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Clephas

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Blog Entries posted by Clephas

  1. Clephas
    I picked up the Reminiscence Collectors Edition, despite the fact that I already possessed the original game, primarily so I could see how they altered things.  To be blunt, the changes so far - having finished Rin's, Nozomi's, and Aki's routes - are a lot less than is indicated on the site.  The typos I vaguely remembered from my first and second playthroughs are no longer present, Rin and Nozomi both got minor (very minor) touch-ups to their paths, and there are a few added scenes in the common route, here and there (again, short ones).  I'm guessing that the real changes will end up being to Kizuna's route, based on how things are going. 
    Aki
    Aki's route is on my list of 'top five little sister routes of all time' for good reason.  Aki's and Hidetaka's relationship throughout the VN, save in her path, is absolutely horrible.  There is no other single path in this VN that reveals more about Hidetaka than this route, as it rips open the wounds that severed their relationship in the first place.  From here on, it is all SPOILERS, so I don't recommend that anyone who hasn't read this path continue from here on.
     
    Since Aki is a heroine, it isn't really a spoiler to say that she is a total yandere once she does go love-love on the protagonist.  I love yandere heroines (so many fun antics) and Aki falls in with the best of the non-violent ones.  There are echoes of Kaede from Shuffle in her (the anime version, not the VN version, lol), though the degree to which Aki's hate turns to love is a lot more intense than with Kaede.  This is further enhanced by her personal circumstances (her illness).
    Edit: For those who are interested, Aika's route, which was included as an addition to the original game, is fairly good for a sub-route, though it lacks the impact of the latter three routes of the game (Aki, Kizuna, Accela)  In terms of quality, it is about equivalent to Rin's or Nozomi's routes.  There is one thing I'd like to mention, having completed this entirely...  Reminiscence reminds me of how frustrating Kinugasa Shougo can be.  This guy absolutely hates actually completing his stories, so reading VNs by him always leaves you feeling like you are waiting for a sequel.
  2. Clephas
    Right now, in order to 'clean my palate' before playing Mojika, I'm replaying Bloody Rondo, 3rdEye's first (and arguably worst) VN.  A thought came to my mind that has been bothering me since I finished Oratorio Phantasm. 
    Are Shinkurou and Luna still alive at the time this VN occurs within the setting?  The reason I ask is because
    Now that we are finished establishing my hypothesis about why things in Oratorio Phantasm played out as they did, I thought I'd consider Shinigami no Testament. 
    Shinigami no Testament, Bloody Rondo, and Oratorio Phantasm share the same world (Sorcery Jokers didn't show a recognizable connection to the other games, so I'm viewing it as a completely independent setting).  The events in Bloody Rondo apparently occur at least a few years before Shinigami no Testament, and at least a century and a half have passed since the events in Bloody Rondo when Oratorio Phantasm has occurred. 
    Shinigami no Testament has the weakest connection of the three, simply because if the inherently self-contained nature of its main storyline.  To tell you why, [spoilers for those who haven't played it]
    The difference between Shinigami no Testament and Oratorio Phantasm is that Oratorio Phantasm actually has a direct link, whereas Shinigami no Testament just has a few pieces of info that tie it to Bloody Rondo.
    Moving on... it is always interesting to see whether and how a writer or company will link its games together.  Kinagusa Shougo's Akagoei and Reminiscence series are directly linked together in an obvious way: 
    However, it has never clearly been stated whether there is a canon for the two series (whether Kinagusa actually intended for the result that created Reminscence's setting to be absolute).  Personally, I would prefer that it wasn't, because:
    Other games that possess a link are Ayakashibito and Bullet Butlers, through the Chrono Belt FD.  In the Chrono Belt FD, Kuki-sensei is sent to the Bullet Butlers world along with a particularly nasty villain from Ayakashibito, and Alfred Arrowsmith is sent to the Ayakashibito world, where he, for the first time, confronts his own demons due to the essential peacefulness of the world he finds himself in (keep in mind that this is post-Ayakashibito's events).  This link is a more peculiar one, in that I normally wouldn't have liked it... but Higashide Yuuichirou somehow made it work (seriously, I sometimes think Chrono Belt has more impact than the original games...). 
    Now, I just gave you a bunch of examples of games where the 'setting link' actually works out pretty well... but as anyone who has stumbled onto a 'bad sequel' knows, the 'setting link' is a sword that cuts both ways. 
    A more negative link would be the direct sequel to Hachimyoujin by Light... Bansenjin.  Now, one of the problems with even thinking of making a sequel to Hachimyoujin is that the main characters had been stretched about as much as they could possibly be in the original.  They had pretty much used up what made them interesting (which wasn't much in some cases), and Masada had pretty much played up their flaws and virtues as far as they could be... in other words, Bansenjin essentially revived a cast that had nothing new to add.  There literally weren't any new angles within the existing cast that could be played on, and that resulted in a game that felt stale, perhaps precisely because Hachimyoujin was so self-contained.  The new characters weren't that good in the first place, and Masada was really heavy-handed about how he screwed with the setting.   As such, Bansenjin most definitely suffered from the 'sequel disease'.
    It makes me wonder... why do some writers, regardless of their skill, seem to always want to make a bad sequel to an excellent game?  Oh, Dies Irae far surpassed Paradise Lost, its predecessor in the trilogy of Shinza main-series games.  However, that was more of a result of Masada peaking with Dies Irae than anything else. 
    Shimantogawa Seiryuu, 3rdEye's main writer, has obviously (seriously) grown since he wrote Bloody Rondo.  Shinigami no Testament was immensely greater than Bloody Rondo, Oratorio Phantasm benefited from his realization that he wrote one-path stories better than multi-path ones, and Sorcery Jokers pretty much showed the peak of what he was capable of.  Masada definitely grew after writing Paradise Lost and through the versions of Dies Irae (the first few of which sucked compared to the two final versions, Fabula and Amantes).  However, he also peaked at that point, and the expectations created by the final versions of Dies Irae were impossible to fulfill...   Higashide got out while the getting was good, recognizing that Tokyo Babel's financial failure meant bad things in the future (so quite naturally, he signed on with Type Moon).  Shumon Yuu only ever seems to write when he has a masterpiece in mind...
    This post was all over the place... but then, it was never intended to be coherent, since I was writing things as I thought of them.  It is hard to make a VN sequel or reuse a VN setting... the adjustments necessary to keep expectations from ruining things for the reader are delicate, and few writers or companies can manage to do it well.  3rdEye did it by mostly keeping the setting links light, Masada failed with Bansenjin because he misjudged the quality of his own characters and setting, and Higashide managed to pull a masterpiece out of what should have been a massive failure... 
  3. Clephas
    Komorebi no Nostalgica is one of the more interesting VNs I've read in the past three years.  I occasionally go back and play one of its paths when I want to restore my faith in VNs, and one of its primary themes is artificial intelligence.  There are a number of different viewpoints represented in the VN about AIs, ranging from classic horror stories and instinctive repulsion to acceptance and/or affection. 
    Cinema, who is the source of most of the central conflicts of the VN, is a humanoid robot created before the big war that basically wiped out the internet archives and a lot of humanity's knowledge of its own past.  She was apparently customized immensely by the man known only as the 'Store Manager', who ran an underground video rental shop with her as the clerk.  She isn't a heroine, but it wouldn't be incorrect to state that she is the focus of all the major events of the story.  In many ways, her personality and setting resemble that of the heroine from Planetarian, and those who played that ancient will probably be able to easily recognize the earnest, almost childlike nature of the two. 
    The generation of humanoid robots after her eventually developed a self-determining will and intelligence, becoming fully sentient, sparking a pogrom (of humans slaughtering robots that were suddenly seen as a threat) that led straight into a war that shattered human society as it existed at the time.  The war was... a draw, though a draw that turned out more to the advantage of the robotic Metasera than to that of humanity.  During the war, Cinema was put into hibernation and hidden by her creator, until she was awakened by the protagonist and his hare- *coughs* friends. 
    The Metasera, having gained the right to self-determination in exchange for forfeiting their right to aggressive self-defense, live in small arcologies based in just about every major city of the planet, learning from and aiding humans as they seek to evolve their budding intelligence and emotions further.  One of the heroines, Fluorite, is a Metasera, and it is through her that you get the writer's insight into the idea of the results of a 'naturally occurring' AI. 
    Cinema, on the other hand, presents an entirely different path to the same goal... she is a low-spec virtual intelligence that is designed to grow into full sentience and in the end gains a far wider spread of emotions than the Metasera... while also showing off a surprising degree of emotional development, even before she gains that sentience.  The idea of an AI that develops intelligence before emotion and causes a war (the Metasera) versus an AI that develops intelligence after emotion and is a friend to humanity from the beginning (Cinema) is one of the many hidden themes of the VN. 
    There were innumerable times in the VN that I felt intellectually stimulated or driven to express raw emotion.  The story is just that powerful, after all.  Moreover, the protagonist and friends are of the first generation to grow up without knowledge of the world prior to the Metasera, and it is the writer's portrayal of this aspect that is frequently the most interesting.
  4. Clephas
    Hmm... to be honest, I haven't played many VNs of this type, mostly because they don't really fit my tastes. 
    This is one of those dark horror/rape/sex training VNs that also happen to be based in the middle of the Cthulhu Mythos universe.  To be precise, this one is based on an island that mirrors Innsmouth in the mythos.  It is ruled by the Mashuu Family, and the protagonist ends up marrying the last daughter of that family, Mizuki.  He also gets stuck with an immense power and the role of giving women over to the islanders as breeders.
    I'll be blunt, while I liked the actual story, there is way too much dark H in this VN, for my tastes.  It was made worse by the fact that I actually liked the 'heroines' and I didn't like to see the gang rapes that are part of the VN's story. 
    The funny thing is that the actual relationship between most of the heroines and the protagonist is actually... pleasant, most of the time.  Given that is a Cthulhu Mythos story, it is inevitable that people go insane or fall under the control of evil.  However, on the flip side, the girls are basically stained with darkness somewhere at the core from the beginning, and the protagonist, for all his own insanity and flaws, is something of a salvation to them.
    I can't really say that any of the endings are 'good'.  I did like Riri's ending, and the bad guys mostly got their just desserts in the true ending.  However, I've never been fond of VNs that aren't utsuge where everyone goes insane to one degree or another, lol.
  5. Clephas
    ... I'm going to be blunt.  It has been a while (think 2014) since any company has produced a nakige that compares to this one.  The characters, their backgrounds, their personalities, and the setting all come together to form a story of deep affection, pain, and tears that had me crying more than a dozen times throughout the VN.
    In terms of heroines, this VN's imoutos are the best.  Shinobu is the twisted, obsessive half-yandere, super-capable imouto who adores her niisan (with good reason).  Tsubasa is the honest, affectionate, straightforward imouto who is incapable of hiding anything.  While the other two heroines kind of pale compared to those two, their routes are another story entirely.
    I'm going to be straight... there are no bad or under-developed paths in this VN.  The characters' emotional and real-life (to them) struggles are intense, engrossing, and emotional.  Neneko's and Yuuka's paths are cases of the 'paths surpassing the heroines', a phenomenon that has become sadly rare in recent years, as writing quality has fallen drastically in the charage 'genre'. 
    Technically, Tsubasa's is the true route, but none of the routes were neglected in favor of hers, though I could have wished for an epilogue based a few years later for Shinobu's path (a matter of personal taste).  This is a mark of the skill of the writer and the person who designed the scenario, as the fact is that in most cases where there is a true or central heroine, the other heroines tend to be neglected, at least in my experience.
    The protagonist in this story will probably get mixed reactions out of people, if only because he is a bit angsty, especially when issues of parents come up.  He has good reason, as he is a victim of child abuse (he doesn't hide this, and it is revealed within the first half-hour of reading).  At heart, he is a good person, but he is very exclusive in the people he cares about and insanely protective of those chosen few.  His obsession with his role as a big brother causes some big problems in Shinobu's route, but that is mostly because he is very hard-headed and straight-laced... the type of guy who makes a vow to himself and never breaks it, even in the particulars.
    Story-wise... this is classic non-Key nakige fare.  The protagonist deals with his own issues (to varying degrees) while doing his best for the heroines, the troubles and drama along the way designed to drag the tears out of you, though it all ends happily eventually.  I was particularly touched by the healing that occurs in the protagonist in Tsubasa and Neneko's endings (through different methods), and I, for once, wasn't frustrated with the protagonist and heroine's struggles in Shinobu's path. 
    None of the characters' struggles felt forced or unnatural, the way many charage make them seem, which was impressive in and of itself.
    Overall, this is a first-class addition to anyone's nakige collection, and it is definitely going to be stiff competition for my VN of the Month for May.  I wept, I laughed, and I suffered along with the characters and out of sympathy for them.  I come out of this VN glad that I played it, a rare experience for a person who is as jaded as I am when it comes to VNs.
  6. Clephas
    For those of you familiar with my tendency to bitch and moan about this kind of story-structure, I don't really need to explain... but I'll do so anyway.  The 'ladder-style' story structure is the style used in games such as G-senjou, Aiyoku no Eustia, and Sen no Hatou.  While it does make it easy to fit in a 'true' path (the true path being main street) and breaking things down into 'arcs' makes for a more expansive story, that is at the cost of increasing irritation in a way that would never have come up in a kinetic novel (which all VNs using ladder-style should be). 
    What is that irritation?  Meaningless heroine routes. 
    There are two types of heroine in a ladder-style VN.  There is the true heroine and the 'fake' heroine.  I'm not kidding... all heroines other than the true one are fakes, as are their paths, in most cases.  Amatsutsumi was an exception, but it was a rare one, lol. 
    Now, in order to explain this, I'll outline how most of the games using this style tend to play out.  There is a main story going on, both in the foreground and the background.  In most cases, the background elements of the story that don't come out until you are in the true heroine's path preclude all possibility of the sub-heroines' paths actually existing in the context of the greater setting. 
    Another quality of these games is that the true heroine is almost always one of the least-interesting/attractive heroines in the group, both personality-wise and setting-wise.  Airheads, ditzes, weak-willed victims, naive princesses, and overconfident self-proclaimed geniuses with an impenetrable belief in their own correctness (if you haven't figured it out Eutia>Hatou>G-senjou)... the list goes on, but you get the picture (again, Amatsutsumi is the exception rather than the rule).  I honestly have no idea of why all these companies that choose to use this style do it this way...
    Now, frequently the true path itself has excellent storytelling with round antagonists and protagonists whose value as a character far outweighs the weakness of the true heroine... but this brings up another issue.  This issue is: the other heroines.  The elements of the setting, the personality and objectives of the antagonists, and even the personality of the protagonist sometimes render all other heroine paths as literally impossible in most cases.  If you don't mind SPOILERS for Eustia and Sen no Hatou, I'll give you some examples below.
     


    Now, as to why that's a problem... I know it is nitpicking... but when I empathize with a heroine, fall in love with her by proxy, and see her off to a happy ending, there is nothing that can possibly drive me more insane with rage than the 'true' ending of the heroine path completely invalidating the possibility of that small happiness even occurring.  Eustia's best heroines are all 'fake' heroines, the same goes for G-senjou and Sen no Hatou as well.  The Leyline trilogy also suffers from this particular issue.
    So do you understand now why I hate this type of VN structure?  I have good reason to despise it.  I still respect the makers of Namima no Kuni no Faust for choosing to make the game kinetic and just add the other heroines 'endings' as 'what if' scenarios in the extras far more than I will ever respect the makers of the games I mentioned above.
    This isn't even mentioning that, by having heroine paths split off earlier, you lose a great deal of the story meant to develop the characters in the first place.
     
    Why did I bring this up again...?  Because, for the fourth time this year, I've come across a VN that I was interested in that uses this never-to-be-sufficiently-damned story structure, Sora no Tsukurikata.  Damn all non-charage makers who follow fads like this particular one to hell, I say.
  7. Clephas
    Because this VN uses the same basic structure as G-senjou no Maou, the 'common route' is actually the 'true route', so I felt a need to evaluate each heroine route separately from it. People who have read my comments on the forums will realize I despise the structure, because it has a tendency to be an excuse for h-scenes and inconsistent half-assed side endings (Eustia and G-Senjou are both perpetrators of this particular crime). Keeping that in mind, I'm going to strive for something resembling fairness in evaluating each path individually, then go back and evaluate whether they managed to be consistent despite using this particular story-structure.

    This VN is a fantasy one with mild action (so far) based around the protagonist's struggles to fulfill his objective (I won't spoil it for you if you weren't crazy enough to read that spoiler-stained summary on vndb). Because of the way the story at the beginning introduces the protagonist and the setting, I feel an unusually high need to avoid spoilers relating to the protagonist's objective and abilities, so I'll leave it there.

    The protagonist himself is voiced (yay!) and he is at least moderately capable, with his favored weapons being hidden ones (daggers in belt buckles, hidden throwing knives, darts, flash-bangs, etc.). If I have a complaint about him, it is that he gets really whiny sometimes, but since he never portrays himself as a pillar of solidity, it doesn't bother me as much as it usually would.

    Nonomiya Fuuka

    Nono is the game's genkikko (meaning she is lively and energetic) and the 'nice girl', and as such, her presence is mainly to provide 'cute' moe and cheap emotionality. That said, the addition of occasional inumimi (really wolf-ears) makes her cuteness go to the highest level (yes, I love mimikko, so what?).

    First, the event that leads you into the path split is fairly heart-rending for the protagonist, given the nature of his ambitions and his powers (this is unavoidable, as choosing a heroine means giving up on his ambitions). I did cry for Nono during the event that caused the split, and the protagonist is hurt by what goes on even more, especially because of his ability.

    The first part of the actual path is fairly depressing (again, unavoidably), but given that Nono is the VN's 'genkikko' and 'nice girl', it was never going to last forever. Once she and the protagonist get themselves straightened out, it turns into your average charage path... perhaps a little better than that, given that it is easier to empathize with the characters after what they went through earlier in the VN. Given this, I can tentatively praise this as a charage path, while wondering whether it will be consistent with what happens in the true ending.
  8. Clephas
    Airu

    Airu is the game's 'fushigi-chan', or a girl who is mysterious/acts oddly. Generally speaking, her role in the earliest parts of the VN is fairly weak, but in the chapter leading up to the split for her route, she suddenly gains density and roundness as a character, and there is a definite sense that she is someone the protagonist might choose over his objective.

    Airu's route is a bit less of a depressing wind-down than Nono's is, if only because Airu's relationship to the protagonist is more intimate when the path split does occur. However, just like with Nono's, the second it enters Airu's route, it transforms into a charage route. Which is fine, as i said before... but it is rather obvious that they are making this into a pattern, lol.

    Airu's own personal problems are wrapped up intimately in her involvement with the protagonist, both in the main game and in her route, so it lent a sense of empathy to her character that would have been lacking if they'd just gone into her route with less preparation...
  9. Clephas
    Kokone

    Kokone is the strict but gentle 'older sister' of the group. She is very devoted to her duty, as well as to the safety and happiness of the 'family'. Her character archetype is really easily recognizable from the beginning, so I'm sure most will find it easy to understand her.

    Her path, much like the two before it, starts from a split at the end of the next chapter. The events leading up to the split are - again - saddening and painful for the protagonist, and again he has to give up on his objective. The big difference is that the previous chapters have altered his way of thinking enough that he is able to give up more easily...

    Again, her path is a straight charage path, utilizing the information built up in the main story as a background for a budding romantic relationship. I will say that I thought her path was more humorous than the other two (or rather, contained more humor).
  10. Clephas
    Sena

    Sena is another active type of heroine... the lazy martial artist heroine. With anything other than pursuing self-training, she is lazy, and she is also a glutton. Generally speaking, she's good if you like boyish heroines with a tendency toward sexually harassing other girls.

    Her path split is shortly after Kokone's, so there is not really much in the way of extra character development... but in exchange, her route is probably the most detailed of all the heroine routes. Not only that, but there is some extra drama in there that made it an interesting story in and of itself, rather than feeling like a charage appendage to the main story (which the others barely edged past being themselves).


    Some comments before the True Route

    One thing I've noticed about this game is that it stops just short of being good at describing the action. Oh, they do describe it... but they avoid details, and there is no flair to the narration. I don't expect something on the level of Dies Irae, but if you are going to include the abilities and martial arts these people are displaying, it is downright wasteful for the combat narration to be so spartan.
  11. Clephas
    Yeah, I know, this picture is actually nothing like the protagonist, lol.




    True Ending

    Ok, first this game stops well short of being a kamige, so don't expect me to give hands-down praise of it... but I will say this is the first VN I've played that uses the G-Senjou story structure and doesn't short the heroine routes. I can say that conclusively, having finished all the paths. Those who have encountered my virulent hatred of Aiyoku no Eustia will probably be surprised to hear this, though.

    Second, the true route is decent... actually, while it doesn't match my favorite VNs of the type, it is more than enough if you want to indulge in a fantasy story with some mild action (save for the relatively high-quality last battle) and a generally warm atmosphere. This is contrasted with the desperation and sometimes tragic events that occur at or near the end of each chapter. Airu's and Nono's are actually the worst, emotionally speaking, this way. However, once the true route is locked in, there is enough tragic impact incoming that you won't be dissatisfied if you've managed to form an emotional connection with the characters already.

    Final Comments

    Considering what the protagonist says at the end of the prologue, you'd expect this to be a lot darker than it is. However, since the protagonist is rather obviously a softy who utterly fails to be ruthless, you can forgive the game for not being as dark as it might have been, given the themes. Still, this is probably the weakest point of the game. The way it sort of went for a half-assed protagonist whose style of appearance is like Lelouch from Code Geass and whose personality is your average kind-hearted harem-master was kind of... *grimaces* iffy to say the least.

    That said, this game's story is very character-focused, and I have to say - primarily because of the heroine paths - that it is mostly a charage. Yes, it has action, it has conspiracy, and it has betrayal... and there is a solid backbone to the story. However, the way the game consistently shifted focus onto one or the other of the heroines as you got close to the path splits, the fact that the characters spend about half the game in cosplay, and the sheer number of archetypical interactions in the character dynamic just screams 'charage' to me.
  12. Clephas
    First, I should say that never before, in my seven years playing VNs, has a year been as... stale as this one has been.  It is not that there haven't been good VNs coming out... it is just that no VNs I might consider worthy of a VN Hall of Fame have come out this entire year.  Generally speaking, I can usually expect about three to five VNs in any given year to make it into my personal 'hall of fame'.  Unfortunately, this year has literally produced none worthy of that group. 
    Understand, when I say 'worthy', it doesn't necessarily mean that it is my 'favorite' VN.  If I were to go by that standard, Silverio Vendetta would be in there, despite its rather glaring flaws.  No, when I say something is worthy, it is that it is a VN that I think has lasting value at least partially independent of purely relativistic values (which tend to be the guides for my ratings in various genres). 
    This bothers me.  Last year was actually a pretty good one, with more than five VNs making a solid entry into my personal hall of fame.  Only 2011 was better in the last five years, and that year was almost demonic when it came to producing first-rate VNs... I've come to expect that at least one or two VNs will be obvious candidates for my VN of the Year in any given year, and that I'll have at least ten to twelve runner-ups... but this year, I've yet to come across a solid candidate for runner-ups, much less for a struggle for the final VN of the Year. 
    I love VNs, for all the pain they've put me through.  I slog through dozens of near-kusoge every year so that I can excavate a few gems... and it is getting a bit depressing how pathetic what gems I do find look like.  I do this because I honestly think that there is no better electronic medium for the telling of a good story, though books in general still do a better job in general (mostly because of the pathetic lack of first-rate writers and a willingness to back them up fully with art and system support).
    However, this year is just a bit too depressing for my tastes.  I've had no great emotional explosions from playing a VN this year (other than a few really really good moments in Silverio Vendetta), and while there have been some technically good VNs, there hasn't been anything to approach Semiramis or Nanairo from last year in terms of blowing me away... or even anything approaching Hello, Lady for first class character dynamics and presentation. 
    On the other hand, anime shows signs of making a comeback... which is surprising, considering how stagnant the medium has been for so long.  Of course, it is likely to be just another 'peak' before another 'trough', but it is still nice to have that balancing out the lowest point in VNs I've experienced yet.  I am a bit tired of playing kusoge though... October produced several good VNs... but that was at least in part because it was the most prolific month in this half of the year for non-nukige.  Most of the stuff I didn't bother mentioning in the blogs was... not worth mentioning.  I tried it, I wanted to be sick, I dropped it.  Hopefully, the November or December releases will redeem this year at least a bit... I'd at least like to see one VN of the Year-worthy VN come out, because even I couldn't honestly name Silverio Vendetta as VN of the Year, despite my fondness for it being an obvious tribute to some of my favorite parts of Dies Irae.
  13. Clephas
    Compared to 2015, this year has been an excellent one.  That isn't to say that we saw a glut of first-class VNs like in 2011 or 2014, but there have nonetheless been several releases worthy of consideration for a VN of the Year award from me so far.
    Candidates so Far
    Inochi no Spare
    Amatsutsumi
    Floral Flowlove
    Tokyo Necro
    Akeiro Kaikitan
    Close but not quite there
    Koi Suru Otome to Shugo no Tate ~Bara no Seibo~ (a direct sequel, so not a potential winner)
    Senren Banka
    Soshite Hatsukoi ga Imouto ni Naru
    Toki o Tsumugu Yakusoku
     
    Since there were no really worthy candidates last year (I named Kikan Bakumatsu Ibun Last Cavalier the VN of the Year, but I would have preferred to leave it blank), this year is definitely the one to watch. 
  14. Clephas
    First, I should mention that I'm a huge fan of David Weber.  Even his crappiest book is still interesting to read (the crappiest book being Out of the Dark, an Independence Day-style story where the world is saved by Dracula, lol).  However, the Honor Harrington series is my favorite series written by him.
    Beginning with On Basilisk Station, this military sci-fi series begins focused on the character known as - obviously - Honor Harrington, a young warship captain getting command of a new light cruiser. 
    Honor is the post gender-disparity female of the feminist movement's dreams, a woman born and raised in a society where gender limitations were nonexistent and nothing is thought of women going into the military.  Weber, for all his faults as writer, has never shown the prejudices a lot of male sci-fi writers tend to have in this area, and Honor is by far his most popular and powerful character.  She begins the series as a commander, the lowest rank in the Royal Manticoran Navy allowed independent command of a starship, and, as she takes trip after trip though the fires of war's hell, she gradually climbs the ranks of her star nation's military, suffering pain and loss, as well as joy and glory in equal amounts. 
    Honor doesn't go through life unscarred... she is a rare individual who can't use regen therapies and can't accept her own cloned tissues, so her tendency to get her ships shot to hell around her has definite permanent consequences to her body and life.  This isn't some two-dimensional warrior who slays enemies in one-sided competitions and comes out the other side covered and glory and only possessing superficial scars.  Honor is the type of person who, because of her integrity and essential strength as a human being, continually manages to put herself in the worst kind of situations.  She doesn't always win, more of her people die than don't, and she suffers from all the guilt you could possibly imagine a morally upright young woman could suffer in such a situation. 
    In fact, that is David Weber's brilliance with this series...  Honor definitely climbs the social ladder during the series (even by the third book, she is already pretty high up there), but her essential humanity and her growth as a person gives true life to a series which could easily (and often threatens to) turn into a dry recitation of destruction and death on a literally interstellar scale.  Weber freely admits he intended to kill her off in the seventh or eighth book, but the fans kept her alive through petitions against that decision, lol. 
    All in all, that has turned out well.  What was originally a simple and direct conflict between a constitutional monarchy and a socialist expansionist empire gone mad has expanded to a fully galactic scale story, opening up several side storylines (the Crown of Slaves being the most beloved of those).  While Honor still remains a central individual in the series, things have long-since grown too complex and grand in scale for any individual to control its flow. 
    I can say straight out that I love this series and don't regret investing the hundred dollars or so it took to get all the books currently released.  There have been a few poor entries (the most recent one is widely disliked for being a rehashing from a different perspective of events in the previous book), the series as a whole is one that any military sci-fi fan should at least try to read.  The societies involved, the events, and the characters make it worth it, even if it is obvious Weber has no intention of concluding it any time soon, even after over fifteen books.
  15. Clephas
    This game, which I will refer to by the nickname Kukoro from now on, is Palette's newest low-price release, based on the same concept as Corona Blossom (episodic releases) and other games released in the last few years.  It is also written by the same individual who wrote Nanairo Reincarnation and Akeiro Kaikitan, so in that sense this is definitely something I was looking forward to.  I should tell you that my philosophy on this kind of episodic game is not to play it until all the episodes are out, and the value of this philosophy has been reinforced, in my mind, by my experiences with such releases. 
    First, the big plus of this VN is that the protagonist is voiced and that the writing, in and of itself, is of excellent quality.  The action-based and emotional scenes have the same kind of first-class writing that turned those two into kamige, and that in itself pushes it ahead of most of the episodic releases I've had the misfortune to experience so far... unfortunately, that really isn't saying that much.
    This VN hits one of my top five biggest pet peeves, and one that is pretty much insurmountable with VNs, in my experience.  It doesn't give me the whole story, even for the one heroine it covers. 
    This is an abominable choice on the part of the company, even if it isn't the writer's fault.  I can honestly understand covering only a single heroine's path in a release.  Tiny Dungeon did the same thing, and each game stood on its own as a masterpiece, despite only covering one aspect of the main story.  However... this is what amounts to a chuunige, with all the buildup and hints at potential drama you see in a chuunige 'beginner heroine' path (the heroine whose purpose is to simply get you involved with the setting).  What does this mean for the reader?  This means that you are given tons of hints as to what might happen later, but this path doesn't give you anything of value, despite a bad ending you are forced to watch and an utterly unsatisfying heroine ending where nothing is resolved and a new problem pops up at the very end, where it cuts off.
    I would much rather pay one hundred dollars for the full story at once, than have to endure this kind of BS.  I went on a rage after playing the second Grisaia because it did the same thing.  Cliffhangers drive me nuts in VNs like this one, and this brings back memories of why I blocked out the second Grisaia as a traumatic memory until the third one came out. 
    In other words... don't play this game until the rest of them come out.  It is too frustrating and too short to be worth the trouble.  Not to mention that it doesn't give you time to get used to the characters and setting (there is no common route, so there is no 'settling in to the characters' to serve as a reason to hope for the future releases).  So, I'm left with a story incomplete in every way, with a cliffhanger ending, and with a near-indifference for the non-Miyako, non-protagonist characters because this company chose to take too many shortcuts on the first part of the game.  The raw quality of the prose and the dialogue, as well as the voiced protagonist, simply aren't enough positive to make me feel better about the negatives.
    Edit: Keep in mind that my opinions are based just on this version...  Also, I wanted to add some comments on the protagonist and other characters.  Like many decent half-chuunige (half-chuunige referring to VNs that have strong chuunige elements but don't quite fall into that genre's aegis) this VN's protagonist is intelligent, psychologically flexible, and more than a little humorous.  As a protagonist, I don't really have any complaints about him besides the fact that they chose an "I'm the only helpless one' role for him, which is why I relegated the game to half-chuunige status (since it wasn't protagonist-centric enough).  The heroine for this one is Miyako, the daughter of the Kujou family, technically an ojousama (rich girl).  However, her family's philosophy is that the company's money belongs to investors and workers, so they aren't nearly as wealthy as their company's success would indicate for most such families (she thinks paying five hundred yen for a meal is too much, lol).  The only other character who you get a halfway decent impression of is the protagonist's little sister, Sora.  She is a fun-seeking, somewhat air-headed brocon girl who is probably destined to be the heroine of a future installment, given her fondness for hanging out with her big bro.  I have to note that the two other heroine candidates made really weak impressions due to only appearing in three scenes each.
  16. Clephas
    Before anyone asks, no I'm not translating this VN as a whole.  For one thing, it is long and I'm lazy.  For another, it actually has a small chance of coming over here, so I'm not going to do something that will spoil the whole game for them (I want this officially localized).  This is a fully narrated version (narrated by the poster of the video) of the first few scenes of Hapymaher, which was my VN of the Year 2013.  This VN has ridiculously good music... and a frequently heartbreaking story. 
    2:38-14:42  The youtube guy voices the narration and the protagonist, in a way that is pretty good... and this is a translation.
    There is no need for you to do anything. Just leave everything to me. 
     
    Also, when it comes to your 'true desires', they are something you just think you understand.
     
    Misfortune, happiness, difficulties, weeping, pain, pleasure, and fun… I will provide them all.
     
    I know for certain what to do to make it so, after all.
     
    But even so, you will still force yourself to go on.
     
    You like to give up as well, don’t you?
     
    That’s why I’ll capture you.
     
    You like that as well, don’t you?
     
    You always need to be looked after, after all.
     
    That place was an extravagant room.
     
    In the center was a wide, heavily-built table.
     
    Upon the table, a pot with steam wafting from it and colorful candies and treats were lined up.
     
    The fluffy couch and the handwoven rug upon the floor were all intended for the guests that came here.
     
    Here, the preparations for a tea party are always complete.
     
    That room, which seemed like it had lept out of a dream or a story, looked like a bad joke to me.
     
    That was because of the coloring… black, white, red, purple, pink, blue… all the colors I could see were vivid ones.  It was as if the room were decorated like a butterfly.
     
    Though it was a room that seemed as if it was from an aristocrat’s mansion, the color made it seem as if it had tossed aside all forms of dignity.
     
    It wasn’t just the inside of the room that was strange.
     
    Outside the window, vegetation grew so thickly that it was if it were a botanical garden.
     
    The only light was the flickering light of the stars and the moon.  However, even that was blocked by the thick growth of the forest.
     
    Thin trees, thick trees, flowers blooming despite the fact that it was night, and the overgrowth of grass, vines, and leaves.
     
    The excess of plant growth around the room seemed to indicate that no human hand had intervened there in centuries.
     
    However, the room itself was new, in all ways.
     
    That strange place was filled with the silence of the forest and the presence of living things.
     
    Suddenly, a single shadow appeared in the room.
     
    Roses, which were not amongst the flowers blooming outside, began to bloom as if in order to conceal the shadow. 
     
    The white roses, which seemed to grow in fast forward, began to give off the sweet smell of burning honey as they bloomed, as if someone had set fire to them.
     
    The roses spread slowly like spilled water, giving off the scents of tea, honey, sweets, and the deep forest. 
     
    And then the shadow took on the form of a young girl and stood there as if she had been there from the beginning.
     
    The girl who stood amongst the white roses laughed quietly.
     
    “Since I’ve been called, I must treat you to my hospitality.”
     
    With a mien of mixed enjoyment and sorrow she whispered.
    Opening
     
    Second Scene
    And so, I dream once again today.
     
    When I came to, I was lying in the forest at night.
     
    “Why am I dreaming this dream again…?”
     
    There is no point in complaining.  I rise and begin to walk through the forest in my dreams.  I walk, I walk.
     
    In that deep forest, the light of the stars and moon filtered through the trees is all the ilumination.
     
    Even though the forest holds the sense of no presence other than “ours”, even though it is perfectly silent…
     
    Even so, I can’t seem to believe there is no one else there.
     
    A beast, a bird, a person, or perhaps even something like a ghost.
     
    I’m not sure, but I sought to leave that forest, holding her hand amidst the intense sensation that something is there.
     
    I almost trip over thick roots and stumble over buried stones.
     
    Even so, I continue to walk holding the hand of the silent presence following me.
     
    I know that this is a dream.
     
    In the end, a dream is a dream.
     
    I know.  This is the past.
     
    Even if this actually occurred in the past, what I am seeing is merely a dream.
     
    So, what I am seeing here is utterly meaningless.
     
    This is a dream.
     
    I know that better than anyone.  I know!
     
    However, even so.  No matter how well I know it is meaningless, I can’t bring myself to let go of this hand I'm holding.
     
    “It will be all right ______.  Let’s return home.”
     
    There is no answer, nor is there a sense of a nod.
     
    However, I don’t release that hand.
     
    I know what will happen after this.  It is a dream I’ve seen countless times.
     
    I can leave this forest.  It is a dark forest where I can’t figure out where I am, but I can return.
     
    However…
     
    “Ah… will we be able to go home?”
     
    The direction of the light changes changes.
     
    The forest goes from deep forest of the inside to the shallow forest of that which is close to the outside.
     
    The trees are thin, the young ones begin to stand out, and the light filtering through the trees increases.
     
    “We will return for sure this time… together this time for sure…!”
     
    My legs shiver from walking through the forest, and I’m not sure my voice is coming out.
     
    Even so, the sensation of the hand gripping mine was there.
     
    -I know what happens after this.
     
    ---Please stop.
     
    I can also here my own voice screaming those words.
     
    However, I also think ‘this time for sure’.
     
    .It’s just a dream!  Why give up if it is only a dream?!  Even if it is just in a dream…!
     
    We walk, step by step, toward the outside.
     
    If we get through this forest, we can return home.
     
    The light from the outside gets stronger.  The area becomes brighter.
     
    And when I exited the forest…
     
    … the hand I was supposed to be holding was no longer there.
     
    “Why?!  Why…?!”
     
    I knew it.  I knew it would be this way.
     
    Only I can leave the forest.
     
    We will never be able to return together.
     
    “Why...?!”
     
    You gave up didn’t you?  You know, don’t you?
     
    I should already know… know that only I returned.
     
    It took me a long time to understand and I caused a lot of trouble in the process, but shouldn’t I have figured this out by now?
     
    “That’s… even so…!”
     
    And… Even if you returned together in the dream --- it isn’t like she’ll come back, will she?
     
    After all, this is just a dream.
     
    It changes nothing.  It is just self-satisfaction.  Even if I know it is a dream, it can’t have any effect on reality.
     
    Yes, I know.  In the end, a dream is a dream.
     
    I can’t return with her…
     
    “Then, if you could return with her?”
  17. Clephas
    Just a bit of warning for those who are using really old versions of Translation Aggregator... to be blunt, they don't work with the current version of Windows 7 or 8. To be more specific, the way the old versions use the dictionaries causes a bug where the application no longer pastes the clipboard contents. I hadn't updated mine since the 2012 update, so I was really surprised when, after I updated my Windows (on both my work and personal computers) that TA stopped working. I figured out what was wrong and went ahead and got the newest version, which was made earlier this month, but it was still a bit of a shock when the reliable tool I'd been wielding for speed-reading VNs suddenly stopped working, lol.
  18. Clephas
    I know many people have chimed in on the debate about what precisely VNs are to them... but the three main schools of thought pretty much come down to 'story-delivery system', 'pretty picture delivery system', and a mixture of both. To an extent, I can sympathize with all three... but I fall mostly with the 'mixture of both' school of thought with a leaning to the 'story-delivery system' end of things. Why? Because, when it comes down to it, all forms of otaku entertainment are story-delivery systems, when you get right down to it... even if that story is somewhat out there, disjointed, or so mixed in with pointless moe that it is hard to recognize. Of course, that is in the larger sense, so it is basically playing with sophistry on my part to think that way... *loves making it impossible for anyone else to win the argument*

    Nonetheless, it is a valid point. I love stories, in general. I live for fiction in all its forms, though the written word is my preferred way to receive it, preferably with narrative, not just dialogue. More than anything, my taste in VNs is shaped by this simple root cause... in the end, I'm a narrative junkie who needs his fix. Chuunige like Dies Irae give me that in the most obvious form, and every once in a while, a fantasy masterpiece like Ikusa Megami Zero comes along and revives my love of world-building and deep settings. Even more rarely, I hit gold with something like Konata yori Kanata made, which burns so deeply into my soul that it causes an epiphany.

    The last half-decade of my life has been pretty much shaped by my addict's pursuit of good VNs. As a result, outside of my work I'm pretty much the picture of the hikikomori erogamer (actually, since I work from home...). At the same time, I've more and more come to realize that almost no one across the water has any real idea of the potential of the medium in general for storytelling, despite having the best of all tools in all areas relatively easily at hand.

    If I walk through a section my local bookstore (any fiction section), I can pick out at least a dozen titles I've read and left their mark on my way of thinking and expanded my mind in general. Going through all the VNs I've played, I can name only about forty out of the five hundred that left their mark in a significant way on my mind and spirit... and that is seriously a small number, even proportionately speaking. Less than a tenth of all the VNs I've played have been something worthy of remaining for the future... and how sad is that? This is despite the sheer potential the medium has... When I think of it objectively, I'm sometimes driven to despair.
  19. Clephas
    I keep getting questions like, 'Who are you?' and 'Why should I listen to you at all about VNs?'... not to mention questions that are a bit more personal. So, I thought I'd answer those questions I'm willing to answer (feel free to ask more in the comments, and I'll answer those that I can in a second post).

    Full Handle Name: Clephas Aurenius

    Handle Origin: A unique character I made up for a fictional fantasy universe some ten years ago. I've been using it as my sole handle for eight years now.

    Age: 33

    Country and State of origin: Texas in the United States

    Hobbies: Gaming, VNs, reading (fiction and non-fiction), otakuism, mini-reviewing untranslated VNs, anthropology, linguistics, brewing rum and root beer, cooking, and attempting to define VN terms that are actually a lot more vague than I try to present them for the sake of convenience *smiles slyly*

    Profession: ghost writer (don't ask me about this, look it up)

    Dream: To build an underground house in a seismically inactive (inasmuch as that is possible) area and retire. Take a six-month trip to Japan and tour the hot springs, shrines, and temples.

    Likes: Efficient and/or cunning work. People with a non-harmful sense of humor. Pragmatism. Chuuni-fiction, fantasy, science fiction. Good stories.

    Dislikes: Wasting time (from my perspective). Being mentally inactive (this is actually painful for me). Foods with jalapeno or parsley in it. Sloppy work done when a more efficient method obviously exists. Political corruption (outside of reasonable limits).

    Personality: I have a rather massive temper, that I manage to restrict through breathing exercises and violent video games. I value thinking as something that is both necessary and enjoyable. I am excessively introspective, to the degree of actively mocking myself and being self-derisive when I think I might have been in the wrong on some level. I am a natural troll who reformed himself as best as possible. I tend to think that everything is funny on some level, even my own stupidity and outright disaster. I am a recovering megalomaniac.

    My role-play: The 'forums' Clephas is actually quite different from the original Clephas, in that he is a lot more comical and exaggerated. He is the megalomaniacal and overwhelmingly arrogant side of my personality, deliberately exaggerated to the very limits, to the point where it is actually funny. He is something of an insane deity who devours universes and envelops them in his infinite stomachs, using avatars to interact with those inside. He honestly thinks eating people (both whole and chewed) is an expression of love. He also does various seemingly (and most probably) meaningless things solely for the sake of his own amusement.

    What Fuwanovel means to me: In a lot of ways, Fuwanovel is my last community. I've just seen too many otaku communities collapse under their own weight to willingly involve myself with several at once, anymore. In many ways, I joined Fuwa solely because I thought it would be fun to argue with Aaeru (and it was immensely fun). I respected her for the strength of her beliefs, even if I disagreed with her on a number of points (pragmatists rarely agree fully with any idealist). Fuwa now is the community I've come to love, with the people I've come to love (Marie, Tay, solidbatman, Nayleen, fun2novel, Flutterz, Zakamutt, Mephisto, etc. etc), and so I'm more or less in it for the long haul. I chose this community because it was a lot easier to talk about VNs here than in the more Jaded tlwiki-related communites.

    What are VNs to me: I like VNs, both as an enjoyable storytelling medium and as one with an immense potential for growth (if someone can just kick the industry out of its nukige/moege and cookie-cutter chuunige rut). They are emotional and intellectual rides (better on the emotions in most cases), that frequently have an impact far out of proportion with their actual quality.

    My VN Experience: Tsukihime was my first VN... and it stunned me when I first played it back in 2007. I immediately devoured every single translated VN, in a marathon that lasted about two months... then dove into my first untranslated - Jingai Makyou - on 9/14/2008. As I'd been fansubbing for over a year by then, I'd thought I had a full grasp on Japanese as a language... but it was a rather rude kick in the butt. Translation Aggregator with Jparser presented me with a challenge that allowed me to get around the lack of kanji knowledge on my part... in exchange for mastering how Japanese syllables were put together in reverse (normally a skill learned through kanji, rather than learning it first, then learning kanji).

    A few last comments: No, I do not have and will never have a Facebook or Twitter account. If you really want to chat with me live, pm me and ask me to get on IRC (rizon). Do not ask me to help translate more than one scene of a moege, as doing more than that (even for a friend) would make me want to scream. I do not have a lot of free time, other than that which I use to play VNs, so no I don't go to otaku conventions. I can cook a traditional Japanese breakfast... but sadly, the only parts I really like are the natto, the miso soup, and the pickled vegetables (cooked fish that tastes like cooked fish makes me feel sick). I have a fourteen-year-old calico cat, whom I adore and who tolerates me as a favor to me as her devoted slave.
  20. Clephas
    I think those who follow my blog might be aware of this, but I've played waaaay too many VNs this month. To be blunt, once Hanasaki is done, I'll have played seven.

    I know that might not seem like much, just saying it... but it still makes up about 100 hours of play/read time in under a month. What makes it worse is that several of the VNs I played were horrible disappointments, despite being from companies I normally liked.

    What am I trying to say here? It is fairly simple... no matter how much I like VNs, playing as many as I did this month is a source of real stress and almost physical pain. Several of the releases I wouldn't have bothered with at all, if it weren't for the fact that I'm committing to continuing my VN of the Month column.

    Think about it... in terms of content, each one of those VNs was, on average, about at the same level as Da Capo (for those familiar with the game), in terms of length... and some were quite a bit longer. Now think about actually slogging through that many heroines, that much template romance... and really think about whether you could stand it, even if you like that sort of thing.

    Basically, I'm at my limit, when it comes to charage... I've had enough laughs and innocent couples... I want something dirty, violent, and shadowy... I want people with serious, irreversible emotional and psychological scars. I want some intelligent plot twists and twisted motives... in short 'just why did every single popular moege-variant company choose to release a VN at the end of March?!'

    Sorry, I just needed to blow off some steam. I'm trying to take full pleasure in Hanasaki Work Spring... if only because it is good for what it is - despite its huge flaws and the fact that Saga Planets really is wasting its people's skills.
  21. Clephas
    Before I go visit my remaining grandparents this weekend (my grandmother on my father's side and grandfather on my mother's side are both in extremely frail condition right now, so we are taking time to show my sister's kid to them), I thought I would give my thoughts on modern VN trends.
    Charage aren't going anywhere
    Though I frequently bash the industry for over-saturating the market with moege/charage/SOL, the fact is that the demand for this type of VN is never going to go away as long as the Japanese eroge VN market exists.  Why?  Because it is the single easiest way to present the formation of relationships of young people into a sexual one.  While the genre isn't that attractive for people in their late teens or early to mid-twenties (incidentally the reason this market is declining), the majority of any older generation is always going to prefer this.  The lesser numbers of young people in Japan compared to my generation and the lower relative amounts of income are the main reasons for the current contraction of the genre.
    Good Writers don't go into VNs anymore
    This is a truth that few of the plotge addicts like me want to admit.  Most of the best writers in the VN industry are getting into middle age or later now (or have already left it), and the new and upcoming writers are mostly up and coming LN writers who have a far looser grasp on how to write/narrate and (more importantly) complete a story.  This doesn't mean they won't evolve their styles to match the new medium eventually, but whenever I've read a VN written by one of these newbies, the plot holes and poor handling of the endings of their games stand out painfully.
    Chuunige are in decline
    I absolutely hate to say this.  However, it needs to be said.  Trends in the last nine years in chuunige have tended to result in far too much side-story exploitation and sequelitis.  There is also a distinct lack of innovation, and when innovation does come, it tends to come with a huge drop in quality in the final product (Sora no Baroque).   Fans of the genre are getting older, and some companies (such as Light) have been putting their games in non-ero form on consoles to try to grasp the hearts of younger VN lovers (this has actually succeeded to an extent), but the fact is that it takes a much longer time for a chuunige company to  make back its investment after a release.  This is exacerbated by economic issues in Japan, and the fact that these companies mostly suck at advertising (like many niche genre companies, they only put it up in places where those already 'in the know' will find them).
    VN Trends are always years behind the rest of Otaku-dom
    VN communities in Japan are insular.  Even moreso than they are in the US.  When rom-com anime vanished for the most part at the end of the last decade, it was replaced with cheap action-fantasy (shallow, weaker stories for the most part, with more emphasis put on 'cool' elements) and moeblob.  The glut of such anime is reaching its peak right now... and that influence is starting to overflow (interpreted through the lens of the hyper-conservative VN community, of course) into our side of things.  That said, this is a trend that is unlikely to take hold, because it requires a modicum of writing skill that doesn't involve dialogue, and most VN writers just don't have that.  Instead, VN companies that have been around for a while have been 'testing the waters' by making games that step out of their usual niches, hoping to diversify to deal with the changing trends.  Light went with going down a much darker path than usual with its most recent game, and Navel actually put up a half-assed plotge last month.  These, along with many other incidences in the last two years, make me wonder just what the market will look like five years from now. 
  22. Clephas
    Why I made this post.
    Devils Devel Concept is one of my favorite VNs and has one of my top 3 VN settings.  The setting is so ridiculously complex and explained only in fragments along the way, so it is difficult to gain any real grasp on what is going on just reading any one path... Not to mention that there are a ridiculous number of details that can be lost along the way as you read.  Sora is fundamentally an indifferent narrator when it comes to such details, because he doesn't have any interest in them, and the heroines aren't much better that way, only dropping tidbits along the way that can be easily misinterpreted without being able to see the whole picture.  There are unavoidable spoilers in this post, but they aren't so much for the story as for the infrequent explanations of the setting the writer inserts along the way.  In particular, I recommend skipping the part of the post covering the Genryuu, Old Ones, and Others and their servants until you've at least read both Kanata's and Mutsuki's paths.  Mutsuki's path, in particular, takes on a lot of new meaning if you know the stuff about the contracts.  This is mostly a glossary, drawing some base info from the in-game glossary but also adding parts drawn from the explanations within the story itself. 
     
     
     
    Possible Spoilers if you go any further
     
     
     
     
    Demons- Powerful beings capable of rewriting reality at will.  They are fundamentally inhuman in both appearance and motivation.  They are the descendants of the creations of the Old Ones, possessing Devils Organs passed down directly from that source. 
    Enja- The descendants of humans implanted with Devils Organs and an instinctive need to kill Demons by the Old Ones upon their defeat.  They breed slowly amongst themselves and are extremely short-lived (with rare exceptions for those who rarely use their abilities, most don't live beyond the age of forty, with the most powerful tending to die or Fall in their twenties).  The imperatives in their DNA have a lot of subtle psychological effects on them, ranging from mild social disorders to outright sociopath behavior.  Their desires and hungers tend to be several degrees stronger than the average human, as well as being somewhat more... earthy.  Out of self-protection, they tend to gather in clan groups based on bloodline or association. 
    Hunters/Karyuudo- Enja who have chosen to pursue a life hunting and killing Demons.
    Henshitsu- As an Enja wields their Organs and live their lives, gradually they begin to alter, in fashions both subtle and not so much so.  This can be displayed in strengthened instincts, vulnerabilities to certain types of food or light, the need to drink blood, or even the ability to live on sunlight and water.  Once this change surpasses a certain point, an Enja falls and becomes a Stray Sheep, a monster without rationality or conscience that is driven by the most powerful impulses of the Enja from which they were born. 
    Stray Sheep/Predator/Hosokusha/Itsudatsusha- Individuals whose Henshitsu has gone beyond the critical stage.  Such individuals lack rationality or conscience and are often cannibalistic.  They are also often driven by strong suppressed desires or obsessions from their life as a human.  Sometimes they are born when an Enja dies in a conventional manner (of age, starvation, etc), but most of the time it tends to occur during battle or another extreme situation.
    Ro- Unique Devils Organs, usually based off a concept or element, that consume the concept or element they were named for and grant power to their possessors. 
    Genryuu- A type of Enja, created by the Others rather than the Old Ones. 
    Furuki Mono- The Old Ones, otherworldly beings who survived the void to arrive on Earth long ago. 
    The Others- Otherworldly beings who preceded the arrival of the Old Ones. 
    Spirits-
    Solid pot- A discriminatory term used by Enja to refer to themselves.
    Hollow Pot- A discriminatory term used by some Enja to refer to normal humans.
    Soujou-Soukoku- A reference to the natural magnetism/compatibility between individual Enja and Demons.  This is the first and most powerful determiner of how a relationship between them will form, and it isn't uncommon for those with a high compatibility to fall into bed on first meeting or those with a low or negative compatibility to try to kill one another at first sight.  Individuals with high compatibility enhance one another's abilities, whereas those with low or negative compatibility make one another weaker over time. 
    Masou- Weapons created by the Enja to allow them to more effectively fight the Demons.  These enhance their users' abilities (though usually at a cost in lifespan or psychological damage) and can provide new methods to corrode reality.  Many have fallen into the hands of the Demons or have been partially broken over the millennia, though. 
    Shinshoku- A term referring to the ability to corrode reality that defines both the Demons and Enja.  The only limits to this ability are the individual's Organs, the amount of power they can produce at a given time, and the size of the area they can comprehend with their spatial awareness.
    Battle Flow- Battles between possessors of Devils Organs are a competition to see who can overwhelm the other's ability to corrode and alter reality.  It isn't uncommon for Enja and Demons to die multiple times during a battle, resurrecting themselves as they go, and fatal blows generally are merely minor turning points in the battles of the most powerful.  To achieve victory, it is necessary that one 'rewrite' the opponent into a 'deceased' state at a point where the balance of power in the battle has tipped irrevocably against the opponent.  At lower levels, one or two deaths is often sufficient to end the battle, as resurrection and bodily repair require an iron will and a decent grasp of one's own physiology before it was rewritten or destroyed.  More intelligent opponents prefer to create a situation where their enemy has no possibility to turn the tables in advance by choosing the field and 'corroding' its reality in advance (creating a branch world for that purpose).  Kanata, Misora, and Mei are all three of this type, whereas Sora, Mutsuki, and Akane tend to be straightforward 'smash the wall down' types. 
    Relationship between Demons and Enja- Demons and Enja instinctively hate one another on sight.  This instinct is literally beyond their ability to control or suppress, and it is only through the mediation of a third party that the few 'rules' of the conflict between them were put together.  The reasons for this instinctive hatred are generally considered to lie in the nature of the Enja's creation. 
    Blood (Demon and Enja)- The blood of Demons is the most poisonous substance in the world.  A human touched by a drop will die instantly, and even Enja often become ill from excessive exposure.  To a lesser extent, the blood of Enja is toxic to Demons, but it takes many hundreds of exposures for this to actually become a problem for the Demon in question.
    Devils Organs- 'Organs' that grant Enja and Demons the ability to rewrite reality, adhering to rules determined by the individual Organ.  Most Enja only possess one or two, with a few rare exceptions being born with three (generally destined to have a very short lifespan).  While all Enja and demons can corrode reality, in what manner they do so is determined by these organs.
    Cabals- Organizations devoted to the protection, training, and organizing of activities by the Hunters.  The ones most intimately involved in this story are the Isaribi and the Houjou.  Both have a very pre-movie MIB feeling to both their activities and their attitude, as their agents tend to spend as much time disposing of evidence and witnesses as they do actually fighting Demons or hunting Stray Sheep. 
    Dolls- Humans rewritten into 'modoki/automata', flesh machines that have been granted immense physical strength, agility, and speed to serve as the hands and feet of a Demon, Stray Sheep, or Enja.  These individuals rarely retain much of their original personality or memories, and most are cannibalistic, needing to regularly eat large amounts of human flesh to maintain themselves.  Ironically, even the least of the Enja can dismember them with hardly any effort, making them no better than a distraction in the battle between the two. 
    Fear in Enja vs Fear in Normal Humans- Both humans and Enja are capable of feeling fear towards Demons.  However, when a human encounters a Demon, they are incapable of even conceiving of resistance or putting up a struggle.  When an Enja encounters a Demon, their fear is a simple product of a mixture of threat assessment and jealousy of their power.  Fear of Demons freezes a human, whereas an Enja is still capable of acting.  This peculiar type of half-rational emotion is one of the things that set Enja apart.
     
  23. Clephas
    To be blunt, there is no way I'm going to be able to use more than an hour or two each day for the next week for VNs.  My work pace is currently at the highest it's been since the summer of 2013.  I, quite frankly, had to cut sleep out of my schedule to get through Shogun-sama, and that is costing me in focus and energy now.  As such, I am unsure of when I will get to the next VN.  
    Of late, my days have consisted of work>eat>take nap>more work>eat>take nap>yet more work>eat>sleep.  I stopped pushing myself like this a few years ago because my doctor said that the caffeine doses and sugar I was using to keep myself aware were killing my liver, and the lack of sleep was starting to make my body poison itself bit by bit.   However, one of my  fellow contractors managed to get himself arrested last month (I don't know the details), and his work fell onto me (along with a nice bonus, but it isn't really worth it).  In addition to having already been behind on my own work, I've been having to do his.
    It looks like I'll be able to clean up his mess in the next week or two, but don't expect a whole lot out of me until then, except for maybe a whimsical half-asleep rants on various subjects (you know what I'm talking about).
  24. Clephas
    Understand, chuunige mostly appeal to a very core fanbase.  The style, the fact that they don't translate well, and the fact that most of the action/story is so 'out there' makes the games unapproachable.  The sheer amount of text means that localization costs are through the roof, which makes things worse, of course. 
    I'm being realistic, ignoring my inner fanboy who screams everybody should love chuunige because charage suck in comparison.  However, that is the flat-out truth. 
    So, I decided to make a list of chuunige I believe would sell in the west/appeal more to the western brain... and not just the core fanbase.  I have these ordered by the most likely to the least.
    1.  Bullet Butlers- I say Bullet Butlers is the most accessible precisely because it uses a lot of elements that Western audiences can easily grasp without having to be 'deep' into otaku media.  Zombies, elves, dragons, and orcs.  Firearms as the most common weapon type, superviolence, and a film noir atmosphere to a great deal of the game.  If I were to name one chuunige that has the potential to be a hit (by VN standards), if properly advertised, it is this one.
    2.  Draculius- If I were to name a sort-of chuunige that is accessible to people that don't particularly like chuunige, this would be it.  If you liked the best parts of Libra and hated the rest, you'll probably like this game.  It has aged somewhat, but the characters are unique, the story is excellent, and the humor is recognizable on both sides of the ocean. 
    3.  Hello, Lady- Yes, I went there.  If you can enjoy Narita Shinri, you will like this game, regardless of your genre preference.  Narita Shinri is a protagonist who will earn as many haters as he does lovers, and there won't be that much room in between.  However, his story is very much one that is visceral and easily comprehensible for any human who has lost someone they loved.
    4.  Shinigami no Testament- 3rdEye's chuunige are accessible.  I could put any chuunige by that company in this spot other than Bloody Rondo and say that it has the same potential for success.  Even Bloody Rondo does have some appeal outside its genre (in fact, it probably has more, lol).  3rdEye is a company that I can use to brainwash newbies without overwhelming them, which is why I was happy when Sorcery Jokers got localized, lol.
    5.  Gekkou no Carnevale- I can guarantee someone is going to ask why I didn't mention any other Nitroplus game besides this one.  However, the themes in this game are very Western, for the most part... and werewolves and murder are always guaranteed to catch the interest of a certain (surprisingly large) crowd over here.  Put in living dolls and mafia connections as well, and you have a recipe for success. 
    I actually thought of naming some others, but when I seriously thought about it, the hurdles for a Westerner and non-chuunige addict for playing those were just too high.   Anything Bakumatsu is going to be translated poorly, so Last Cavalier is out.  Evolimit has potential, but I thought BB is more likely to catch hold of westerners who aren't already part of the scene.  Anything like Dies Irae is almost guaranteed to flop if it isn't 100% crowd-funded (as in, all costs paid for by the crowd-funding), so Bradyon Veda and the Silverio series are out.  Vermilion has similar problems.  Muramasa suffers from swordsmanship infodumping that will probably cause the average reader's brain to go numb early on.  Tokyo Necro has zombies, but the chances of people actually getting past the prologue are relatively low, despite the coolness of the story and setting.  Izuna Zanshinken has enormous potential in the US, because of the style and the themes it tackles, but its episodic 'feeling' is a huge negative for some of us... 
  25. Clephas
    One thing I've noticed as a difference between the kind of VN consumer I am now and the one I was at at the beginning is that I fundamentally have difficulty mustering interest in sequels, fandiscs, and even anime continuations of my favorite VNs.
    When I first started playing VNs, I was your classic fanboy.  If they put out some kind of new story related to a VN I'd enjoyed, I'd snap it up in an instant.  Before I started playing the untranslated, I would obsess over fandiscs and sequels to the point of staring at the Japanese sites for hours at a time. 
    Now, once I've finished a VN, if there is a solid conclusion to the VN, I actually actively dislike standard sequels and fandiscs that come out later.  There are exceptions, such as where the setting itself transcends the cast of characters or where the VN in question was obviously sequel-bait or incomplete to the point where a fandisc was needed to fill in the blanks (ex: Akagoei).  However, those are just that... exceptions.
    So what's the difference in me?  A lot of it is experience.  Most fandiscs are just excuses for extra h-scenes with no real added content (in the sense of enhancing the content of the original), and the sequels tend to ruin the best parts of the original games for me or reuse characters that sucked in the first place (Bansenjin).  Another part of it is that I've begun to draw parallels between the 'endless anime series' and the way some VNs seem to get endless amounts of extra content that are designed to waste the consumers' money.  Heck, Tsuyokiss is a perfect example of a series that went too far for too long, even going so far as to use a 'second generation' of characters living in the same homes, related to the same people. 
    Majikoi is a rare exception, since its endless sequels have actually been well-filled out, interesting additions to a world that was already whacked-out to the extreme (the many varying ways Yamato lives based on who he picks in S and A are fascinating at times).  In fact, the original game, at this point, pales in comparison to the massive amount of content that came later, lol.  As I said, this is an exception rather than the rule.
    I guess my point is that, while a sequel or a fandisc can sometimes be beneficial, my own attitude is always going to be skeptical at best, given my experiences.
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