Mr Poltroon 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.
Mr Poltroon reacted to Ramaladni for a blog entry, Master Magistrate Full-Version Review
After a couple months of wait, the full version of Master Magistrate was released! This review is an update of my early-access review. I removed or corrected outdated information, polished my thoughts a little and added my thoughts on the final chapter and the epilogue.
Master Magistrate is a pretty cool murder mystery detective visual novel with a historical setting.You'd be hard pressed to find something quite like it, the closest would probably be Great Ace Attorney or Elf's Mikagura Shoujo Tanteidan. Overall, it has a bit of a weak start with its introductory chapter, with the pacing picking up on the second one. Third chapter is hands down the best for me, in terms of gameplay, plot and character development and the last chapter makes for a great finale, tying perfectly all the loose ends and expertly resolving all of the unsolved mysteries. Exciting revelations and myriads of twists await you. And if you're a fan of the more SoL parts, the heroine routes are nicely integrated in alternate epilogues for the story. There's porn too (it's optional, just buy/don't buy the Adult DLC).
Mr Poltroon reacted to Plk_Lesiak for a blog entry, Mizuchi 白蛇心傳 (Yuri VN Review)
Anyone observing the EVN scene should know well that yuri, besides being my personal obsession, is one of the most vibrant niches for non-JP visual novels, with many studios and creators dedicated to this theme and a very active fanbase. This seems to be particularly clear nowadays, as even companies like Winged Cloud, the infamous producers of low-effort VN smut, capitalized majorly on the trend, producing mostly GxG games for the past few years. On the other side of the spectrum, Studio Elan recently pushed the standard of quality for EVNs in general with their modern fairy tale, Heart of the Woods. As a result, yuri fans have a lot to choose from, both when it goes to quality work and amusing trash.
The game I’ll be writing about today, Aikawa Collective’s Mizuchi 白蛇心傳, definitely aimed for the “quality” side of the spectrum and seemed like something that could rival Studio Elan’s hit with its climate and visual spectacle. This yuri-themed retelling of the famous Chinese folk tale, the Legend of the White Serpent, looked spectacular in its promotional material and easily reached its Kickstarter goal of $8500 in September 2018. While the development cycle for it proved long, going 9 months beyond its initial target of August 2019, it never lost its place as a promising and highly-anticipated yuri EVN. Releasing on Steam and Itch.io in mid-April 2020, it gathered overwhelmingly positive feedback – but, did it truly live up to the hype?
Don’t worry, for those like me not blessed with proper knowledge of Japanese, these scenes get explained later on, but not knowing what is said is actually pretty important for the game’s mystery and climate-building
Mizuchi is a story of a young, poor peasant girl from the game’s equivalent of medieval China (her default name is Linh, but it can be changed). After years of living a harsh, but simple live as youngest daughter of the family, she’s unexpectedly proposed to by her childhood friend, who just came back from serving in a war. Just a few days later, after discovering something unexpected about her fiancée, she’s falsely accused of adultery and as a “trial” thrown into a pit of snakes. Left for certain death, she’s miraculously saved by an entity she assumes to be the serpent god revered by her community and wakes up in an unfamiliar house, whose only other inhabitant seems to be the said deity, now using a monstrous, half-serpent, half-human form. Terrified and confused, she has to navigate this new situation, made even more complex by the arrival of Jinhai – a strange, but kind female monk with a deep-running and turbulent relationship with the serpent goddess.
While Mizuchi incorporates many fantastical elements, particularly with the serpent goddess, Ai, being a major focus, at its core it’s a slice-of-life VN, spending most of its time on the backstories and personal development of the three main characters. This is often done with slow-paced, casual interactions and depictions of daily life in the estate, near-perfectly isolated from the outside world. For those expecting a more dynamic story, or even a primarily romantic one, this might be a disappointment, as you’ll find in it at least just as many discussions about cooking and the local variety of mushroom as you might scenes that contribute to the romance or plot progression. This casual-feeling routine is only occasionally broken up by more dramatic events or tension, with the main axis of conflict being what Jinhai perceives as Linh’s imprisonment or forced servitude to Ai. Things change significantly in the final act of each route, with a lot more stress on supernatural phenomena and higher stakes, but this part might be slightly hard to get to for anyone not tolerant to slow pacing and very subtle character development.
The amount of ultra-casual moments and “pointless” trivia sometimes threaten to devolve into genuine boredom, particularly in some of the scenes in Jinhai’s route
The reason I nearly never had a problem with the game’s relaxed approach to storytelling is that the setting and characters it builds are excellent enough to justify it. Linh starts overwhelmed and hurt, limited in her understanding of the world and striving to come back to her familiar home despite the struggle and possible danger that awaits her there. Her journey is mostly one of understanding her full potential and the injustice of the position she held in her village, which she previously considered as natural and inescapable. She’s believable in her reactions and the game delves pretty deep into emotional mechanisms of trauma, with which she has to deal with over time. All this definitely has a touch of female empowerment in it, as Linh has to break free of the constraints and common sense thinking of her extremely patriarchal and conservative community, with Ai offering her broader perspective on the world and promising new opportunities. Thankfully, it’s done well enough to never feel like pandering and is not exactly detached from the historical realities of medieval China the game takes inspiration from.
Ai’s and Jinhai’s arcs are harder to talk about without spoilers, but the goddess in particular make for a really interesting character. As a powerful, shape-shifting spirit often moving between the worlds of nature and that of people, she has an attitude that combines a form of misanthropy with curiosity about humans and appreciation of specific individuals. Her arc is mostly themed around fully understanding humans and being able to grasp the love and devotion they often show to each other – a wish clearly signified by her adopted name. Jinhai is arguably a lesser character, as she’s defined mostly by her relationship with Ai and the responsibility she feels to keep her in check. The development she receives is definitely not as deep as that of the other two main characters and her route, by extension, is less captivating – which doesn't mean she isn't plenty likeable and doesn't have her own inner conflicts to resolve.
I previously mentioned that Mizuchi’s romance arcs are not its central focus and I’m willing to stand by this claim, although I have some conflicted feelings in this regard. The game does some really excellent things when it goes to showing intimacy between the characters when the romance finally blossoms, with a set of mature, but not explicit scenes for both routes (inexplicably delegated to a patch on Steam, while they definitely should be a part of the core package and can hardly be considered "adult-only"). The road to those scenes is, however, kind of cliched and pale in comparison with how interesting the backstories of the characters and the core intrigue are. The positive part is that each route adds something to the understanding of the overall story and lore of the game’s world. Still, the non-romantic “harem” ending felt most satisfying to me, which is really weird for a yuri fanatic such as myself. My only explanation is that seeing all the characters staying together and overcoming traumas of their pasts simply feels like the best possible outcome, so this friendship scenario ends up being more satisfying than romance that naturally pushes someone out of the equation.
The game does a good job of including some nudity and intimacy without explicit visuals – all mild and tasteful enough that the inclusion of Steam content patch for much of it feels pretty uncalled for
Now, for genuine complaints, I have very few, but my biggest one is probably the choice structure. It relies on an invisible affection system, with some choices contributing to it in a less-than-intuitive manner. This means that reaching some of the 5 endings, particularly the true ending for each heroine, can be really frustrating without a guide – while the number of choices is not massive, the sequence you need for those is really specific. Also, the execution of some of the endings was somewhat lacklustre, as they not always managed to explain well-enough what was going on and maintain reasonable pacing. Also, it’s clear that even among the “true endings” Ai’s felt a lot more robust and satisfying, showing where most of the team’s focus actually went.
Visually, Mizuchi is absolutely beautiful, although it definitely prioritizes quality over quantity. Because the action of the VN is limited to less than a dozen locales, all the illustrations are really high-quality and do a great job of projecting the far-eastern-legend feel of the story. Sprites do not have much variety when it goes to poses and clothes, but once more make up for it with being highly-detailed and gorgeous – and to be fair, the sheer amount of forms Ai shapeshifts into required quite a lot of work to portray properly, in practice creating a significantly higher character count. CGs are relatively few and the high quality of other art kind of prevents them from having as much impact as they would in an average EVN, but that latter part is something I wish I could complain about more often. The music is fairly tranquil in its feel, matching the overall climate of the story – it was very pleasant and never got in the way of reading, which is just what I want from a VN soundtrack.
In summary, Mizuchi is a game with a slightly niche appeal, due to its heavy focus on slice-of-life content and one that occasionally doesn’t seem to rise to its authors’ ambitions (particularly with the impact of the romance subplots). Despite all that, though, I found it to be a rather excellent experience, with charming characters and story that should satisfy not only yuri fans – while it doesn’t shy away from delving into the GxG love stories, its most important parts are much more universal. Its climate and unique approach to the far-eastern setting are something that should appeal to a broad audience and I recommend every VN fan that wasn’t scared off by my earlier criticism to give Mizuchi a chance. Also, as Aikawa’s debut, it’s a very promising achievement – hopefully, they won’t stop there.
Final Rating: 4/5
+ Beautiful visuals
+ Well-constructed, unusual fantasy setting
+ Likeable heroines
+ Good psychological depth of the main characters
– Uneven pacing and occasionally dull slice-of-life content
– Unintuitive choice system
– Romance subplots lack impact
Buy Mizuchi on Steam or Itch.io
Mr Poltroon reacted to alpacaman for a blog entry, AlpacaReviews - Part 2
Hello again and welcome back to the second part of my series of short reviews of EVNs I picked up. Once again I have a mixed bag regarding both content and quality to get through, so let us dive right in.
Eliza follows our protagonist Evelyn Ishino-Aubrey and how her life and those of others change due to the eponymous AI counseling program she developed some years prior. This is the most ambitious game I'm going to talk about today, mostly being a meditation on how people search for meaning in their lives in a highly technologized society rather than a plot-driven story, with some interesting choices when it comes to its storytelling and game mechanics. Most of them work really well (like the implementation of choices), while others turn out to be double-edged swords. Especially the lack of a distinct central conflict both underlines the MC's lack of direction nicely and makes the VN quite boring to read at times.
When it comes to presentation though, Eliza is probably as good as it gets with EVNs. The art style and soundtrack are quite unique and really aid the overall atmosphere, and the game is completely voiced, with most VAs doing a really good job. Eliza also contains the best and most challenging Solitaire card game I've probably played so far and on which I might have spent more time than reading the actual VN.
Eliza is one of those pieces of media where it is hard to figure out whether you will like it before picking it up. If its themes and atmosphere resonate with you, you will probably really like it. I couldn't really get into it, but I can still acknowledge what it tries to do and where it succeeds. It just isn't for me.
The Miskatonic (Rapscallion)
Speaking of not being for me, The Miskatonic is a comedy VN with a sense of humor I just can't stand, so I dropped it about one hour in. If I had to describe it, I would say it's Big Bang Theory humor (including its reliance on short skits) in a Lovecraft setting with a good measure of sex jokes (get it, it's funny because everyone looks gross). If that sounds like your thing, go ahead and check The Miskatonic out. For me personally though the short time I spent on it felt like a Lovecraftian nightmare in a very different way then the creators presumably intended.
Misadventures of Laura Silver: Chapter One (Studio Attic Salt)
The Misadventures of Laura Silver series (assuming there is going to be at least a chapter two) takes place in 1920s Czechoslovakia, following a duo of supernatural investigators. Where this game absolutely shines is its cast. Laura Silver might be one of my favorite detective MCs with her arrogant and quick-tempered personality. There are several instances where you get the choice to pull out your gun just because someone made a mean comment. The other characters have their entertaining quirks as well, making for a lot of funny dialogue. This first entry suffers a little from a few issues opening chapters in serialized stories tend to have, namely some technical problems (none of them game-breaking though), some interesting though a little clunkily executed gameplay features, and unsteady pacing. The first roundabout two thirds revolve around a murder mystery, while the last part consists of a lot of exposition.
Overall it's a promising opening, but it definitely feels incomplete. I would say it's one of those VNs where you should wait for reviews of the second chapter when it comes out, but then again if nobody buys the first chapter, there might not be a second one.
Miss Fisher and the Deathly Maze (Tin Man Games)
Another series of short murder mysteries, Miss Fisher and the Deathly Maze actually includes two cases. There won't be anymore though as the series has been discontinued due to poor sales (there is only two user ratings on vndb and one of them is mine). Only after starting to read did I find out that it was actually based on an Australian TV show (which in turn is an adaption of a series of crime novels) taking place Down Under in the 1920s, and it shows in how little the game bothers with proper character exposition. This isn't too much of a problem since every recurring character has a personality that is pretty easy to grasp. The cases feel like they would fit right into a pre-primetime serial, which might be one of the reasons the game didn't do so well commercially. It could also have to do with the fact that the Miss Fisher series feels like it is geared towards women 50+, a demographic that isn't exactly famous for buying a lot of PC games.
Mr Poltroon reacted to Plk_Lesiak for a blog entry, The End of an Actress (Western VN Review)
Human beings are contradictory creatures, whose behaviour is rarely as consistent as we would like to see and whose motivations are often complex, to the point they’re not fully understood even by the specific person themselves. This fact is often minimized in fiction, which instinctively strives for clear narratives and characters that are ultimately possible to fully understand and assess according to some kind of moral standards. At the same time, there’s undeniable value in exploring the ambiguity of the human condition and ebi-hime is one of the EVN authors that do it with a borderline-painful consistency, often creating harsh or melancholic plots and populating her stories with deeply flawed, realistic-feeling characters. And her latest release, The End of an Actress, definitely do not break this trend.
Released on Steam in late February 2020, this new title by ebi is loosely based on the last years of Marie Antoinette’s life, where she was imprisoned by the revolutionaries and eventually executed for her perceived crimes against the French people. It transfers these core events and many features of the queen’s biography into a fictional setting, closely resembling 18th-century France, but without any pretences for full historical accuracy. However, instead of a grant political tale, what plays out on this stage is a very intimate drama involving the deposed queen, Liliane, and Marcus, a revolutionary who led the assault on her palace and unwittingly became her jailor. In isolation and hopelessness, the relationship between the two will be redefined in a few possible directions, fluctuating between naïve fascination, hate and, possibly, mutual understanding and affection, making for a rather captivating literary experience and one of my new favourites in ebi’s catalogue. But what makes it this special?
Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
Mr Poltroon reacted to Plk_Lesiak for a blog entry, Steam Curator Wrap-Up – Winter 2020 (Legend of Everything; Weeping Willow; Usagiri; Revenant March; Tell a Demon)
Hello and welcome to EVN Chronicles' seasonal Steam Curator Wrap-up, where I cover the VNs sent to me for review through Steam's Curator Connect functionality. Lately, I’ve come to a sad realisation that I’m unlikely to keep up with all the games I’m receiving, with the appropriate tab in my Steam library growing more and more intimidating over time. However, I’ll be still working to give a chance to as many of them as possible, and assess them for all of you.
This time around, I've been able to check out five titles, the main highlight being the newest VN by the Indonesian studio Kidalang, Legend of Everything, with its deeply unique spin on the isekai formula. This is, however, not where the interesting stuff ends, as the climatic Revenant March and wonderfully-stylized Tell a Demon also proved to be strong contenders, making this one of the most compelling lists I've worked on in this series. So, please join me in this brief overview and if any of the games catch your interest, you can go straight to their Steam pages by clicking their titles. Enjoy!
Legend of Everything
Legend of Everything is definitely the most unusual visual novel in today’s post, particularly because of its subject matter. At first glance, it might look like a simple spin on the isekai formula, with an inhabitant of a fantasy-themed, video game world being the protagonist and interacting with a particularly chaotic person transported there from our reality. However, pretty soon it transforms into a giant thought experiment, and basically a lecture on the simulation hypothesis – the idea that our universe is actually a simulation created by some advanced intelligence. This notion might seem absurd at first glance, but is made less so the more you learn about modern physics theory and strangely arbitral rules that govern various phenomena it describes. While never fully abandoning the formula of comedic fantasy adventure, Legend of Everything thoroughly explores this idea and conveys tons of legitimate science knowledge, basically becoming the most moe course on modern science you're likely to can find, presented in a highly accessible, but genuinely educational way. If you’re at least marginally interested in this kind of topics, the game should be quite enjoyable to you.
What’s less impressive, in my opinion, is the visual side of the experience, dependent on subpar-quality 3D sprites and environments. It’s particularly disappointing in contrast with the rather-stylish art in this studio's previous titles, An Octave Higher and One Small Fire at a Time. However, I was pretty quickly able to look past it thanks to how enjoyable the writing was, consistently combining well-constructed science discussions with quirky characters and humour, and even some epic and heartfelt moments worthy of a “proper” fantasy story. Saying anything more would inevitably involve spoilers, so I’ll simply recommend everyone to check this game out – it offers a lot more than you’d expect at first glance.
Final rating: Highly Recommended
Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
Mr Poltroon reacted to MaggieROBOT for a blog entry, Togainu no Chi + DEMO is out
JAST Blue is slowly but surely releasing Nitro+ CHIRAL's catalogue in the west. While these games had their patch long ago and every person with a passing interest in BL probably already read them, these releases certainly made it easier for fans of physical versions, HD CGs, uncensored dicks, merch or just our good old users of windows 10, as the original have a hard time to even run properly in our favorite OS (N+C did release compatibility versions, but it's not like the old patches even work with those).
This year it's Togainu no Chi's time, N+C's very first game and the most edgy of the bunch. I DID review this game in the past but huh... it REALLY doesn't do a good job at promoting the game...
Okay, so, if I didn't like this title in the first place, why am I even here? Because I really feel it's worth mentioning the demo of the game (you can grab it here (JAST) or here (Steam)) contain one whole route for free and it's most likely porn-free even, so if you ever get slightly interested in this but not enough to spend money, hey, today is your luck day! It's only the third best boy, but they can't be THAT generous now, can they?
Is this a good game to get into the BL side of Nitroplus? Well, if you ask me, no. But I won't pretend parent Nitroplus isn't edgy af too and this game is actually pretty popular to this day, even among Japanese fans, so maybe I'm the one with shit taste here!
Mr Poltroon reacted to Plk_Lesiak for a blog entry, VenusBlood FRONTIER International – Steam Version (JP VN/sRPG review)
When it goes to the Western market for Japanese eroge, VenusBlood FRONTIER is one of the most interesting marketing phenomena in the recent past. Belonging to a series that is most known for its corruption theme and related sexual content, it was rather brilliantly rebranded with a focus on its in-depth gameplay mechanics and the morality system which allows players to shape the fate of its fantasy world in various drastic ways. It is also a game I was highly anticipating because of its rare premise – the ability to play as an anti-hero protagonist who can either become a ruthless oppressor, or a benevolent tyrant protecting the world from destruction and terror. All this coupled with a set of goddess heroines that can be either corrupted into obedient tools, or allied with for the goal of protecting the innocent people trapped in the apocalyptic conflict, and destroying those responsible for starting it.
The international version of FRONTIER is also a bit more than just a Western release of a classic SRPG – it is, by most measures, the definitive version of the game, with significant improvements and new content added thanks to the localisation project's Kickstarter funding. Its goal was very clearly to attract both English-speaking and Japanese players, which at the same time it makes it even more of a notable treat for the non-JP audience. High-budget games of this type very rarely appear outside of Japan, and even less often reach Steam, but the Western release involving significant improvements rather than just cuts and localisation-related glitches is borderline unheard of.
This doesn’t mean that the road onto the biggest PC distribution platform was without hurdles: the final version, released in late January 2020, had to make some concessions when it goes to suggestive content and language, deviating from the initial “all ages” version the studio created. However, the full 18+ version is, in the old-school fashion, available for Steam players through a free patch, and what's worth pointing out, even that version gives a convenient option for opting out of all explicit content. Just by selecting the “skip extra scenes” option in the settings you can avoid h-scenes completely, making the whole game pretty approachable to players that would rather skip the porn and focus on the core story. And in my experience, even the most “compromised” Steam version is a complete-feeling and satisfying experience. But, what exactly it has on offer and can Ninetail really hope for it to get the attention of more "normie" crowds?
Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
Mr Poltroon reacted to Plk_Lesiak for a blog entry, Fallstreak (Free VN Review)
You probably saw many cataclysms in stories you’ve read or watched in the past. Disasters that were natural, technological or magical in nature, limited in scale or apocalyptic, resulting in short-lived crises or civilisation-ending. From Muv-Luv through Swan Song to I Walk Among Zombies, plot-oriented visual novels never shied away from presenting these kinds of scenarios, and along with literature, they’re uniquely positioned to explore deeper consequences they could have for both individuals and whole societies.
Fallstreak, a free game released on Steam on October 2018 as a debut title of a small studio under the name Centicerise Productions, is one less-common EVNs tackling this topic. It does so by focusing heavily on a group of people affected by such a catastrophic event – mostly average folk, crippled physically and emotionally by the mysterious Fire of Collapse that ravaged their isolated country without a warning or identifiable source. It’s also, generally speaking, a wonderfully-produced piece of VN that I’m wary of recommending to people due to its surprisingly extreme content and open-ended story, quite clearly meant as an introduction to its world and a prologue to future games utilizing the same setting. So, what are the main reasons to check it out, or to skip on visiting the fantasy realm of Socotrine at least until Fallstreak’s continuation shows up?
The amount of stories-within-a-story and subplots that are never elaborated upon makes Fallstreak feel more like a prologue leading to a proper story than a standalone experience
Fallstreak’s Steam page claims that the game’s protagonist is Adelise Cotard, the daughter of Socotrine’s ruler and a little girl with a mind of an adult. Atypically mature due to the time she spends in the Golden Dream, a lucid dreamworld full of knowledge which she enters nearly every night, Ade is indeed the character through which we initially experience the story. These introductory chapters, rather relaxed and light-hearted, mostly follow her and her group of friends through some everyday situations – a normal life in which only physical scars some of them bear and occasional reminiscence hint at the dramatic past. However, she’s neither sole focus nor the only protagonist of the game. In its second half, when we start learning about other characters’ backstories and the details of Fire of Collapse though flashbacks, she’s not only pushed to the background but mostly absent, with crucial events taking place before she was even born. At this point, the game switches perspectives on a regular basis, focusing mostly on various members of the Lirit family, whose children are Adelise’s classmates in a private school for those orphaned or otherwise affected by the cataclysm.
In the meantime, we’re also introduced to a ton of information about Socotrine itself, a land isolated from the outside world by the apparently impassable, magical mist. Its impoverished, but stable history was shaken up by the arrival of a refugee convoy from beyond the barrier, around 20 years before the game’s main events. Bringing with them advanced technology and knowledge of the outside world, refugees affected drastically both the land’s political balance and the way of life of its people. Eventually, the convoy’s “Lost Children” revolted against the ruling aristocracy of Socotrine and brought in an era of prosperity. At the same time, the game opens many questions about their origins, actions after traversing the mist and their connection to the Fire of Collapse which nearly destroyed the whole realm. Adelise’s personal story is also apparently related to much of this, with the Golden Dream, her father’s dethronement of the Lost Children’s leader and her mother’s death all signalized as mysteries crucial to understanding Socotrine’s predicaments, although without many hints on how they’re actually significant.
Fallstreak’s story turns bleak without much warning and introduces scenes that wouldn’t be out of place in the darkest of horror stories – it’s not a VN for those faint of heart
If this sounds like a lot to fit into a relatively short, 80k-word VN, it definitely is. I also skipped a number of lore details and subplots that could be considered spoilers, and as you can imagine, very few of those receive any kind of answer or satisfying conclusion. The game does not shy away from extensive infodumps and introducing character after character, many of them either signalizing stories that might be told in the future or being little more than exposition props. It also includes allegorical stories told by various characters, which further draw the readers attention away from its actual plot-points and protagonists. At times the memorable, high-quality visual design and solid characterisation are main things preventing it from devolving into an incomprehensible mess. The unique characters and the sheer beauty of all visual assets make it easier to get immersed in the world and look past the absolute overload of story threads the game bombards you with, without ever tying most of them together.
While the pacing is definitely an issue in Fallstreak, the most problematic part might still be its tone: it often jumps from rather relaxing slice-of-life moments to unsettling mysteries, and then to over-the-top tragedy and absolutely grotesque violence. The aforementioned backstory of the Lirits is full of gut-wrenching moments, drastic enough to disturb even a relatively experienced and desensitized reader like me. I’m not sure all of them belonged in this story – some very much balanced on the border of absurdity and if they had a real narrative function beyond the sheer shock factor, it’s not clear at this point. It’s not a massive problem if you can handle that kind of content, but it definitely makes Fallstreak not an experience for everyone, especially because the intensity of these segments was not properly signalized by previous events and very much caught me by surprise.
The visual design of Fallstreak is impeccable and helps a lot in fleshing out its characters and world, making them surprisingly memorable
If what I wrote so far paints a pretty bleak picture, it’s because Fallstreak’s problems could’ve been fatal if not for how just this polished and well-put-together it is. The prose and dialogue, despite the heavy exposition and anachronistic jokes that I’m not sure make sense in the setting, are very solid. Elements such as character’s speech patterns and personality quirks save them from being forgettable in the overcrowded storyline. And in the end, it’s the beautiful visuals and music that really make it stand out. The characters look distinct and expressive, while backgrounds and CGs are hard to take your eyes off. The assets are also pretty abundant for a free VN, with just enough environments, sprite variants and full illustrations to consistently keep things fresh. The original soundtrack is very climatic, with mostly sombre piano tunes underlining the sad reality of the game’s world. It all comes together in a way that I’m not sure I’ve seen in another free VN.
So, ultimately, what do I make out of Fallstreak? It’s definitely not a bad game and the main problems it suffers from came rather from the developers being overly ambitious than a lack of effort. They definitely tried to fit too much into one package and didn’t follow up properly with new chapters. If I read it right and it is a starting point for a commercial franchise, we should already be seeing much more concrete signals about its continuation than the sporadic teasers present on the developer's social media. It’s not an abandoned project, considering I was directly approached by the studio behind it not a long time ago and the latest updates on the continuation are fairly recent, but whether you should read it depends mostly on whether you’re ok with reading a story that is essentially unfinished (and is going stay like that for a while), and whether you're willing to deal with its grimdark elements. For me, it was definitely worth the time I’ve spent reading it and as a free VN, that time is all it will ever ask from you.
Final Score: 3/5
+ Beautiful visuals
+ Climatic soundtrack
+ Memorable main characters
– Frequent infodumps and clunky exposition
– Gets over-the-top with the brutality of the backstories
– Feels more like a prologue than a full story
Play Fallstreak for free on Steam
Mr Poltroon reacted to Plk_Lesiak for a blog entry, Bewitched by Graven VNs – That One Visual Novel I Tried Proofreading...
Today I wanted to talk a bit about an interesting project, and one that provided me with a unique opportunity to, for the first time, act as a proof-reader and do minor editing for a sizeable VN. Because of this personal involvement, this won’t be a full-on review, but more of a loose rant, highlighting both the worthwhile aspects of the game and my somewhat-peculiar experience with it. The VN in question, Bewitched is indeed a rather interesting one, as all games by Graven Visual Novels are – just as they are weighted down by extremely awkward translations from Russian and inherent flaws of their author’s prose. This time, however, the developer made their first attempt to work on properly polishing the game’s English script with the help of a few volunteers (including my gloriously dyslectic person). This move was quite likely inspired by the discussions I had with them regarding their previous projects and the problems with their English versions. If my involvement in the EVN scene ever made a tangible difference, this is the most concrete example of it, and I hope you’ll be willing to join me as I briefly explore what that difference actually is…
Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
Mr Poltroon reacted to Plk_Lesiak for a blog entry, Yuri Game Jam 2019 Overview (Updated)
The Yuri Game Jam is a yearly event celebrating my favourite romantic setup in visual novels in all configurations imaginable. Each edition attracts both newcomer and experienced developers, flocking to share their work of various sizes and various states of completion, and while it's not a purely VN-oriented event, in practice it was always dominated by those. From the early days of my interest in VNs as a medium, it held a very special place in my heart, spawning both celebrated classics, such as The Sad Story of Emmeline Burns, and dozens of overlooked, but lovely games I’ve mentioned in my past coverage and retrospectives.
At the same time, like most Itch.io events, Yuri Game Jam is fairly crowded and full of demos and prototypes that can be interesting only to the most dedicated yuri fanatics – for this reason, I once more took upon myself to search out complete VNs submitted to the event and assess them for all of you, making it easy to find out which games are truly worth your attention. As always, I’ll be skipping the in-development titles in my coverage, mostly because the unfinished projects can very easily stay that way forever in the world of indie VNs. And if a game I’m writing about catches your attention, you can go straight to its Itch.io page by clicking its title – all Yuri Game Jam entries are free to download.
Yuri Game Jam 2019 was the smallest YGJ edition to date, with even fewer entries than the first event in 2015 and less than two-thirds of last year’s submissions, a drop from 60 games to just 39. It’s also pretty objectively the weakest one yet, with very few titles standing out and the overall production quality of the games being particularly low. Same applies to the length of the visual novel entries, as none of them was much longer than an hour. This is a sad thing to see, but also made my work a bit easier his year, with 9 complete projects to go through, all of them pretty short and straightforward. The highlights of the event were several sci-fi dramas, with Remeniscience Overwrite interestingly touching on topics of memory and communicational barriers, and Package Chat surprising me with its fresh ideas and uncompromising narration. My pick for the best game of the event, however, have to unquestionably go to Crescendo’s Café Bouvardie, which combined lovely art direction with a unique setting and greatly-written characters, turning out to be the most feature-complete and satisfying experience this time around. I still encourage you to read through the whole list though, as depending on your preferences, there might be more games worth your attention – so, let’s get started!
Spring Leaves No Flowers
Npckc is an author of cute, small VNs about being different, and the prejudice and discrimination that comes with standing out from the “normal” society. Spring Leaves No Flowers is the third game of a trilogy focused on Haru, a young transgender woman living in Japan and her two friends, Manani and Erika. The first two entries in the series, One Night, Hot Springs and The Last day of Spring, mostly explored the exclusion and misunderstanding transgender people experience in everyday situations, by the example of a visit to hot springs. The third one switches things a bit, focusing on Manami and her struggle to understand her own feelings, after she discovered that she might also be different in the way she experiences relationships and her attraction to other people...
Those that are familiar with this author’s work, will know exactly what to expect – Spring Leaves No Flowers is minimalistic, to the point and offers a believable glimpse at experiences connected to its subject matter, which this time is being asexual and/or aromantic. It avoids pandering or being overly moralistic, but simply shows typical situations members of sexual minorities find themselves in and different ways of coping with them – both negative and positive ones. If you’re looking to learn a bit about these issues, or they’re already part of your experience and you’re seeking a relatable story in a different cultural context, you should be satisfied with what you find here.
Final Rating: Recommended
Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
Mr Poltroon reacted to MaggieROBOT for a blog entry, A second chance for Taisho x Alice!!!
Taisho x Alice was sadly remembered in the western otomege fandom for one of the worst otome localizations disasters. It read like garbage, had several bugs and it featured amateur english voice acting as if reading engrish wasn't enough. It failed so spectacularly the localization didn't even get past episode 1 out of 3. Well, thankfully tbh. Still, the damage was there and for a long time we believed we would never see a proper localization of this cute fairy tale reimagination in the west.
Primula (TaiAli developer) decided to give english audiences one more chance, complete in a multilanguage package with japanese and chinese options to boot! Rejoice folks as Taisho x Alice episode 1 is now available on steam with a proper translation (translator this time around is our precious verdelish and from what I read from her previous VN translations it's likely top notch)! Episode 1 have only 2 heroes but they have full proper routes. The rest is in episodes 2 and 3, coming soon if episode 1 sells well enough. It's not always we get second chances in VN localization scene so let's say one huge thank you to Primula and support if you can and if you dig cute otomes! *points to strong female protagonist tag in VNDB, hint, hint*
DISCLAIMER: sadly I wasn't paid for this promotion, I did it out of hype alone.
Mr Poltroon reacted to Plk_Lesiak for a blog entry, Steam Curator Wrap-up – Fall 2019 (Summer Meetings; Omnimus; Knife Sisters; The Far Rings; 4 Alice: Lorange Journey)
Hello and welcome to my seasonal Steam Curator Connect Wrap-up, where I’ll be looking at games sent to me for review through my Steam Curator profile during the last few months – particularly the shorter/simpler among them, for which I couldn’t make dedicated posts. This time, the quality of the VNs I’ve received was a positive surprise, with each title offering something interesting and most of them exceeding my expectations in some ways. The highlights of today’s list are definitely the virtual reality-themed thriller Omnimus and the uniquely-stylized, mildly-erotic queer VN Knife Sisters. However, all of the games I’ll be writing about are arguably worth your attention, so please stay with me while I explore their main perks and issues. As usual, links in each title will lead you straight to the Steam store page, so you can quickly check the games out at their source. Enjoy!
The growth of Mikołaj Spychał’s lineup of perfectly-generic romance VNs quite likely isn’t stopping any time soon, and his fourth game, Summer Meetings, is another incremental improvement to the previously-established formula. Much of the fun in his VNs come not from the very standard love stories, or especially from the minimalistic visuals (nearly no CGs and simple sprites), but from the ability to mess up the romance in an impressive number of ways. Dating a few girls at once without them knowing, cheating, randomly kissing the wrong girl at the concert you went to as a group… For people that just want to see the world burn, this might be the best opportunity since School Days (although without that significant bonus of hentai and/or gore).
At the same time, the core story is solid enough for what it tries to be and the writing feels like a step up from all the author’s previous titles: it has a nice flow to it and the English script feels pretty much devoid of translation issues I’ve noticed in his earlier games. The five heroines are decently fleshed-out and even can surprise you in some ways – like the step-sister's willingness to keep the romance non-committal and even tolerating other girl being the protagonist’s primary focus. The main thing stopping me from fully recommending it is the price: for a VN this simple visually and with 5-6 hours of content, 10 dollars feels like an overkill. If you find it for half of that price, however, it’s a surprisingly fun way of burning one or two evenings.
Final Rating: Cautiously Recommended
Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
Mr Poltroon reacted to MaggieROBOT for a blog entry, [Review] Hashihime of the Old Book Town
Well, this blog is... quite unused lately, but I had to come back to talk about this game. The one that effectively reignited my enthusiasm for VNs that was waning a bit for some months. The one that made me sit and only think about reading it for all weekend when I was reading best boy's route. Yes, the long-awaited psychedelic artsy and moody historical game, the latest BL game by Mangagamer Hashihime of the Old Book Town. From the introduction, you can see it was totally worth my time, but was the entirety of the game such good? Details below. And before anyone asks, Hashihime is a water yokai.
Me, writing about my thought on this game in an epic manner
This piece by the little developers ADELTA tells us the story of Tamamori, an incredibly lazy and somewhat self-centered aspiring writer, and his two childhood friends, the quiet bookworm that sometimes is a bit too focused on reading Minakami and the completely ruthless and sharp-tongued clean freak Kawase, living in the district of Jinbouchou in 1922, after moving from the countryside to attend the Tokyo Imperial University, a feat that only our poor protagonist failed to do. So he starts to work in a mysterious used bookstore and meet all kinds of weird people, except some of them are all but his delusions as he have the habit to daydream quite a lot. But when things start to get real weird and supernatural and his friends start dying, Tamamori suddenly goes back in time, only three days to be more precise, but it's enough of a chance to undo his friends' deaths. But will someone actually believe his story?
The beginning is incredibly strong, doing a great job transporting us to Japan's Taishou Era with a lot of attention to detail. There's a ton of cultural references, most of them highlighted so you can click on them for a glossary explanation to pop up with on-screen on the go (although you can make them highlight only on the first time the word appears or disable it entirely). The world it's trying to build is our own, but it feels actually charming and make you curious about the era rather than a storm of unknown terms and explanations that makes you wonder why the characters are explaning something they should know. It flows really naturally, just the characters talking about what was "in" in their time. The main references, especially in the first few routes, are japanese authors of the era and, while my experience wasn't diminished at all for not having read a single one of those books, I do wonder how I would perceive the story itself, or catch even more subtle references, actually knowing the multiple times quoted Dogra Magra by Yumeno Kyusaku, or some less quoted works by Kuroiwa Ruikou or Ozaki Kouyou.
The story is mainly a mystery, so your peaceful historical slice of life will turn into an irrational scenario when you're least expecting, and the mood shifts went all well. You and Tamamori will progress through the story in confusion more often than not, but keeping in check everything you learned until now can offer some fun theory crafting along the way and very satisfying "I knew it!" moments when some answers finally reveals themselves. That worked most on small details for me though, since some twist are very hard to see them coming. The time travel plot is used mostly effectively too, draining poor Tamamori's mental health with each failed loop. That also allowed for several bad ending scenarios to take place even with each route having a single ending, leaving you constantly in the edge of your seat because you never what, how or when things will go south.
We have these cutouts instead of regular sprites, but they have quite some variations in clothing and expression
There are a lot of good themes explored in this game, but the strongest ones all revolves around our three childhood friends (the group is actually composed by four people, but the fourth one is meh at best). Only after the story takes a weird turn that Tamamori notices but since they moved to the capital they all started growing apart somewhat, and it all may have started way back in the countryside. Their relationship, and most relationship between the main cast, stem from negative emotions such as loneliness, guilty, obsession, pity or even hatred, so Tamamori's journey through time for trust, love and to mend their friendship is one of my favorite aspects of the story, and the hardships he faces along the way were heartbreaking and emotional, turning him into a very memorable protagonist, even if he starts the game as one big good-for-nothing (and he is well aware of that).
Let's remember though that the game sells itself as psychedelic so this journey will be full of CGs in weird and vibrant coloring, very magical parts, talking animals, delusion sequences, a lot of insanity overall and some explanations that makes very little sense the first time you read them. While not excessive to turn someone off entirely for being too bizarre, it can make people unsatisfied as some plot points only have weirdly metaphorical explanations... while others I still have to think about where to look at in the game to understand their answers. It's definitely food for thought though, one that can definitely make people who likes rereading things excited as there's several clues and foreshadowing all over the place that are only possible to catch a second time around.
The story structure is a very simple one. The game have an enforced playing order and the only choices you have are to get into the routes. First time around you only have chapter 1 (as the game calls it, but it's Minakami's route) unlocked, and it'll look like this is a kinetic novel. After clearing it, the choice to the chapter 2 reveals itself, and after clearing it the choice to chapter 3 appears and so on. There are 5 chapters in total, all of them branching off the "main path", in a "bus stop" like fashion with Minakami's ending as the last stop if you didn't let off before. Each chapter focus on a different hero, and that's where the enforced order makes it annoying. Only 2 heroes interested me at first, and I ultimately only enjoyed 3 routes, but I can't even suggest to others to skip one chapter entirely because it's right in the middle of the game and you need it to unlock the next one. I can see why lock Minakami's route as the first one, as the others works best if you have some knowledge about the supernatural lore, but chapter 2, 3 and 4 could probably be read in any other or even skipped without losing all that much.
I think the VN itself says Minakami keeps his eyes open only a few millimeters to read xD
On the characters and routes themselves. Minakami is our first boy and, in my opinion, the best route of the game. Yeah, right off the bat to hook you on. According to the scenario writer herself, each route have a literary genre as base and Minakami's is "romance". And indeed, it was one sweet ride to save him. It's the longest route, but you'll find out very soon why this route will make you cry a lot. I can also add there's one good mini arc about a transgender side character here where the fact she is transgender is actually pointed out for once.
Chapter 2 is for Tamamori's second friend Kawase. His theme is "mystery". And indeed, this guy is full of them. His abrasive personality, that is downright cruel on occasion, may make people not like him much, but he ended up being my best boy, help. >.< Some of his banter with Tamamori is really funny and the few glimpses of positive emotions he lets through his evil mask are genuine, or even cute if you're a fan of gap moe effect (like me). His route is very nice and its narrative complements quite well Minakami's route, and the support cast here is a really interesting bunch, so I think there's something to enjoy even if you're not the biggest fan of his character. Oh well, he never goes full well nor even a half nor a quarter deredere (romance is Minakami's theme after all), but his rudeness is a spice that's part of his charm ;p
Chapter 3's hero is Hanazawa, Tamamori's third childhood friend, one that's 3 years older than him and one that our protagonist doesn't see in 8 years. Yeah, he's the meh guy I mentioned earlier. AND the route you could skip I used as example of why the enforced order is a bad idea. His theme is "adventure", but it's more a character theme than a route theme. His route is so short and thus underwhelming, adding literally nothing to the story nor exploring the character. So I don't even have much to say. The ending will meme you hard though, I warn you.
Chapter 4 is for Hikawa Kijuurou aka Professor, the used bookstore faithful costumer and a massive dork. I'm not even fan of the blindly obsessed types, but man is it impossible to hate this guy. His dumb reactions, cute giggles when he "scores" very little with Tamamori like learning his name or his knees failing at the audacious idea of becoming friends with his crush will either leaves you laughing or going aaawww as the guy is a social failure but a very moe one at that. His theme is "sci-fi". The route does takes a weird turn by the end, even by the game standards www, that can considered a bit of a "cheat", but it was pretty nice overall, raising some interesting questions that are often ignored in time travel stories.
And then there's chapter 5. Oh boy, chapter 5. Theme is "bizarre thriller" and bizarre is, indeed, the right word for it. It takes a completely different approach to the plot as a whole, moving the story in the totally opposite direction with different themes, lessons and motivations. Unfortunately it's less like Fate Stay Night's Heaven's Feel and more like a glorified bad ending. And the game even forces you to go for it last so you can end it all in a low note, instead of the sweet endings of most of the other routes. It's quite a short route too, far too short to explain most of it, but its main twist have such massive destructive power you'll either just brush it off as "just one of many routes, I will focus on the better ones instead", have the whole VN completely ruined or find it a really smart, shocking and amazing ending, depending how you take it. I can't say more without spoiling, so I'll just say I'm with the brush it off camp, and I would have rated the game higher if not for this one route.
Professor reading the next section of this review.
Sex scenes are your average VN stuff, just to show their relationship is going to another stage, but are safe to skip without losing much. In fact, I think the all-ages version that supposedly would be released on Steam would be real good for this one VN. It would make recommending it to mystery/historical fiction lovers easier www. And frankly, it would get rid of 2 h-scenes that are really awful context-wise (one is a rape scene and the other is... concerning). Although I must say you'll miss some funny banter that happens during the normal h-scenes if you skip them, like one of the heroes chanting sutras to get rid of his everlasting boner and Tamamori not moving and then demanding another hero to say "please" before simply hoping into a different position. Each hero get one scene, usually in the end of their routes. And if you really must know, Tamamori is always the bottom, but 2 heroes did volunteer to be on the receiving end, but our MC simply didn't agree. Oh man, why. Worth to mention too that the Mangagamer version is fully uncensored, so you can see Tamamori's impressive average size. To be fair, he is a rather short guy (5'3"/160 cm tall), but without looking like a shota, bless, we need more non-shota short boys in VNs.
Art is simple but have that "doujin charm" that I love (it's hard to explain what that means wwwwww). This VN have quite an impressive number of CGs, 159 in total not including variations. Characters are mostly really really normal, with normal hair colors and haircuts, it was almost refreshing! Every mob character made just to populate backgrounds is a shadow though, but there's some eeriness to it. Speaking of backgrounds, the game have both gloomy, cool colored ones and bright, vibrant colored ones, that kinda goes well with all the mood shifts the VN goes through. The music also helps to set the mood, be it calm, tense or one of relief, and the jazzy tracks in particular were quite pleasant to listen to. You can also play back the opening/ending songs in the main menu, but sadly only those. Voice acting is well done, there's no big names in the cast or anything, but they conveyed pretty well the characters' personality and emotions.
I did have other minor grips with the system in general, like noticing the area where you could click in the system buttons are a loooot smaller than their actual size, some random line breaks in the middle of the text box for no reason mainly on Kawase's route and a handful of lines that advanced by itself, but nothing that renders the game unplayable.
I refuse to provide context for this CG
In conclusion, Hashihime is one hell of an addition to the small pool of localized BL VNs, a truly unique experience, and a great bizarre and artsy plotge in general (are there other games in this category www? maybe Inganock??? both have a lot of literary references too hmmm). The 3 good routes are very high quality for me, but sadly it gets dragged down by 2 subpar routes when you rate the game as a whole. The last route is highly divisive but you'll definitely have something to appreciate in this adventure, be it the ending route itself or anything else despite the ending route. Well, Minakami would probably like all routes regardless. According to Kawase, "that guy enjoys anything as long as it's written. He would even enjoy reading the diary of a tuberculosis patient" (exact words).
Mr Poltroon reacted to bakauchuujin for a blog entry, Short opinion on Grisaia Trilogy and pictures of the complete box (english release)
I figured that it is a bit of a waste to write full reviews of VNs where there are a lot of reviews already by people who are better at writing them than I am, because of this I will now only write a short opinion about a VN I have finished and show the physical edition for titles that has lots of reviews. For VNs where there seem to be a lack of reviews, such as many japanese titles that has never been translated I plan to do longer reviews as well as of course show the pictures of the physical edition.
The main thing Grisaia complete box comes with is the Grisaia trilogy and Idol Magical Girl Chiru Chiru so I will focus on those.
The first part of Grisaia is the fruit of Grisaia, this in built up by a common route which focuses on building up the characters and has lots of comedic scenes and then a route for each of the heroines which goes into their backstories and build their relationship with the main character. Fruit of Grisaia is in my opinion the best part of the series, it features a lot of great comedy a fantastic cast of characters and a lot of really good stories and is the only VN I have so far given a 10/10.
Labyrinth of Grisaia is split into multiple parts with the main part focusing on the backstory of the main character then there are afterstories for each of the girls routes in Fruit of Grisaia as well as what if sex scenarios and sidestories (random comedic scenes that are non cannonical). The main story is really good, though in my opinion not quite as good as most parts of fruit of Grisaia. The afterstories were really nice as it allowed you to see the relationship with the girls after everything that happened in their route is dealt with and just added something I felt the first VN lacked. The what if sex scenarios and the side stories were generally quite good though not as good as the other parts, I don't feel like they subtracted anything from my opinion of the VN though and instead just made me like it more as it was just some nice additional fanservice.
Eden of Grisaia which is the last of the trilogy. The main story here is the harem route which deals with events from the main characters past catching up with him then there is the prologue which tells some events before the start of Fruit of Grisaia and there are also more what if scenarios sex scenes. The main story is a very action packed story with lots of good comedic moments and I think the characters generally shine, while I think it is really good it isn't quite as good as Fruit of Grisaia or Labyrinth of Grisaia in my opinion because of things such as elements of how the story got to this point doesn't make much sence (combining things from routes that wouldn't really be compatible), some retcons and a rather stupid plot twitst close to the end. As for the prologue it is a nice prequal that shows the different girls slightly before they meet the main character.
Idol Magical Girl Chiru Chiru is a spin-off where one of the main girls (Michiru) becomes a magical girl. All of the character have some of their main traits though they are kind of just shoved into different roles. The consept of Michiru becoming a magical girl is really funny and they manage to do fairly well with the comedy, though overall considering the cast of Grisaia it felt rather underwhelming and I think they could have made it a lot more funny and used the cast better.
The front of the box
The back of the box
The sides of the box
Outside of the Story collection where the game discs are and the music collection which contains music from the different parts of Grisaia
The discs for the VNs and the discs for the music
Inside of the artbook
The extra things in the box
Size comparison with the complete box, one of them is a regular size did case and the other is a typical japanese physcial edition
Grisaia Trilogy on Switch
Grisaia trilogy cartridge
As for the Switch release I haven't read through it all to see whether there are any issues, though I did skip through everything to unlock scenes and CGs and while skipping I didn't notice any problems. Also the visuals looked great and from a few random scenes I went through I didn't find any problems with the sound. So unless there are any glearing problems that won't be noticed by skipping it is likely the best non 18+ release of Grisaia. There is also a rewind button which is just a reverse skip button which I think is really cool and is something I think other VNs should include as well.
Mr Poltroon reacted to Plk_Lesiak for a blog entry, Blog update + my VN FTL university project
Hello there, all you good people still following my content-starved blog! There will be no regular review post this week (I’ll be catching up next week with one about Reine Work’s Our Lovely Escape, and hopefully a week after that with one of the long-overdue games sent to me for review), but I’ve wanted to take this opportunity to share the reasons behind the recent slowdown on the site and talk a bit my plans for the future. A warning: this will contain a lot of personal musings that most of you are probably not very interested in. However, I kind of need this opportunity to vent and reset. I’ll add a tl;dr version at the end of this post.
Outside of my, not-extremely-successful attempt to jumpstart a new wave of activity on Fuwanovel, there have been a few other things happening behind the scenes. The major one was my academic project on visual novel fan translations, which led me to submitting a paper for an international fan studies conference in Cracow. Preparing the speech in English (this was the first time I wasn’t speaking in Polish on such an event), running a survey with people involved in fan translation projects… It all took a lot out of me and gave me little time and energy to actually enjoy VNs as such. It also coincided with a minor health issue, which despite its non-threatening nature made it impossible for me to sit straight for nearly two weeks – a truly infuriating thing when you should be working on your computer and are basically running out of time. This was probably a major factor which destroyed my motivation for working on the project, which in turn made it be the most painful and depressing one to date. I, however, still made my short presentation in the presence of prof. Matt Hills, one of the most influential researchers in my obscure field of study, and learned quite a lot from other speakers. Here’s some photographic proof, courtesy of my girlfriend who once more agreed to help me inflate my ego by documenting my speech. 😉
As you can see, I was asking the Heavens to help me and my listeners to get through those 20+ minutes of my horrible English accent. Not sure to what degree my prayers were heard, but at least there were no fatalities. Oh, and in the lower-left corner, it’s Matt Hills. That was both awesome and terrifying.
And here’s a rare moment where my conference ID wasn’t hanging backwards! You can see the fear in my eyes – one would think after nearly 10 similar presentations I’d be a little bit calmer, but it’s apparently in my nature to stress out over everything.
And here’s me taking one of two questions that were still possible to ask after I’ve used all the discussion time for my way-too-long PowerPoint slideshow. And yup, I will insert Flowers whenever that's even remotely appropriate. Suou x Rikka forever. You can't stop me!
While, in general, my project was fruitful and I’m satisfied with my performance, I also ended up so physically and emotionally drained that I’ve ditched the other two days of the conference, just enjoying my time in Cracow. Even after coming back, I had a day of what could be described as a full-on breakdown before I kind of got my shit together. All this, of course, has some very real consequences for the blog: for quite a while, I didn’t have the time and energy to really read VNs. And, obviously, without any new material to cover, I didn’t write anything either. It’s the first time since establishing the Blogger site that I have no “emergency” posts to use or quick ideas to supplement more involved write-ups with, even despite switching to the biweekly schedule. And honestly, I don’t expect to write much in-advance anymore. The “one post every two weeks” frequency is here to stay and I’m going to be flexible about it, switching content and dates when necessary.
The other thing is that I still want to make the blog a little bit more of my personal space. I’ve kept up the regular stream of content both to become a better writer and to prove a few things to myself. I think I’m satisfied with what I’ve achieved, and while I’m definitely not discarding the general profile of the blog and the responsibilities I’ve taken upon myself (like covering the games sent to me), I’m going to have fun with it too. Write silly stuff connected to the weeb culture and my peculiar experience with it. I’ve already hinted at this at the beginning of the summer, but I’m even more determined to make it happen now. No hobby I’ve picked up over the years was this intellectually stimulating and satisfying as this one and I want to do all I can to keep it this way– I can't let things go too stale.
And while I’m doing all this weird stuff and overthinking things, I hope you guys will stay and still read my crappy writing. Exploring the creativity and passion of EVN devs is not something I’ll ever get tired of, and I hope we can enjoy their stuff together for years to come. Thank you all for following my work, and until next week!
tl;dr I’ve been to a fan studies conference which, together with minor health issues, ate a month and a half of my life. I’ll get back to “serious” posting next week, returning to the bi-weekly schedule. I might sneak in some weird posts about Japanese popculture between “proper” EVN ones. EVNs are love, EVNs are life (still). See you next week for actual content!
Mr Poltroon reacted to Ramaladni for a blog entry, Master Magistrate - Early-Access Review
Master Magistrate is the murder mystery detective visual novel set in the late years of Japan's Edo Period. Developed by the indie studio Irodori and released in the year of 2017, it quickly attained popularity and became a hit amongst Japanese fans. They praised the great direction sense, well-crafted scenario, immersive atmosphere, and fascinating soundtrack, amongst other aspects.
Hobibox have attained publishing rights for the Chinese and English versions of the game, wishing to bring this experience overseas. They have committed themselves to provide a high-quality product, hoping to turn a new leaf and redeem themselves for not so fruitful past endeavors.
Read more at https://j-addicts.de/master-magistrate-early-access-review/ - we now have a comment box!
(I was initially planning on cross-posting here but the screenshots looked strange, so yeah).
Mr Poltroon reacted to Ramaladni for a blog entry, Great Ace Attorney - Impressions
Finally got around to publishing this after letting it sit in the oven for four months. Life happened, I guess. Anyway, instead of doing what I usually do and copy-pasting my article here on fuwa, I thought I'd just leave the link to my blog. Feel free to make use of the comment section below, however, as we're still working on setting up Disqus. I tried to make the article as spoiler-free as possible, so that those who haven't yet played the game can enjoy it nonetheless.
This article was written on May 3rd. There's a chance that some of the information might be outdated regarding the fan translation group Scarlet Study. However, this should not affect the content of the article itself.
Also, a huge shoutout to @Tyrosyn for working tirelessly on the new website design and making everything look nice, as well as his countless suggestions to improve my work. I'd also like to thank @Zander for giving my article a quick editing pass, that which finally forced me to finally getting around to publish it. Although I call it an impressions article, it grew wild beyond my expectations. With that out of the way, please do enjoy reading my review.
Mr Poltroon reacted to Plk_Lesiak for a blog entry, Steam Curator Connect Wrap-Up: Summer 2019
Check out my interview with Georgina Bensley, the founder of Hanako Games, published recently on Fuwanovel
Welcome back to another one of my seasonal (yup, I get enough things sent my way for that to be a thing now) summary of games given to me for review through the EVN Chronicles Steam Curator page. Once more, I’ll be focusing on the shorter titles, that would most likely be hard to write a full-length review about or had to give up their spots for games I really wanted to cover in detail. This, of course, doesn’t mean there are no really interesting VNs among them. In today's list, the title standing out the most is undoubtedly Jack-In-A-Castle, a whimsical tale about a world populated by living toys and a marionette investigating the disappearance of its king. This extended version of a free NaNoRenO 2019 VN proved to be an unusual and twisted experience that caught me completely by surprise. While the other three games I’ll cover this time didn’t offer similar levels of quality, all of them proved interesting in their own ways – even if they didn’t subvert my expectation quite like they wanted to...
Every once in awhile, I stumble upon small VNs so unusual and creative that they’re hard to categorize. Jack-In-A-Castle is, by its own admission, a rather cute, cartoonish boy’s love story happening in a fantastic world populated by animated toys. However, there are a few caveats to it: the BL label feels somewhat irrelevant considering the androgynous designs of the main characters (particularly the protagonist, Marion) and the relatively tame relationships they develop. Between all those cute living toys and minimalistic love stories they’re involved in, gender barely seems to hold any meaning. At the same time, the cartoonish art can be misleading in its own way – the game features some mature themes and the characters, Marion in particular, can be quite devious and even violent (although such things are mostly presented off-screen).
The three hero routes all develop in pretty unpredictable directions, leading Marion to resolve the mystery of the missing king and the tenuous regency of his right-hand-man, Jack, in vastly different ways (or not at all). This makes for a surprisingly engaging and fun experience – varied, cleverly written and executed with a lot of attention to detail. The game’s environments change to reflect the plot progression (mainly through the constant spread of mysterious vines infecting the titular castle). What seems like throwaway choices can lead to some drastic consequences, completely subverting your expectations. Everything is presented in a distinctly stylish manner, with the simplicity of character and background designs being outweighed by their expressiveness and the quirky atmosphere they create. The overall impression I’ve got from Jack-In-A-Castle was extremely positive and I highly recommend checking it out – unless you’re hoping for traditional VN romance, it definitely won’t disappoint you.
Final Rating: Highly Recommended
Elf Enchanter: Arousing Anima
Belgerum is a developer of small hentai games that combine VN-style storytelling and simple, RPG-like battle mechanics. After his surprise hit from 2018 NaNoRen0 contest, Demon King Domination, he capitalised on it with an extended, commercial version that reached decent popularity on Steam. Later he also created a follow-up game, Magebuster, once more featuring a supernatural, villainous protagonist and an antagonistic heroine he has to dominate. His third title, Elf Enchanter, was meant to partially break away from this formula, being a “pure” visual novel and not focusing so much on dark themes.
Featuring a support mage that accidentally casts a taming spell on his dark elf companion, making her incapable of opposing his commands, it sounded quite intriguing in theory: I usually find games where you’re given complete power over other people, and can use it for either good or bad, very compelling. Elf Enchanter, however, does very little with this setup: featuring only a few choices and three possible endings, it’s too short and basic to really engage you in its narrative, while the 5 h-scenes (two unavoidable one and one extra per each ending) are average in quality and only one of them stands out with some unusual elements. It’s quite adequate as a $1 nukige (that’s how much it costs on Steam), but ultimately very forgettable – and that’s a shame, as with just a bit more content and complexity, it could’ve been a really cool experience worthy of a much more serious price tag. Maybe another time…
Final Rating: Cautiously Recommended
Kingdom of Lies
The fact that Visual Novels are somewhat easy to put-together, even without any programming prowess or high-quality assets involved, makes it quite common for extremely low-effort ones, or straight-up troll games in VN form, to reach Steam. Kingdom of Lies looks like one of the latter, a cynical attempt at trolling and getting attention with edgy content, but is actually something a bit different – a confusing, broken and ultimately unplayable mess, that still quite a lot of work and thought went into. It features a really strange story about a maniacal-murderer protagonist, guided by a demon (represented by gradually-decaying rat corpse) into a killing spree in a modern-fantasy setting. It then combines it with some literally-impossible Hotline Miami-style gameplay sections and minigames that will make your head hurt (although the combination of shogi, go and chess on a three-dimensional board and with a possibility to modify rules was pretty hilarious). All of that coupled with MS Paint-grade visuals, tons of anti-SJW memes and high levels of randomness. It’s quite possible that I haven’t seen this much effort going into something so overwhelmingly bad since Sonic Boom and if the game was just a battle bit less broken, I could’ve even suggested checking it out for its hypnotizing trainwreck-like qualities. It also involves a few genuinely cool ideas: for example, the rat corpse/demon you communicate with before every mission is quite disturbing, with the constant decay and disease it seems to spread all around it being well-portrayed despite the simplistic graphics. In reality, though, the experience of playing Kingdom of Lies is just too confusing and frustrating to be worth it.
Final Rating: Not Recommended
Caladria Chronicles is a debut VN by a small studio called Starlight Visual, one which was meant to launch a whole saga set in the titular modern-fantasy world of Caladria. It’s also, by most measures, a rather spectacular trainwreck: overly ambitious, unfocused and grossly unpolished in its execution. The full voice acting is a mixed bag at best, with some characters being hard to listen to and whole lines misplaced or missing. The narrative lacks clear protagonists, and introduces way too many character and subplots within its 3-hours reading time. The humour is very much hit-and-miss, with two rather unbearable chuuni characters at the center of most of the gags. The anime clichés are everywhere and their presence, along with many explicit references to Japan, are utterly confusing unless you took your time and read the game’s encyclopaedia, explaining many crucial lore details that are never properly communicated in the story. An encyclopaedia which, BTW, is also full of errors and clunky writing.
Why do I leave this game with a positive recommendation then? Not because I necessarily advice reading it, but because of a huge potential I see in its setting and some of its characters. Caladria is a copycat world – a planet whose people used the help of mystical being known as angels to gain knowledge of Earth’s history, technology and culture. They then proceeded to copy and expand on all of it, boosting their own development in incredible ways. In the process, Caladria lost most of its own identity, with whole nations mimicking Earth’s civilizations and identifying with these artificially-imported, second-hand cultures. With a few forms of magic and a tumulous political situation added to the mix, the setting itself offers great promise, even if the first game only briefly touches on its most interesting aspects. While for now, Caladria Chronicles can be only worth experiencing as an unfortunate curiosity, if its authors manage to learn from their mistakes, they have a good basis to create something really memorable and compelling. Skip on this VN, but keep Starlight Visual on your radar – personally, I’m extremely curious where the Caladria project goes next.
Final Rating: Cautiously Recommended
And this would be it for this season’s Steam Curator summary! I hoped to include at least one more game in it, but the real-life responsibilities forced me to move it to the fall update – that one will hopefully be more substantial, including some more notable games and ones that were waiting particularly long to get covered. Still, I hope you all enjoyed this small update and as always, my huge thanks go to the developers that decided to share their work with me. I hope this feedback, even if not always positive, will be of use to them and maybe even inspire (even) better VNs in the future. Until the next time!
Mr Poltroon reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, The problem with reviews and reviewers
Anyone who has read one of my reviews knows I'm something of a cynic and a pessimist. I try to think the best about every VN I go into, but my first impulse is to see what is wrong, rather than what is right.
Whether it is optimism and rose-colored glasses or pessimism and cynicism, and excess of either is often a negative influence on the quality of a review. Generally speaking, I usually make an effort to find something I like about a VN's concept before going in, then I start the VN trying to enjoy it as an outgrowth of that. By the end, this usually results in me having experienced both the negative and positive aspects of the VN... the problem is, when reviewing, it is all too easy to forget what is good about the VN.
As a result, when I'm writing up a review, the first thing I do is write up a list of the good points I found, ignoring the mitigating negative factors. I then build the review around these and include the negative points in with the rest... but you can probably tell that being positive just doesn't come naturally to me, since I tend to be pretty harsh.
However, by using this system, I've found dozens of VN gems over the years that I probably would have discarded for perceived negative qualities if I didn't use this process. Indeed, early on in my reading of untranslated VNs, I dropped numerous ones simply because they had a negative aspect that I got obsessed with. I would later go back and replay them, only to find that the negative aspect wasn't as big a deal as I thought at the time, since I made the effort to go back with a differing perspective.
A poor quality in a reviewer is the tendency to ignore the negatives about something you like. Another one is to rate things entirely based on aspects you only have a vague grasp or focus on (in my case, due to my eye problems, I'm not the best judge of artwork, and my musical sense is entirely based on how it enhances the atmosphere, rather than raw quality comprehension). I'm a story reviewer. I review almost exclusively based on the story, characters, and presentation. As such, art and sound rarely have a place in my reviews, since I don't think I'm qualified to evaluate them except in the most general of terms.
I can tell when a VA did an exceptional job, because it stands out enough for me to notice. I will even mention this in the review, since it takes a lot for a performance to stand out to me. However, I never pretend to know the ins and outs of specific aspects of VA or musical quality. I simply don't have the right kind of ear for that kind of thing, not being musically inclined.
One thing I've noticed in some reviewers who prefer niche genres (such as myself) is to display a tendency I refer to as PGRD (or Popular Game Reactionary Disorder). It is a fictional mental disease that many of us who have a distinct preference for a niche genre display that causes us to have a knee-jerk negative reaction to popular works, simply because they are mainstream. This is a problem that is particularly common in Western otakus of around my age, who became fanboys during a time when watching anime, playing Japanese video games, and reading manga had a rather strong stigma that left us feeling isolated and defensive. However, it is also present in people who prefer niche genres (I get the double whammy, being both). That sense of isolation leads to a tendency to over-praise our favorite materials and bash anything that we see as being too popular.
In reverse, there are those who automatically dismiss anything that isn't mainstream. Both types are reactionary in nature and have little to do with the quality of the materials in question. Being a long-time sci-fi addict, I can't understand why anyone would enjoy Avatar (the movie). However, if I make the mistake of saying that in front of a fanboy of the movie, I will inevitably get a vociferous lecture on how misunderstood the movie is by science fiction fans...
There are many such examples of such behavior I have experienced over the years, both in myself and in others. As such, a reviewer has to be willing to examine his own motives for liking or hating something. Are you being cynical for the sake of being cynical? Are you over-praising something to the point of overlooking the obvious problems with it? Are you making excuses while thinking you are making a reasoned argument? On the other side, are you ignoring the voice of reason to give you an excuse to dislike something?
In the end, bias is unavoidable... but it is a reviewer's duty to do their best to cast aside as much of it as possible, because people use our reviews as reference points when they pick what they want to play/read/watch.
Mr Poltroon reacted to Deep Blue for a blog entry, Gin'iro Haruka general thoughts.
After many...many...many hours of reading I finally finished one route which I think is enough since one route in this VN feels like finishing a long VN on itself, also picking a different girl feels incorrect at this point, like I'm cheating someone... (forgive me Bethly )
Giniro is a pure love story, slice of life with some very mild drama(almost non existent), most of it consist on developing the bonds between the main character and his group of friends(only females) and later on the girl you chose from that group.
This VN shows you that each one of the girls has a great potential inside of them but they wont be able to use it on their own, they are like rough diamonds, with the help of the main character will "unleash" they full potential(it sounds like an action vn xD), is not like they will turn out to be unhappy or anything like that but each one of them wont fully accomplish their respective dreams or reach their full potential on their own.
This might be a little spoilerish but Yuzuki wont become a great chef, Mizuka wont reach the first place in the figure skating thing she does, Bethly wont become a famous illustrator, Hinata wont even be able to realize what her true dream is in the first place, finally Momiji won't become a great actress.
Another thing to point out is that while all the girls hang around the main character they actually dont love him in secret or anything, in fact it's a long process for each one of them, the only exception to this is your non blood related sister, which is kind of sad since she starts tearing up every time she realizes that she wont be able to be with the person she loves.
The first part, which is the common route is really long and from there you go into the heroine route which is again really long. It's so freaking long that the vn itself thinks that you are an idiot without memory and re-introduces you the characters like 3 times at some different points...
There are 5 heroines to chose from:
*Yuzuki, your non-blood related sister, she is really shy and probably the "loli" of the group but she works very hard and even though I admit I hate the imouto heroine type this one didn't feel that bad.
*Mizuha, your childhood friend, again the VN surprisingly didn't go for the cliche thing of the "childhood promise" or anything like that (well, it did but it was pretty subtle and it was also resolved very early in the game without forcing you to pick her just out of pity) she is some kind of figure skating star, to be fair I found her to be the most boring character, specially because I have 0 interest in what she does, so meh.
*Hinata, the best friend of your sister, she is amazing and really charming, has this quirk way of speaking and expressing herself, most of the users on the internet hate her and her voice acting for some reason, she loves everything about girl stuff (like clothing, hair, how a girl should act etc etc) very sharp and lively, a true energetic type of character.
*Momiji, she goes to the same class as the MC and thus they become friends, she loves acting and has a very normal character overall, still I found her to be one of the most interesting character... I almost do her route but at the last moment I went for...
*Bethly, she is probably the character that most of us will chose because she is the foreign girl, she is from Canada and at first she doesn't speak any Japanese so it's kinda of funny to see how she struggles in every situation (the vn doesn't really do a good job portraying this...just a decent job.) She likes to draw, has a really calm personally and a great sense of morality, she is also very stubborn, finally she is the girl I picked.
*Finally the MC (Yukito or whatever name you used for him, I recommend to leave his default name), he is for my taste.... a bit too perfect, he is a perfect student, friend, son, boyfriend, husband, father..you name something and he is perfect in that, not because he does everything in a perfect way but because he doesn't have a glimpse of malice or egoism in him, which is hard to believe.
He has a very strong sense of duty and morality and wants to help anyone that needs it, very proactive, he is not naive and doesn't behave like a retard in front of the opposite sex... he is... yep perfect, which was a bit of a let down for me.. because him being that way takes away many opportunities from the novel thus the drama in the VN it's almost non existent or very predictable.There is a reason why he is like that but still I didn't like it.
The pace in this vn is slow, really slow, for example you won't kiss the heroine until much much later on into the story(let's not even talk about having sex xD), if you don't enjoy slice of life then you will hate this vn because that's pretty much what it is.
It's hard to compare anything with this or find some equivalents but the closest thing that I can think of is nagisa's route in Clannad (if you take out the funny parts with sunohara and pretty much everything else) and all the heavy drama.
It does have some funny parts here and there (most of them are generated either from Hinata or an school teacher that you find later on and occasionally from the MC's biological mother.)
I chose Bethly and later on I regret it, I really wanted to pick momiji or hinata but at that point it was too late...
Bethly's route was ok, but her inability to speak Japanese was what it kinda ruined it for me, I came to hate the words うれ fucking しい and おいしいい, you will hear those words probably more than 500 times in the novel (or more and no I'm not joking), yes, it's tasty and yes you are happy "I got it" I really do but just stooooooooooooooooooooooooop, this again is something that makes sense in the context of what it's going on but it just pissed me off really bad.
On the other side, it's really interesting to see how the characters grow(mentally and physically too) and how your relation with the main heroine gets stronger by the passage of time, it reminded me a lot of my own experience with my ex lol so in that sense it's pretty realistic and also maybe boring for some readers.
Now I will force myself to finish momiji's route even though I'm not very sure if I will be able to do so
What I liked it:
Very rich characters development.
Some really good and interesting characters that I won't be able to enjoy xD at least not right now.
Amazing voice acting.
What I didn't like:
A bit slow.
Too long for its own good.
The main character.
What I hated:
Repetition, specially of some words.
Not enough strong drama.
One awkward and very unfitting scene in the story.
How difficult is it to read?
Really easy, you can read this as as your first vn without any doubt, I wouldn't recommend Hinata's route for someone new because of the way she talks (not hard at all but still be careful)
I rate this vn: Snowman out of 納得.
EDIT: a little spoiler part to actually point out what was really boring, unfitting and what was actually pretty good.
Since I don't want to create another topic about hinata's route I will keep adding info here,
So Hinata's route has a really different dynamic and it has a lot more of comedy than bethly's, the combination between hina and yuzuki is amazing. I won't say that bethly's route was bad but so far hinata's is overall way more enjoyable.
Mr Poltroon reacted to Plk_Lesiak for a blog entry, Perceptions of the Dead 2, Episode 2, 3 & 4 (VN DLC Review)
Perceptions of the Dead 2, released on Steam on June 2018, is a light-horror visual novel by Ithaqua Labs, a team whose titles stand out from the usual output of Western VN studios through their unique, vibrant artstyle and full voice acting. Soon after the game’s initial release, I’ve reviewed its then-available first chapter, Misty Mournings. It was an hour and a half piece of content tying together all the stories and characters from the first, freeware Perception of the Dead, with the main storyline revolving around nulls – mysterious ghost-devouring creatures that pose a mortal threat to both spirits and human mediums. This, however, was meant to be only the beginning of the game’s story, with three more chapters promised in the Kickstarter campaign and scheduled for release over the next year. With the fourth story, House Haunting, now available and Perceptions of the Dead 2 experience complete, I’ve decided to revisit the game and take a closer look at all that additional content. Did it maintain the positive impression I’ve got from the first chapter?
Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
Mr Poltroon reacted to Plk_Lesiak for a blog entry, Sakura MMO Trilogy (Yuri VN Review)
Winged Cloud, creators of the infamous Sakura series, are visibly past their prime, which shows not only in their diminishing Patreon support and smaller interest in their games in general, but also the lack of marketing effort and innovation. For two and a half year now their VNs are only becoming shorter, simpler and more iterative, making the already not-particularly-impressive projects from the peak of studio’s popularity, such as Sakura Nova or Sakura Fantasy, look like absolute heights of quality and ambition. At the same time, the company seems heavily disinterested in actively promoting their work or opening new niches, even nearly dropping the production of straight eroge for the sake of pushing out more yuri games, feeding of this niche's popularity with Western audience. And few things symbolise this sorry state of affairs quite like the Sakura MMO trilogy, the latest three entries in the mainline Sakura franchise, this time tackling the grossly overused theme of gameworld isekai.
Coming out between October 2018 and June 2019, with little fanfare (the second and third game pretty much appeared out of nowhere, with no communication from Winged Cloud’s social media accounts before the releases) and to a rather lukewarm reception from players, Sakura MMO games still stand out in some ways from Winged Clouds usual output. Particularly, it was the first time since Sakura Beach that a game in the series received a direct sequel, and the only instance one received two. This, at first glance, makes it look like one of most ambitious projects Winged Cloud ever attempted, but one thing should be said in advance: all three Sakura MMO games are very short (3-4 hours) and heavily overpriced, with each costing $10. For the amount of content you’d usually find in one 10-15 dollars VN, you’re asked to pay 30, while also having to deal with issues that wouldn’t be there if it was all released as a single product or a well-constructed episodic game, like your choices not transferring between parts and somewhat shoddy continuity. But aside from it being a shameless cash-grab, is there something worthwhile within this trashy sub-franchise?
Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
Mr Poltroon reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Amatsutsumi
... it's been a while since my feelings on a VN have been as complex as my feelings for this one are. I say 'feelings' because this VN has massive emotional impact... not as much as Hapymaher, but nonetheless a lot of emotional impact.
To be blunt, Makoto is nothing like Hapymaher's protagonist, so if you were hoping for more of his 'consumed by sorrow and despair but still living my life' personality, sorry, no luck here. Makoto is... a blank slate. I don't say this in a bad way. For better or worse, Makoto has lived his life in an isolated village where people literally don't talk any more than is absolutely necessary, lest they accidentally compel one another with their power, 'kotodama'. Makoto has a fiance named Mana (and no, not that kind of lukewarm, 'distant fiance' sort of thing you see in some VNs, since they actually get down to business), and a rather nice, slow life in that village... However, he yearns for the outside world, where people can talk to people without restrictions.
He escapes from the village and collapses from hunger in a small town four days later, where he is saved by the first of four heroines, Kokoro. From there the story begins, as he makes the journey from an innocent 'kami' to a real human being with all the baggage that comes along with it.
A lot of the most interesting parts of this game come from the fact that he naturally doesn't understand much about the outside world. Makoto's innocent, unstained viewpoint, combined with his natural kindness and willingness to embrace new experiences, feel surprisingly refreshing. Things other 'normal' protagonists would worry over don't even occur to him, and he is so laid back he makes the drugged hippies of US in the sixties seem tense. While he does change as part of the story, his personal 'lens', through which he sees the world, remains remarkably clean throughout... not to mention the guy has absolutely no sense of sexual morality (in other words, his idea of sexual morality is 'don't use his power to compel people to have sex with him').
The first of the heroines, Kokoro, is a shojo manga addict who has fantasies about immoral relations with older brothers. She is a natural at unconsciously grasping the hearts of others around her without trying, and she is pretty much the picture of a heroine who 'exists to be loved by everyone'.
The second heroine, Kyouko, is a miko that can see dead people (yes, I went there). She has huge self-esteem problems and is more than a little weird... for one thing, her reaction to Makoto is one of the more unique heroine reactions to a protagonist I've encountered over the years... for another, she is abnormally self-derogatory in both action and word.
Mana... is the protagonist's fiance from the village. She is pretty much apathetic about other people, unless they have the decency to provide her with food (from her point of view, people who give her food move up from 'stone in the road' to 'slightly adorable insect' in most cases). She is a bit of an S, when it comes to Makoto, and Makoto is pretty much her reason for living. Because of a careless use of kotodama by another member of the village, she is always cold and in her eyes, it is always snowing.
Hotaru... is the true heroine of this story. Cheerful and active, not to mention highly intelligent and perceptive... she is actually a fairly attractive heroine from the start. However, she has less initial impact than Mana or Kokoro, for reasons that are fairly apparent. Since that is by design, I actually am not complaining about this, though.
Now, to get to the downside of this game... it uses the G-senjou 'ladder' story structure, wherein the story progresses arcs where you choose to either pursue the heroine associated with that arc to an ending or move on with the main story. I can say that the path endings for the non-true heroines were actually pretty good, but having played the true path, they are comparatively low-impact. A lot of this is the fact that the major events of their 'paths' are in the arcs they branched off from, so little is added by their endings save for more sex and some minor tying up of loose ends.
To get back to the main game... the true path is the impact I was talking about. The main arcs were all emotional, so I guess you can say that the other heroines' 'paths' were also emotional, but, as I mentioned above, there is a definite sense that very little was added by choosing one of the other heroines. Hotaru's path is easily the most powerful 'arc'. In fact, it is so emotional and powerful that there are two ends for it. The first one (which you are required to watch first) is... sad, to say the least. It isn't a bad ending, but it is a sad one. I know I cried. For the second ending... well, let's just say it is a good one and leave it at that.
Overall, my viewpoint on this game is... just as mixed as I said above. My conclusions on the G-Senjou story structure are unchanged in the least. I still believe that all VNs that use that story structure should be changed to kinetic novels, just so I don't have to deal with heroine endings that are neglected by the creators of the stories themselves. While all stories with true heroines inevitably put a much larger emphasis on the true heroine, the way this story structure trivializes the other heroines is really irritating, especially when they are good heroines, like these were. However, if you take the arcs, characters, and the true endings separate from that source of irritation, it is a great VN. It just happens to use the single worst VN story structure in existence. Indeed, that story structure and the inevitable realities it brings along with it are the only thing that kept me from naming this as a kamige.
PS: I will erase any and all comments that spoil anything in the last arc. I say this because this is the type of VN that can only be enjoyed to the fullest once, not the type that merely changes flavor with each playthrough, like Devils Devil Concept. Anyone who spoils this VN should have their skin sliced open, drawn back, then have salt rubbed into the exposed flesh.
... *Clephas drools and goes off to make BBQ*
Mr Poltroon reacted to Plk_Lesiak for a blog entry, Without Within Trilogy (Western VN Review)
In the EVN world dominated by clichéd romance stories, titles by InvertMouse, a long-time indie developer from Australia, stand out in a few significant ways. Staying away from most common genre tropes and easily-marketable story elements, the games he creates often focus on topics such as friendship and struggles of everyday life, rather than grand tales of romance and adventure. The three short VNs in the Without Within series are particularly unusual and interesting in this regard, tackling themes of ambition, motivation and talent in life of an artist, in the rare setting of modern-day Australia and South-East Asia – all of this in a highly comedic style, but not without serious messages underlining the, most of the time, silly storyline.
Another thing that makes these games interesting is their complicated development history. The first Without Within was a very short, freeware title, published in December 2014 as one of InvertMouse’s earliest works. The second, commercial entry followed nearly a year later, showing up on Steam in December 2015 and offering a much more substantial story, but in a very similar production quality and tone. The final game, however, didn’t release until mid-2018 – by this time its creator had a lot of more experience and technical prowess, which makes it a visibly different experience from its prequels. Still, with how short and thematically-consistent the three games are, I’ve decided to tackle them as a single package – the third part ends in a rather open-ended way, but with InvertMouse moving away from VN development, it’s pretty clear that the whole trilogy should be treated as a complete story and there’s little chance for any kind of continuation. So, what is Without Within series about exactly and what makes it worth your attention?
Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com