Jump to content

Mr Poltroon

Jr.Admin
  • Content Count

    5914
  • Joined

  • Last visited

  • Days Won

    54

Reputation Activity

  1. Like
    Mr Poltroon reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, VNs I still Remember, no matter how much Time Has passed   
    This might seem like an odd choice for a blog post, but it should be noted that, after more then twelve years and seven hundred VNs, remembering each and every one is impossible.  In fact, I hardly recall roughly 70% of all the VNs I've played, and less than 10% are memorable enough that I consider replaying them once in a great while.  I'm somewhat infamous for my lists, but I figured one more wouldn't hurt.  Remember, these are the VNs I still remember to the point where I can state almost everything about what I like and hate about each.  This list is going to be split into two parts, the VNs I loved and the VNs I loved to hate.
    The VNs I loved to Hate
    Suburashiki Hibi- Yes, I hate this VN.  In truth, I hate almost everything written by Sca-ji that I've read.  Sca-ji's style drives me up the wall (for some reason, it presses all the wrong buttons), and his love of unreliable narrators only makes it worse.  Suburashiki Hibi is just the most obvious example of a VN I can't forget, even though I want to, badly.  I can admit that Suburashiki Hibi is interesting... but to me that just doesn't stop me from hating it anyway.
    Aiyoku no Eustia- For a chuunige fan like me to actually outright hate a chuunige is actually fairly difficult.  90% of the reason I eventually came to hate Eustia was because of its true/Eustia route.  I didn't like Caim's rapid personality change, the fact that elements of the setting introduced in Eustia's path make all other paths impossible, and I absolutely loathed Eustia herself (what is it with the love for the helpless and frail heroine in some games?).  That said, it doesn't change the fact that I liked most of the game before I got onto Eustia's path... but it does mean that I will never admit this is a truly great game.
    Ryuusei World Actor- Similarly to above, this is a chuunige I love to hate, despite it being memorable.  There is one simple reason for this... it was made to be a prequel rather than a whole game in and of itself.  There is no sense of completion, no satisfaction to be gained by completing this story.  In addition, it was only recently that its sequel was - finally - announced.  Worse, Kinugasa Shougo's style of never really explaining the setting, except in the most oblique of fashions, greatly harms the enjoyment of this game's plot.  In the case of his previous works, it was relatively easy to extrapolate and speculate yourself into an understanding of the setting based on what was there, but there is a definite sense that way too much is left unsaid about this setting.
    Sakura no Uta- Oddly, this is a game I thought I would have loved, given the twisted relationships and messy backstory involved.  However, once again Sca-Ji's style of presentation and love of unreliable narrators drove me nuts.  Not to mention the constant abuse of foreshadowing and repetition
    VNs I Love so much they are unforgettable
    Dies Irae- Obviously, Dies Irae is one of the penultimate chuunige ever made.  While I personally think Masada turned into a complete incompetent after KKK, there is no denying the quality of Dies Irae's narrative, its characters, and the way it seems to age so well.  Dies Irae is one of those rare VNs that doesn't suffer at all from the passing of a decade or more between its original release and now.  That isn't to say it hasn't been left behind somewhat by the conventions of the genre, but in the end, that doesn't matter as much as you would think it would.
    Fate/Stay Night- Arguably the VN that turned chuunige from a mere curiosity to an actual niche genre.  While many people have a love/hate relationship with Shirou and the Nasuverse, there is no denying that much of the game is enjoyable and it embodies most of the virtues and flaws of the early era of the genre.
    Draculius- The VN that changed my viewpoint on the harem ending and actually did vampires right (outside of the comedy, anyway).  In all honesty, before I picked it up at random, I had no idea this would become one of my most-replayed VNs of all time.  While this game has aged poorly in some ways, in others it's presentation is almost ideal.
    Evolimit- In my mind, this game is Higashide's masterpiece, the defining game of his career, whereas others will argue that it was Ayakashibito.  However, for all that I enjoyed Ayakashibito, this is the game I go back to play over and over, whenever I want my faith in JVNs revived.
    Devils Devel Concept- No, this is not the best game out there.  It is a total niche within a niche game.  I love its characters and setting, but most people would probably drop it solely based on the artwork.  Devils Devel Concept taught me that the protagonist didn't need to be the good guy to be interesting and that heroines didn't need to be fainting lilies to make a chuunige work.
    Haruka ni Aogi, Uruwashi no- Let's be clear... visually this game has aged horribly.  It is from a much earlier era than most of the games on this list and it shows.  However, I  have to note that it is one of the single best nakige ever made.  I can still go back and cry for Tonoko, Shino, and Miyabi no matter how many times I replay it, and the sense of salvation after the end of one of those three paths, the catharsis is so strong that my stress buildup is perfectly lanced afterward.
    Houkago no Futekikakusha- I frequently give this as an example of the ideal 'hard' utsuge.  The situation the protagonist is in is hopeless from the beginning, and his suffering his pre-determined.  Moreover, when the story begins he is already broken almost beyond repair.  The way it is presented provides great catharsis, though like many hard utsuge, the setting is all over the place.
    Konata yori Kanata Made- Many consider the first Konakana to be the ideal for the 'soft' utsuge genre, and I don't generally bother to argue with them.  While similar games were made later on occasion, one can always feel the influence of this game in them, often to the point where it feels like they are almost plagiarizing parts of it.  
    Akatsuki no Goei- I have a love/hate relationship with Kinugasa Shougo.  He hates completing stories, he never explains anything unless he has to, and his endings are always open-ended unless he is coerced to make them not so.  Akatsuki no Goei (the series) embodies him at his best, with Kaito being a complex character that only appears to be your typical 'dameningen' protagonist if you aren't paying attention.
    Hapymaher- What often comes back to me about Hapymaher, compared to later Purple Soft games, was the ideal synchronicity of its aesthetic and its music.  It is very, very rare for me to bother complementing a VN on its music, since most essentially use rearrangements of old BGMs without accounting for unique themes and atmosphere.  While there are some severe obstacles to making this an easily replayable game (the Christmas arc is overwhelmingly boring the second time around), it is still a VN worth experiencing.
    Semiramis no Tenbin- Semiramis no Tenbin is an oddity.  It is a game based in a school setting in modern Japan that doesn't gloss over Japan's social flaws or exaggerate them to excess.  I say this because the Japanese are as good at pretending certain issues don't exist as we white Americans have been at pretending racism doesn't exist.  Not to mention that the beginning of this game locked it in my memory eternally.
    Nanairo Reincarnation- This is one of the few games in my VN experience that I actually out and out named a kamige on first playthrough.  I don't regret it today, and I don't think I ever will.  I could put down any number of reasons to love this game, but it is better, in this case, for readers to make their own conclusions.
    Akeiro Kaikitan- I mostly chose to keep multiple VNs by the same author and team off this list.  However, I should note that I have actually replayed Akeiro six times since its original release... despite it having been released in 2016, a mere six years ago.  I play it about once, sometimes twice a year.  Why?  Because it is still interesting no matter how many times I read it.  The presentation of the various paths is about as close to the storyteller's ideal as it is possible to get, making it difficult to get truly bored of if you put some time in between replays.
    Komorebi no Nostalgica- Say what you like about Takaya Aya, but his moments of brilliance definitely leave an impression.  Komorebi no Nostalgica is easily the best (mostly) non-action sci-fi VN I've ever read.  Ironically, the primary reason for this is how the central non-heroine character, Cinema is handled in the various paths.  It is impossible to fully explain to someone who hasn't played the game just how powerful a role Cinema plays as a supporting character as well as the game's central character, and I'm not even going to try here.
    Ayakashibito- While Evolimit is my favorite Higashide game, I can't fail to mention Ayakashibito here.  Ayakashibito is the work of a genius, and it most definitely shows.  It was also the VN that first showed Higashide's basic style, which almost always utilizes a protagonist with an intimate relationship with the true heroine that continues to thrive regardless of heroine choice.  Ayakashibito is less refined than Evolimit, but in exchange, it also feels more freeform than some of his later works.  It also established his creation of high-quality antagonists (Kuki Youkou, Shannon Wordsworth, etc).
    Ruitomo- Ruitomo is probably the most famous of all the Akatsuki Works games, for good reason.  It is a high-quality classic plotge from an era where such games were relatively plentiful, and its style was the one that defined the expectations of fans for the company's games, though they later took things in a more action-focused direction.
    Kikan Bakumatsu Ibun Last Cavalier- This VN is one I push for weaboos who like the romanticized eras (Sengoku Jidai, Bakumatsu era, etc).  It is based in an alternate world where young Japanese women are sometimes chosen by 'demon-aura stones' that grant them immense physical powers and heightened intelligence in exchange for being unable to have children and being naturally more aggressive than is the norm.  As a result, these women are generally adopted by samurai families and raised to be bodyguards, assassins, and in various other roles normally reserved for men.  The protagonist is a young man raised by a feminized version of Kondou Isao and Hijikata Toshizo and is essentially Okita Soujirou.  It begins previous to the formation of the Roshigumi and branches off after the initial stages of the rebellion that began the collapse of Tokugawa power.  
    Sekien no Inganock- This is pretty much the only Liar Soft game I didn't have trouble playing.  In retrospect, it isn't as good as I remember it being, but it is still enjoyable.
    Majikoi- Say what you want about Majikoi.  Various people either love or hate it and everything by Minato Soft, but I personally think it was an excellent base that they used effectively to milk the setting.  Later games and fandiscs added depth to the characters and expanded the cast, and this, the original was a great game (in my eyes) in itself.
    Grisaia- Probably the most popular VN to introduce VNs to newbies now that Tsukihime and FSN have become so dated as to be almost unreadable for new people.  Like many VNs that got translated, it has a lot of people either worshipping or hating on it, but its quality (in Japanese) is undeniable.
    Soukou Akki Muramasa- Easily the best game Nitroplus has ever produced.  While it is a heavy read, it is also a VN worth reading at least once, if you have the mastery of Japanese to do so.  However, it is also emotionally draining, so many who start it never finish it.
    Hello, Lady- I could have chosen any of Akatsuki Works' chuunige, but with the final version of the game that includes the FD routes and the new true route, this game has easily become my favorite Hino Wataru game.
    Kitto Sumiwataru Asairo yori mo- A game by Shumon Yuu.  Nothing else needs to be said.  Play it, or you aren't a true JVN fanboy.
    Tenshi no Hane o Fumanaide- An oddball sort of chuunige by Shumon Yuu.  This one is fully voiced (protagonist included) and has a solid story and cast of characters.  
    Silverio Trinity- of the three Silverio games, I'll say right off that this is the one I liked the most.  While Vendetta has some great moments, Trinity is where I thought the setting first came alive truly.
    Sakura, Moyu- Honestly, I think this is the best VN, by far, that Favorite has produced.  I cried more while I played this game than in all the other games combined, and I was more emotionally invested in the story than any of them by far.
     
  2. Like
    Mr Poltroon reacted to Plk_Lesiak for a blog entry, Thank you all for coming along for this ride! (Indefinite Hiatus)   
    Hey there all!
     
    I will start with saying  that I really treasure my time spent writing this blog and interacting with various people involved in the EVN community. You guys were awesome company in this journey and despite the obscurity of this project, I feel like it benefited me personally in many ways and maybe even helped people appreciate the value within the non-JP visual novel scene. I'm really thankful to all the people that read my blog, the devs that offered me their time and gave me their games for review – they all made these 2+ years into something special.
    When I started this project, there were two main things that motivated me. The first one was the frustration over dismissal of EVNs which is still common sense in the large parts of the VN fan community – belittling of the very games that made me fall in love with the visual novel formula. I wanted to create a space that is fully dedicated to discussion and promotion of EVNs as worthwhile and significant part of the genre. The second part was even more personal – my personal struggles with video game addiction and other issues, my ambition to shift my focus into a more challenging and creative activity. In many ways, I consider both my goals relative successes. While slowly, the perception of EVNs is changing and the scene evolving in interesting ways – while it shares pretty much all the suffering of other indie niches, with PC gaming in general being oversaturated and hard to navigate, I feel that it at least established itself as a significant formula that is attractive for story-oriented devs and appreciated by a significant audience. In other words, EVNs are here to stay and in time fewer and fewer people will be able to easily dismiss them as poor imitations of Japanese games. Whether my work had any impact in this regard? Apart from a bunch of people on Fuwanovel that I know I influenced in personal interactions, I honestly have no idea. I want to think there was some minor impact, but I had enough fun in the process and learned enough that I don't mind either way. I did my best and changed a few things about myself, which was the most important part for me.
    Of course, I'm in no way saying that I'm putting the blog on hiatus because my job here is done. The real reason is much more prosaic – I just can't keep up with it. The last month was particularly devastating in this regard, with very little time for me to either read or write. And while an obvious answer would be to just work at my own pace and publish stuff whenever I'm able to, it's not really something that would work out for me. Missing deadlines, thinking about future projects, it all became a source of stress rather than a source of fun, and I feel it would only get worse with time. While I really wanted to keep the project alive, I don't want to do so at any cost. I feel burned out. I barely read VNs for fun. I don't watch anime for a few months now. I need a change of pace and ability to rediscover my love for these hobbies. The blog, sadly, became a prime obstacle in this.
    So, what's going to happen now? The blog will cease to get updates, unless something special happens. I might still do game jam summaries, as those are something I massively enjoy. I might also publish something on Fuwanovel from time to time – I'm theoretically still an editor there. The one part of the project that's definitely here to stay is the Steam Curator account. The devs that sent me their games deserve to at least get a Steam review and, generally, an evaluation of their work. I will also use my Twitter to publish updates about new games listed on the Curator account. The Steam reviews themselves will likely be a bit more polished – not that much though, I don't want to jump straight into the same burnout-inducing rabbit whole.
     
    So, once more, thank you for sticking around and I hope my project gave you some amusement. And, of course, see you around – I'm not giving up on EVNs and the community around them any time soon.
  3. Like
    Mr Poltroon reacted to Jardic47 for a blog entry, Are visual novels being treated fairly?   
    Hello everyone. My name is Jardic and I just thought of something that I got me thinking tonight. I was looking around the internet and I was reading Reddit and here on Fuwanovel and I was wondering what the deal is with people saying that they like a visual novel and it is always the same visual novels time and time again. I know people like the medium for different reasons, but when I look up a list of VNs people like, it is the same ones as another person I saw. I also know that it is a niche market for people to like these games but come on. If I was wanting to know what VN to play, chances are I already have that game on my hard drive. No one talks about the obscure visual novels and I was wondering why that was? It just bugs me to see the same the same VNs on someone’s list and I don’t see a person to give me a reason to purchase more visual novels.
     
    I know the previous paragraph was a little harsh, but it’s the truth with some of the things this genre of games gives me. I wish that there were more visual novels compared to video games so that people can recommend me a visual novel that can raise my interest a little more. I wish more people could be more interested in VNs so that there would be more games to offer. Sadly, I wish I could see that happening, but I know it will remain a niche market.
     
    I remember when I got into this medium of games three years ago and I thought it was a million times better than what I was playing at the time. Most of the games I played before visual novels were your typical action games like GTA or shooters like Call of Duty, but I digress. All I am saying is that I wished the visual novel community was more diverse in what they play. I’m not trying to say that everyone’s list is a bad list, I’m just saying that putting some games on a pedestal is not a good thing sometimes. I come to these communities to find out when some VNs are being released and to see if there is another visual novel to raise my interest.
     
    Sorry for saying stuff that might trigger some people, but I thought this blog would be a good idea to vent a little bit. Let me know what you think, and I will see you guys next time.
  4. Like
    Mr Poltroon reacted to alpacaman for a blog entry, Umineko's opening scene   
    The recent discussions about Umineko here on the forum made me want to pick up the whole damn thing again. Only this time I'm going spend even more time on it because I'm taking notes. I'll take the game's advice though and not focus on the howdunnits (which it argues are trivial and unimportant), but rather on what meaning is hidden inbetween. I'm doing this mostly for myself, though every now and then I might feel like turning my thoughts and interpretations into a blog post like this one.
    The German realist author Theodor Fontane (1819-1898) once said "the first chapter is always the main point, and within the first chapter the first page, almost the first line." While I think he is exaggerating a little bit and tbh I only opened with a quote of his to get a chance to mention how much I hate his writing (some of his novels are required reading in high-school in parts of Germany), it is true that the opening to a novel or any piece of fictional media can be a more important part of the work than it is often given credit for. Which brings us to Umineko's first scene. While it might not be the most spectacular example out there, I think it does what it sets out to do so well that it is worth taking a look at it from an analytical standpoint. I'm going to mention one or two twists that happen at later points in the VN, so you might not want read any further if you do not want to get spoiled.
    The scene takes place at an unspecified point in time in Kinzo's study with him, Nanjo (his doctor) and Genji (his head servant) present. It starts out with Nanjo telling Kinzo to lay off the alcohol as the medicine he prescribed to keep him alive won't work otherwise. Kinzo responds by saying the liquor (which has a sweet scent and a venomous green colour) has been with him longer than Nanjo, and that it is what is actually keeping him alive, not the medicine. Then he orders Genji to serve him another glass, but water it down a bit. Kinzo asks Nanjo how much time he has left, to which the doctor replies by comparing it to their chess match which is apparently entering its final stages and where Kinzo managed to corner Nanjo's king.  The physician suggests Kinzo should write a will, which the latter one heavily objects to: "...And what is a will, Nanjo? Handwritten instructions to the vultures on how to devour and scatter my corpse?" He wants to leave nothing behind and insists everything he built up during his life shall disappear with him, as it is part of the deal he made. He goes on to speak about his only regret, which is not being able to see the smile of the witch Beatrice once more, resulting in him screaming at thin air offering his remaining life to her for her to appear before him one last time. Opening Credits roll.
    The main thread running through the scene is a lingering conflict between what is "real" and what isn't, already introducing one of the main themes of the VN. This starts with the setting and props: There is no real indication if what you see takes place in the real world or some fantasy realm nor does it properly fit into any specific timeframe. The occult study, Kinzo's gown and the venomous green liquor all make the whole scene look surreal, but then there is also a real world physician doing standard medical examinations. In this sense the whole dialogue between Nanjo and Kanzo can be read as a conflict between material reality and fantasy, with Nanjo and his medicine or science representing the former and Kinzo having completely embraced the latter. Nanjo tries to bring Kinzo to care about his own physical wellbeing and his remains (stand-ins for material reality), both of which the latter one doesn't care at all about. The liquor in this context is basically a metaphor for fantasy. It has an inviting scent but looks like venom. It poisons Kinzo and according to him is what actually keeps him alive at the same time. His addiction turns his health and life miserable (as well as those of his children), while it is also what keeps him going. The booze or rather fantasy keeping him alive is also rather funny imo considering we later learn that, while he is part of all the "non-real" scenarios, in "real life" he has already been dead for quite a while. [It has been some time since I read the VN the first time so I don't really remember if the booze motif gets used at other points but it is one of the things I am going to keep an eye on this time around.]
    One of the main and more obvious purposes of an opening scene is to make the audience want to read on, usually by using a narrative hook. In this case it is the question about Beatrice's existence. You immediately ask yourself what the deal is with a witch that might or might not be real and that some weird and menacing old man is apparently trying to summon. Her (non-)presence is one of the main threads running through the whole VN and it gets established in the very first scene. This hook also ties right back into the overarching uncertainty of the scene about what is "real" and thus one of the main themes of the VN.
    The whole scene imo exemplifies pretty well what Umineko excels at, namely tying its separate narrative layers together. From the outset, characterization, plot, horror, fantasy, metaphor and theme are never truly separable but form a coherent and interwoven whole. I only implicitely talked about characterization and didn't even talk about why Genji is present in the scene at all or about the introduction of the chess motif (or the Kinzo being dead before the end of the game part). But since I already spent too much time writing this I'll keep it with one of Umineko's core messages and let you figure out how these things tie into the rest yourselves.
  5. Like
    Mr Poltroon reacted to Plk_Lesiak for a blog entry, The Fairy’s Song (Yuri VN Review)   
    The last time we talked about a “modern fairy tale” VN with a yuri spin to it, it was a very special one – Studio Elan’s Heart of the Woods, which I confidently gave my first and, so far, only 5/5 rating. The way it mixed relatable, modern characters with an emotional fantastical plot resulted in experience in many ways unmatched within the EVN scene. It also showed the huge potential of this formula, handling the clash between mundane and supernatural in a different way than typical fantasy or horror stories. Today we’ll be looking at a game that took similar themes and utilized them a more low-key, light-hearted way – ebi hime’s newest yuri VN, The Fairy’s Song.
                    Released on Steam and Itch.io early August 2020, this project is a slight departure from ebi’s usual, angst-filled storytelling, focusing more on cute romance and comedy. Fairly similar in tone to 2016’s Strawberry Vinegar, which also combined modern-day slice of life story and supernatural elements, it plays on classic themes of knights, monsters, magic and sleeping beauties, but puts them in a configuration that gives the whole setup a very different meaning… Which doesn’t necessarily mean The Fairy’s Song manages to offer many surprises or that it feels particularly fresh in how it utilizes those tropes and story elements. But why is that exactly, and is it really a bad thing?

    But have they really…? There is certain sloppiness to The Fairy’s Song's lore and the overarching fantasy plot, but thankfully it can’t overshadow the charm of the characters and the yuri romance
    The Fairy’s Song's protagonist is Marnie, a goth teenager who tries to make up for her small stature and naturally cute looks with dark clothes and a (slightly) mean attitude. We meet her when she’s being dropped to her grandmother’s house in a small, remote village, quite unhappy with the time she’ll have to spend there while her parents travel abroad. Her grumpiness is only strengthened by the fact her grandmother, struggling after the death of her husband a year earlier, is a shadow of her former self – not just frail and weighted by her loss, but also disturbing her family with frequent talk of fairies and other magical phenomena supposedly present in the surrounding forests. However, what was meant to be a boring and depressing stay is turned on its head when Marnie ignores her grandmother’s warnings and walks deep into the forest. There, she is confronted with several inexplicable events, but most importantly, she discovers an unconscious girl dressed like a knight – Leofe, who apparently spent centuries sleeping in the enchanted grove and is now determined to repay Marnie for waking her up.
                    The story from this point is slightly messy and strangely-paced but also has quite a lot of charm. The fantasy subplot suffers from quite a few inconsistencies (like Leofe claiming her magic comes from the forest’s fairies and later describing them as untrustworthy and hostile to humans) and rather predictable mystery elements. Its interplay with the slice-of-life moments also left a little bit to be desired – the premise would make you expect the main couple spending quite a lot of time in the enchanted forest encountering various magical phenomena, but those moments were few and far between and felt a bit disjointed from the mundane drama. This mild sloppiness and lack of dedication to the theme felt uncharacteristic for ebi’s writing, but thankfully the story worked much better in the most crucial departments: the characters and the relationship between Marnie and Leofe.

    …also, at no point fairies show up on screen and there’s no trace of the titular fairy songs, but there’s enough fay magic and enchanted woods in the story that you’re unlikely to feel cheated
    Marnie represents the angsty teenager archetype that can easily become irritating, but she is actually a nicely balanced character, with enough self-awareness and compassion to never become off-putting. Her fierce attitude also makes her adapt pretty quickly even in extreme circumstances, which comes in handy a few times when she encounters supernatural dangers. She does not change much during the story, her attitude softening rather in response to specific circumstances than due to some internal epiphany, but she’s compelling enough as a character for that not to be a problem. Leofe, even outside of a few secrets and plot twists she’s involved in, is an interesting character that only over time I fully appreciated. Her over-the-top, knightly persona and constantly-declared devotion to Marnie might feel absurd at first, but the role of that facade becomes more understandable later on. Stranded in an unfamiliar world, one in which she has no place to call her own, falling back to her ambition of being a knight is a defence mechanism that she initially relies on to keep on going. As her relationship with Marnie deepens, we can see her attitude and mannerisms becoming more natural – this aspect of both girls gradually lowering their defences and becoming honest with each other is one of the most compelling aspects of the whole VN. A lot of good can also be said about the supporting cast, particularly Marnie’s family. Her parents have fun personality quirks that make them believable and fairly defined despite their limited screentime. Her grandmother is a little bit more one-note (same can be said to characters connected to Leofe/the enchanted forest), but full of warmth and she supports Marnie in crucial moments of the story, which makes her plenty likeable.
                    Then, there’s the yuri relationship itself, which includes choices that may or may not be to your taste. While the game is fully kinetic and ends on a very positive note, it doesn’t go very far in developing the love story, as the girls end up still slightly uncertain about their feelings and what their future will look like. There’s also no epilogue that shows them being together, which is a bit of a wasted opportunity in a story that is in large part about finding a place for oneself in an alien world. Just a little glimpse to how Leofe was going to adapt would be very satisfying. Overall, there are enough cute moments and kisses to satisfy most yuri fans, but I hoped for something a bit more conclusive. The game also mostly avoid explicit LGBT themes – while Leofe’s past as a girl going against social norms and striving to become a knight has a clear feminist/empowerment angle to it, neither hers nor Marnie’s attraction to women is ever elaborated upon. While I know some readers prefer things to be this way, for me at least acknowledging the issue makes the story more immersive, so I wish the game was at least a little bit less vague.

    In a major way, The Fairy’s Song is also a tale of waking up in an unfamiliar world and trying to find a place for oneself – with all the troubling and ultimately-heartwarming implications
    The game’s visuals are kept relatively close to standard anime art and they are overall very cute and colourful, setting an appropriately light tone. The level of detail didn’t amaze me at any point, but the character art, backgrounds and UI are all nicely stylized and fit together very well, creating an overall very pleasing effect. Music caught my interests a bit more, as it mixed typical slice-of-life VN ambient tunes with more dynamic ones reminiscent of JRPG soundtracks. The switches in style complemented the transitions between more mundane and more adventure-filled segments of the story – a choice that felt well thought out and deliberate, which is not necessarily true with most EVN soundtracks. Generally, the VN left nothing to complain about from the technical standpoint, a few typos scattered throughout the story being the biggest issue I can think of – and even those were relatively few and far between.
                    So, do I recommend buying and reading The Fairy's Song? Generally speaking, yes, but it's also not an offering that will completely satisfy fans of ebi's usual storytelling, or those seeking for a cohesive and engaging plot. With how casual the flow of this VN was and with some of the quirks in its art reminding me of Winged Cloud's Inma Ruiz's work, I sometimes couldn't suppress the feeling like I'm reading clean, better written fragments of a Sakura game. Personally, I'm all for that kind of low-brow fun, as I can easily get past some messy plotlines and enjoy cheesy romantic moments, but you need to adjust your expectations properly to not feel at least a bit disappointed approaching such a game. The Fairy's Song will occasionally ask you to embrace its silliness and go along with a few overly-convenient plotpoints, but if you're able to do that much and enjoy cute yuri romance, you'll have tons of fun with it.
     
    Final Rating: 3,5/5
     
    Pros:
    + Fun main couple with good chemistry
    + Lovely visuals
    + Good soundtrack
    Cons:
    – Mild inconsistencies in the game’s writing
    – Very standard plot that adds nothing fresh to the formula
     
    VNDB Page
    Buy The Fairy’s Song on Steam or Itch.io
  6. Like
    Mr Poltroon reacted to Zalor for a blog entry, Umineko Final Impressions (Spoiler free)   
    I literally just finished reading Umineko around an hour ago. So these are my raw thoughts and immediate reflections after completing it. I will probably do a more comprehensive overview of Umineko after I've had it digest for a couple of days.
    What a beast... I first began this journey in mid May, and I've just finished it now. So in around 4 months time, I have clocked in at a total play time of 141 hours. In that time I've not only finished University, worked on multiple projects (both personal and academic), read several books, but I've also moved and started a job. This is to say, I've been quite busy in between reading Umineko. And I've taken multiple breaks from it. It has not been a completely consistent ride from beginning to end. But also, it feels weird to part with it now. Even if I wouldn't touch it for a stretch of weeks sometimes, in the back of my mind it was always present and I felt a pressure to get back to reading it whenever I could.
    The ending was fantastic, and I feel fully satisfied with it. But now it feels like I have to part with a friend I got to know very well. And despite being quite happy with most of the twists this story had to offer, I can't deny that at times it was a slog. Reading the last part of Ep.8 today I thought I was nearly finished, and yet it still took me ~4 hours to complete. This was mostly due to a very dragged out fight/battle sequence that while interesting in parts (especially at its end), mostly felt bloated. And this criticism of bloat is by no means reserved for only this part, but rather is a consistent issue throughout. The highlights of Umineko are so great, that when you do get to those parts often you instantly forgive the frequency of tedious and dragged out scenes you had to suffer through in order to get to the truly exciting bits. Yet none the less, even if forgivable, these bloated scenes are no joke.
    If you have an average reading speed like I do, these tedious sections can sometimes take up hours of your time. This was part of the reason I frequently took breaks from Umineko. As often I would finish a fantastic climactic scene and call it a day. But then I knew that the next part would be one of those mundane sections which made it hard to get back into reading the VN the next day. I would actually procrastinate reading Umineko at times precisely because I knew I was facing a part that would be dull and stretch out for a couple of hours. And when its a nice Saturday evening and you can do literally whatever you want, resigning yourself to reading something that you know will be boring for the next 2 hours is a hard decision to make. Even if you know that by powering through those 2 hours of boredom, you will be rewarded thoroughly in the 3rd or 4th hour.
    If Ryukishi07 got himself a decent editor I think Umineko could have been a quarter or maybe even half as long, and still be just as good. Actually it would probably be better, because then you wouldn't have the unnecessary excess anymore. Despite that though, when Umineko is good it truly is at the level of masterpiece. There really is nothing like it.
    The entire cast, for the most part, is very strong and memorable. I think that is Ryukishi07's greatest strength as a writer. He consistently creates very interesting characters. And even if his writing often drags on, you still put up with it because you want to see more interactions with these characters and what will happen to them.
    The introduction of Furudo Erika in the second half was a great treat, and I enjoyed her sadistic and incredibly cruel personality immensely. It was great fun to watch her do intellectual battle and make enemies with everyone. Then there was also Bernkastel, who has been a favorite of mine since early on. In general, all of the witch and supernatural characters were great in my mind.
    George, Jessica, Kanon, and Shanon never quite fully grew on me, though I did eventually grow more sympathetic to them. However, I definitely found the parts that focused on them the least interesting bits.
    From episode 1, watching what seems to be the setup for a typical murder mystery evolve so much in scope over the various episodes, I am at awe reflecting on it all now. The story goes in so many different directions, and yet it feels entirely consistent with itself. It's a mystery like no other. It manages to literally breaks all the rules, and yet somehow sticks to them. That in itself, honestly, is proof to me that magic exists.
    For anyone that enjoys great fiction, Umineko is certainly a work worth reading.
  7. Like
    Mr Poltroon reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Getting back into VNs after time away   
    For most people who play VNs, taking a break is a normal thing.  Even taking a hiatus of a few months or a year seems to be standard for many in our little community.
    For ten years, for me, it wasn't.
    My new addiction to litrpgs succeeded in breaking me of my compulsive VN-reading for the first time in a decade.  While some might consider this a bad thing (and have told me so), others have said that it was a good one.  Personally, as I've started playing Purple Soft's latest game, Seishun Fragile, I'm leaning more towards good than bad.  Many things that had ceased to be joyful in recent years have regained their luster, such as cheap manzai humor, obvious moe, and general donkan harem protagonist antics.
    I won't say I love that last part (ha, like that would happen), but I can say that my viewpoint on it is less... bitter and jaded than it was before.  I've had a refresh, and 
    I don't regret it, despite how much it built up my backlog with those few games I bought anyway despite not starting any.  One thing I find interesting is that I find it easier to find good stopping points than before, instead of just forging on ahead for a straight twelve hours and then flopping into bed.  I no longer stare at the screen for entire days while downing endless snacks and bottled water.  
    I also didn't want to get rusty on my Japanese, which is why I started up a new VN today.  It was then that I realized that I no longer felt the pressure that still remained, even after I tossed aside VN of the Month.  To me, this was an amazing sensation, harking back to my third year playing VNs, when my love of the medium was at its most fanatical.  
    I've advised many people to take a step back and rest from VNs when they have started to lose their way, but this was the first time I took my own advice... and it worked (even if it was by accident).
  8. Like
    Mr Poltroon reacted to Zalor for a blog entry, The Function of Ellipses in VNs   
    VNs sometimes get criticized for their overuse of the ellipse (…). And I suppose I'll start my defense of the use of ellipses in VNs, by extending an olive branch. VNs do misuse the ellipse to an astounding degree, and I have an interesting little anecdote demonstrating this point. In college, me and some friends decided to spend a Friday night getting drunk and reading the worst VNs we could find. We stumbled upon Gender Bender DNA Twister Extreme. There is a LOT wrong with this VN, but a glaringly consistent detail of bad writing we all noticed was the excessive use of ellipses. After we all collectively noticed and pointed out how often ellipses were being used, we decided to start counting every instance of an ellipse we spotted. Keep in mind, they had already been used plenty before we even started to count. Before we even reached a total playtime of 1 hour, we counted over 100 uses of ellipses, and gave up counting after that. I share this anecdote for two reasons. Firstly, as a petty example that Gender Bender DNA Twister Extreme is horrible and I almost want to say it has no right to exist. And secondly that overall I am in agreement that ellipses do get misused often in VNs. So I am not entirely attacking this point of criticism, but I do think that many who do champion this specific criticism of VN writing miss one very important function that the ellipses achieves in VN writing, that it can't achieve in traditional print.
    The written word as it is presented in VNs is transient. With each click you typically receive one line at a time. And after a certain point all the lines disappear and you are greeted with fresh words from the top of the screen if NVL, or the top of the dialogue box if ADV. Furthermore often (though not always), sentences aren't displayed whole at once. But rather they get displayed in a sort of typewriter effect. This means that regardless of whether the narrative is in past tense or present tense, the occurrence of the text and the story to the reader will always be in the present. Character dialogue, internal monologues, narrative descriptions, it is all being presented to us in real time.
    A book on the other hand has everything written out and open to display. You can scan the whole page as well as the next page, and you have equal access to every page of the book at any given time. Want to skip to the ending? Well the medium can't stop you. This is not true of VNs. You can fast-forward, but you can't just skip to the end. The only way you can typically access specific parts of a VN is by creating a save point and therefore being able to load it up whenever you want. But you only have that option for everything you already read, you can't just pick and load sections you haven't experienced yet. Because for all intense and purposes, that's in the future. It hasn't happened yet. In other words, there is a sense of time in how the narrative of a VN gets expressed.
    Well in VNs, the ellipse can be used to demarcate time and expression. In this way, VNs can literally show the passage of time, without having to tell it. And I always thought the golden rule of writing was “show don't tell”, in this function the ellipse is being used optimally to show and not tell.
    Here is an example of how I would write a certain passage if I were writing it for a book/short-story, and then I will proceed to rewrite it for a VN.
     
    Novel/Short-story:
    “I don't know about that,” she briefly paused while biting her lip, “you sure it will be okay?”
    Visual Novel coded in Renpy:
    “I don't know about that...{w=1.5} you sure it will be okay?”
     
    The {w=1.5} is a wait command in Renpy that pauses the text for 1.5 seconds before resuming the rest of the line. Without having to tell the reader “she briefly paused”, we literally showed the pause by manipulating the speed in which the text gets displayed. The ellipse helps signal to the reader that the character is hesitating to express her thoughts, while the {w=1.5} command is running in the background.
    Now if the detail of “biting her lip” is also important to you. You would have to script things slightly differently, but you could make it that after the ellipse her sprite changes and bites her lip and you hold on that image for 1.5 seconds, before transitioning back to her previous expression and continue the text. So now you not only showed her hesitation and the gap in time it took for her to finish her thought, but you also showed her expression change. This is a way you can “show and not tell” with VNs that you could never achieve when writing for traditional print media.
  9. Like
    Mr Poltroon reacted to Plk_Lesiak for a blog entry, Stellaren II (Western VN Review)   
    Stellaren, released exclusively to mobile devices in 2017 was an important game in my engagement with VNs. A dark sci-fi adventure with a captivating setting and a tense, at times brutal story stood out significantly from most other visual novels available for smartphones and I think to this day is one of the best dedicated Android/iOS games of its kind [you can find my detailed review of it here]. It also cemented my love for VNs as a storytelling formula and while some of that infatuation was definitely connected to me being a fairly inexperienced reader, many elements of Stellaren’s worldbuilding and character development are genuinely bold and interesting – and to the point where I wasn't even bothered by its rough edges and clunky gameplay elements.
                    Because of all this, it is an understatement to say I was excited to hear about the release of Stellaren II July this year, coming out not only for mobile devices but also on Steam. Promising heavily updated visuals, a set of better-polished gameplay elements and a substantial, conclusive story (its predecessors had a tendency to end on cliffhangers), it seemed like a massive treat for someone like myself, already in love with this universe. What I found was both different and more complex than I expected – but did it capture the charm and stomach-gripping qualities of the original?
    Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
  10. Like
    Mr Poltroon reacted to Plk_Lesiak for a blog entry, NaNoRenO 2020 Highlights, Pt 3 – Romance VNs (Non-otome Edition)   
    Hello there and welcome to the third and final part of my NaNoRenO 2020 highlights! While in the first two posts I focused, respectively, on otome and horror VNs, this last batch of recommendations will be about other romance stories submitted to the event. I have to admit upfront that this is likely the least exciting list of the three, with no game standing out to me in a similar way as Enamoured Risks did among otome entries or Eislyn's Apocalypse did among horror ones. However, there's still a bunch of solid and interesting titles in this category, my favourite being probably Café in the Clouds, with its lovely visuals and memorable dreamworld sequences. Also, the jam has something to offer for fans of all typical romantic configurations, with BxG, BL and Yuri couples strongly represented.
                     As always, all the games I'm writing about are completely free to download, and clicking their titles below will get you straight to their Itch.io pages. Also, I've skipped projects that were submitted to the event but proved low quality or did not offer a complete experience (meaning I exclude all demos and prototypes by default). So, please join me as I wrap up this insane, months-long project of thoroughly covering the biggest NaNoRenO in history – hopefully, you'll find something interesting among my recommendations.
     
    Love Rewind: A Magical Time Travel Romance (BxG/BxB)

    Love Rewind is a short romance story with one male and one female love interest, themed around regret and desire to change the past. Yuki, the protagonist and young mage-in-training, loses everything in a futile attempt at saving his terminally ill mother. Broken by this failure and the destroyed relationship with his fiancée Quinn, he isolates himself from the world – an empty, depressing existence that would likely last for the rest of his life if not for the appearance of a spirit, taking form of a cat. This powerful creature forces on him an opportunity to relive and change the events that led him to ruin, and regain the love he lost – or maybe forge a different path altogether…
                      This VN, while a bit rushed and lacking the proper buildup particularly for the BxB arc (Quinn’s route at least have the background of protagonist’s relationship from the original timeline), has a few things going for it. Yuki is a decent protagonist, whose desperation and pain are easy to emphasize with, and the core story has all the satisfaction inherent to plots where you avert a looming disaster. The love interests simply don’t have enough time to develop as characters and truly shine, but they work well enough as incentives for the protagonist to not repeat his past mistakes. The end result is not a great romance VN, but a nice short story in its own right – and one that looks and sounds very solid for a game jam entry.
    Final Rating: Recommended
    Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot.com
  11. Like
    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.
     
     
  12. Like
    Mr Poltroon reacted to Ramaladni for a blog entry, Master Magistrate Full-Version Review   
    https://j-addicts.de/master-magistrate/
    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).
  13. Like
    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?
    Read the full article at evnchronicles.blogspot. com
  14. Like
    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 (Zachtronics)
    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.
  15. Like
    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
  16. Like
    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
  17. Like
    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!  
  18. Like
    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
  19. Like
    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
     
    Pros:
    + Beautiful visuals
    + Climatic soundtrack
    + Memorable main characters
    Cons:
    – Frequent infodumps and clunky exposition
    – Gets over-the-top with the brutality of the backstories
    – Feels more like a prologue than a full story
     
    VNDB Page
    Play Fallstreak for free on Steam
  20. Like
    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
  21. Like
    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
  22. Like
    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.
    Until now.
    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.
  23. Like
    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!
     
    Summer Meetings

    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
  24. Like
    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).
  25. Like
    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

    The artbook

    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.
×
×
  • Create New...