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Chronopolis

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    Chronopolis reacted to MayoeruHitori for a blog entry, Will VNs bring about a revolution in social games? A look at Heaven Burns Red and Tribe Nine.   
    Welcome back to my blog.
    Introduction
    You might have seen a few headlines about Heaven Burns Red and Tribe Nine, two upcoming mobile games from writers Maeda Jun and Kodaka Kazutaka.
    These aren't just your average games. They're ambitious ventures that blur the line between visual novel and social (AKA gacha) game.
    So I'm here today to talk about exactly why VNs fans should pay close attention to the potential of these two upcoming games, given both how unique their stories could turn out to be and  their implications for the VN industry as a whole.
    As an important disclaimer, like almost all social games, these two titles will probably be a bad fit for anyone who has a predisposition to gambling addiction. If you think that label could apply to you, my recommendation is: don't even consider playing them (or any other social game). Just stick with VNs, and watch these games' stories on YouTube or elsewhere later.
    The Worn Soil of the Visual Novel Industry, and Social Game Money Trees
    There's no question that Japanese visual novels have declined relative to their peak. (International VNs are very much on the rise, but that's another subject, and they have yet to reach Japan's heights anyway.) The golden age is far behind us, and there are no more VNs that turn into famous multi-industry franchises. The otaku community as a whole has shifted its interest away from VNs and back to anime and manga, or onward to the likes of isekai novels, doujin eroge, and social games.
    If you can't accept this and want to understand exactly when and why visual novels declined, check out this post's prequel, Notes on the past and hope of Japanese visual novels.
    Back in the heyday of VNs, CEOs of eroge companies were buying sports cars, and there was no lack of investors. When the decline happened, there were a variety of causes/symptoms, but the one that produced the most tremors in the industry is that the cash flow dried up. Somebody moved Baba's cheese. So where did the cheese go, then?
    The best answer is that it went to social games. In fact, the year that the sales decline of eroge leveled out (you might say that people finished evacuating) was the same year that there was a broad movement by the Japanese game industry to take their social games off of SNS and onto independent platforms like GREE to boost profits.
    No social game born from a visual novel IP has drawn more attention than Fate/Grand Order. True, Fate was already a massive franchise even before FGO, and that certainly helped the game succeed financially. However, the all-time revenue from console Fate/stay night is infamously less than a week's worth for FGO. FSN sold less than a million copies on all platforms, but the same core Type-Moon artist, writer, and pair of composers have built the creative foundation of a mobile spin-off with more than a million active users, and vast revenue thanks to whales.
    Bad Stories: An Inevitable Problem with Social Games?
    Visual novels have a reputation for deep and powerful stories. Social games don't, despite the fact that they share so many elements with VNs: they often have an ADV presentation style that's similar to VNs, talents from the VN industry often work on them, the plot can end up quite lengthy and complicated just like VNs, the player meets hero(in)es and builds relationships with them like in VNs, and so on. Instead, what social games have a reputation for is waifus/husbandos and fanservice.
    There's a reason for that reputation: developers' attitudes. As a genre, social games weren't developed with the goal of telling compelling stories; they were created in order to facilitate gameplay that leverages behavioral habits to encourage players' engagement and investment. And while the presence of VN-esque heroines can serve to boost players' engagement, lengthy VN-esque narratives are regarded by social game developers as an impediment to engagement, given the way consumers have trended away from VNs. As a result, social game scenarios are often short, and constrained by the gameplay's predetermined "plot" such as random monster attacks every 2 minutes. They even have silent protagonists, a convention that the story-driven JRPG and VN industries abandoned a long time ago.
    The truth is, developers' disregard for scenario quality actually isn't new at all. Leaders in VN and eroge companies have always had a pattern of naively thinking that the artist is the person who matters most in a VN's development, and that the writer is the person who matters least. In the early days, they would even hire absolutely anyone to be an eroge scenario writer, because they just didn't care. So it's a problem that many decision-makers in these companies are actually idiots whose presence does the social game industry a disservice.
    And so no, bad stories in social games aren't inevitable. In fact, many game development teams recognized their bad stories and belatedly tried to improve them. That's why you will often hear people say of social game stories "the later events at better" or "they didn't think it would be so popular early on..." Unfortunately, a bad story can't truly be fixed by additions to it; it should be at least rewritten, but that rarely happens. So what you have is an industry that's still full of bad stories, and producers who think that's perfectly natural.
    The Ambition to Create Deep Stories in Social Games: Enter Key and Too Kyo
    In December 2019, Key announced Heaven Burns Red. Key needs no introduction; their writer Maeda Jun's nakige Kanon was largely responsible for redefining VNs as emotional experiences in the first place. 1st beat was the last game he had direct involvement in. Pre-registrations are already open, and trailers and interviews have come out which show many indications that Heaven Burns Red has potential:
    The protagonist actually speaks, and forms clear emotional connections with other characters. Without a real protagonist, a social game story's prospects are much lower, because players can't self-insert as well; they wonder why an epic plot revolves around a character who has the expressiveness of an emoticon set. This is one of the major complaints people have toward social games with relatively good stories like Fate/Grand Order. Maeda Jun's humor is as spectacular as ever. Key's writer has once more created a world full of characters who are funny and distinct. Just a few lines spoken between them is enough to entertain or intrigue the player. Good comedy is one of the few things that can instantly grab a person and maintain their attention. Too few social games are actually fun to read early on. Baba, someone whose vision of visual novels' potential aligns with what I've talked about, is fully behind this. Baba Takahiro, a smart businessman who founded and still leads Visual Arts, has shared his views with the world in interviews. He had Key partner with WFS, a competent and experienced developer which has created some of the more story-oriented social games, like Another Eden and Shoumetsu Toshi. He has a realistic awareness that VNs are no longer as popular as they once were, but at the same time, as recognizes and wishes to continue to leverage the potential of VN-style stories to let players form deep attachments to characters. HBR is just one of many projects Baba has approved in order to help Key and its talents adapt to industry trends. You can count on there being nakige elements. This is clear from trailers, if it wasn't already clear from the fact that Baba will naturally leverage Maeda's talents. It's not like other social games haven't made many of their players cry before, via plot elements like tragic backstories and character deaths, but they don't be able to hold a candle to what Maeda can do. The scale is broad, as you'd expect from a social game that's been taken so seriously by its developers. There are already character designs and concepts for 48 main characters, Maeda involved in all of them, beyond the 12 who have been introduced so far. Even just as a social game, the production values and system look better than almost anything I've seen before. The 3D environments and models, special attack animations, character designs, music, and voice acting are all impressive. If you want more of a sense of what Heaven Burns Red is like, I recommend watching the first and second trailers.
    In February 2020, Too Kyo and Akatsuki announced a new social game called Tribe Nine. (For those who don't know, Too Kyo is a collaborative indie company established in 2017 which employs a number of creative talents, such as writer Kodaka Kazutaka the rest of the Danganronpa team, Zero Escape's writer Uchikoshi Koutarou, and Root Double's writer Nakazawa Takumi. They all left their former companies.) Anyway, at the time Tribe Nine was announced, it was a teaser that most people didn't pay much attention to. But in fact, half a year later, Too Kyo secretly went from an LLC to a corporation. Then earlier this year, they put out a call to recruit a number of new writers. While the scale of the changes at Too Kyo isn't clear yet, Nakazawa and Kodaka have described the company's atmosphere as intensely busy and full of enthusiasm.
    The game's storytelling approach comes from Kodaka. Like Baba, he has strong views about the potential of emotionally moving stories to redefine our expectations for game narratives, and he has enough ambition for 3 Babas. The scenario size is already more than the original Danganronpa's, and they plan for it to be more than double that before the game's release. Not that they will release it all at once. Danganronpa was easily a medium-sized VN. Having twice that written before release is unprecedented for a social game. For comparison's sake, the entirety of FGO's Arc 1 (through Solomon) is just comparable to a medium-sized VN that's on the long size, 750K characters. Great value is placed in the writers for Tribe Nine. Look at what I just said about the scenario size; the implication is that Too Kyo will output maybe half a million characters in just the next few months. While it's too early to make any definitive judgments, the implication from recruitment notices and Kodaka's comments about them is that Too Kyo's new writers have been directly enabled to create the kind of stories they want to tell, that they can be passionate about, and fit those stories into the world of Tribe Nine's Neo Tokyo. Both Heaven Burns Red and Tribe Nine are mobile games, with no PC ports or localizations announced yet. But it's clear that both Key and Too Kyo want to release their works in the West, and I believe that WFS (partnered with Key for HBR) is particularly equipped to make that happen, since they also localized Another Eden. Historically, every Too Kyo project has also seen localization, even simultaneously.
    Conclusion: Exploration and Wandering in Search of Forgotten Beauty and Prestige
    Social games are one of the most lucrative genres of video games in existence, thanks largely to whales' wallets, but also due to their popularity among ordinary people. Yet ironically, they are the subject of constant ridicule, and not just for their gambling elements. Even the most popular ones are often criticized as having generic, snoozefest stories and vapid, grindy gameplay.
    But if you look closely, there's a subset of fans who actually rave positively about social games' stories. Stories that are objectively "okay" at best, even if you don't factor in the bad gameplay that accompanies them. And the reason they do that is actually the same reason people might also praise the potential for lengthy VNs to immerse players: the more time players spend with characters, the more they become attached to them.
    When you wake up every day and tap on an app icon and see your waifu say hello on your home screen, take her into battle constantly, watch as new side episodes and versions and skins of her are released multiple times a year, browse tons of fan art, and so on... you become attached to that character, and all her idiosyncrasies. So even if some new event's plot that involves her is bland by any objective measure, it's still directly about someone you're fond of, who you just love to see talk and act--so you enjoy it. Consider a certain tiny dragon who's a generic JRPG mascot character with the catchphrase "I'm not a lizard" voiced by Kugimiya Rie, and who has zero character depth or character development ever... After you've watched 100+ short slice-of-life scenes involving him over the course of 2+ years, he feels like an old friend with a bit of a silly personality, it comforts your heart a little to just be around him, and you'll even create memes about his love of apples to share on Reddit or Discord. That's what it's often like to become a fan of these games, as a cognitive process.
    Long-lived social games are, inherently, epics. They are expansive worlds with vast casts of characters, explored over the course of months and years. And yet, they're even more than that. They're epics where the gameplay is designed to make us feel emotionally engaged with their world, in spite of their poorly written and ambiguously connected stories which only have a few occasional good scenes.
    If social games that follow these two upcoming games' example were to become the norm, I believe we'd have a chance to see a game that is simultaneously objectively great--at the very least, one tier below VNs' top tier--and epic in scale, and viscerally engaging. That kind of intensively integrated experience, which simmers alongside one's daily life, is something that I hope to one day get a taste of.
    But in the meantime, I will have to wait for these creators' attempts to pan out--for them to crack the code that will successfully fuse the charm of both social games and VNs. And so my eyes are on Heaven Burns Red and Tribe Nine.
    Misc. Reference
    It occurred to me that I didn't link to many sources for much of the info I have, so to help remedy that a bit, I've edited in this section to add a few links.
    https://news.denfaminicogamer.jp/interview/210930f Tribe Nine, Denfaminico Gamer interview with Kodaka
    https://voice.aktsk.jp/6773/ Tribe Nine, Akatsuki's interview with their producer Yamaguchi
    https://twitter.com/kaibutsukantoku/status/1444452237108039682 Tribe Nine translated info from above 2 articles
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNQNZiy7K2I Tribe Nine game promo movie (no gameplay shown)
    https://www.reddit.com/r/gachagaming/comments/poc3oo/what_we_know_about_heaven_burns_red_so_far/ HBR, good summary of info
    https://www.reddit.com/r/grandorder/comments/k31fxx/jp_script_size_by_singularity/ Source for FGO numbers
  2. Like
    Chronopolis reacted to kivandopulus for a blog entry, Shoujo Shin'iki ∽ Shoujo Tengoku 少女神域∽少女天獄 -The Garden of Fifth Zoa- [Lass]   
    Foreword: Shoujo Shin'iki has some English reviews already, but they tend to focus on negative sides (1 2 3) even though game deserves better. Synopsis: Shun has always wondered what was on the other side of the stone walls surrounding and beyond the tunnel out of Kaijou-shi ever since he was a child. However, he never ventured out since every time there was an opportunity to do so, he fell ill or there was some family business. After he graduated from Seihoukan Gakuen, he decided right then to leave his hometown. The next spring, he received a call from his mother, asking him to come back for the Seikousai festival which he had always attended since he was small. His family kept the items for the festival, but this year’s event will be even bigger than normal. His imouto Sana and osananajimi Yuki both had been chosen as the miko for the kagura dance. As he was returning back to Kaijou-shi on the train, he reflected on why he left his hometown. He had found nothing special on the other side, just the beginning of a new life. However, it felt like he had lost something along the way. Then he could hear his osananajimi’s gentle voice: “Shun-chan, it’s been a while since you’ve been back”. He felt like those words livened his spirits and comforted his heart. Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLwGwDxf37gEk09JR45yzp8YI97UXpaB0j   Character Design rating: 8/10 Protagonist rating: 6/10 Story rating: 7/10 Game quality: 8/10 Overall rating: 7/10 Basic information can be acquired from synopsis and other reviews, but I want to focus on ups and downs right away. So these five thing things are what game is sometimes criticized for: 1. A lot of scenes are present in all routes 2. All endings are the same, except for Sana's which is short and vague. 3. Story sucks as a typical creepy village with occult customs 4. Action scenes are boring 5. No character development for heroines   To tell the truth, these are hard to oppose, but I'll try, anyway. 1. Those scenes are mostly transition ones to each individual routes and final scenes that have to be the same for the game's purpose. 2. Game concept can justify three similar endings and one special ending for Sana. 3. Story is clearly hommage to Leaf's classical visual novel Kizuato, so it has to follow ancient concept from 1996 to  an extent. 4. Game is atmospheric mystery utsuge. Action scenes aren't focused on here. At times of conflict one side is usually seriously overpowered, so there can hardly be a proper battle. 5. Are there really that many games with character development for heroines? We're not growing a bride here, and protagonist is in the center of the conflict, not heroines, so why should they be developing. Shoujo Shin'iki is a complex construction built over classical visual novels centered around beast, primarily Kizuato. Both games have same clan/shrine that seals beast madness instincts in males of the same blood, in both games there are for heroines with the youngest heroine having a special ending if protagonist for several times denies intimacy suggested to him. But Shoujo Shin'iki also introduces occultism and a multiple-layer mystery. What makes Shoujo Shin'iki a masterpiece for me is breathtaking graphics and heroines, fantastic atmosphere, complex setting, those ugly yet memorable ending scenes and the impact. All this beauty is repeatedly crushed by a single occult power burst. This repeats over and over creating aura of inevitability. But there is redemption, a way out of this loop which is indicated by Sana's special ending. That's the whole conceptual meaning of it. No use to wait here an afterstory of how they got married and raised kids. It's just not that kind of a game. With all that game has enough depth and complexity for those who seek it. And it's a rarity in the game when the meaning is concealed in the depth of the game and not in the ending. And then rereading the game main part brings in new depth. But if it's a masterpiece, why just 7/10? Because I tend to take disturbing scenes like these badly. All those endings and preceding events with Honoka create a depressing impression. Same route construction repeats for the 4 routes, so I'd read only two if I knew beforehand. The package of the game says "Story does not always has a happy ending". This is exactly such case.   
  3. Like
    Chronopolis reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Akatsuki Yureru Koi Akari   
    This is the third game in Crystalia's series based on a world where a sport has grown up around using spiritual swords and a prequel to the original game, Kizuna Kirameku Koi Iroha.  For those who haven't played the other games, I can say that you might or might  not get more out of this game by playing the others first, as playing the original spoils you on the winner of the tournament and a few other issues.  On the other hand, this game also fills in a lot of gaps on characters from the original, such as Miyako and Tsubaki.
    I'm going to come out and say this outright... this game is probably the best of the three.  Why?  The more obvious reason is that the battles are generally better quality than the other two games.  However, the larger reason is the way it is structured.  Ninety-percent of the game is actually a straightforward seishun drama based around a class of talented dropouts and a teacher protagonist.  Romance doesn't change the outcome, and actual heroine paths are actually in the 'omake' section of the game, rather than being the main focus.  
    This comes as a trade-off.  For those who want romance to be the central element of their VNs, this game will probably be a disappointment.  However, if you like seishun drama with fierce competition and lively interaction between the characters, this is a first-class game.  
    The protagonist, Murakaki Iori, is a member of the JSDF's Tenju Tokka unit (wields Origami and Tenju as part of their tactics), and he gets pulled for a side mission involving educating a class full of talented individuals who normal teachers can't seem to handle.  Iori is, on the surface and for the most part, a good-hearted and hotblooded teacher with a true belief in acting in the best interests of his students and treating them equally.  However, he does have a somewhat traumatic past and that past isn't ignored during the story.
    Takamine Setsugekka is your classic 'aho no ko', also known as the 'idiot child' or 'airheaded' heroine.  She wields a close-in style wielding a ninjatou and hand-to-hand combat, and she starts out at the lowest point of all the heroines in terms of skill.  She occasionally, when hurt or driven to rage, goes berserk and wields immense power, but in this state she is easy to handle for an appropriately skilled opponent.  Typical of this kind of story, she grows the most in skill as time goes on.
    Suzakuin Momiji is, on the surface, a competent and cool swordswoman who focuses on taking apart her opponent's style and habits until she can predict and lead them down the path to destruction.  She wields a long katana similar to that of Sasaki Kojirou from Fate/Stay Night.  She is Tsubaki's (from the original) eldest sister.  However, behind the scenes she is a lazy young woman who can't be bothered to pick up her own trash or get out of bed if she isn't forced to.  In all honesty, the first time I saw her chugging non-alcoholic beer (apparently, when at her family home, she goes for the real stuff) with sashimi in her other hand, I fell in love, so I favored her from the beginning (yes, I'm a bit weird sometimes with my heroine preferences).
    Kuki Asahi is the younger sister of Iori's best friend and former rival, Kuki Takahisa.  From a very young age, she has been in love with Iori, but for some reason she has grown up into a very yandere-ish Iori-worshipper who will ruthlessly act to protect her hold on him.  Her preferred style is 'iai-battou', a defensive style where the user counters their enemies with draw-slashes.  Emotionally, she is perhaps the most volcanic of the characters, though I imagine some will say Setsugekka is.
    Tobe Ririmu is a gyaru swordswoman who has a rather unique style that is very-dance like, combining Tenju illusions with unusual steps with a difficult to predict rhythm.  In all honesty, I felt bad for how this game treats her toward the end.  While she has a strong presence throughout much of the game, that presence fades almost to nothing due to the events of the tournament near the end.  In a very real way, she is a character that existed solely to provide emotional firewood for certain events near the end.  She is something of a free-spirit, with a desire to combine fashion with Jindou, designing combat costumes and Origami skins.  In many ways, she is like your typical 'slightly delinquent-like child' character, especially when it comes to dealing with teacher-student issues.
  4. Like
    Chronopolis reacted to Zalor for a blog entry, Serial Experiments Lain Is Our Current Reality   
    Instead of a blogpost I did this one as an amateur documentary. I'm 100% serious about my claim. It might sound crazy, but if you watch the video I'm sure you'll at least see that my claim has a logical foundation to it. You don't need to have watched Lain to follow the video either. So if the topic interests you by all means check it out. 
     
  5. Like
    Chronopolis reacted to kivandopulus for a blog entry, Soukou Akki Muramasa 装甲悪鬼村正 [Nitroplus]   
    Foreword: I somehow did not play this Nitroplus game earlier, but its universally high scores are intriguing.  Synopsis: In the first half of 20th century, Rokuhara Shogunate rules Japan with an iron fist of robotic suits of armor called Tsurugi, while the West wants to turn Japan into another military base. A policeman called Kageaki Minato arrives into a city of Kamakura to solve various different cases involving Tsurugi users (or Mushas), and when all other means are proven useless, defeats them with a skillful use of his own Tsurugi, the bloody red Muramasa. But he doesn't do that out of justice. He only wants to atone for his past sins and to defeat the most powerful Musha, one known as the Silver Star. “The devil I shall meet, the devil I shall cut. The saint I shall meet, the saint I shall cut.” This is the phrase that Kageaki says when fusing with Muramasa, and this is the phrase that tells both his past and his future… "Good and evil balance out each other." "This is not a hero's story. Those who aspire to become heroes are not needed." Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLs4Gp5VU4Fv8FwPtJGPnPuXZexYlIOvlf   Character Design rating: 10/10 Protagonist rating: 10/10 Story rating: 10/10 Game quality: 10/10 Overall rating: 10/10 You see the scores. I was absolutely sure that nothing can beat Coμ - Kuroi Ryuu to Yasashii Oukoku this year since I rate it as 10/10, but Coμ is a conventional yet well done chunige while Muramasa is something abnormal, impossible, one of a kind - and in this regard beyond comparison. As usual, I'm going to be brief with impression since many people did it much better already (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9). Even more brief than usual since there is nothing to complain about. Can't attend any issues without mentioning the length of the game. It took me 105 hours to beat. That's insane. The script size says that it's roughly twice smaller than Steel and half smaller than Reconquista, but it's not how it feels as Steel took me 80 hours to finish and Reconquista just 42 hours. In Soukou Akki Muramasa some scenes need to be replayed for further routes, and everyone is voiced, so I guess it's an optical illusion of some kind, but it definitely feels that Soukou Akki Muramasa is the longest visual novel game that I ever played. Not going to trample over concept or characters (except that I hate Kanae for never opening eyes as eyes is the most important element in design of any character) - it has been done numerous times already. What I wish to focus on is what makes this game special. There are very few visual novels that don't center around heroines in some way. Most of those vns come from pre-Leaf era when there was no habit to prepare routes for different heroines (e.g. Eve: Burst Error or Luv Wave). Soukou Akki Muramasa does not focus on heroines at all. It's not a love story - heroines are just individualistic tag-alongs developing specific qualities inside protagonist. And for the same reason game is not afraid to get rid of the heroines. Routes distinction in Soukou Akki Muramasa is very formal and can be easily transformed to naming of personality traits or just remembering structure only by five plot chapters. Another thing that I adore in the game is constant urge to know what happens next. I can't actually remember any other visual novel with comparable thriller element involved. Text is very well done with descriptions and infodumping kicking in rarely. Everything is built around dialogues, and with every single side-character voiced it feels alive. Soukou Akki Muramasa hits all the right spots for me, but first chapter is worth reading even for chuni haters for its incomparable experience and impact. It's an epic integrate project that was only possible during golden age of visual novels. But its scale will astonish many generations to come.
  6. Like
    Chronopolis reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Litrpg series: Emirillia Chronicles   
    The Emirillia Chronicles by Michael Chatfield (incidentally my favorite litrpg author), the writer of the Ten Realms series, is one of the more fascinating ones I've come across.  Unlike the Ten Realms, which is fairly unfocused due to Erik and Rugrat's generalized motivations based on their personal ethics, desires, and whims, Emirillia has a somewhat clearer goal for the characters.  
    In the series, humanity was defeated by an alien empire called the Jukal, but the Jukal almost lost everything in the process.  Humanity's innovative and competitive nature made them devastating opponents, despite their lower tech base, so the Jukal decided to destroy them utterly... until one of them, a scientist named Lok'al, came up with the idea of tricking special-grown humans into killing more aggressive species for them.
    What they came up with is the Trapped Mind Project, where 'cycles' of people grown in a simulation of Earth, believing they are 'logging in' to a VRMMO, are physically manifested on the planet and sent against aggressive species.  Natives of Emirillia are also human variants, made by tweaking DNA to make them seem like the legendary races (dwarves, gnomes, elves, demons, angels, dragons, etc).  By the time the protagonist, Austin Zane, 'logs in', over eight hundred years have passed and Emirillia has become something of a reality TV show for the Empire, used as the 'opiate of the masses'.  Aggressive races that would have been exterminated previously are instead used as opponents for Players, and the POE (People of Emirillia) get caught in the crossfire, more often than not.
    The protagonist is a brilliant engineer and scientist, a man who managed to exceed the parameters of the Earth simulation by creating a company that mined space and dumped the resources on Earth (something that normally didn't happen), and his desire to enter the 'game' was to build a cabin and get away from everything.  Unfortunately for him, Bob (Lok'Al) has other plans, and Dave (as Austin comes to call himself) is too good-hearted and active by far to sit idly once he knows what is going on.
    Generally speaking, much like the Ten Realms, this is a series for people who like to see the characters growing in power and helping others growing in power.  It is also a series for those who like innovative and brilliant main characters (as the main ones are) and nasty characters getting their comeuppance.  It is a rather large series (12 books), but I honestly hardly noticed the passing of time while I read it.   This game has a significantly stronger western influence compared to the Ten Realms, which was more influenced by xianxia cultivation stories than anything else.
  7. Like
    Chronopolis reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Litrpg series: Project Crysalis   
    Since I'm still messing around with Cabbit's new game, I thought I'd drop a short review of a litrpg series I just finished reading.
    Project Crysalis is based in a future where Earth has been abandoned (not because it is ruined anymore, but because the first non-Terrestrial human nation forced people to leave) in favor of living in colonies all across our solar system.  The main political and scientific power in the first three books is Lunar, a nation built on the Moon that began when a private corporation morphed into its own nation-state and managed to completely defeat the Terrestrial nations when they tried to challenge their independence.  
    That said, it is still a solar system of many nations, with Lunar essentially being the mammoth whale in the room that everyone pretends not to be scared by.
    The protagonist of the story, known for most of the story by his preferred game handle of Sagie, was one of many orphans that were presented with their first parents - in a virtual realm - at the age of twelve, when he was first allowed the use of a full immersion pod.  While he experiences a brief period of blissful happiness (mostly due to how good of a fit he is with his new family), a horrid betrayal by someone he trusts ends up with him exiled to the in-game Hell, where he is subject to the kind of suffering (and the pain is real) that is really, really hard to picture, even with vivid descriptions from the author, John Gold.  
    As for how he handles it... well, Sagie isn't exactly a fragile sort.  Rather than rerolling, like most would expect, his desire to return to his virtual (but realer than life) family drives him to climb his way up through a very horribly realistic Hell, inuring himself to suffering and gaining power along the way.  For those with a weak stomach, most of the ways he gains power are pretty morbid.  He uses blood rituals, necromancy, eats demons, and deliberately goes out of his way to strengthen his resistance to the various types of damage and pain Hell can dish out.  Sagie, while he was extremely focused even before his fall into Hell, becomes focused to the point that it is almost painful to read his story at times.
    The first four books basically focus on his adventures in Project Crysalis, as the virtual world essentially shits on him at every turn (Shield Hero had it easy in comparison).  He tries to help people, he's seen as a monster.  He tries to defend himself, he is seen as a monster.  To be honest, I cried more than once for him, just because it was so godawful.   
    The last two books are... a different animal entirely.  To be honest, in order to avoid spoiling it, I'll only say that those who came to love Sagie in the first three books will be frustrated for large portions of the second three.  I know I was.  That's not to say it wasn't interesting, it was immensely so.  However, I often felt cheated, because I loved following that manic little demon while looking over his shoulder in fascination to see what crazy idea he will come up with next (and many of his ideas really are insane).  
    The last two books are full of conspiracy, horror, and self-sacrifice on a grand scale.  Even just taken on their own, they would be first-class books.  There just isn't that much of Sagie there until the final entry, where you get to see him up to his usual craziness, albeit in a way that is quite different from before.
    Overall, it is an excellent book series.  It has its bumpy parts and can be frequently frustrating or emotionally painful to read, but for those willing to delve into it, it is completely worth it.
  8. Yes
    Chronopolis reacted to Jardic47 for a blog entry, Writing and VNs: Life's struggle.   
    Hello everyone, Jardic again. I told myself that I wasn’t going to post something so soon after my last one, but I was going through my old computer and I found some old stories I have written over the years and forgot I have written. Most of them were either fanfics or stuff I have written about and scrapped. It was probably sophomore year in high school that I have started writing that I started writing stories and thought about taking it seriously. I never took anything so seriously before and I didn’t have the drive to do anything until my English teacher taught me about not limiting myself. I was an outcast and didn’t like anything I was reading at the time, so I took up writing so I could read what I have written. I found it fun and a lot of people told me that I was good at my craft and I thought about doing this for a living.
     
    Then in 2015 or 2016, I found VNs for the first time through a flash game I found on the internet. I was looking for an escape since I lost my job a few months earlier and I was looking for something to play. I think was a crappy game made by Dharker Studios. I forgot the name of the game, but I remember the maker. I didn’t get into VNs honestly until I started buying games from Mangagamer, Sekai and Jast more frequently. I used to be a massive fan of anime when I was a kid and I never had a reason to go back until then. I didn’t grow up with people who watched the same stuff I did, I felt alone in that sense. But I’m getting off topic. Those stories made me a better writer in the process and I felt like I have found my purpose in life.
     
    I felt like the world was against me since I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. I was told that I was never going to be normal and I accepted that. I knew I was different, but I didn’t let that stop me. I wouldn’t be talking to you all if I was scared of what people would say. I don’t want people telling me that I’m not good enough to be a writer and throw it down the drain for nothing. My entire family thinks I’m crazy anyway, so I spent most of the time with my thoughts alone. Eventually, I will do something that they will accept me, but right now, they can just hate me for all I care.
     
    I’m writing all of this because I am fixing to do something I may regret, or it may turn out awesome. I’m working on my first VN. It’s called Kazoku No Watashi No Sentaku or My Family of Choice. I’m working on it for a while and I am currently working on the script for the VN and I will post it when it is finished. If anyone is an artist or a musician or knows someone who is, let me know. I can’t draw at all due to my motor skills and I’m looking for some music anyway. I’m currently working on the script and trying to work some things out on Ren’Py. If you want to get in touch with me, look for me on discord. Hopefully, I can get this done and into your hands in the future. Until then, I’ll do what I can with what I got. Take care and I will see you next time.
  9. Like
    Chronopolis reacted to Jardic47 for a blog entry, Are visual novels being treated fairly?   
    Hello everyone. My name is Jardic and I just thought of something that I got me thinking tonight. I was looking around the internet and I was reading Reddit and here on Fuwanovel and I was wondering what the deal is with people saying that they like a visual novel and it is always the same visual novels time and time again. I know people like the medium for different reasons, but when I look up a list of VNs people like, it is the same ones as another person I saw. I also know that it is a niche market for people to like these games but come on. If I was wanting to know what VN to play, chances are I already have that game on my hard drive. No one talks about the obscure visual novels and I was wondering why that was? It just bugs me to see the same the same VNs on someone’s list and I don’t see a person to give me a reason to purchase more visual novels.
     
    I know the previous paragraph was a little harsh, but it’s the truth with some of the things this genre of games gives me. I wish that there were more visual novels compared to video games so that people can recommend me a visual novel that can raise my interest a little more. I wish more people could be more interested in VNs so that there would be more games to offer. Sadly, I wish I could see that happening, but I know it will remain a niche market.
     
    I remember when I got into this medium of games three years ago and I thought it was a million times better than what I was playing at the time. Most of the games I played before visual novels were your typical action games like GTA or shooters like Call of Duty, but I digress. All I am saying is that I wished the visual novel community was more diverse in what they play. I’m not trying to say that everyone’s list is a bad list, I’m just saying that putting some games on a pedestal is not a good thing sometimes. I come to these communities to find out when some VNs are being released and to see if there is another visual novel to raise my interest.
     
    Sorry for saying stuff that might trigger some people, but I thought this blog would be a good idea to vent a little bit. Let me know what you think, and I will see you guys next time.
  10. Like
    Chronopolis reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Reflecting on my Otaku Origins   
    I took my first steps onto the road of the otaku in 1992, when I watched the poorly dubbed (all dubs were godawful back then) Record of Lodoss War Volume 1 OVA VCR tape.  Now, I was already a heavy fantasy addict, having been introduced to the Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance in 1990, and my obsession was at its peak at the time.  When I watched Record of Lodoss War, I saw the typical 'elven maiden with human hero' romance in a new way (incidentally, this is a pretty typical romantic theme in those days, less so nowadays).  I also saw oddities that stood out as odd to me precisely because of the oddly black and white point of view enforced on one by the various D&D universes.  
    Of course, I was a chuunibyou brat by that time, already, so it should surprise no one that I got obsessed.  It got ten times worse, however, when I encountered Chrono Trigger as it was played on my cousin's SNES.  Chrono Trigger is still, to this day, one of the single best rpgs ever made.  Looking back, considering all that has been done since then, it is almost TERRIFYING that someone was able to do what was done with Chrono Trigger with the limitations placed by using the SNES system.  The story, the world, and the various layers of time were put together into such a subtly complex experience that, to this day, I've yet to see any other rpg manage it.  Chrono Cross would manage to imitate some elements of this with its parallel world jumping, but Chrono Trigger's jumping around in time gave you impetus to explore how every aspect of the world could change based on how and when you did certain things.  Rumors constantly abounded that there were secret endings (such as the infamous 'vampire Chrono' or 'Save Schala' fake rumors, which some believe led to the way the Chrono Cross storyline was handled), and people - such as me - would play the game repeatedly, using all the meager saves allowed by the cartridge limitations of the time, in hopes that they might trigger those endings or find a way to discover something new.  
    In all honesty, Chrono Trigger being the game that got me into jrpgs probably ruined me for life.  It set my standards to a ridiculously high level on a subconscious plane, resulting in me comparing every single jrpg experience since then to it.  Aesthetically, musically, and structurally, it was a true jrpg kamige.  It was also the game that turned jrpgs into my second otaku obsession.
    During the SNES-PS2 eras, I literally bought and played EVERY jrpg that came out.  I still own them, in fact.  I played most of the PS1 and SNES era games multiple times.
    However, it was also in the PS2 era (often called the 'dawn of the mainstream jrpg') that jrpg quality began to fall off drastically.  The kind of genius and artistic flair using minimal resources you saw in previous eras was lost entirely within a few years of the release of FFX (FFX being a good game that also turned VO from a curiosity to a mainstream 'thing').  Musical direction, a role differing from composition, where someone was assigned to decide the timing of using a musical score and which ones fit which dungeons, which story scenes, disappeared in the middle of the PS2 era, as VO was used to fill the gaps of emotionality.  However, this also meant that the subtlety of previous eras was lost with a swiftness that left me bewildered at the time.  
    By the time the PS3 era came around, jrpgs were slowing down, due to what I now call 'flashy kusoge fatigue'.  Oh, a few sub-genres, such as the Atelier series' alchemy obsessed SOL titles and the more action-based titles continued to be prolific, but what were called 'console-style rpgs' started to vanish.  MMO elements were introduced into normal jrpgs, making progression and gameplay less interesting as a result (mostly because it seemed to have been done primarily to draw the WoW crowds into solo rpgs).  Storytelling was dying a surprisingly swift death, as tedious gameplay elements (for loot and level-obsessed completionists) began to devour higher and higher proportions of each game's overall playtime.  
    There is a very good reason why people go back and play so-called 'retro' jrpgs so much.  There simply aren't that many more recent jrpgs that have that kind of flair and subtle genius.  I know for a fact that one of the best ways to get people addicted to jrpgs is still just to let them play Chrono Trigger.  
    Ironically, it was VNs that saved my soul.  This was back in 2008, four years before I joined Fuwa.  I was introduced to Tsukihime by a fellow anime fansubber, and, for the first time in over three years, I had something interesting enough (story-wise) that I was given a perspective on the nature of my growing irritation and fatigue with jrpgs in general.  At the time, the JVN industry was still as vital and full of genius as the jrpg industry was in the PS1 era.  Tsukihime and a few other major classics put out near the turn of the century had created the potential for a market of story-focused VNs that had allowed more and more creative people to get into the medium.  Masada was releasing his latest version of Dies Irae, and there were literally hundreds of potentially interesting VNs for me to try.
    Needless to say, I lost my mind almost as badly as when I first played Chrono Trigger.  I must have blown four grand of my meager savings on VNs within the first year, and I didn't regret a penny of it.  Yes, roughly two-thirds of what I bought was pure crap.  However, the gems I discovered gave me a taste of the potential of the medium in a way that was horribly addictive.  Moreover, after a few years of being starved of any decent new stories, even the worst VNs had something that I could find I liked about them.  
    In retrospect, I have an addictive personality.  I get addicted to things easily, especially when they scratch my story bug.  People have said to me, when it came to my jrpg obsession 'if you want a good story, why don't you read a book?', to which I usually gave them a blank stare and said 'I'm already reading good books.  I just want stories in my games too.'  
    Interestingly enough, there were a few bursts of true creativity in jrpgs in the years since, like Tales of Berseria and Nier: Automata, but they partially stand out due to the sheer bleakness of the genre landscape.  People praise Octopath Traveler and Dragon Quest XI with intensity, and they practically worship Bravely Default.  However, I have been shocked at how low-quality the presentation of these stories has been.  It's like an entire generation has gotten used to ineptness in presentation to the point where they can be charmed by backhanded efforts at retro-nostalgia.  Octopath has all the grind of the old SaGa Frontier games with none of the charm, the best part of each of the paths being at the beginning.  Dragon Quest XI retains the horribly grindy nature of Dragon Quest games without improving on the formula in any real way.  Moreover, locking so much content into the post-game annoys the hell out of me (I prefer new game +, obviously).  
    JVNs have suffered their own decline, which is ironically due to the same demographics that inflated the medium in the first place (the dominance of the moe/charage lovers).  VNs were always destined to be a niche medium, but the over-specialization of the industry has led to an inability to adapt to changing spending habits and demographics.  Even if they wanted to regear for a new generation of consumers, most companies no longer have the access to the necessary talent to do so.
    I'm fairly sure that jrpgs suffer from a similar lack.  Yes, there are some excellent composers and graphic designers in the jrpg industry, as well as access to the solid voice-acting industry of Japan and the growing one here in the US.  However, there is a severe lack of writers capable of bringing a story to life, and there is no point in a top-tier OST that has no one to properly coordinate its use.  The very fact that something like Undertale could bury so much of the commercial rpg industry, in the eyes of rpg fans, says everything about how far the industry has fallen.
    So what am I getting at?  Not really anything, in truth.  I just needed to blow off some steam.  Thank you for reading.
  11. Like
    Chronopolis reacted to kivandopulus for a blog entry, Concerto Note コンチェルトノート [Applique]   
    Foreword: I guess Concerto Note won the poll for extra review, because of partial English release that turned out to be a total scam covering literally only the first three minutes of the game where absolutely nothing is told, and no introductions are made. A lot of years ago I took this bait as well. Now it's time to satisfy that curiosity.
    Synopsis: Shinya is stuck! He is forced to leave school when he comes back to school after long hospitalization. But one day, he meets his childhood friend, Rito, and she tells him about a new school and an western-style old house. Like this, he comes back to his hometown and meets Wakana, Shirayuki, Seika, and Sayori there. Kind people and new house... One night, a strange girl appears in front of him and says, "You'll die in ten days..." Her name is Tama and she kindly gives him the power to prevent it. However, this means he borrows luck from her in advance. From that day, various mishaps happen to Shinya and his friends. To stop it, they will need to get rid of other people's misfortunes... Youtube:https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLs4Gp5VU4Fv9VENhmo_xhRdI9BEcFEP8I Game type: Plotge
    Character Design rating: 8/10
    Protagonist rating: 6/10
    Story rating: 6/10
    Game quality: 7/10
    Overall rating: 7/10
    As usual, if game has review coverage, I'm happy to present it (1 2 3 4). I did not pick this game on my free will earlier, because I'm strongly prejudiced against games revolving around luck concept. It's just so unrealistic that it makes me want to facepalm. Concept is rather simple and it's all in the synopsis. Tama prevents death and that eats up all protagonist's luck. Concerto Note is called a game for Rito and Tama for a serious reason. Other four main heroines have rather simple personalities and routes composition. In those routes H events are piled at the end, and luck mystery is resolved half-heartedly or even susbstitured with love, so protagonist can't see Tama anymore. Rito route on the other hand only has short H scenes in the middle, but the focus is on resolving the mystery up to the end of the route. Basically, only Rito route makes Concerto Note a plotge. Rito also has outstanding personality being an excessively rational genius and a childhood friend. But if you think that game revolutionarry breaks with tradition starting from ToHeart to present childhood friends as boring vegetables, you're only half right, because Wakana plays this role here just fine. Don't have much to say about this game, so let's see its downsides. Graphics is rough in many CG. Flowchart is pretty much useless as its only meaning is to present routes in forced order. Game has little humor in it. True End reminds me of Air too much, and I hate Air. Main character produces positive impression in SOL scenes, but suddenly becomes abuser in H events. Other four main heroines did not impress me, even Seika failed to meet expectations. I evaluate the whole luck concept really low. After Rui wa Tomo o Yobu approach to dealing with the curse is much weaker in Concerto Note. Basically, Rito is the only element that makes game memorable and outstanding. Interaction with her is always interesting, so I'll let the game slip as girigiri masterpiece. But there are other good features as well. Three male sub-characters are actually depicted rather well, not like usual placeholders for classmates. But what allows to keep reader's attention is good tempo and absence of forced scenes. Flow feels natural. So I'd say that text is skillfully written as it manages to advance story painlessly without tilt into humor or parody. I'd say that Concerto Note is a good game for beginners or those who can accept such concept. I could not suppress irritation during the read.  
  12. Like
    Chronopolis reacted to kivandopulus for a blog entry, VN of the Year 2008 and POLL for EXTRA review   
    Year 2008 started with two failed months, continued strong, but by the end lost a lot of appeal for me. There is not a single full 10/10 masterpiece (although technically Dies irae reworked version may be counted), but the overall number of masterpieces is again 20, exactly the same as in 2007, so can't complain here. New portion of Visual Novel Openings 2008 with songs.
    My list of masterpieces in 2008:
    11eyes -Tsumi to Batsu to Aganai no Shoujo- 12Riven -The Ψcliminal of Integral-  428 ~Fuusa Sareta Shibuya de~ Aion Garden Aoishiro Bifronte ~Kugaitou Kitan~ Chrono Belt ~Ayakashibito & Bullet Butlers Crossover Disc~ Concerto Note  Eien no Owari ni G-senjou no Maou Gouen no Soleil -Chaos Region- Kagerou Touryuuki Kara no Shoujo Nidaime wa ☆ Mahou Shoujo Princess Frontier Rui wa Tomo o Yobu  Sora o Tobu, 3tsu no Houhou  Sumaga Tri☆Stars Volume 7 A number that becomes magical for each year. Wanted to catch up with micchi blog that started monthly overviews in late 2008, and I'm finally there. As for VN of the Year, i'd nominate 12Riven -The Ψcliminal of Integral- .
    Covered three years in visual novels over these eight months, but now I'm taking a month or so break from new posts - will rest, update old posts with newly added works and fulfill a number of youtube requests to add leftover routes. See you somewhere in October. But last post before the short break will be extra review for the year 2008, of course. Traditionally, adding here untranslated masterpiece games that I did not pick up for review throughout the year, and if five slots aren't filled, getting some curious non-masterpieces in addition. Let's choose an EXTRA review for 2008 in this poll:
    Concerto Note  Sin Kurotoki Iro no Shoujo Sora o Tobu, 3tsu no Houhou  Sumaga Wizard Girl Ambitious
  13. Like
    Chronopolis reacted to kivandopulus for a blog entry, 永遠の終わりに Eien no Owari ni [Tama-Soft]   
    Foreword: There was very limited selection of games to choose from in December, but I chose Eien no Owari ni because of phrase unfinished masterpiece that I glanced in some review. The fact that Tama-Soft made Lost Child also matters a lot for me.

    Synopsis:
    There is a high school that will be closed down soon - one day, Keisuke transfers to that very specific school. On his first day, he visits the newspaper club, but Ryo, the club's leader, acts very coldly towards him. He soon finds out that the club has been doing nothing due to lack of club members. For some reason, the members are also very distant from each other...
    He gets interested in their strange relationship and decides to join the club. After joining, the atmosphere of the club gradually changes and their new relationship is established. However, he accidentally gets to know the reason why the members used to be distant to each other. It happened just when he transferred to the school...
    Youtube:https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLs4Gp5VU4Fv9HyOG7idnOMuKaGgSeqEFs
    Game type: Growth mystery nakige
    Character Design rating: 8/10
    Protagonist rating: 7/10
    Story rating: 7/10
    Game quality: 5/10
    Overall rating: 7/10

    In the end it's a SOL nakige with a twist of mystery, so just not a fitting genre for me, but still a masterpiece! It usually says a lot. It's rare to find something original and with human-like heroines in nakige, but it's exactly such case. But let's not jump to conclusions before the main part.

    Concept is actually unusual. I can't avoid minor spoilers which are needed to promote uniqueness of this game. So Keisuke comes to school and tries to unite newspaper ghost club who suddenly broke apart after some incident last year. And first week of the game is just perfect, a supreme masterpiece. Then during second and third week nothing really new happens, and at all ends in super aggressive development and denouement. As for scenario parts, we start as Keisuke, but then after flagging a heroine we suddenly turn into past with another protagonist Keiichi. And we already know that something bad happened to Keiichi, which resulted in club stopping activities. And we eventually get to the point when this something bad happens. But afterwards we get to present already, but we can't be sure of protagonist identity anymore. It might be Keisuke, might be Keiichi, might be the same person. Keisuke disappears from everyone's memory. It remains as a big mystery. And basically in this game past determines future. Past incident is different for each heroine, so future differs greatly, but considered the bad incident it's unwise to expect a happy ending.

    There are a lot of downsides of this game, hence the unfinished masterpiece label. Engine is even worse than in Lost Child in my opinion. I did not find text speed settings, so in the end text drew not instantly for me, and with higher than needed speed. Scenario is not impressive and has inconsistencies of common route with individual routes due to multiple scenario writers. Heroines are not flashy and lack charm. There are a lot of colorful side-characters, but none of them has voicing, so silence can last for a long time. Hozuki route is significantly shorter than the other two, and since Hozuki route is supposed to be the last, it creates a bad aftertaste. Absence of happy ending does not help evaluation either. There are only three routes which is below standard of four-five nowadays. No true route.

    In game's defense, it is able to nurture sense of uniqueness and present great nostalgia atmosphere and bgm. First week is the paragon of an inspiring beginning. Game is able to remain mysterious thanks to the false protagonist move. Heroines in this game are very human-like, not tied by any cliche. Clumsy relations with these heroines are really cute. It's very rare nowadays when creators realize the inevitable bad impression, but stay true to their concept and don't introduce standard elements to appeal to everyone. Eien no Owari is the last and lesser known game of Tama-Soft, but discovering such gems is twice as pleasant.

  14. Like
    Chronopolis reacted to Zalor for a blog entry, The Other 4chan VN   
    Lesser known than its more popular sister, The Dandelion Girl is another VN that at least started its development by anonymous users on 4chan. And like Katawa Shoujo it's quite good, although very different. And in fact, I think it contrasts quite nicely with Katawa Shoujo.
    Katawa Shoujo very intentionally strove to conform to the standard visual novel formula. Hence why it takes place in Japan, in a high school, has branching routes with various heroines, and even included H-scenes. I think the goal of Katawa Shoujo was to make a solid entry in the visual novel landscape within the standards commonly set by the High School romance genre it chose.
    The Dandelion Girl on the other hand is not an original story, being an adaptation of a short-story of the same name by Robert F. Young. To me this was a breath of fresh air, as I always welcome VNs that see themselves more as digital books then as games. The early to mid 2000's doujin scene seemed to embrace this mentality a bit with works like Narcissu and True Remembrance, and accordingly the art style of The Dandelion Girl somewhat reminds me of True Remembrance.
    In fact as a whole the Kinetic Novel genre/medium seems to be a weird bastard child of VNs that probably would see more success with print novel readers rather than with it's current target demographic of VN readers. Which is probably at least among the reasons that The Dandelion Girl seems to be languishing in relative obscurity. But it is a solid adaptation which really places the reader in the world of the original short story.
    Its opening scene where the screen fades into a view of a blue sky with a melancholic piano piece playing in the background creates a strong ambiance which contextualizes the writing quite nicely. Overall the music and visuals do a good job supporting the writing. Never interfering with it by being overly flashy, nor contradicting the mood of the prose. It serves its purpose by distracting your eyes and ears, and allowing your mind to effortlessly focus on the story. And before you know it, you'll be finished with the heart warming tale and left with a cozy feeling inside.
    If Katawa Shoujo is nice meal, than The Dandelion Girl is a nice evening snack to accompany your tea.
  15. Like
    Chronopolis reacted to Darbury for a blog entry, Killing the ellipsis (“...”) in VN translations   
    Let’s not mince words here. The ellipsis is a blight upon English translations of visual novels. It must be uprooted and killed with fire.
    Before the slaughter begins, however, let’s review some basics. As the name suggests, the ellipsis represents an elision — that is to say, omitted content. It functions as the “yadda yadda” of the English language. It is the “Step 2: ???” before the all-important “Step 3: Profit!” A writer deploys those three little dots to indicate either the intentional removal of something that once was there, or the pointed absence of something that should have been there.
    That’s it. That’s what the ellipsis is supposed to do. You wouldn’t know this, however, by reading nearly any English translation of a Japanese visual novel. Ellipses are scattered across the text like so many rhinestones on the sweatshirt of a Midwestern mom. They’re at the beginning of sentences, the ends, stuck randomly in the middle — sometimes even chained end to end like a writhing Human Centipede of punctuation, each little dot in the chain crying, “Kill me now!” into the anus of the next.
    It’s an absolute abattoir in there.
    This particular road to hell is paved with good intentions, however. You see, all those ellipses are also present in the original Japanese and, in an attempt at faithful translation, the TL teams have left them all sitting there for you to enjoy. The original writer had a reason for putting them in, the reasoning goes, and it’s our job to offer the purest translation of his/her vision possible.
    This, of course, is bollocks. Punctuation operates differently in different languages. Japanese ellipses are used much more liberally than their Western forbearers, particularly in popular culture (e.g., manga. light novels, etc.) Want to indicate a pause? Ellipsis. Silence? Ellipsis. Passage of time? Ellipsis. Need to fill some empty space? Ellipsis. Is it Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday? Ellipsis, ellipsis, ellipsis. When ported over to English, most of these usages look less like carefully crafted sentences and more like a transcript of a particularly drunken Snapchat session.
    Put simply, what works in one language doesn’t always work in another. When I’m translating a Line of Text from German, for Example, I don’t capitalize all the Nouns because that’s how it was in the Original. I normalize it for English. The same needs to be done in any VN translation.
    My current rule of thumb while editing — I’ll bold it for you in red here — is as follows: Remove/replace all ellipses in a line of Japanese text unless doing so irreparably breaks the sentence or significantly changes its meaning.
    Luckily for us, English has a toolbox full of punctuation to get the job done. Commas, semicolons, periods, dashes — they’re all your friends. So let’s discuss some common situations in VNs and how we might handle them.

    The trailing ellipsis
    You’ll see lots of these littering the ends of sentences and lines, mostly to little effect. More often than not, they indicate a thought closing on anything other than a 100% full and decisive stop. Since they don’t hold the place of omitted text, we can almost always replace these ellipses with periods.
    There are a handful of situations, however, where keeping a trailing ellipsis makes sense. These include:
    The Pregnant Pause: 
    When something’s strongly implied at the end of a sentence/line, but left unsaid for dramatic effect.
    The ellipsis fills the place of the implied content, so it gets to stay. (Fun bonus fact: pauses are the only things that can get pregnant in VNs.)
    The “And So On”:
    When a statement is implied to continue for an unspecified length beyond the end of the sentence/line.
    The ellipsis here indicates there may have been a few more beers after Michelob, but the writer has decided to spare us and jump straight to Bob’s objection. Had this been more interruptive in nature, with Bob cutting Joe off immediately after “Michelob,” the ellipses would have replaced with an em-dash (—).
    The Trail-Off: 
    Similar to the “And So On,” but with the character choosing to let a statement taper off into nothingness, rather than the author.
    The opening ellipsis
    You’ll see these slightly less often, but they’re by no means infrequent. Typically, they indicate some slight hesitation at the beginning of a line of dialogue. But again, the nuance ends up being so slight and the impact so watered down through overuse that you’re almost always better off removing these ungainly beasts. An exception can be made for:
    The Reverse Pregnant Pause: 
    Just like the original Pregnant Pause, but it appears at the beginning of a sentence. Often holds the place of something a character doesn’t want to say.
    Rather than just pausing in passing, Joe is actively not admitting he thinks Joe is a jackass. That makes this line a strong candidate for an ellipsis.
    The mid-sentence ellipsis
    So, so many of these. You’ll close your eyes at night and they’ll haunt you. They’re almost always meant to indicate a slight pause in speech or thought, but trying to the read the resulting text is an exercise in frustration. There are... just so... many unnecessary... gaps. (Full disclosure: When writing scripts for TV, I’ll use ellipses like this a lot. But that’s for a very specific purpose: helping to communicate the particular rhythm of a line to the actor(s). I always avoid this in audience-facing text.)
    In almost all cases, unless there’s a marked pivot in thought, a comma will suffice.
    If the ellipsis is holding together two complete yet interwoven thoughts, a semicolon will do nicely.
    If the ellipsis is holding together two complete and independent thoughts, a period should be used.
    If ellipses are used to indicate an interruptive thought, one that breaks the main flow of the sentence, em-dashes can be used.
    Again, there are a couple situations where these mid-sentence ellipses can remain:
    The Ta-Da:
    When a pause is used for obvious dramatic effect, the ellipsis should be kept.
    The Shatner:
    When halting or stilted speech is intended for dramatic/comedic effect, ellipses may be retained.

    The empty line ellipsis
    You’ll see a lot of these. Holdovers from manga and light novels, they are explicit indicators of silence, being at a loss for words, holding one’s tongue, etc.
    In English prose, these silences would normally be held with narration — e.g., “Baconator just sat there, dripping ketchup.” You’d never see a sentence such as: ‘Harry Potter said, “...” and continued looking out the window.’ That’s because, unlike most VNs, traditional novels don’t have the crutch of character sprites and name cards appearing alongside dialogue. Due to such VN conventions, along with the technical limitations of translation — it’s frequently impossible to replace character dialogue with unvoiced narration — you should almost always leave these ellipses in place. Based on your best judgement, you can also choose to leave such variants as the questioning silence ("...?") and the excited/alarmed silence ("...!").
    It should be noted that such empty line ellipses can also be used outside of dialogue. Often, these will just indicate time passing. There’s also a long tradition in Japanese art of the “pillow” — a held moment of contemplative emptiness. It’s the bit of formal textual throat-clearing at the start of a poem. It’s the 10-second cutaway to a babbling brook that connects two scenes in a movie. In a VN, this pillow can evidence itself as a single line of narration, empty save for an ellipsis. There’s no good English alternative for this, so it should be kept wherever you encounter it.
    Extra credit: The multi-line ellipsis
    I saved this one for last, because it’s a bit of a special case. Against all my better instincts, it involves adding ellipses in places where the original text has none. It’s painful but it’s for a good cause.
    Sometimes, when editing or translating a VN, you’ll run across sentences that spill over onto two or more lines.
    Unlike in poetry, which uses line breaks to very deliberate effect, these multi-line monsters are almost always the result of the VN writer just running out of highway and choosing to keep on driving. Whenever possible, you should attempt to restructure such sentences so they don’t break across lines. Often, splitting an overly long sentence into two smaller ones will do the trick. If it resists your best efforts, however, maintain the break and indicate it with ellipses — one at the end of the first line, the other at the beginning of the second.
    How many dots? ALL THE DOTS!
    Another peculiarity of ellipses in Japanese VNs is that they don’t always have three dots. Depending on context and the arbitrary whims of the writer, you’ll typically see anywhere from two to six dots at a time. I’ve even seen 27 in a row once. I think it was a sex scene. Or a fight scene. Maybe both.
    Don’t let this worry you. If you’ve been following my advice, you’ve already purged most of the ellipses from the text. Of those that remain, almost all can be reduced down to familiar three-dot English ellipses. But as always, there’s at least one exception.
    Content-bearing pauses: In most cases, it’s of little concern to us whether an ellipsis consists of three, four, five, or even six dots. They’re all slight variations on the standard pause, but since English punctuation doesn’t make any such distinction, neither will we. An exception comes when the length of a pause not only adds flavor, but provides content. Consider the case of an ever-lengthening silence:
    The lengthening of the line suggests the passing of increasing amounts of time; the scene isn’t the same without it. Or consider an explosive outburst after a deafening silence:
    If you opt to stretch out an ellipsis like this, only do so in increments of three. If you’re musically inclined, think of three dots as a quarter note, six dots as a half note, etc., each one holding the silence just a bit longer than the last. Following the rule of threes keeps the text visually streamlined and helps if you ever need to convert a bunch of soft ellipses ( “...”) to hard ellipses (“…”) late in the translation process.
    A quick note about spacing
    I opt to keep things simple. If an ellipsis is at the start of a sentence or line, put one space between it and the first word. If it’s anywhere else, use no space before the ellipsis and one space after. If it’s a string of ellipses, it should be an uninterrupted series of dots with no spaces in between.
    There are also differing schools of thought as to whether an ellipsis at the end of a sentence should also be followed by a period, resulting in four dots total. Again, I opt for simplicity here and advise three dots in all cases.
    The mark of the beast
    It’s easy to tell professional translations from fan projects, it’s said; just count the number of dots. While not always true – plenty of slapdash commercial releases exist in the wild — there’s definitely something to this. More often than not, fewer ellipses are a sign that someone has taken the time to not just translate a text word for word, but thoughtfully localize it.
    Seriously, just dump the dots, folks. Your readers will thank you for it.
  16. Like
    Chronopolis reacted to Zalor for a blog entry, Umineko Mid-Point Impressions (SPOILER FREE)   
    Umineko is a beast of a work that I've been putting off for many years now, probably around a decade. I first learned about it after watching the Higurashi anime back in 2010. At first I stayed away because I wasn't a fan of Ryukishi07's sausage-finger art. However these days it seems that most common ports of Umineko utilize updated art. But, that still left one other huge factor for why I was so intimidated by Umineko for so long.
    The estimated reading time of both the Question and Answer arcs is around 150 hours. That's a huge time commitment, and I am not a particularly patient or fast reader. If a book doesn't grab my interest within the first couple of chapters I feel no remorse in dropping it. And I apply that same rule to everything I read or watch. So works that have slow starts but supposedly “get better, I promise it gets way better if you continue with it!”, are works I generally avoid. But hey, Subahibi proved to be exceptional and I had a hunch that Umineko would prove to be as well.
    Essentially the whole coronavirus lockdown presented me with a rare opportunity to finally tackle Umineko. My last semester of Uni got delayed by over a month, and I figured if ever in my life I would have time to read Umineko it would be now. So I purchased the Steam releases of the Question and Answer arcs and installed the voice patch. Which by the way was a slight pain in the ass to do, since the voice-patch is banned in Japan for some copyright protection reasons. However using a VPN managed to solve that problem.
    To date I've read the first 5 episodes of Umineko including their associated tea party chapters. Which according to Steam clocks me in at 88 hours (I wasn't kidding about being a slow reader).
    I admire the balls it took for Ryukishi07 to literally take the most cliched premise of a “dark and stormy night in an isolated mansion” mystery setup, and to turn that premise so much on its head that my attention is wrapped entirely in the web of the narrative he has setup. And without being pretentious about it, Umineko makes it clear that the mystery genre, and literature in general, is something that Ryukishi07 holds dear to his heart. It is very much a love letter to the mystery genre, while also being a complete deconstruction of it.
    More than that though, it isn't just the plot which is masterly crafted, but what makes it standout is that it truly fleshes out its entire cast. Characters aren't just there to be pieces in a puzzle to solve, even if at first they may all seem to be fairly generic. Gradually as the layers peel, you will see the facade in much of the interactions between the family and all the conflicting and complex motives various characters hold beneath the surface. And above all, they are all sympathetic despite being quite flawed.
    If I had to pick one character in particular that was surprisingly much more complex then I anticipated, it would be the 9 year old Maria. I fully expected her to be a simple little kid character, who was there mostly to just be cute or maybe to be used for cheap tragedy. No, far from it. Even Maria has complex motives of her own that reach surprising levels of depth. And so if even the initial impression of a 9 year old can be deceptive, I think we can easily imagine that being true for the rest of the cast as well.
    What I found consistently very impressive about the work, is that as I mentioned previously I am not a patient reader. I hate it when stories have segments of seemingly dull character interactions to establish build up. This usually gets me in an irritated mood where I think, “This better be building up to something great, because I'm in no mood to settle for good.” And invariably, every single time so far that Umineko ordered for my extended patience, it was rewarded well beyond my expectations.
    A story that I initially found off putting precisely because of its length, is now a story I don't want to end. The irony, huh.
     
     
  17. Like
    Chronopolis reacted to Zakamutt for a blog entry, Shinimasu TL notes: Enhanced Edition #1   
    I wrote earlier about how I thought when translating a few lines in Shinimasu. This series is going to be in that vein, with an eye to explaining translation decisions and highlighting unusual takes. I’m going to try to make it interesting for people not knowing Japanese, but to save effort I’m not going to be providing literal translation equivalents to lines.
    Why am I doing this? Because my brain is a fuck and producing blog posts is an interesting motivation for doing a second pass on my translation.
    Unfortunately for those expecting worthwhile content I feel like digressing a bit into history and methods for this first post, though. This is what my TL setup has looked like for most of the time I’ve worked on the project: 
    I started out doing 64 lines in December 2017, this got Asonn involved, and he introduced me to Porygon, who set up a git repository* and provided the tool you see. My brain swears I tweeted this pastebin, and I know I at least got some comment, but twitter search can’t find it so who the fuck knows? Anyway, I probably did 129 lines just copying from the game or script (can’t remember), then I copied them to the tool and worked there. One of the joys of working with porygon is that he has highly motivating auto-updating progress pages for you to fap to after pushing your new lines. This probably helped me more than I’d really like to admit.
    Either way, apart from being convenient for reinsertion later**, the tool has rudimentary edict-lookup of the (autoparsed) tl lines, which is convenient if you’re extremely fucking lazy. I’m not going to say I never used it (I am extremely fucking lazy), but going j-j definitely was needed more than once. Other than that I guess it’s ok, though it does have a still-unfixed bug where it’ll fuck up and display too few lines of text in a box due to some miscalculation.
    It’s certainly missing some features my dream tool would have, though. Personally I’d love to be able to see the script commands surrounding a line through some UI element to expand, as this could partially substitute for actually having the VN open for visual/scenographic context. It doesn’t have EPWING lookup, but that’s high effort since the format is bullshit apparently. It also doesn’t let you play voiced lines associated with spoken lines, though Shinimasu is unvoiced so I guess it doesn’t really matter for this project.
    Today I had to contact pory since it had stoped working properly; it turned out my build of the tool was old enough that a bug with java 9 (I had recently updated) was making it unusable. He quickly got a fix for the tool, but it took enough time that I lost the energy for revising my tl. Or that’s my excuse, anyway.
    See you next time for actual tl discussion w
    *What’s a git repository? Well the long answer is long and full of programmer-speak, but basically it lets you keep an online backup of your files, preserving older versions each time you decide to add a newer version to the server. You can do this while multiple people are working on the same file sometimes, though it can get hairy. I ended up not needing this much, but it’s been good insurance against data loss (and I have changed laptops at least once during translation, also had to reinstall windows once…). Really if you don’t have a backup for any translation of length, you’re probably doing it wrong (but also I am a CS student so it’s… not as hard for me w)
    **By virtue of saving the line number in the original script where the Japanese line was and associating that with the eventual translated line. I used a simplified version of this myself based on google sheets columns when I did tech for the ichigo & kyuugo tl.

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

    Synopsis: 
    Demon Parasites..., the ones who can transform themselves into soldiers by holding a mysterious parasite inside. One night, Juzo meets Mizuki, who is a demon parasite, in the park, and gets to know that he is also a demon parasite. Now that he is a demon parasite, he gradually gets involved in a battle against monsters. Will he be able to defeat them...?
    Youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VcPfY8STGGw
    Game type: Chunige
    Character Design rating: 9/10
    Protagonist rating: 10/10
    Story rating: 10/10
    Game quality: 9/10
    Overall rating: 9/10

    So you must be wondering how could Demon Parasite win over other great five masterpieces of the month. There is some personal preference towards chunige, but it's also a great game, so it's time to explain why.

    Story is called common place by some reviewers since it's students who get transformation powers and fight monsters, but it's actually based on a tabletop setting created by Kitazawa Kei in 2006, so the world is really well thought and detailed here. Not all the parts of the setting are utilized though like there's no Seraphim organization, but it's fun to know the setting basics and theorize who is Phalanx and who is Brigandine. It's a serious dark fantasy story, so don't expect bright development.

    This kinetic novel only took me 10 hours to record, and it definitely leaves room for a sequel. It has full voicing, great CG, powerful BGM and animation. Heroes are mature and logical, except maybe for Futaba - and her hysteria behavior actually constitutes the single penalty score for the game. Both tsundere and yandere archetypes are present. Mizuki is plain awesome as main heroine. There aren't H scenes. Everything is just as I like it. So what can people possibly be upset about this game?

    Those very few negative reviews name these disadvantages of the game: lack of CG, battle cut-ins that hurt tempo, short length, lack of excitement. Some see that it's a quarter-price work (2000 yen without soundtracks) and thus just can't rate such cheap game highly. These arguments are laughable. As for me, everything I like was united for one impactful experience here. It's not a long work, so I don't want to spoil game events. I encourage to see for yourself, since chunige of this high quality are rare to come by.

  20. Like
    Chronopolis reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Random VN: Semiramis no Tenbin   
    Semiramis no Tenbin is a game by Caramel Box, best known in the West for the Otoboku series but who is more generally famous in Japan for being the home of Takaya Aya, one of the better writers in the industry.  This game... is unique.  I say this outright because there literally is no other VN like this.  It isn't the characters or the themes that make it unique (though those are part of it), but rather the sheer impact of Takaya Aya's 'side trip into thinking like a chuunibyou patient' as he put it.  
    Semiramis no Tenbin is a game with two sides, Law and Chaos.  Law is represented by the Fortune-Telling Club's president, Eru, and Chaos is represented by Kamio Ami, the 'demon' of the story... a transfer student who appears in the prologue.  The other heroines are placed at various points of balance between the scales (Sunao for Chaos, Touko for Balance, and Fumika for Law), with Eru and Ami serving as the absolute points of their alignments, as defined by Takaya Aya.
    The game really begins with the protagonist, Hayami Reiji, being blackmailed by Ami after she tricks him into having sex with her by using her circumstances to manipulate him (this is not a spoiler).  Ami is the penultimate pragmatist, an individual who puts results above means, and while she can't (quite) be called ruthless, she comes pretty close to it.  She is a heroine type that is rare to unheard of in Japanese VNs, an extremely manipulative person who wields her genius level IQ throughout the story to create situations in her immediate vicinity that would otherwise never have occurred.
    Much of the common route (two-thirds of which is standard, with the last third being split into Chaos and Law branches) is spent with Ami proposing a result she wishes to achieve, with Eru presenting her argument against it, and the protagonist acting or arguing in favor of one side or the other to decide things.  
    Eru and Ami are both extremely intelligent individuals, whose conversations provide a lot of food for thought, not the least of which because Ami is ingenious at manipulating conversations to go her way, whereas Eru is good at seeing through these manipulations.  While there are only five of these direct 'debates' in the common route itself, they leave a strong impression and provide a reason to come back later, if only to ruminate over what is said.  
    Ami
    Calling Ami evil would be easy.  She is pragmatic to a fault, doesn't believe in valuing the 'process' of doing something over the results, and she has a tendency to manipulate situations when there is no apparent need to do so.  One thing that is striking about Ami's character, other than the obvious, is that she has extremely good reasons for being the way she is, reasons that are ironically similar to why Eru is the way she is.  
    Ami does have a (very limited) sense of ethics, but these ethics are extremely narrowly-defined.  It is her viewpoint that even if she manipulates a situation and people in a way that has negative results, it was the people involved who made the choices that led to that situation, so it isn't her concern what happens after.  However, if an unexpected factor gets involved to cause such unpleasant results, she is willing to act to counter that unexpected factor.  In addition, she does have a strong affinity for helping those she gets close to, though this also usually involves manipulating and controlling them into better results, because this is apparently the only way she can really involve herself with others.
    Eru
    Eru, throughout much of the game, has a tendency to react with a logical interpretation of standard morals and ethics.  This is not necessarily because she believes in them blindly but because of how she was raised (it is more complex than stated in the common route).  She is referred to as a 'wall of ice' by Ami and at least one other person during the common route, as she fundamentally defaults to keeping people at arms length and reacting using that same logical attachment to common morals and ethics.  
    That's not to say she isn't fond of some people... she likes the members of the Fortune-telling Club and values her time there, but it also needs to be noted that the situation is unique for her, as she apparently doesn't hold the rest of her positions in life in the same esteem, apparently.
    Fumika
    Fumika plays the role of the sweet-natured kouhai with a speech impediment.  She is very good at worming her way into the affections of Reiji and the few others she trusts, but she is surprisingly detached from most others.  She is also one of only two characters other than Reiji himself who manage to worm their way into Ami's heart in any of the paths (which is notable, since while Ami might become fond of someone, it usually doesn't extend to actually caring about their life and fate).  
    Her path... has so much impact you would never guess that she isn't one of the characters in the foreground of the game's cover.  To be blunt, Fumika's quotes in this path have an impact that have stayed with me for the past six years, often serving to me as an example in the best uses of powerful phrasing at key points.  Fumika rarely speaks in full sentences, so the sheer impact when she forces these quotes out of her mouth without stumbling is...staggering.
    Touko
    Touko is the game's erstwhile narrator, (though it isn't apparent through much of the game) and the character presented as being the writer of a novel based on the events in the story at the very beginning.  She is also the heroine who has potentially the most intimate friendship with Ami, which says a lot about her hidden perceptiveness at important points.  Normally, she is presented as a 'yurufuwa' character, a bookworm who sleeps through much of the day at school while speaking in slow but clearly enunciated sentences when awake.  She is Reiji's osananajimi and many fans of the game consider her the 'hidden true heroine', as she is the heroine that represents Balance.  
    Sunao
    Sunao is the weakest of the game's heroines.  There are a number of reasons for this, but the most obvious one is that she is deliberately a derivative of Ami (a more normal/healthy minded version).  The most powerful one, though, is that her ending can be considered a second bad Ami ending (there is a bad ending in Ami's path).  I won't go into details, but once you get accustomed to Ami's quirks, you quickly realize what she is doing with Sunao and Reiji, which makes it hard to even maintain an interest in Sunao... much for the same reasons Reiji puts forth if you pick the conversational path that leads away from a relationship with Sunao.  I honestly don't recommend playing Sunao's path unless you are just a completionist.
    Notes on the Common Route progression
    One thing that will probably strike anyone who picks the Law route is that the conflicts are... darker.  To be blunt, the last few arcs of the common route are much darker in nature in the Law route than they are in the Chaos Route, which can be seen as the world bearing out that Ami's viewpoint of results over process being a better choice might be correct.  Ami is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a 'good' person.  However, the story itself states that the results she get are more likely to create a good situation.  I found this an interesting - and possibly telling - choice on the part of Takaya.
    In addition, this game has a tendency to rile 'pure-hearted weaboos'.  I say this because the picture of Japanese society it presents is as unflattering as that of Yume Miru Kusuri... if not moreso.  If nothing else, the portrayals of how 'officials' react to domestic violence are telling of the flaws built into their legal system.
    Conclusion
    If you are wondering why I don't go into more details on the routes and the like, it is because it is impossible to do so without spoilers.  I focused on giving each heroine a proper introduction and telling you what to expect from them.  This game is not meant for those who want sweet and romantic.  Most of the paths aren't romantic, except in a really rough sense.  There is love, there is affection, and there is sex.  However, it tends to come in a fashion that is 'dirtier' than most VN readers will be accustomed to, unless they dig into the borderline dark nukige out there.
  21. Like
    Chronopolis reacted to kivandopulus for a blog entry, Reconquista レコンキスタ [Cotton Soft]   
    Foreword: Cotton Soft debut work Natsumegu did not snatch stars from the sky, but Reconquista seems to have a totally different, serious approach and thus arouses interest.

    Synopsis: 
    There is a certain town on a reclaimed island. It was developed as an international residential area, but it's in ruins now. And there is a rumor that if you walk around there at night, a girl in school uniform will appear and cut off your head...
    Youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esl-hAk-6M8&list=PLs4Gp5VU4Fv_3HkMSokjrZXfwZiVI0FIR
    Game type: Suspense mystery
    Character Design rating: 8/10
    Protagonist rating: 7/10
    Story rating: 8/10
    Game quality: 8/10
    Overall rating: 8/10

    Due to mystery genre there are limitations to what can be revealed, but at least concept should be laid out to understand what to expect. So, different characters miss beloved dead people, and there is a technique to bring back the dead, but the key to it is urban legend about beheading woman. Game has three chapters that can be roughly described as present dimension, past dimension and true route that can be called future dimension just for sake of simplification. First present Chapter is the largest one, and it contains two protagonists zapping views and all the four heroine endings. We do approach beheaded woman in each of those routes, but in the same manner, so mystery does not really get developed, it's just observation from different angles. Past and Future chapters are focused on the mystery roots and nature, correspondingly. 

    So mystery gets focused extensively, and everything gets explained, so even some emptiness is felt due to limited possible interpretations. But game touches important humanity questions for us to explore ourselves. Does one human life worth sacrificing another one? How does it cope with the concept of eternal soul? What will happen if everyone starts sacrificing other lives to save their beloved ones? Madness becomes the main theme of the game - and it contaminates not only maniac's mind, but even heroines minds who start to lose grip with the reality and ethics. 

    Game actually reminds me old game Kurenai by light. Same madness dominates the air, same bloody scenes everywhere, even main heroine of the two games basically looks and feels the same - in this game it's Kureha (even name seems to bear reference). Different heroines sing famous Japanese horror Kagome song which becomes a symbol of madness. I should also mention great BGM that contributes to the atmosphere a lot.

    But aside from Kureha, heroines aren't developed much. Loli daughter Momiji is also greatly portrayed, but she is not a capturable heroine, luckily. Shiina also feels alive with her bitter attitude compared to more ordinary heroines Mahoko and Masaki who have their share of charm, but that's it, no development. Male characters in this game are especially subtle and passive. All characters are normal people without special abilities, so at times lack of excitement is felt.

    Reconquista story is not that complicated, but thanks to four protagonists zapping and different chronology it gets rich in taste and details. It's not our usual fluffy happy end game. It leaves reader with touching moment, heavy feeling, hope and afterthoughts to linger on.

  22. Thanks
    Chronopolis reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Random VN: Kanojo-tachi no Ryuugi   
    Kanojo-tachi no Ryuugi is a game made by 130cm back in 2006, during the 'golden age of VN innovation'.  Like many of the games made during this period, it is far less bound by convention than you see in modern VNs, which has its ups and downs (as most games from this era do).  In this case, the most striking element for modern VN readers would probably be the fact that the protagonist is fully voiced.  The second is that, in most of the H-scenes (of which there are plenty), the females are the dominant side and the protagonist isn't a bed yakuza even when he is dominant, for the most part.  
    Essentially, this game's story begins when Kotaro, the protagonist, is called back to his estranged family's home after his mother dies of illness.  There, his twin older sisters, Tobari and Akane are waiting for him... but their attitudes are odd.  Akane, the older sister, has become active, mischievous, and selfish, and Tobari, the younger, has become a cold, expressionless young woman.  There is no sense that he is welcomed into his old home, despite the fact that he and his sisters were once very close.  
    Things become a bit clearer when he discovers his sisters are vampires (and bisexual), and he ends up having sexual relations with both of them (Tobari reverse-rape and Akane essentially psychologically cornering him into doing it).  Worse, there is no sense of actual affection from either of his sisters, who apparently can draw sustenance from the acts.
    Now, the reason why I drew out these initial scenes is because they aren't really spoilers (my rule limiting spoilers to the prologue at max), is because you need to understand that this, typically of most of 130cm's games, is a heavily incestuous story (literally and metaphorically) with some seriously twisted relationships resulting.  There is love, but it is often only referenced laterally or after a great deal of pain on all sides.  Kotaro has serious hangups that keep him from forming healthy relationships with anyone (mostly because of his weird relations with his sisters, Tobari in particular), and the girls aren't that much better.
    Tobari
    Really, it is recommended that Suzuki and Seseri be handled first by most people who read this VN, but I always end up going for Tobari first... mostly because figuring out all that is going on in her head is seriously hard the first time around.  Tobari is a genius in general but also a genius when it comes to acting in particular.  The drama club and its play, which serve a central role in all the paths to one degree or another, is her idea, as is drawing in Kotaro as the heroine (yes, he does dress up).  While there is another club president, she is the obvious leader of the club.  Moreover, her forceful personality and overwhelming acting talent pretty much keep anyone else from really even considering disobedience toward her.  
    Her relationship with Kotaro, in their childhood, was that of really close siblings, but the changes she began to experience (vampires in this setting are atavistic throwbacks to previous generations who lose the ability to have children, live eternally, and must consume blood or life energy through sexual intercourse in order to survive) shattered their family without Kotaro every knowing why.
    Her attitude toward Kotaro is cold and distant, except when she suddenly draws him into sexual relations or the drama club in general.  She loves Akane and will show emotion toward her easily, but in most other matters, her expression remains flat.  Her path is a journey of unwinding the twisted ball of yarn that is her emotions toward Kotaro and the circumstances that make everything about their relationship difficult.
    Akane
    Akane is technically the older sister, but at first glance, you would guess her to be the younger.  She is more active, she is less mature, and she has no intention of controlling any of her impulses.  Anything that feels good (drinking blood, having sex with Kotaro, eating food, etc) is good for her, and she has no interest in struggling to do anything she doesn't feel like doing.  
    As a child, Akane was sickly to the extreme, rarely leaving her bed and unable to do even the simplest of activities for the  most part.  For her, vampirism was salvation, though it cost her five years with her younger brother (she does care, but her hedonistic nature dominates mostly).  While she isn't precisely affectionate toward Kotaro (there is some affection, but, again, her hedonism tends to hide it), she is affectionate and loving toward Tobari.  Despite this, Tobari can be considered to be the 'dependent twin' of the two.
    Akane's path is more about dealing with Akane's own inability to understand certain aspects of her sister's feelings toward Kotaro, the harmful aspects of her impulsiveness, and Kotaro himself.  It is more straightforward than Tobari's path, but it also has some serious issues, some of them leftover from before she became a vampire.
    Suzuki
    Suzuki is a misanthrope who only trusts Seseri.  She is described as 'excruciatingly beautiful', but her manner, especially toward Kotaro, tends toward the acidic in the best of times.  She has a rather extreme version of the aversion many women of her age have for sexuality in general, though it does have a good reason.  
    Her path is more about Kotaro getting past his siscon and her getting past her dislike of him (and herself) than anything else.  Of the heroines, she is by far the most psychologically fragile, despite her thorny persona.  She understands Kotaro the best of the heroines, when it comes down to it on a fundamental level, and this becomes rather evident toward the conclusion of the path.
    Seseri
    Seseri is your standard deredere kouhai and Suzuki's best friend.  Seseri is a really straightforward and innocent girl who hits everything head on, yet she is also sensitive enough to get down in the dumps at times, though she usually gets right back up.  The very first scene of the game has her confessing her love to Kotaro and him refusing her.  
    Her path on the surface seems to be an odd couple romance, but in fact it is a bit different.  Seseri's feelings toward Kotaro never change, she loves him and she is really open about this fact.  
    Honoka
    Honoka's path splits off pretty late from Akane's path, before things get all twisted up with Tobari and requires that you have played Akane's path to pursue.  Honoka is the retainer (not maid) for the Shirogane family (Tobari and Akane) and a sort of blood bag for the two vampires.  On the surface she is a mature older woman, but underneath she is pretty girly.  
    Her path is the most straightforward romance in the game, with an incident bringing her feelings for Kotaro into the open and forcing her to confront them.  She has some real-life hangups that make for some mild drama toward the end, but her path ends on a pretty familiar (for charage readers) note.
    Chisato
    Chisato is the game's tsundere osananajimi, and she is also perhaps the most template of the heroines.  For this reason alone, I would have wanted to avoid her path, but since I'd already gone through all the other  paths, I felt I had to finish hers as well.  This is perhaps the only path in the game where the protagonist's past is revealed in something other than the words of the protagonist and heroines.  There are a few flashback scenes that are pretty revealing about a young Tobari and Chisato, and it does add to the story in general... but it also felt like the writer was favoring the least interesting heroine in the game a bit excessively.
    Like all the heroines except Seseri, she has issues.  Chisato has an inferiority complex toward Tobari, whom she considers a friend (Kotaro also has one toward Tobari), and she is by nature a hard worker who makes up for a lack of talent by putting more effort and time into things.  The path is pretty revealing about Tobari as well... however, it feels like Tobari's path should have been the one route-locked, not Chisato's, in the end.
    Black Moon
    There is no need to hide this, but this is the game's true ending.  This ending serves as an alternate ending to Tobari's path and is fairly dramatic.  To be honest, I found this about ten times more interesting than most of the other paths in this game, save for Tobari's original one... which is probably the point.  the first half of this path is the Tobari path told entirely from Tobari's point of view up until a certain turning point, where Kotaro takes an action that is different from the original.  
    Conclusion
    This game has a number of flaws, not the least of which that there really only needed to be three heroines (Honoka, Tobari, and Akane) and the fact that the actual paths feel abrupt at points, showing the peculiarly odd pacing that was common to a lot of games from the time.  However, it is also a nice game for people who like messed up and twisted relationships that don't stray into NTR or rape-related stuff.  
  23. Like
    Chronopolis reacted to kivandopulus for a blog entry, Itsuka, Todoku, Ano Sora ni. いつか、届く、あの空に。 [Lump of Sugar]   
    Foreword: All the previous complex meta-textual intellectual novels got the highest score from me. Itsuka, Todoku, Ano Sora ni is exactly this kind of novel. So... is it 10/10 for me as well?

    Synopsis: In this town, there are "clouds" covering the nightsky, that the starlight won't even pierce. Because of this, constellations would always be too far.
    Born and raised in the Tatsumi noble family, Saku has failed to meet the expectations that lie on every male member of the family.
    One day, he receives word from his strict grandfather "to live life the way he wishes." Estranged by his family, Saku travels to the estate of Kuumeishi, a town that has never seen the stars.
    He went without hardly making sure of the details of arrangements for a wedding...
    Youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQOtL0k7pXk&list=PLs4Gp5VU4Fv9cLlVyGlSgO3KP-VwxGWLb
    Game type: Mindscrew
    Character Design rating: 9/10
    Protagonist rating: 8/10
    Story rating: 10/10
    Game quality: 9/10
    Overall rating: 9/10
    There are enough English reviews for this game (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8) and especially Japanese reviews (1 is one of the best ones). But game has such complex nature that there is still room for discussion. Minor spoilers are inevitable for discussing game concept, but I'll hide big spoiler under the bar.

    I played the only available at the start Futami route blindly before reading anything on the game... and I did not like it at all. After rather fun greeting of our supposed fiance in this ancient town nothing much really happens for the bigger half of the game. There's astronomy committee at school and Futami who tries to roleplay a perfect wife at home (and she studies at the same school as well). Futami wants to become protagonist's wife and wants his help in ritual for clearing clouds by the festival, and she constantly demands answer, like five times, really. And Saku never gives one. Then I was absolutely pissed by the fact how writer crosses out previous development with just one sentence "And it was the last night before Futami returned to her parents' house". The reason is not explained, and strange scenes start to snowball at this point. Basically, Saku kind of continues to live alone. At this point he is visited by three girls frequently - Mememe, Konome and Asuku San - and it becomes the fork for the routes to initiate. Then there's sudden burst of conflict with many antagonists showing up, and everything loses sense almost completely. There are constant time shifts, recollections, recollections inside recollections and what not. It gets really messy instantly followed by battles and really unsatisfying unification with Futami under weird circumstances. I'm telling all that just to say that first playthrough can be really bad, it's normal. Game still managed to rise from 6/10 to 9/10 somehow. I'll try to explain how.

    So the concept of all routes turns out to be slightly different. This town is ancient town of several  mighty clans dating from Heian period with heroines belonging to different ones. And these clans have both powerful warriors and magicians. A very important day approaches, so in each route protagonist Saku has to deal with the clan of route heroine. Problems and antagonists vary greatly for each heroine, so each route manages to provide an absolutely fresh experience. Concept looks much simpler now, but only because I try to simplify things on purpose. These clans exist at the same town and have a mutual co-habitation history. It means that in different routes all the heroines and sub-heroines and even lots of antagonists act simultaneously, and these arcs intersect. Positions of these clans are absolutely different, hierarchy and heroines positions are absolutely different. Even the purposes of clans are absolutely different. There's a lot of infodumping to chew.

    And after all three routes are finished another small story shows up which actually puts most of the dots at the right places. It explains both the origin of this town and clans, the history behind most important personalities, the ritual day and even role of Saku. It's a very strange structure where we get to know what the game was about after game is actually finished already. But this move gives incentive to recall or reread parts of heroines routes that made little sense beforehand. And it actually gives room for theory-crafting. My insight is under spoiler.

    Itsuka, Todoku, Ano Sora ni is a complex meta-textual intellectual visual novel. But why is it just 9/10 for me? The answer is because I did not really like the process of reading it. It's basically mindscrew where nothing is explained until the end and you are hit in the head over and over and over. But I really appreciate direction, text, concept, attention to details and discussion that it provokes. It's not a natural masterpiece, but an artificially kneaded one. The process is not really good, but the aftermath is. There is a feeling of accomplishment afterwards and recognition of something absolutely new done within a scale of visual novel. That's why I can't really recommend it. But if you read all this and still want to read it - it's worth it, at least for the after-taste, but it will be anything but easy.

  24. Like
    Chronopolis reacted to kivandopulus for a blog entry, Kimi no Koe ga Kikoeru キミの声がきこえる [AXL]   
    Foreword: Unlike Hidamari this AXL work has no superficial elements, so I'm starting it with heavy heart. Can AXL pull it out with a SOL story?

    Synopsis: Naoya fails the university entrance examination, and starts to study at a preparatory school. He meets Sakura, Miyuki and Ouka there and enjoys his life. On the other hand, his father tells him to go and help the hotel, owned by his father. He also meets beautiful girls including Izumi, his childhood friend, there and enjoys his peaceful life. Naoya is busy with studying, loving and working! Sakura, Izumi and Miyuki... Love with girls, friendship with friends, long distance love and triple cohabitation...? What will happen to Naoya in the end?
    Youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IqMbhWBS_vA&list=PLs4Gp5VU4Fv_GNDXkWAd8Vb9u1nwXBH6K
    Game type: Youth comedy
    Character Design rating: 8/10
    Protagonist rating: 7/10
    Story rating: 6/10
    Game quality: 9/10
    Overall rating: 8/10

    Story is really absolutely normal, so I'm rather disappointed with it. But it's not a plotge, so game should be evaluated by different criteria. Still some words about the story. Naoya fails entrance exams to the university, so he attends a preparatory school for a year as a ronin. And it's a fantastic setting, actually. It's just a bit about school to get new acquaintances, but it's mostly free time to do anything characters want. Such a gracious way to avoid school-college-work dilemma. Recurring video addresses of Naoya's father is a huge repeating gag by itself, but among others it also gives an opportunity to help about family ryoukan. It's all about choice where to move now.

    Here comes the structure. Game presents an unusually complex structure that can be treated positively and negatively. Basically, there are three routes that can be roughly described as distance romance relations, cohabitation with heroine, and cohabitation with multiple heroines turning into harem. First branch is much more to my liking. Moreover, it seems to be initial plan for the story due to game's title that can be translated as "I can hear your voice". First part is all about telephone talks and sending photos to the telephones. As for heroine routes, it's also not that simple...

    There are three main heroines - step-sister Miyuki who comes to live together with Naoya, childhood friend and ryokan caretaker Izumi, genki classmate Sakura. Izumi and Sakura have an ending in each of three route branches while Miyuki has only one ending in third branch that can be described as harem. Can't stand Izumi, btw. There are also four sub-heroines that have just one ending each, but they are unjustly treated as bad endings. There is such feeling, because in every such branch choice there's either instant ending of sub-heroine or story continuation with several more choices for either Sakura or Izumi. It's ok for less funny heroines, but I feel that Ouka deserves better. 

    But where game especially shines is humor. Common route is an absolute paragon for comedy. Everything serves humor purpose here. Only bright and funny heroines like Sakura, Ouka and Miyuki show up here to set the drive. Needless to say that each heroine meeting is done masterfully. But that's not all. There are two baka friends that bring so much fun with them - otaku Masamune and moderately stupid sportsman Kenta. As if it's not enough two more silly characters are added - a self-proclaimed best-friend Gonjuurou and homosexual Shirou. Every time this many hilarious characters gather together it's in for a blast.

    As a result, Kimi no Koe ga Kikoeru is a fabulous comedy that deserves much more attention. I personally consider that game would win with only distance romance relations authentic branch present. It would be a cleaner and less confusing structure without loli step-sister Miyuki and harem additions. But bigger story can't possibly be described as disadvantage. Don't read extra routes if you don't want to. I just wish I knew that and read only first route.

  25. Like
    Chronopolis reacted to kivandopulus for a blog entry, Shuumatsu Shoujo Gensou Alicematic [Caramel Box]   
    Foreword: Choosing a chunige from Caramel Box can't be wrong.

    Synopsis: In 2022, the world is afflicted with a mysterious phenomenon. Adjoining multi-dimension world assimilates and becomes another space, dimension assimilation phenomenon called "Petulation". Humans can't approach these areas and their number keeps increasing...
    One day, Kuroudo receives summons from the government to help the related scientific investigation at Shin Shinonome Academy located on the newly reclaimed land in Tokyo bay.
    He has no idea what is going on. But the world gets closer to the destruction little by little. All he has is his skill of swordplay and one sword.
    There he meets others, whom just like him are destined to fight for the future of mankind...
    Youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oq3br0Dm-r4&list=PLs4Gp5VU4Fv8vL6O9gksA54sSIv93SKwF
    Game type: Eschatology story set in near future.
    Character Design rating: 8/10
    Protagonist rating: 8/10
    Story rating: 9/10
    Game quality: 8/10
    Overall rating: 8/10

    Another Caramel Box game, and again a 8. But this time it's much closer to 9. There are already good English reviews on the game, so skipping introductions.
    My main impression from Shuumatsu Shoujo Gensou Alicematic is how much in common it has with Aekanaru Sekai no Owari ni despite the fact that scenario writers are different. First of all, both games have virtual world dimension. Second, both games present unique settings with very rich in detail worldview. Third similarity is non-cliche and developed personalities of heroines (well, Rikka may be an exception). And structure is unusual for both games.

    But Alicematic learns by past experience. Scenario is now more epic and overall more exciting. Male characters are voiced. We even get to see and hear protagonist for the times when protagonist shifts. There are good action scenes including sword fights. Unlike Aekanaru Sekai no Owari ni, Alicematic does not really require to have special mindset anymore, it's quite entertaining for newcomer readers. But there are also problems.
    CG aren't enough for me. I had trouble even picking some CG for this review as there are few cool CG here. Another strange thing is game's font that's really uncomfortable for the eyes. But probably main problem is how unexciting is the first half of the game. It's some strange academy where we meet teacher with some girls, get tons of seemingly unimportant information, and just spend time with our pal Nobutsuna doing usual boys stuff occasionally even in Green Green fashion. Things really take time.

    In the raw outcome we have once again a very special game with unique worldview. It's more heroine focused than story focused, but heroines in this game are worth it. Game complexity and lack of excitement can easily scare unprepared readers, but there is enough depth to keep the interest. I should especially note cool and able protagonist. Game is not for everyone, and that's not a bad thing.

     
     
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