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Blog Entries posted by Clephas

  1. Clephas
    Concerto Note is a game I bought years ago and stuck in a small box containing my 'rainy day classics' without playing it.  Recommended to me over eight years ago as a classic kamige, I essentially forgot about it until I saw that Cross Concerto was coming out soon.
    This game uses a 'parallel story' system with a flowchart, where obtaining items on the non-true paths is required to complete the true path successfully.  This particular type of system is fairly rare, but it occasionally pops up in 'true heroine/path' games. 
    I'm going to be straightforward on the heroines... the heroines don't really stand out as being unusual, except for Rito.  Wakana is your standard optimistic genkikko, Shirayuki is your standard frail ojousama, Seika is your standard 'is liked by girls more than men' type (fights, talks and acts like a man by Japanese standards, etc), and Sayori is your standard gentle-mannered oneesan type (with maid as an extra element).
    Rito, on the other hand, doesn't quite fit into any of the standard archetypes.  On the surface, her interactions with Shinya make them seem like standard-issue 'husband/wife childhood friends' who practically finish one another's sentences, but their relationship is much more peculiar than it seems on the surface.  Moreover, Rito is an excessively rational person who can figure out just about any situation from the smallest number of clues.  I say 'excessively rational' because, as is noted in the story, she mostly separates her emotional state completely from her actual course of action, and she doesn't make knee-jerk reactions to others (except Seika and Shinya).  She also possesses eidetic memory.
    The story in this game focuses on the protagonist and friends (which people become friends varies based on whether you are on Route 1 or Route 2 of the common route, with Route 1 having Wakana, Shirayuki and Rito's paths; and Route 2 containing Sayori's and Seika's paths) as they try to combat the unnatural bad luck (or rather lack of fortune as Tama puts it) that is befalling them.  This is mostly done by stealing other people's luck through Tama (directly in Shinya's case, and in a contagion-style manner with the others) to counter the fatal misfortune waiting ten days in the future from the beginning of the story.
    To be blunt, the weakest point of Concerto Note's story is the really short period of time in which the story occurs.  Forming a strong romantic relationship between the characters feels very unnatural in Seika's and Shirayuki's cases due to the time constraints and lack of previous connection. 
    Wakana's path (which is the one you are supposed to play first) suffers from Wakana being one of the game's two weakest heroines along with Shirayuki.  Where this path stumbles is in the central conflict... or rather its source.  While it is the sort of conflict that would be believable in a charage (where details are generally vague in any case), in a plotge with as many precisely-used plot devices as this one, it felt forced.
    Shirayuki's path also suffers due to the heroine's weakness... but it also suffers because Shirayuki's connection to the protagonist and friends is so weak.  In a VN that covered a longer span of time, the events in the path would have been more believable, but the kind of actions both Shirayuki and Shinya take in this path came very close to breaking the suspension of disbelief at times.  Emotionally, the path is more touching than Wakana's, and the central conflict is much more believable.  However, the romantic aspects were forced/hurried.
    Seika has a similar problem to Shirayuki but to a lesser extent.  The extreme nature of the situation where Seika gets involved with the group in Route 2 of the common route and the common elements to both her and Shinya's personalities and backgrounds made her path less problematic to believe.  This path also manages to have a more believable conflict than Wakana's (which is the least believable conflict in the game) while matching Shirayuki's path for emotional impact. 
    Sayori's path is my favorite other than Rito's.  While Sayori is a secondary character in most of the paths, a strong effort is made to fill out her character in this path... and it succeeds.  Moreover, the romance in this path is cute and believable, and the emotional connections feel the most real of the paths so far.
    Rito's path... is extremely heavy, both story-wise and atmosphere-wise.  It tackles the darkness behind Kannagi that is only hinted at in the other paths, as well as revealing just how Shinya and Rito became friends (specifically rather than in general terms).  It also tackles the truth of Tama and the reason why the characters suffered from such extreme misfortune.  Compared to the often comedic nature of the other paths, this path is often grim or sad... but it also feels like a culmination of all the scraps found in the others. 
    In other words, it is a standard true path, with perhaps a steeper gap in atmosphere than is the norm.  However, this was familiar to me from other Applique games, as many of them have similar shifts in atmosphere between paths.
    It is easy to understand why this game became a classic.  While it lacks the sheer impact that Tasogare no Sinsemilla had, the relationship between Rito and Shinya quickly became one of my favorite parts of the story.  For anyone who wants a good plotge and isn't an art bigot (as in, absolutely hates anything made more than five years ago), this is a good choice.
  2. 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. 
    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.
  3. Clephas
    (For those interested in the gameplay, I used a clear save I downloaded from the beginning to skip the battles, so you'll need to ask someone else)
    Gouen no Soleil is the second entry in the Soleil series and the first one where Lovecraftian elements are included.  For those wondering about cameos and characters from other games, the protagonist of this story, Nagare, was classmates with the protagonist of Shirogane, and in some of the endings, you get to see the world and some of the characters of Harukazedori ni, Tomarigi o. 
    The game starts with the protagonist encountering a girl that looks like the little sister he sees in his dreams, accompanied by a Deep One (yes, those Deep Ones) in a trenchcoat and hat.  Upon encountering him, his 'sister' gives him a gleeful smile and he loses consciousness, waking up in a ruined building that seems to have once been his school, trapped in the body of his little sister.
    What follows is a bit messy, but he ends up contracted to the weaponized spirit, Rin, who was made from a Black Kirin (a spirit whose role is to speak of the end of the world) and forced to join the Seireichou, an organization dedicated to protecting the foreign world he finds himself in from foreign threats.  While he does this in order to find a way to retrieve his body, he ends up seriously helping them out, despite the cold cruelty of the leader (a loli named Mugen) and the general harshness of the world he finds himself in.
    This VN is a bit heavy on the gender-bending, so for those who don't like that kind of thing, you might want to avoid it.  There are good reasons why the protagonist's sexuality is so... fluid, but they are mostly used to amuse the reader, lol.
    Like Shirogane, this game has a relatively high ratio of serious story to slice-of-life in comparison to most VNs, with slice-of-life being almost entirely relegated to basic character development.  Unlike Shirogane's protagonist, Nagare isn't a natural philanderer... but he has his own issues, since his soul is gradually adjusting itself to his new body.
    Anyway, the story itself is typical Soleil... extremely hard on the characters, full of destruction and apocalyptic drama, and deliberately obscure at many points.  Anyone familiar with the typical Japanese take on the Cthulhu Mythos will figure out who is behind the villains of the story pretty quick.  However, it is nonetheless a nice, dark little story with innumerable bad endings and two separate paths to the various heroine endings (Ouka's arc contains all the heroines except Rin and Ruru). 
    Don't expect deep characterization... this company generally doesn't waste that kind of effort outside the main heroines of its games (Rin and Ouka in this case) and the protagonists.  As such, the endings other than that of the two main heroines are perhaps not as powerful... but I liked some of them, at least... especially the threesome ending with the two Valkyries. 
  4. Clephas
    Those of you who are familiar with Ojousama wa Gokigen Naname will probably wonder, "Why did he just introduce a non-heroine character before anyone else?"  The reason is fairly simple... this is a game that is defined at least as much by its antagonist as its protagonist and heroines.  This one of about a dozen VNs I'm replaying in parallel (as the mood takes me), and it is one of my favorites... as well as one of the two reasons I keep playing Ensemble games, even though they've made nothing but shit for the past three years.
    I'll let her introduce herself first, with a translated excerpt from her intro scene.
    鶴美「はしたないなんて、そんな意地悪言わないで? 私は仕方ないの」
    Tsurumi "Don't be mean by calling me 'vulgar'. I'm hopeless.
    Tsurumi "After all..."
    She took a long pause, giving me her best smile, and spoke.
    Tsurumi "I love money!"
    鶴美「子供の時も文集に、将来の夢『お金になりたい』って 書いたくらい、お金が大好きよ」
    Tsurumi "I love money so much that I wrote that 'I want to become money' in an essay as a child."
    Tsurumi "So, there is nothing that can be done about me.
    Hajime "..."
    鶴美「世の中の人は、人生はお金じゃないなんて 平気で嘘をつくけど、私は素直で純真なだけなんだ と思うわ」
    Tsurumi "People always lie with a straight face by saying that life isn't about money, but I think I'm just frank and pure.
    鶴美「私はお金を手に入れるためならなんだってするし、 1秒でも早く、1円でもたくさん欲しい」
    Tsurumi "I'll do anything to get more money, and I want as much money as possible as fast as possible.
    鶴美「お金より愛が大事だなんていう人は、 貯金を全部私にくれてもいいと思うの、ねえ」
    Tsurumi "I think that people say love is more important than money should give me their savings, don't you?"
    鶴美「私、誰かのお財布から根こそぎ洗いざらい、 何もかも奪い取るのって、だぁ~い好き♪」
    Tsurumi "I love nothing more than stealing everything from the insides of another person's wallet!
    鶴美「それでも“愛”は残してあげるんだから、 それも許されるって思わない?」
    Tsurumi "But I leave them 'love', so don't you think I can be forgiven?"
    It was hard to believe that I was hearing this from a person whose name was on not only Japan's richest people but those of the world as awhole.
    "'Those with wealth must do service to the masses.'"
    True aristocrats aren't excessively attached to money.  However, this person is a born money-grubber.
    When this person says that she 'loves' someone...
    ... it is another word for 'I am going to steal everything  you own'.
    More frightening than anything is the fact that she isn't lying when she says she loves someone.
    This woman, if someone gives her money or even if she steals it...
    She is a monster capable of loving them from the bottom of her heart...
    Because of that, dubious rumors abound about her having an illegitimate child, but I can say that is impossible without a doubt.
    Tsurumi does not love the opposite sex, nor a child, but rather money itself.
    鶴美「だから元くん? 早くお金ちょーだい♪」
    Tsurumi "So, Hajime-kun? Hurry up and give me some money."
    As you can probably guess from the excerpt above, Tsurumi is... more than a little insane.  She doesn't hide her motives at all from Hajime (though he misunderstands them at times), and she is unbelievably ruthless in the pursuit of money.   She isn't a heroine... nor is she a potential heroine (with good reason).  She's the antagonist who defines everything that can go wrong with an individual as a result of exposure to the twisted nature of old, wealthy families.
  5. Clephas
    Before I start this, I should probably explain the company known as AXL to the newbies. AXL, which is known for Shugotate, as well as a number of other high-quality VNs, is an 'old-hand' company that was started pretty soon after the turn of the century. They developed an extremely beautiful art style, as well as a penchant for high-quality fantasy and romance stories. The thing most people will notice upon playing any two AXL games is that the art-style is exactly the same... it still possesses somewhat thicker lines than is the norm for VNs nowadays, and the actual character faces and poses tend to be reused heavily between games. The saving grace of this is that the actual quality of the original art is so high that it still looks pretty today, so you find that you don't really mind, for the most part.

    The common route of this game is a lot closer to what you would have seen in their best games, in that it is heavy on the story and the character development. From the very beginning, you are encouraged to enjoy the protagonist breaking out of his shell and developing a relationship with the heroines, the youkai, and his new male friends. The youkai, looking like adorable stuffed toys for the most part, are mostly comedy elements, and the protagonist's relationship with the tanuki Shouji is perhaps one of the most consistently amusing aspects of it all.

    There is a definite serious element to the story (AXL doesn't believe in completely drama-free main stories, apparently), but that makes for much better character development during the common route. It certainly made the heroine choice about something more than who had the biggest breasts or the cutest nose! lol (this was nice after the somewhat... disappointing heroines that resided in most of the VNs I've read so far from May)

    I'm regretting, in some ways, choosing Minagi first. Why? Because I can't imagine a better heroine to have picked for the main/true one, haha. Minagi is the VN's 'fushigi-chan', a girl who prefers the forest to school and who avoids others' company like the plague. However, underneath her lonely mask, there lies an incredibly adorable girl that is unbelievably easy to love.

    Her actual route is actually one that would not have been out of place as a true one, in another VN. Right from the beginning, straight through the end, you are learning more and more about the setting, about Minagi, and about how she and the protagonist are related to it all. The drama that takes up the last part of her route is particularly fitting for a canon/true/main heroine, and I honestly think it was worth it to play this, even if just for this route. Most importantly, the ending/epilogue actually goes into detail about what happens to the heroine and protagonist afterward, concluding better than five years after the events in the main story.

    If I had to classify this game so far, I'd have to put it in the 'nakige' category, simply because of how deeply emotional it gets at vital moments and the fact that I spent most of the ending and epilogue crying (in a good way).
  6. Clephas
    Mmm... the first word that comes to mind with this VN is 'nostalgia'.  This VN isn't a high-budget affair... in fact, just from the looks and sound of it, it is fairly obvious it is on the lower-budget end of things.  The music is about as generic as it comes (fairly low-quality and lacking in variation), and, while there are character sprites for far more characters than is usual, the actual resolution outside of the h-scenes is fairly low. 
    This is a charage/moege, with no element that varies from the basic formula of the 'classic' charage.  The protagonist is a kind-hearted, somewhat lazy young man who is dense when it comes to the heroines' feelings (pfft), each of the heroines falls in love with him for his kindness and sincerity (pfft), and the heroine paths are all straight out 'fall in love>ichaicha>conflict>conflict resolved quickly>ichaicha>low detail ending' types.  The heroine paths were unimpressive, and neither the writing nor the story is worth writing home about.
    However, what this VN does very well is resurrect the old 'moe' visual+characterization that used to be the standard of the umbrella genre of moege in general.  The heroines are designed in such a way to make those familiar with moe culture like them despite the third-rate production values.  Their poses and character settings are designed to tickle those who grew up as otakus with the love-comedies of the first decade of the century, and I honestly ended up finishing it solely due to this... because, for better or worse, I loved the love-comedy anime that were so common near and just after the turn of the century. 
    Unfortunately, that really is all this VN has going for it.  The designers of this game are obviously moege nostalgists, and they made something that the ero-gamers of yesteryear will love.  Unfortunately, for modern erogamers, it isn't a particularly joyful experience, even in comparison to other charage/moege out there. 
    VN of the Month June 2016
    I'm going to be blunt... while I briefly considered Lamunation as a potential VN of the Month, it wasn't something that I could choose from an objective perspective.  It deserves an honorable mention, but it isn't VN of the Month.
    Otome Domain, while it was good... was not VN of the Month material.
    So, the conclusion is... that there is no VN of the Month for June 2016.  I don't have the energy or time to invest in a Softhouse Chara game right now, so I'm afraid that there isn't going to be a surprise entry from Planet Dragon, either. 
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