's one thing to find another way in life, but in that case, I want them to make a complete severing from the activity entirely. I don't want to see an entire route where he keeps looking back on the good 'ol days and wondering about what-ifs. About the only VNs that use this trope well are Walkure Romanze and Fake Azure Arcology (where the protagonist actually has a huge heap of traumas that make it feel real). Edit: Oh, the protag of Kizuna Kirameku Koi Iroha is really solidly behind his own decision to give up competing. It was a decision he made for the right reasons and is mostly at peace with. However, it isn't quite the same thing, lol.
  10. Lots of familiar games in that list... but nothing I really want to comment on. Most of them weren't memorable or are in English already, lol.
  11. Might want to take the 'e' out of plotge. *smiles dryly* A small correction on moege vs charage... moege is a generalized term for all games that carry the 'stylized cuteness' that is 'moe'. As such, similar to charage, it is closer to an umbrella term than an actual genre. If one were to show a family tree, it would show that charage and nakige both come from moege but sometimes edge themselves out of the larger umbrella. Charage are a product of the mid-2000's, whereas moege and nakige first began to appear just before the turn of the century as they dragged themselves out from the nukige muck. Charage are essentially an evolution of moege born of the fans wanting deeper characterization and character interactions (as opposed to the purely surface-level interactions that were common early on). Tsukihime created the chuunige genre, though most people consider Dies Irae the flagship game of the genre as a whole (as in, the one that went the farthest off the deep end, lol). One stipulation about utsuge and nakige... the greatest difference between a nakige and and utsuge lies in the endings. Nakige almost always have happy endings (there might be a bad ending or a normal ending, but these are exceptions). Their purpose lies in catharsis born of release from stress and joy in renewal. Utsuge, however, are essentially games with similar (but darker) themes that don't end well for the characters in general. There are supposedly two different 'levels' of utsuge, 'soft' and 'hard'. Soft utsuge tend to focus more on sorrow and loss, and they don't necessarily drive the characters off the edge, though the endings are sorrowful and/or bittersweet at best. A few examples of a soft utsuge are Konakana and Tapestry, both of which are focused on a protagonist with a terminal illness as he tries to come to terms with his inevitable death and what it will do to the people around him. 'Hard' utsuge are focused more on despair and extreme suffering. Swan Song is an obvious example of this 'level' of the genre in English, whereas Houkago no Futekikakusha is an ideal Japanese-only example. Even a 'hard' utsuge might have one ending with a certain level of salvation, but it usually comes at a massive emotional cost for both the reader and the characters involved.
  12. This is a list of my favorite artificial (non-magical) heroines. The reason I thought this up was because I am currently replaying Komorebi no Nostalgica, which is pretty much the top for an AI-focused VN. Emmy from Akabanzu https://vndb.org/c42670 Akabanzu itself is an unusual game in that it is a charage focused on a protagonist being forcibly rehabilitated from game addiction. The AI in this game, Emmy, focuses on a support role, which makes for a surprisingly interesting (and comedic) story. She isn't one of my absolute favorites, but failing to note her would leave the ignorant with no way to know such a VN existed. Tsukuyomi from Kamikimi https://vndb.org/c85636 Tsukuyomi is a pretty interesting individual AI. Designed from the beginning to answer the protagonist's desires, she is somewhat... excessively enthusiastic about what she considers to be her duties. However, her story as a heroine and a side-character in the other routes is powerful, so I honestly consider her a good choice for a robot waifu. Himefuuro from Missing X-link https://vndb.org/c78927 Himefuuro is an AI designed to form empathic links with her master, one of two projects (the other conflict-oriented). I'll be straight and say she is a lot like a cross between an older sister who spoils her younger brother rotten, a psychological therapist, and a maid. Her role is rather unusual while at the same time being the epitome of what a young male with a scarred psyche would seek from an empathic AI. Accela from Reminiscence https://vndb.org/c12819 In the underground arcology that Reminiscence is based in, robots like Accela serve a number of service roles, and they have evolved a great deal since the age of Akagoei (which was centuries before). However, Accela is unusual in that her limiters (especially on emotional reactions) have been removed. She is the glue that keeps Aki and Hidetaka from breaking into pieces, a dear friend to Aki, and the holder of an emotional debt he won't even allow himself to speak of to Hidetaka. Fluorite Alvega of Komorebi no Nostalgica https://vndb.org/c11680 A member of a race of self-aware and independent AIs in the twenty-fifth century, she is straight-out a member of the 'group of friends' in the game, having grown up with them quite literally. She is still in the process of developing emotionally (a process that never really ends, apparently), and her mechanical origins are obvious by her choice of wording and mannerisms. However, she does display emotion (if subtly) and cares about her friends (and Shouta in particular) greatly. As the member of a publicly-acknowledged machine race with equal rights to humans, she is unique on this list. Neueblau T MILLA of Re:Birth Colony https://vndb.org/c44998 An AI 'child' born of the genius of a single scientist and grown inside a partially biological body, she is unusual on this list that while her origins are entirely artificial, she is nonetheless partially biological. She is an agent and diplomat for another arcology, and she acts as such, partly out of her duty to search out and handle dangers born of pre-Disaster projects. As a lover, there is little difference between her and the average human, save that she can switch bodies at need. Her older sister is married to the protagonist of Fake Azure Arcology in the story's canon and is also an AI. Misora of Shiawase Kazoku-bu https://vndb.org/c23258 What can I say about Misora? Think 'standard-issue anime robot heroine' and you won't be far off. The game itself is more notable than her, similar to Akabanzu. Ripple of Aekanaru Sekai no Owari ni https://vndb.org/c58825 The mischievous AI main character and main heroine of the sci-fi VN Aekanaru Sekai no Owari ni. I could say a lot about her, but not without spoiling the game. The game gets mixed reviews from those who like this kind of thing (mostly because of its age), but Ripple is a pretty good AI heroine, if one that is less 'convenient' as a heroine than most (you'll understand what I mean if you play the game). There are other AI heroines out there (many of whom I have probably forgotten or don't consider to be heroines) but these are the ones that came to mind when I asked myself about AI heroines from games I could feel safe recommending.
  13. The 'fake girlfriend' trope. I want this one to die forever. It is the most idiotic trope in existence. It never has non-embarrassing-to-watch results. The 'reform the protagonist' trope. This one pops up in a lot of games where the protagonist has a dark past or a hidden job that requires some dirty work, and it usually has the heroine trying to 'reform' him in various ways. It annoys me about every time it pops up. I usually like the protagonist just as he is in cases like this, lol. I don't have any problems with the arranged marriage trope myself. It doesn't happen often enough anymore to be a major issue outside of ojousama-ge, where it is standard fare. Heroine has to move away happens even less often... maybe one in forty new VNs have this one pop up nowadays. Incurable disease is relatively common, with nakige in particular having a tendency to rely on this trope (without the heroine dying, of course). However, it is also a matter of execution (lol)... The incurable disease trope is something that has to be used intelligently and believably to work. Dekinai Watashi ga, Kurikaesu; Inochi no Spare; Tapestry; Kin'iro Loveriche; and Konakana all use this trope effectively to tell their stories. However, there are just as many who plop it down just for the hell of it, so I see where you are coming from.
  14. Nazi VN Idea

    Mmm... I'm going to be clear that the idea behind this has me a bit skeptical. I'm going to state my reasons below. 1. The Nazis didn't make exceptions for 'useful' Jewish people. During the war, while individuals might shelter or help a Jewish individual escape from the pogrom, you didn't see them being spared from the camps or execution in the open. 2. People who get involved in the kind of dogma you see here don't change their minds easily. A three hour VN wouldn't provide a 'feels real' experience for a Nazi party member from that era changing their colors, no matter how you worked it. Even more so with people in positions of authority, since the party of the era selected loyalists for positions of any sort of influence, and people who showed any sign of wavering didn't make it up through the ranks. This is even more so with women, since women in positions of influence (rare to the extreme) were usually 'mothers of the Aryan Race'. 3. This is a reinforcement of 2, in that it needs to be stated that logical arguments do not change the minds of dogmatists. 4. Timing. This is really, really bad timing. With what is going on right now, Nazi-related fiction is radioactive. It doesn't matter how you handle it, it will backfire against you. Edit: To clarify, I'm not trying to be a jerk about this. I'm merely warning you that this is likely to be the reaction from people who really think about your game's concept. My advice is to eliminate the romantic elements completely or cut out one of the heroines.
  15. There is a reason that this is considered to be one of Akatsuki Works two weakest chuunige (Shiden being the other). I could go into all sorts of detail on this, but the fact is that its weakest points are its prologue and its protagonist. With chuunige, h-scenes are a crapshoot, so I don't even consider it worthy of remark.
  16. VN of the Month October 2007 - Boku ga Sadame Kimi ni wa Tsubasa o.

    Ar no Surge is a non-canon prequel. Technically, the Iris series was the first mainline arc of the Atelier series. However, most of the fans of the first two Iris games hate the rest of the series, lol.
  17. NSFW anime requests here, nowhere else.

    Please post all requests involving hentai anime here (not for downloads but for names).
  18. What Video Games Are You Playing Right Now?

    Merged threads. Also, I'm playing the Switch version of Dragon Quest XI.
  19. Shuffle! Episode 2

    To be honest, I had great hopes for this game, based on the fact that Agobarrier wrote up the drafts for the story before his unfortunate passing. I thought I'd see the peculiar humor, the deredere-MAX heroines, and the wacky antics that I associated with the original game. I expected running jokes (frequently used as accents to various scenes), and I hoped that Navel would finally regain some of its original 'magic'. Unfortunately, it seems that those hopes are a bit too high. Perhaps it was inevitable... the team that did this game was partly made up of the writers that have been doing the Da Capo games, which should have told me they would have a less amusing approach to things (though it saddened me that Ou Jackson didn't manage to force things into his style more often...). The loss of Agobarrier's unique style is sadly all-too-clear in this game, as, while it does channel some parts of the original, the way the most important scenes is handled is far more fumble-fingered and lacking in flare, which is just sad. That said, there were some parts where the writing quality suddenly jumped up massively, such as in any scene where Primula was involved (for some reason). To be honest, it was that very jump in quality that illuminated just how poorly some parts of the game - in particular the prologue and large swathes of the common route - are handled. What is truly sad is what they got perfectly right... the characterization of side characters. Primula, despite being, and all the side characters are really well-done. So it kind of amazed me that the heroines were so sloppily done. There is far more effective character development done in the common route for the side characters than the heroines (other than Lims, who has good characterization for the most part) considering their roles, which struck me as a horrible approach. Rishia in particular is a horribly awkward character from the very beginning, and while some of that comes from her character concept, more of it comes from everything from her VA to her sprite poses... not to mention an odd lack of face time in the common route. Her voice actor is a familiar and excellent one, so I can only imagine that it was the director that screwed things up... To clarify, the heroines that had the strongest characterization in the common route go in this order Lims>Kohaku>Kirara (I hate Kirara anyway though)>Rishia>Nelia. I say this because Kohaku gets more face time due to living with Raito and Kirara's characterization is so blatantly obvious that it can't help but be effective, if annoying. Nelia has the least amount of face time in the common route (even if you pick her 'side' of things in the various choices) than the other heroines, and Rishia suffers from her initial introduction. What is canon? Without spoiling the important stuff: 1. It is 100 years since the end of Shuffle. 2. A great disaster happened sixty years in the past. 3. Primula is apparently an eterna-loli and is still alive and well. 4. The current King of the Gods is the son of Shia's much younger (born after Shuffle) brother. 5. All characters other than Primula from the original have long-since passed away. 7. At least some of the events in each path actually occurred. 8. Rishia was very close to her great-aunt, Shia, who passed while she was still a child. 9. Neria was very close to Nerine, who died childless and was her adoptive grandmother. Primu- errr... I mean Limstone Lims was the first heroine I went after. This wasn't because of any fetishes on my part (my fetishes lead me to Nelia), but simply because she had the best characterization of the non-human heroines in the common route. Her development and even her story pretty much mirrors that of Primula's, up to a point. More is revealed to the protagonist than was to Rin in his time, and the development of their relationship - up to a point - feels natural and even touching. Unfortunately, the romance is handled... awkwardly. Considering this comes from a team known for having at least minimal skills in this area (if few others), I was awed at the way the romance in this path felt so unnatural. While this isn't a path-killer for me (because romance isn't that important to me as part of a story), it was a disappointment. On the other hand, the drama in the last part of her path and the path up to the actual relationship formation were both excellent... too bad the ending was a little wince-worthy in terms of quality. Nelia Nerine's adoptive granddaughter is a seductive young woman who has horrible characterization in the common route (if you read the official character profiles and compare them to the actual heroine in the game, there are almost no similarities). She has inherited her grandmother's recipe for tamagoyaki, and her path has some eerie similarities to Nerine's in Shuffle (in a generalized sense) without having the same impact. I won't spoil the original game for you, but I had to wince at the drama used in this path. I'll be honest, if more effort had been put into making Nelia into a real character instead of a caricature in the common route, this would have been a good path. Unfortunately, very little time was spent on Nelia in the common route relative to the other heroines, and this has an unfortunate dampening effect on the reader's emotional investment. I have to wonder after finishing this path if they just intend to partially mirror the paths from the original game... Rishia Rishia's scenes in the prologue are the single most awkward introduction scenes I've seen from a heroine in a commercial VN from a major name in over ten years... no, ever. To be honest, considering that intro scenes are something most charage writers do well, I didn't expect the awkwardness I experienced. I mean, I almost dropped the game inside the first half hour, which I wasn't expecting, considering how much I loved the original. Rishia's character eventually sheds the awkwardness created by the introductions, but I thought my feelings toward her would be ruined by the introduction to the very end. However, her actual path is a complete turnaround from my experiences in the common route. Suddenly (and jarringly) the quality of presentation goes up and Rishia goes from being a thin caricature of a heroine to an actual person. To some extent, this also happened in Nelia's path, but part of the reason this path suddenly took on depth for me was the way it tied into the story of Spiral. In fact, it feels like a direct extension of the political elements of Spiral, which is why it felt much deeper to me than it probably is if you haven't played Spiral. That said, the impact it had was enough to overcome the awful introductory scenes... but it still needs to be noted that this game is horribly flawed, not the least of which by the difference in style between the four writers (why they combined the writers of Tsuki ni Yorisou, Otome no Sahou and that fluff-fest series - Da Capo- I'll never understand). Conclusion Understand, I have no interest in the human heroines in this game. Kohaku is ok, but I find Kirara to be so annoying that the idea of romance with her makes me want to vomit. Anyway, this game's primary flaws lie in the common route, which is, to be blunt, mostly fluff. The character introduction for Rishia was botched, and there was a severe lack of face time for the two main heroines. These flaws don't make the game unplayable, but for fans of the original, it can't help but be a disappointment. Rishia's route manages to overcome most of the weaknesses of this particularly mismatched group of writers, but that is more because of the existence of Spiral than the inherent value of the story. Also, there should have been a path for Marine and Citron. Extra To add to the canon above, I should note that Spiral was apparently written as a prequel to this game. It occurs a few months before Rishia's arrival in the human world, and it is centered around an agent from the Divine Realm. I originally thought it was a prequel to Shuffle, but it turns out that it was a prequel to this game, lol.
  20. Random VN: Semiramis no Tenbin

    Semiramis no Tenbin is a game by Caramel Box, best known in the West for the Otoboku series but who is more generally famous in Japan for being the home of Takaya Aya, one of the better writers in the industry. This game... is unique. I say this outright because there literally is no other VN like this. It isn't the characters or the themes that make it unique (though those are part of it), but rather the sheer impact of Takaya Aya's 'side trip into thinking like a chuunibyou patient' as he put it. Semiramis no Tenbin is a game with two sides, Law and Chaos. Law is represented by the Fortune-Telling Club's president, Eru, and Chaos is represented by Kamio Ami, the 'demon' of the story... a transfer student who appears in the prologue. The other heroines are placed at various points of balance between the scales (Sunao for Chaos, Touko for Balance, and Fumika for Law), with Eru and Ami serving as the absolute points of their alignments, as defined by Takaya Aya. The game really begins with the protagonist, Hayami Reiji, being blackmailed by Ami after she tricks him into having sex with her by using her circumstances to manipulate him (this is not a spoiler). Ami is the penultimate pragmatist, an individual who puts results above means, and while she can't (quite) be called ruthless, she comes pretty close to it. She is a heroine type that is rare to unheard of in Japanese VNs, an extremely manipulative person who wields her genius level IQ throughout the story to create situations in her immediate vicinity that would otherwise never have occurred. Much of the common route (two-thirds of which is standard, with the last third being split into Chaos and Law branches) is spent with Ami proposing a result she wishes to achieve, with Eru presenting her argument against it, and the protagonist acting or arguing in favor of one side or the other to decide things. Eru and Ami are both extremely intelligent individuals, whose conversations provide a lot of food for thought, not the least of which because Ami is ingenious at manipulating conversations to go her way, whereas Eru is good at seeing through these manipulations. While there are only five of these direct 'debates' in the common route itself, they leave a strong impression and provide a reason to come back later, if only to ruminate over what is said. Ami Calling Ami evil would be easy. She is pragmatic to a fault, doesn't believe in valuing the 'process' of doing something over the results, and she has a tendency to manipulate situations when there is no apparent need to do so. One thing that is striking about Ami's character, other than the obvious, is that she has extremely good reasons for being the way she is, reasons that are ironically similar to why Eru is the way she is. Ami does have a (very limited) sense of ethics, but these ethics are extremely narrowly-defined. It is her viewpoint that even if she manipulates a situation and people in a way that has negative results, it was the people involved who made the choices that led to that situation, so it isn't her concern what happens after. However, if an unexpected factor gets involved to cause such unpleasant results, she is willing to act to counter that unexpected factor. In addition, she does have a strong affinity for helping those she gets close to, though this also usually involves manipulating and controlling them into better results, because this is apparently the only way she can really involve herself with others. Eru Eru, throughout much of the game, has a tendency to react with a logical interpretation of standard morals and ethics. This is not necessarily because she believes in them blindly but because of how she was raised (it is more complex than stated in the common route). She is referred to as a 'wall of ice' by Ami and at least one other person during the common route, as she fundamentally defaults to keeping people at arms length and reacting using that same logical attachment to common morals and ethics. That's not to say she isn't fond of some people... she likes the members of the Fortune-telling Club and values her time there, but it also needs to be noted that the situation is unique for her, as she apparently doesn't hold the rest of her positions in life in the same esteem, apparently. Fumika Fumika plays the role of the sweet-natured kouhai with a speech impediment. She is very good at worming her way into the affections of Reiji and the few others she trusts, but she is surprisingly detached from most others. She is also one of only two characters other than Reiji himself who manage to worm their way into Ami's heart in any of the paths (which is notable, since while Ami might become fond of someone, it usually doesn't extend to actually caring about their life and fate). Her path... has so much impact you would never guess that she isn't one of the characters in the foreground of the game's cover. To be blunt, Fumika's quotes in this path have an impact that have stayed with me for the past six years, often serving to me as an example in the best uses of powerful phrasing at key points. Fumika rarely speaks in full sentences, so the sheer impact when she forces these quotes out of her mouth without stumbling is...staggering. Touko Touko is the game's erstwhile narrator, (though it isn't apparent through much of the game) and the character presented as being the writer of a novel based on the events in the story at the very beginning. She is also the heroine who has potentially the most intimate friendship with Ami, which says a lot about her hidden perceptiveness at important points. Normally, she is presented as a 'yurufuwa' character, a bookworm who sleeps through much of the day at school while speaking in slow but clearly enunciated sentences when awake. She is Reiji's osananajimi and many fans of the game consider her the 'hidden true heroine', as she is the heroine that represents Balance. Sunao Sunao is the weakest of the game's heroines. There are a number of reasons for this, but the most obvious one is that she is deliberately a derivative of Ami (a more normal/healthy minded version). The most powerful one, though, is that her ending can be considered a second bad Ami ending (there is a bad ending in Ami's path). I won't go into details, but once you get accustomed to Ami's quirks, you quickly realize what she is doing with Sunao and Reiji, which makes it hard to even maintain an interest in Sunao... much for the same reasons Reiji puts forth if you pick the conversational path that leads away from a relationship with Sunao. I honestly don't recommend playing Sunao's path unless you are just a completionist. Notes on the Common Route progression One thing that will probably strike anyone who picks the Law route is that the conflicts are... darker. To be blunt, the last few arcs of the common route are much darker in nature in the Law route than they are in the Chaos Route, which can be seen as the world bearing out that Ami's viewpoint of results over process being a better choice might be correct. Ami is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a 'good' person. However, the story itself states that the results she get are more likely to create a good situation. I found this an interesting - and possibly telling - choice on the part of Takaya. In addition, this game has a tendency to rile 'pure-hearted weaboos'. I say this because the picture of Japanese society it presents is as unflattering as that of Yume Miru Kusuri... if not moreso. If nothing else, the portrayals of how 'officials' react to domestic violence are telling of the flaws built into their legal system. Conclusion If you are wondering why I don't go into more details on the routes and the like, it is because it is impossible to do so without spoilers. I focused on giving each heroine a proper introduction and telling you what to expect from them. This game is not meant for those who want sweet and romantic. Most of the paths aren't romantic, except in a really rough sense. There is love, there is affection, and there is sex. However, it tends to come in a fashion that is 'dirtier' than most VN readers will be accustomed to, unless they dig into the borderline dark nukige out there.
  21. Normally, considering how far I got into this game, I would have just kept going (I got halfway through, literally). However, it needs to be said that I only kept going in hopes the game would get more interesting as things went on. The answer was no. This game uses a system that draws partially from the early Fire Emblem games, partially from the Disgaea series by NIS, and partly is drawn from other Eushully games. The Fire Emblem elements include the basic 'flow' of strategy rpg battles, leveling up where stats randomly appear (it is purely random, I know from some deliberate testing with saves), and an intermission where preparation for battle occurs. The Disgaea elements primarily reside in the 'Ritual' system, where you can use various rituals to strengthen your allies, level them up (by expending Ritual Points) and sacrifice or contract captured monsters (the former giving you Ritual Points, the latter giving you a new unit). A few negative aspects, first. No battle is repeatable in a single playthrough, there are no 'free battles', and battles take a ridiculous amount of time to finish. The reason for the last part is simply economical. If you don't take the time to capture as many enemies as possible, you'll be unable to maintain a capable army. As such, capturing a good portion of each map's enemies is not a convenience... it is a necessity. This is not to mention the other Disgaea-like element, which is putting a bunch of sub-missions into each battle, which you fulfill for ritual points and items. Treasure chests have to be opened by an ally unit with the unlocking skill. The positives next. If you aren't trying to capture enemies, the battles are actually quite interesting. The ritual system has an immense amount of potential (if they'd taken the time to make it deeper with a wider variety of potential paths for unit evolution), and capturing monsters only to use them as sacrifices later is totally fitting with the game's aesthetic. Now let's get to the story... never mind, there isn't one. I'm not kidding. For beating a battle that took you thirty minutes, most often you'll get a very, very short scene (think thirty seconds for a fast reader) and get sent back to the intermission. There are technically scenes in the intermission (called interaction scenes), but these are generally equally short... and halfway through the game, I've only found ten total, for all the characters I have combined (most of them just excuses for h-scenes and new skill acquisition). Technically, I guess you could count the ubiquitous contract h-scenes (one for each female unit type and one for a small minority of the males), but I don't. All in all, this game wasn't providing me with any joy for the amount of time I put in (think thirty minutes of story for twenty hours of play), I so just dropped it. Edit: As a side-note, the potential ways to improve this game are so blatantly obvious a five-year-old could figure it out. They needed to create a large number of interaction scenes and extend the story scenes to make it actually worth digging into it. As it was, the tiny number of interaction scenes I'd experienced halfway through the game (despite having leveled the named characters thoroughly) only taught me what the heroines were like when they were naked.
  22. Visual Novels are a Hot Medium

    One thing I've noticed about the best Japanese VN companies is that they manage to keep all elements of their VNs at a high level or at least an aesthetically pleasing level. Visual elements are pleasing (though the Japanese baseline is much, much higher due to a near-standardization of the art quality in commercial vns, than the Western one), music direction is still a thing (you know, the thing that vanished after the PSX era from regular games, due to the arrival of voice acting), and voice-acting is even more refined (for the most part, though there are exceptions) than what you see in anime. The area where the Japanese stumble is writing. Due to the 'crutch' of voiced dialogue, there is a tendency for many writers to try to tell most of the story with dialogue and sprite poses. However, that is like using only black and white when you have a full color palette available. If there was one thing that struck me immediately playing my first VNs, it was the sheer impact of combining first-class narration with the other elements of a visual novel (as well as coordinating those elements). Heck, I've even encountered games where the appropriate use of music, narrative, and voices have carried the game past lower quality artwork to startling heights (Devils Devel Concept being a premier example) that only get better the more times you play it. When everything is high level, however, you wouldn't believe the degree to which it blows you away... the first time I played Dies Irae (In Japanese) it destroyed me completely. Everything about it quite simply was so different from what I'd experienced previously, while using many of the same elements. Bradyon Veda did something similar to me, as did Sakura, Moyu and Kitto, Sumiwataru Asairo yori mo,. To put it simply, there are works out there that utilize the full 'palette' of what the medium is capable of. However, I can tell you that very few companies would have the wherewithal to gather the talent that can create such games. First, writers with that kind of sheer brilliance are rare. Second, companies that might gather such writers would not be able to handle them, because each one needs different things to work at 100%. Third, maintaining all the other parts of a game (Art, VA, Music, and direction) at the same high level even if you have the writing staff has got to be a serious pain in the rear. To be blunt, Visual novels have a lot of moving parts, and just throwing extra people at it doesn't usually work (very few games with multiple main scenario writers or artists have turned out well, though assistants sometimes work out fine). In retrospect, is is amazing that I can name double digits worth of games that have drawn on every element of the medium to its fullest, considering what a pain it must have been to put it all together.
  23. VN of the Month October 2007 - Boku ga Sadame Kimi ni wa Tsubasa o.

    Ar Tonelico 2- Ah Ar Tonelico, Gust's best series. Ar Tonelico 2 has the best story of the three games, as well as the best protagonist. Gameplay-wise, it was a refinement of the first game, with extra elements to make it feel fresh. It still annoys me today that 3 didn't inherit this game's style and gameplay. Xvain is one of those games I picked up because it looked good on paper, then dropped because it annoyed me. As such, the only thing left in my memory is annoyance. Boku ga Sadame- It took me four tries to play this the first time, nine the second, and fourteen the third. Needless to say, I haven't even tried since. It is very hard to get into this game, which is very unusual for something by Akatsuki Works, a chuunige company that specializes in grasping you from the beginning. Once you are actually into the game, it is pretty good, but the prologue and first chapter are a hurdle that is hard to get past.
  24. Madosoft is one big joke.

    Madosoft's real problem is mass-production of kusoge.
  25. VN like Master Magistrate ( Ouka Sabaki )

    If I might suggest... rather than VNs, you might try watching some jidaigeki (Period dramas) from Japan. There are a bunch that are similarly-themed, so it is worth considering. As far as I know, there is nothing that is straight-out identical or similar to Ouka Sabaki based in the same era in visual novels.