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melo4496

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  1. Like
    melo4496 reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Happy Birthday to Me   
    Well, as of thirty-nine minutes ago, it is officially my birthday (as of the time I checked at the beginning of making this post).  I have a lot of things to reflect on this year. 
    I am now thirty-six, settling into the beginnings of middle-age, knowing my lifestyle will probably kill me before I hit fifty. 
    I'm a sugar addict, I love fatty foods, I make my own alcoholic drinks (this year, a mixed fruit wine that actually turned out well and was much easier than the rum and hard root beer I did last year). 
    I sit on my ass eighty percent of the time, I am hugely fat...
    ... and I'm surprisingly happy.  I won't say I don't have my down moments.  Looking back, I regret not going for more athletic pursuits while my knees and back could still stand them.  I regret not trying for a more regular and less... frustrating line of work.  However, I can honestly say that, for all its frustrations, I actually seem to like being a fat, balding otaku who has pretensions at being  some kind of VN guru (lol).
    I do wish that I could fit into a plane seat, lol.  If I ever go to Japan, it is going to have to be a sea trip, since buying two plane tickets for one person is both embarrassing and more than a little expensive.
    I hate my work, but I'm good at it and, in good times, it pays well, so I keep doing it.
    So what would I change? 
    Honestly, it is hard to say.  I won't pretend I'm all love and joy when it comes to life.  I have too much toxic waste going through my brain for that (I just happened to have gained just enough maturity not to feed the trolls constantly *smiles dryly*).  I'm fundamentally a passive person once I set foot outside my hobbies, preferring not to do anything I don't absolutely have to do.  I'm also negative and misanthropic... but is that stuff I actually want to change?
    *shrugs*
    I've never been any other way, so it is impossible to say.  However, every year I hit this day and wonder what could have been, which probably says everything that needs to be said about my experiences with life, for all my proclamations of relative happiness.
     
  2. Like
    melo4496 reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, The Sad Fact about Replaying VNs   
    The sad fact about replaying VNs... is that VNs don't have replay value.
    That's not to say it isn't possible to replay a VN and enjoy it.  With many of the more complex VNs, it is impossible to take in the entire thing on your first playthrough, so it is usually worth a second one.  Others are so well-written or have such great characters that they are worth reading again and again.  Yet others are just so much fun or are so funny (games made by Rosebleu, Lamunation, etc) that they are worth playing again and again.  Last of all, there are those that are so unique that no other experience quite equals them.
    However, even amongst the best VNs, there are ones I've found that pale immensely after the second playthrough.  In particular, games that are heavy on mysteries and rely on their hidden aspects for at least some of their attraction become much weaker on later playthroughs.
    As an example, one of my favorite VNs of all time is Hapymaher (VN of the Year 2013).  This game has an emotional, psychedelic story, a unique style, and the single best VN soundtrack out there.  However, whenever I attempt a third playthrough, my knowledge of certain aspects that come to light in the end and the fandisc ruins it for me.  Oh, Keiko is still unreasonably sexy for a chippai character, Yayoi is still funny, and Saki's sadism+jealousy thing with the protagonist is still just as hilarious... but I always stumble at two-thirds of the way through the common route (otherwise known as the 'Week towards Christmas' chapter by some fanboys).  This part is immensely funny and interesting the first time you play it through... but without being able to share in the mystery and surprise of the characters, it is unbearably dull, sadly.  Every single time I go back into this game, I stop here.
    Another example would be charage, in general.  Understand, as you know, I am not terribly fond of charage in and of themselves.  I won't go so far as to say I hate them, because I don't.  However, if it is the choice between a nakige, an utsuge, a chuunige, and a charage... I'll always pick the charage last.  In a good charage, the slice of life and character interactions and development are the best parts of the game... but when it comes to replaying a VN, this tripod of specialties is a poor substitute for an interesting story.  I have managed to enjoy replaying a few charage... but most I drop after one path (usually the one of the heroine I liked the most), simply because I feel fatigue from having to slog through the same slice of life scenes a second time.
    The Light at the end of the Tunnel
    However, there are some games that survive multiple replays well.  Nakige, utsuge, and games that go for the emotions in general are the most obvious genres (that are mainstream).  I can still go back to moldy-oldies like Haruka ni Aogi, Uruwashi no for a good cry, and I can still devour games like Houkago no Futekikakusha without any trouble at all. 
    Another type that survives well are well-designed comedic games... for example, Lamunation, with its endless humor (ranging from sex jokes to penguins enjoying Mexican beer), endures multiple playthroughs quite nicely, without paling much as long as you space them out.  Comedy is comedy, and as long as you don't overdo it, it is possible to enjoy a good comedy VN multiple times without much fear of boredom.
    Games that have a strong protagonist.  Perhaps the biggest reason many Japanese VNs are almost unreplayable is because of the 'average protagonist'.  A strong, well-developed protagonist with his own unique flaws and personality can carry a game on his back through numerous playthroughs.  Good examples of this are Asagiri Kaito from the Akagoei series, Shirasagi Hime from the Tiny Dungeon series, and Narita Shinri from Hello, Lady.
    Games that have an overwhelmingly unique cast of characters or setting.  A unique setting or a cast of characters can be the difference between a boring failed attempt at a second playthrough and four or five enjoyable playthroughs.  Some examples of these are Evolimit; Devils Devel Concept; and the Silverio series.  (note: Chuunige are the most likely to fit this type, but the Majikoi games and the Shin Koihime series also fit into this).
    Conclusion
    In the end though, taste matters.  If you didn't enjoy the VN the first time, you won't enjoy it a second time (with rare exceptions).  If you don't like chuunige, you most likely won't enjoy DDC or Silverio no matter how many times you attempt to play them, and if you don't like horrible things to happen to your characters, you will never enjoy Houkago no Futekikakusha.  I've known people who enjoyed all these games on a first playthrough, were able to enjoy a charage on a second playthrough, but couldn't enjoy these on a second one.  So, while this is my analysis, it is not absolute, lol.
  3. Like
    melo4496 reacted to Dergonu for a blog entry, My Favorite VN Releases of 2017   
    2017 has been a pretty cool year in terms of VN releases. I'm not even close to Clephas' level of reading, so I have only scratched the surface of what was released this year, but I did still read what I think is a pretty decent chunk of VNs, and now that the year is coming to a close, I'd like to go through some those games and talk about which ones I liked the most etc. This blog post will only cover NEW releases in 2017. I might make a separate blog post about VNs that weren't released in 2017, but that I still read this year later on.
     
    I started the year with Ryuu Kishi Bloody Saga, a cool fantasty game by Akabeisoft 3. The prequel to this game was a dark nukige-ish story, which didn't really impress me. But, Ryuu Kishi went into a completely different direction, and ended up being a really entertaining read. I wrote a blog post about Ryuu Kishi around the time I finished it, so I'll link that here if anyone wants to read it.
    Summing up though, Ryuu Kishi is a good fantasty VN, with great action scenes, an interesting plot, and good romance. (With a functional harem aspect, which was interesting.) It's by no means a kamige, but it was definitely among the better games released this year in my opinion.
    After this I played a few games, but none of them were anything special. Amanatsu Adolescence had some aspects I liked, but fell flat on its face with the heroine routes, which was disappointing.
    The next game worth mentioning is Majo to Tsurugi to Sen no Tsuki. This was my first time playing one of Kai's Mahou Shoujo games, and the only reason I picked this one up was because Ban'ya had helped write it. (I love Ban'ya's stuff.)
    The game honestly blew me away. I'm not saying it's a kamige or anything, (not by a long shot,) but considering that this is meant to be a nukige, it really went beyond my expectations. The story was legitimately interesting, the characters were great and the writing was satisfying. Reading this game made me interested in checking out the rest of the works in the series, which I'll get around to reading at some point. Hopefully they are similar in structure, as I took quite the liking to the way this game's structure. You basically have a nukige with a story, where making the right choices lets you skip most of the H-scenes, and move through the true route. But, if you make the wrong choice, you are thrown down "bad routes", filled with bad endings and H-scenes. So, depending on what mood you're in, you can choose what type of game you're playing, essentially. (There are of course still a decent number of H-scenes in the true route, but the bulk of them are in the bad routes.)
    My review of this game can be found here, on Clephas' blog.
     
    Now, next on the list is Chrono Box, and well, I'm just going to come out and say it right away: This game is amazing. It's without a doubt one of my favorite VNs of all time. Actually, it's tied for 1st place with the ChuSinGura series.
    I went into the game without knowing much about the story, and I got sucked into the game right away, finishing the whole thing in about 4-5 days. (Considering it's a rather hard game to read in Japanese, that's pretty crazy fast for me.) The ratings on VNDB aren't the best, which is to be expected tbh. It's a hard game to read, and it's a denpa game where every single small detail matters. I'd imagine a chunk of VNDB votes comes from people who try reading JP games with machine translations, and well, that is not recommended for this game. In fact, there are many parts of the game that cannot be hooked, as they are either in image files in the game itself, or in voiced lines without any text. In addition, it's a game with some pretty dark content here and there, and I know some people just rate games badly because of that. (This is a story driven mystery/denpa game, and similar to SubaHibi, all the dark elements are there for a reason, driving the story forward.) I don't mean to come off as an elitist saying "EOP's opinions doesn't matter!" here, by the way. I do think the difficulty of the game, and the content in it might have caused a bit of a change in the votes from English readers, though. In comparison, the game is rated very highly on EGS, being #23 of the whole year so far, (and it also has a rather high amount of votes, in comparison to some games above it on the list, which just has a handful. Like, seriously, 2 of the games on the list only have 5-6 votes, kek.)
    Overall, this is just a fantastic read. I strongly recommend it to anyone who can read it. It truly just blew my mind. If you ARE going to read it, do yourself a favor: Do NOT look up anything about it. No CGs, no story summaries, no nothing. Just go in blind, and enjoy the ride. Seriously, you have no idea what's in store for you.
     
    Moving on from Chrono Box, we have Pure Song Garden, the first "normal" charage I played this year that I feel deserves a spot among the "better" releases I've read in 2017. This is Pulltop's newest "club-themed game", similar to Konosora and Miagete Goran, focusing on a future world where AI and VR has become an important part of our lives. It has fantastic romance, (in the true route at least; I have to admit, I skipped the other routes for the true route. It was all I wanted,) the story is surprisingly good, and the characters aren't just stereotypes, like they tend to be in similar games. Suzu and Iroha, the characters with the main focus in the true route, definitely makes the game worth it by themselves. The MC also isn't bad, though I do wish they added a bit more to his backstory. They introduced an interesting conflict with him, which just kind of resolved itself rather quickly, something that irked me a bit. But, definitely a solid game overall.
    You can read more of my opinions on the game here, on Clephas' blog.
     
    Finally we have Biman 4. This was my first Biman title, and I didn't really know what to expect of the game. And honestly, I was blown away by it. The writing was fantastic, and felt nearly poetic at times, even. The drama was well handled, and some of the scenes made me take a break from the game for a bit, as they made me feel so many different emotions. These scenes were so well done.
    At the end of the day, the game is still a nukige, and I won't call it a kamige or anything, but man, this game is so much more than first meets the eye. Almost makes me sad that it's a nukige, as there could have been even more potential there had it been a little longer, and a little more story focused.
    Either way, this is another truly good VN that I strongly recommend people read. Also, it's completely possible to read it without having read the other Biman games, just like I did.
    You can read some more details about my opinion on the game here, on Clephas' blog.
     
    Overall, this has been a great year with many solid releases. My backlog still has a good chunk of the games that came out this year, many of which might have made it on this list, if I had the time to read them. But, oh well. I'm still happy with the amount of VNs I got done this year, and look forward to seeing what 2018 has in store for us.
  4. Like
    melo4496 reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Aoi Tori   
    Aoi Tori is Purple Soft's latest project, a VN based in a girls' school in the mountains, where the protagonist, a priest (I'm assuming Episcopalian/Anglican for various reasons), goes to school as an exception, as he cannot live outside of the school without being taken by demons.
    Ritsu, the protagonist, possesses the power to take others' negative emotions, thus enhancing their feelings of happiness and joy, and this power works best when he has sex with them.  Now, given that he is a young man, you'd think from this description that he was going around finding girls that were in trouble and 'saving' them that way... given eroge culture.  However, if anything, it is the reverse... girls that are desperate to escape their personal reality come to him, seeking the happiness he can give, and he has reduced himself to something like an automatic mechanism for giving them what they want.  To be blunt, his point of view seems very close to that of a lifelong prostitute, save for the miraculous ability he possesses... moreover, a prostitute who didn't choose the work (his first experiences were all oneshota, apparently).
    One day, his monotonous days of sex and quiet prayer (it sounds odd, but outside of school, that is pretty much what it was like), a century-old vampire named Mary Harker appears before him, having intruded into his home behind the chapel, and he lets her stay out of kindness.  At the same time, a voice (referred to as the 'demon on the phone') tells him over the phone that he has a rather dark fate awaiting him and his power isn't what he thinks it is. 
    This night is closely followed by a number of meetings and reunions... a devout girl with a self-destructive streak a mile wide (Akari), the young teacher who stole his virginity (Risa), and the twin sister he never knew he had (Sayo).  In addition, you have Mikako, who is Risa's sister and Ritsu's only friend... and who is a genius as well as a pragmatist.  Overall, it is an interesting cast of characters, even for a Purple Soft game.
    I'm going to be blunt, the part that will put off at least some of you is the sheer amount of sex in the first part of the VN.  The game begins with two h-scenes, neither of which involves affection or love, and, while this is a good intro into Ritsu's situation, it also will probably drive the romantics amongst you a bit crazy, judging by my previous experiences.  So... if you can't stand a protagonist who doesn't bother refusing sex from women and is used to having sex with girls he doesn't know, you probably won't like this game.
    That said, there are relatively few similar h-scenes after this, probably in order to keep you from getting too swallowed up by his attitude toward sexual activity.
    Ritsu is a rather strange young man, even setting aside his destined role as the Prince of Darkness (Mary's term for it).  As the demon on the phone puts it, 'You are a madman who can only be satisfied by saving others.'  That fits him perfectly, and that part of his personality never really goes away.  He is fundamentally a giver, above all other things.  Even if he can be convinced by the heroines to be selfish in the now, when things come to a climax, he always falls back on that nature.  He is also a natural S and a hedonist (though he is not conscious of this most of the time), and he doesn't have it in him to become paranoid or maintain his anger for long.   That said, once he decides on the result he wants, he will literally do anything to achieve it.
    Mary Harker
    Mary Harker, in any other game, would be the true heroine.  I don't mean to be mean about Akari... she is creepy has hell sometimes, despite her apparent normality (you'll see what I mean if you actually read the first two h-scenes), but if I began this game without a walkthrough or seeing the cover of the game package, I probably would have assumed she was the true heroine.  The reason is very simple... she is the catalyst that sparks the game's engine at the beginning, and, given eroge custom, that heroine usually is the true one. 
    Now, her personality... Mary is probably the most cheerful and normal vampire I've seen outside of a 'nerfed' vampire setting (this one isn't, since just a bite is enough to turn someone and she takes injuries from her own prayers and the sun).  Nonetheless, she has lived a century, and that has had various effects on her psyche, though the biggest one is a growing awareness that maintaining her humanity and human persona is becoming harder and harder.  It is only because of Ritsu that she is able to have some kind of a hope for the future, and she is pretty dependent on him during the story.  Despite that, she is also sort-of an oneesan character outside of her own path.  She does have a lot of experience under her belt, and her attitude toward him at some times skirts the motherly.
    Her own path is... a clash of two people destined to live in darkness, her and Ritsu.  They are both people who don't understand romantic love at the beginning, so seeing them change is somewhat amusing, but the bigger issue is that their natures press down on them, making a happy romance difficult.  Overall, it was a highly emotional experience that I enjoyed thoroughly.  I do wish - as I almost always do - that she had a nice long epilogue after story, but I have resigned myself to not receiving what I wish for most of the time, when it comes to that.
    Akasabi Risa and Akasabi Mikako
    Akasabi Risa was the protagonist's first sexual partner.  Like all the girls who had sex with him in the past, she was seeking escape from reality by having him give her happiness, but she, unlike the others, was actually in love with him from the beginning.  Risa is a consummate actress, hiding her true intentions behind her feelings, a technique she apparently developed in the years she was away from Risa.  She is also essentially a 'giver' type, willingly giving everything for those she cares about.
    Mikako is a pretty unusual character.  If it weren't for her fondness for Ritsu and her love for Risa, I would be tempted to call her an emotionless sociopath, based on her surface actions.  I called her a pragmatist above, but this isn't despite her emotional reactions... it is her natural state of being.  Pragmatism is usually a product of socialization and rationality being prioritized over emotion.  However, in Mikako's case, she is able to (and does so automatically) completely analyze and render meaningless her emotions before they reach the surface.  Her love for Risa is pretty much the only exception, and it is that emotion that renders her as almost human (her fondness for Ritsu exists because she loves Risa and Risa loves him). 
    Now, the demon on the phone takes on a rather more direct role in this story than in Mary's, where he/she is merely speaking to the characters.  In fact, the demon's interference is what brings this path's conflict to the surface, and overall, it made this path more interesting than it otherwise would have been.  To be blunt, without the demon's 'help', it is highly unlikely that Risa, Mikako, and Ritsu would get together, based on the revelations in this path.  There are a number of reasons, but the biggest one lies with the fact that Ritsu quite simply doesn't have strong emotions toward his sexual partners normally (once he actually loves them, it is different)... not even remnant lust.
    Kurosaki Sayo
    Kurosaki Sayo is Ritsu's twin, separated from him at birth.  She is a cynical, emotionally twisted young girl whose only love is Ritsu (though she does have affection for others based on whether they make Ritsu happy or not) and whose hobby is toying with him and Mary.  She appears on the scene shortly after Mary's arrival, guided by the demon on the phone.  She is also a part of the demons' plans for him, and that plan is the center of her path.
    This path is an utsuge-style path... don't expect a happy ending.  There is a good reason why Sayo was given to a different orphanage by their mother, and that reason becomes apparent fairly early after Ritsu chooses her.  I enjoyed this path and it has some really good cathartic moments... but I honestly thought they were a bit excessively obvious in foreshadowing this one.
     
    Afterwards (read this if you don't mind a bit of spoilers)
     
    Remember, this is a spoiler.
    As techniques go, it is interesting, and I felt the need to mention it before Akari's path because of how it leads into it.
    Umino Akari
    Akari is... the girl whose outer personality and inner desires are most in conflict.  Akari is a devout Christian (Ritsu's assessment), kind-hearted, gentle, and takes pleasure in giving of herself to others.  However, she is also strongly driven to seek out danger, corruption, and self-destruction in every way, shape, and form.  As one of the milder examples... she is afraid of heights but she willingly participates in the school swim club's high dive competition.  A more extreme version is the one you run into at the beginning, in the first scene, where, after watching her friend have sex with Ritsu, she is drawn to him and has sex with him as well. 
    Akari's path is... interesting.  Actually, the beginning of the path is slow, because the story refrains from going to the extremes you saw in the common route and the other paths.  However, that slow build up is a near-perfect lead into the solid drama leading up to the ending.  There is actually very little I can say about this path without spoiling it, but I can say that I liked the ending.  I cried numerous times throughout the path, and the ending itself satisfied me completely, a rare event in and of itself.
    One thing I should note is that there is a distinct Chrono Clock reference in this path, which startled me a bit.  It was actually a stronger link than the mention of the kotodama-users early in the common route.  For those who are interested, I'll respond in a PM, but I'm unwilling to spoil this.  I did laugh though.  I'm unsure if this is an affectation or not, but it is interesting. 
    Overall
    I'm seriously tempted to scream 'kamige!!!' to the sky... but in retrospect, they game does have some distinct flaws.  The main one of these is the somewhat haphazard approach to the beginning of Risa's path (it felt kind of like they were shoving things along a little too forcefully in that one). However, even so this is one of the better games that have come out this year, and, in its own way, keeps the Purple Soft fantasy nakige tradition started with Mirai Nostalgia alive and kicking.  Where Chrono Clock fizzled and Amatsutsumi committed the sin of using the ladder-style progression system, this game manages to both satisfy and feel like it treats the non-true heroines well. 
     
  5. Like
    melo4496 reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, VN of the Month, October 2017   
    First, I should mention that this was an awesome month.  There are multiple releases worthy of consideration for the winner and there are two releases that will be added to overall consideration for VN of the Year 2017.
    The actual twin candidates were: Yami to Hikari no Sanctuary and Imoten
    The runner-up was: Junjou Karen Freaks
    For various reasons, I avoided playing several VNs this month, including Boukyaku Shitsuji and Tsugihagi Make Peace.  The biggest one with the former is that it is yet another VN in the same setting as the 'Uso series' by Campus.  With the latter... it is that it is a relatively high-end charage appearing charage by a new company.  To be honest, Tsugihagi is not something I want to play right now.  It will probably take me until the end of the month to be human again after trying out Giga's massacre of that game.  If I played it now, I'd take my anger out on it, and that would be... unfair.
    Imoten and Yami to Hikari no Sanctuary are both great games... falling somewhat short of kamige level, but then, there haven't been any kamige releases this year anyway so far.  I actually struggled a lot when considering the two.  Either one could be VN of the Month for October... and in the end, I couldn't decide.  As such, I announce the rarest of the rare... a tie for VN of the Month October 2017 between Yami to Hikari no Sanctuary and Kanojo wa Imouto de Tenshi de!
  6. Like
    melo4496 reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Kanojo wa Tenshi de Imouto de   
    ... *weeps like a small child*
    Seriously, I haven't run into an utsuge/nakige hybrid like this since Karenai Sekai last year.  Imoten (the nickname for this one) is the latest production by Alcot Honey Comb, the mid-priced subsidiary of Alcot responsible for Satsukoi, 1/2 Summer, and Hatsugamai. 
    For some reason, in most years, the larger majority of the high quality VNs for the year tend to be put out in the first or last three months of the year... at least, that's the way it has been since 2011, when I first started playing most of the games released during the year.  A 'good month' is a month with two VNs that are VN of the Month quality, and of the three I've played so far from October's releases (setting aside the fact that I'm reserving the rest of Freaks for a later date) two have been of that level of quality... and I haven't even started Baldr Bringer.
    This VN is based in the same universe as Satsukoi, which was itself a first-class utsuge/nakige hybrid (I won't tell you about the link, since it is a spoiler for both games).  Now, this game technically has heroine paths... but by the nature of the way the game's story is told, this game is more focused on the protagonist's struggles than on the heroines.  In fact, in order to see the true ending (Touka's), you have to make a rather sad choice near the end of the other three heroine paths.  The 'happy endings' of the first three heroine paths are rather short and end abruptly... which makes a lot of sense, in retrospect. 
    This game's protagonist, Yuki, is the son of two famous actors, who present a good face in public but have been living separate from each other and him since he can remember.  After discovering that his  mother only birthed him for the sake of putting forth a good social image, he briefly considers suicide, but upon meeting the archangel Touka, who convinces him life is worth living, he agrees to sign a contract to become an angel candidate, with the intention to one day take over from the present god, who is at her limit after a century and a half of keeping humanity from destroying itself and the world.  Unfortunately, after a year of living together (Touka having altered reality so that she is seen as his little sister), he has yet to become a true angel, much less reach god's throne.  As such, he is regularly scolded (verbally and physically) by Touka and has to endure regular meetings with two other angels... a shinigami (Shizumi) and an angel who is also an idol (Mia) where they try to figure out why he hasn't become an angel yet.
    The VN starts out humorous... and indeed, the typical fourth-wall breaking humor Alcot abuses is present constantly here, but things get grim really quick.  This is not a kind world, after all.
    I'll be straight with you... if you just want normal romance with a great happy ending, this VN isn't for you.  The world in this VN is as cruel and cold as the real world, in its own way (think about it... this is the same world where mermaid sisters have to eat their oniichan in order to live... and humans in order to extend that life)... all the more so because the characters are in a position to know, to an extent, why the world is the way it is.  If you have a heart, each of the paths will reduce you to tears, each for a different reason... and the choices of Yuki (the protagonist) in order to reach and complete the true story lead to a bittersweet ending which will be hard on those who absolutely need a happy ending.
  7. Like
    melo4496 reacted to Dergonu for a blog entry, Derg's life in Japan - Culture Shock -   
    Hey folks! So, for those of you who don't know, I am currently studying abroad in Japan, and will be here for the next 5 months. It's something I have been looking forward to for a while, though moving to a foreign country, especially one as different as Japan, is quite a tough transition. I'll be writing some stuff about my trip here in my blog now and then, talking about how things are going, what I have been up to and stuff like that. Today I'll be writing a bit about the first few weeks here, and the things that has been tough to deal with for me.
    (I have currently lived in Japan for about 2 weeks)
    So, I have heard people talk about "culture shock" when coming to a country like Japan. I figured I wouldn't really experience that, because I knew so much about the culture beforehand. Well, I was wrong. That didn't help.
    Japan is... different. I mean, I love it here, but man... everything is so different from what I'm used to, it has gotten to me for sure.
    People here honestly look like robots to me. In Japan it isn't really normal to speak much in public at all. You are meant to be quiet to respect those around you. They also stand in nearly flawless lines on the subway/ train platforms, at restaurants, stores and so on. They stay at work and school until late at night, and you mostly see students studying, even at lunch time. They are incredibly diligent, almost to a scary degree tbh. Everyone picks up their own trash, and you won't find a single shred of garbage lying around anywhere. There is no noise like loud music or anything of the sort anywhere, (except for actual clubs and stuff like that, of course.) The buses and trains runs like clockwork, leaving and arriving exactly when they are supposed to, and the trains are filled with people sleeping, worn-out from long days at work/ school/ club practice.
    It's like this country is literally run by robot overlords or something.
    Honestly, it's a bit overwhelming. There are so many things you need to keep in mind. Don't do this, don't do that, make sure you remember this, never forget that, bla bla. From where to stand in an escalator to your body language when speaking to people, what forms to use when speaking to others in different social standings... My head hurts from trying to remember half of it.
    Another thing that really hit me hard is the food. I love Japanese food, but eating it 4 times a day 7 days a week has taken a toll on me. I honestly just can't get the food down even if it tastes good, especially in the mornings. So, I have started looking for western styled restaurants and shops, and found a few, luckily. It's strange, but there is a certain... joint taste to all food in Japan. It's hard to explain it, but there is just a certain "something" to all of it. Without mixing a bit of western food here and there, I just don't have an appetite. It has been surprisingly difficult to adjust my body to eating Japanese food all the time. It will probably be a few more weeks, possibly even a month + before I get completely used to the food here. Until then I'll make some pretty frequent stops at western restaurants, to stop myself from starving, lol.
    Ugh, and the climate. Holy crap, the humidity... please help, lol. The humidity here is constantly around 85-90%+, and with heat around 30 degrees C, it literally feels like you are walking around in an oven 24/7. You can't move an inch without getting sweaty. Go home and shower, then walk around outside for a mintue and you are already completely soaked. Not just sweaty, actually like, wet all over. You skin feels clammy from just being outside for a second.
    And the bugs. They are some weird mutated monsters summoned from hell. Like, holy crap. Some of the wasps/ bees here are bigger than my finger, and the Cicadas and other bugs of that size look like they could literally eat me. There is also one huge ass spider living outside our apartments, and I am personally convinced he will some day grow large enough to take over Japan and rule as the new emperor. Luckily winter should be coming soon-ish, (heh,) so they should all die soon. As someone who is completely terrified of bugs, and who can't take too hot temperatures, I cannot wait for the winter. Please winter-san, just get here already!
     
    Lastly, the university schedule really did a number on me. Today we were at school from 10:00 AM to 19:00 PM. In addition, each period is 90 minutes long, without breaks, and the classrooms are either way too hot or air conditioned too much, making them freezing. We will also have classes on saturdays, apparently. The club recruitment day is on Friday, and a lot of people are super excited about joining clubs, but all I can personally think about is: How on earth are you going to balance all this school work, and several hours of club practice each week? I'd die, lol. So yeah, I'll skip on the clubs, personally. They do have a few really fun looking clubs here though, like the TCG club, the cosplay club, the boardgame club, the English conversation club and so on.
    The school festival is in a couple months. That will be awesome. Can't wait for that.
     
    Anyways, this update has just been mostly about the stuff that overwhelmed me during my first 2 weeks here. I am getting used to them little by little, and there is of course tons and tons of good stuff that outweighs the bad. The next blog post I write will be much more positive
  8. Like
    melo4496 reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Anniversary 2017   
    Well, the fourth anniversary of my VN of the Month series of posts is coming in another week or so... and to be honest, I'm a bit amazed at how long I've kept this going.  Four years of playing most of the non-nukige VNs that came out each month, writing something on them, then picking one to be VN of the Month (or not, if none met my standards)... to be honest, my opinion hasn't changed much since the last time this time of year came around.  VN of the Month is one of the single most grueling tasks I've ever set myself outside of work, and I can honestly say that there are a lot of times when I just want to put it all aside. 
    However, I inevitably find myself coming back and playing more VNs.  If I take a week off from VNs, I inevitably tear back into my addiction with insane glee, and it usually at least takes three or four bad VNs before I finally run down and need a recharge. 
    I thought about making a poll asking if I should stop, like I did the other years... but the results - and the suggestions - are always the same, so I'm really more interested in what people have to say about this whole thing.
  9. Like
    melo4496 reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Random VNs: Tsuisou no Augment (both)   
    Tsuisou no Augment, when I first played it, blew me away.  Part of it was because it was so surprising, part of it because it was just that good.  Thankfully, it turned out to be just as good on a second playthrough.
    First, this VN doesn't fall into any of the standard genres.  Most of the game is hilarious, some of it is romantic, some of it is hot and sexual (seriously so), there is serious drama, and there is even some guro, though of limited scale.  The game begins with Hideya, the protagonist, lying in an old folks home at the age of 80, unmarried and looking back on his life, seeing it as empty and meaningless.  So, quite naturally, he takes up a nearby fruit knife and stabs himself in the throat, twisting so that the wound opens nicely, spraying his blood over his room.  To his surprise, this isn't the end... he wakes up in a park, sixty-something years before, in his young body, with a hideous creature calling itself a shinigami floating in front of him.  The shinigami explains to him that it, Augment, wants to take his soul at the peak of happiness, so having him die of suicide after an empty lifetime was inconvenient.  As a result, Augment took him back in time at the moment of death so that he could find his happiness - mainly a romantic life partner - so that Augment can use his soul after death to purify his own.
    So begins Hideya's dramatic journey to gain happiness... or not.  Hideya's personality isn't exactly Japanese-standard, so things don't really go the way you would expect with the standard VN protagonist.  Hideya is a fast-talking young man who takes an unholy pleasure in derailing conversations onto random topics (which are disproportionately related to sexual fetishes), which makes most of this game hilarious to read, since Hideya absolutely cannot stop himself from derailing even the most serious of conversations.  A lot of the choices in the game are worth exploring alternatives to, if only for the few hilarious extra lines they grant you, lol.  
    The three heroines of the original game are Shiho, Satsuki, and Nami.  Shiho is the protagonist's osananajimi, who began to distance herself from him sometime in middle school.  She is a kind-hearted and generous young woman who studies obsessively.  Satsuki is a girl from the next class over that Hideya meets on the street one day while she is stomping on her older brother's head.  She is the game's tsundere, often saying the opposite of what she means, and she is a brocon that happens to beat up on her brother regularly because he is rather... annoying.  Nami is the younger sister of the protagonist's class teacher.  She seems quiet and mysterious on the surface, but she is actually rather expressive... though that expressiveness tends to come out in reaction to jokes, opportunities to put down her sister, and opportunities to blackmail her sister (the teacher is a total siscon). 
    In Shiho's path, you confront the reason why she put a distance between herself and Hideya, and the reason is fairly... traumatic.  It is a reason that is all-too-common but no less tragic for all that.  In this path, there are too endings.  One, the one that is available from the beginning and is the 'true' ending for Shiho, has Hideya borrow Augment's power in order to right the past wrong that so twisted Shiho's life.  The other has the protagonist accept the current Shiho for who she is, loving her including her scars.  Depending on the individual, it is questionable which one is more touching, though.
    In Satsuki's path, you find yourself confronting yet another issue common to pretty and friendly girls everywhere... in this case, the endings are slightly less distinctive, because the end result differs so little, though there is a third, bad ending you can get if you pick the path to the true ending and make the wrong choice at the last. 
    Nami's path is a little different, and her true path is pretty guro (if you look too close at the CGs, the average person will probably need a barf bag).  Nami is the cutest of the girls when in love with the protagonist, but that just makes the guro parts worse, lol.  Her non-true path involves evading the guro events to reach a normal happy ending, and in that sense, hers has the most disparity between the endings.
    The Tsuisou no Aumgent FD (also pronounced Tsuisou no Augment) covers after stories (between the epilogue and the ending of the stories in the first one) for each of the three original heroines, as well as adding on paths for Augment, the protagonist's older sister Youko, and Nami's older sister.  The after-stories are basically a treat for readers who wanted a little extra ichaicha material from the heroine paths and more Hideya doing his level best to prevent conversations from going anywhere.  The Youko and Minami paths are both about two-thirds the length of the original heroine paths from the original game, and while they are good, I honestly preferred the original heroine paths.  Augment's path is basically a joke h-scene.
    Overall, Tsuisou no Augment is one of the more memorable games I've played over the years... and one of the few games where I spent most of the game laughing my ass off but could still cry at the important parts.  This is no charage - the paths are a bit too harsh on the characters for that - so this won't attract those interested in that sort of game.  However, it does have nice romance with serious drama attached. 
  10. Like
    melo4496 reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, My list of the greatest charage   
    This list isn't in any particular order, but I'm going to separate out the fantasy ones from the non-fantasy for the sake of those who have no taste in fantasy elements.  This list excludes nakige and utsuge.  I got a request to make a charage list a while back, but I only got around to it today.
     
    Fantasy
    World Election (first-class)
    Floral Flowlove (kamige)
    Minamijuujisei Renka
    Koiiro Soramoyou
    Senren Banka
    Ore no Tsure wa Hitodenashi
    Yomegami
    Love Rec
    Sanoba Witch
    Koko Kara Natsu no Innocence
    Sakigake Generation
    Suzunone Seven
    Kamikaze Explorer
    Haruru Minamo ni
    Signalist Stars
    Akabanzu
    Uso series (by Campus)
    Alia's Carnival
    Amairo Islenauts
    Appare! Tenka Gomen Matsuri
    Chuuning Lover
    Koitama
    Onigokko
    Natsuiro Koi Uta
    Otomimi Infinity
    Sakura Iro Quartet
    Prism Recollection
    Sukimazakura to Uso no Machi
    Tayutama
     
    Non-Fantasy
    Like a Butler
    Noble Works
    Love Revenge
    Otome ga Tsumugu Koi no Canvas (kamige)
    Otome wa Boku ni Koishiteiru Futari no Elder
    Natsuiro Recipe (very soothing)
    Primal Hearts (one and two)
    Itoshii Kanojo no Mamorikata
    Kimi to Boku To Eden no Ringo
    Kimi no Tonari de Koishiteiru
    Lovesick Puppies
    Shunki Gentei Poco a Poco
    Zannen na Ore-tachi no Seishun Jijou
  11. Like
    melo4496 reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Advice for those Playing VNs for a second time   
    Now, I'm well aware that most people don't play VNs twice.  Visual novels are a static media, similar to one of the old 'choose your own adventure' novels in interactive terms, so this is only natural.  To be blunt, the main reason I go back and play old VNs is because nothing is satisfying one of my itches amongst the more recent releases.  That said, there are some pieces of advice I can give for those who habitually re-read their favorite books and rewatch their favorite anime.
    1- Wait long enough for your memories to fade: The human brain has a tendency to 'compress' old memories, and it is rare person who, through training or at birth, possesses an eidetic memory.  As a result, details do fade over a period of time that tends to vary greatly with the individual.  In my case, the base runs from a year to a year and a half for VNs that made a good impression and four months for ones that didn't. 
    2-  Pick your paths: When it comes down to it, most of us are going back for a particular heroine or path.  We aren't that interested in rehashing the heroine paths that we didn't find that interesting, and this is only natural.  Sagaoz and other sites with complete saves can let you go to the true ending without bothering with the heroine endings, if that is what you want. 
    3- With gameplay hybrids, make full use of your save data: Most VN hybrids have NG+ built in, and as a result, you can breeze through the game portions of most of them rather easily by simply using your own save data.  This is immensely helpful in games with a particularly tedious bent (like srpgs), where re-leveling would take forever.
    4-  Limit replays to your favorites: While I occasionally get a junk-food-like craving for something crappy that nonetheless remained in memory, in most cases I only really enjoy replaying my favorite VNs (in my case, a list of about fifty). 
    5- Nakige and utsuge work, but pure charage don't: I'm not kidding.  Pure charage are agonizing to replay, no matter how long after you go back.  I can still cry for the sad scenes in a Key game, but if you asked me to replay anything by Feng or most games by Navel, I'd rather cut off my balls and hang them out to dry on my windowsill.
    6- If you fall asleep, just stop- In my experience, nothing is worse than getting bored of your favorites and then forcing yourself to continue.  If you can't pay attention or if you suddenly lose interest, it is time to stop.  If you force yourself to continue, there is a distinct possibility you will ruin your own impressions of the game in question for future playthroughs.
    7- Stay away from pure mindfucks- I shouldn't have to explain this, but I will... the value of a mindfuck is in its surprise.  Games centered on a mindfuck, with the sole purpose of trying to fool you into thinking one thing while something else is going on, are terrible for VN replays.  This is because they are probably the  most spoiler-vulnerable genre out there.
    8- Highly emotional or intellectually stimulating works will often gain more depth: This isn't a fanciful statement.  In my experience, a VN that is trying to get across something else besides pure story or something that is trying to make you cry will inevitably make for a better replay than something that is just shoving sex, romance, and comedy in your face.  I could probably replay Houkago no Futekikakusha, for instance, three or four times in a year without the emotional aspects fading significantly, and I find new things out about Dies Irae, Vermilion, and Devils Devel Concept with each playthrough. 
    9- Infodumpers take longer to recover from: Bradyon Veda, I/O, Muramasa, etc... VNs that infodump seriously as part of the storytelling tend to leave a lot of info inside your brain.  As a result, it takes significantly longer for your memories of them to fully 'compress'.  Don't expect to be able to enjoy anything with frequent infodumps at less than one and a half times that of any of your other favorites. 
    10- A good night's sleep is your friend: Why am I emphasizing this?  Because to get the best out of a truly great VN, a well-rested body and brain is necessary.  Nothing kills enjoyment of a good story like being unable to grasp it due to brain-numbness from sleep deprivation.
    Hope yall enjoyed my little lecture, lol.
  12. Like
    melo4496 reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, VN of the Year 2016   
    As usual, I spent a lot of time thinking over this before I even considered making a decision.  The original list of candidates at the end of the year (after the initial series of in-brain eliminations) is as follows:
    Tokyo Necro
    Akeiro Kaikitan
    Amatsutsumi
    Karenai Sekai to Owaru Hana (knocked Inochi no Spare out of the running)
    Tokyo Necro
    Tokyo Necro is Nitroplus's first masterpiece outside of the Science series (Steins;Gate, for those who don't know what I'm talking about) since Muramasa, all those years ago.  As such, it is an obvious favorite, being the sole chuunige kamige of the year, as well as a solid story from beginning to end even without considering my personal tastes (if anything, the presence of zombies is a negative for me, normally).  It is brilliantly written from start to finish, with a masterful twisting of the elements of the setting to create a fascinating variance between the paths that made for some really interesting endgame story paths.  In addition, the characters themselves were awesome, acting out their roles within the story in a down and dirty way that you generally don't get in most non-rapegames.  In other words, this is Nitroplus at its dark and dirty best for the first time in over half a decade.
    Akeiro Kaikitan
    Like its predecessor, Nanairo Reincarnation, Akeiro is a brilliant blend of supernatural darkness with everyday life... and with real consequences rather than the moe goofiness that defines most such mixtures in VNs.  It has mystery, it has horror, it has catharsis, and it has great characters.  Depending on what path you choose, the protagonist's path through life is dramatically altered, as is the fate of the heroines.  This reminds me of why Nanairo won the incredibly competitive 2014 competition so easily, despite the presence of Bradyon Veda and a number of other awesome games.
    Amatsutsumi
    Amatsutsumit is a game for those who want a good cry, and it shows.  It lost out to Floral Flowlove in its VN of the Month competition, but the truth is that it should have been a dual winner, when it came down to it, since they were equal in quality from beginning to end, with only the ladder-style story structure causing me to rate it somewhat lower.  Seen apart from that, however, it is an ideal example of Purple Soft's evolution from a third-rate charage maker to a brilliant maker of fantasy nakige since the release of Mirai Nostalgia.
    Karenai Sekai to Owaru Hana
    This is 2016's biggest surprise, an overwhelmingly powerful nakige that doesn't bother doing much more than stabbing your heart with the plight of the characters and their travels from the depths of despair up the staircase of hope.  In terms of emotional impact, I can honestly say no other VN in this year even got close, which is why Inochi no Spare got knocked off the list by this one.  I'll be straight... I'm a sucker for the heroes drunk on their own heroism, and the protagonist in this one fills that bill perfectly.  As such, I literally spent hours in tears playing this game. 
    VN of the Year Announcement
    Those four were the final candidates when I moved to my inner-brain semi-finals, and they fought one another viciously for a place in the finals, then the golden Pocky of VN of the Year.  Karenai Sekai shattered Amatsutsumi in a battle that lasted only a few moments, and Tokyo Necro and Akeiro Kaikitan fought a brutal fistfight that ended with broken bones and Tokyo Necro's heel on Akeiro's head.
    In the end, there came a brutal month-long battle in my back-brain between Tokyo Necro and Karenai Sekai, the two kamige blasting entire imaginary cities away in their attempts to claw out one another's guts.  Again and again, they shattered swords on one another's bones and regenerated from seemingly fatal wounds in an instant.  A continent sank beneath their feet, yet they continued to war with one another, even as their armies of followers drowned in the onrushing waters of the world's oceans.
    In the end it was a matter of overall brilliance of design as a victory over pure emotionalism that resulted in Tokyo Necro being victor over Karenai Sekai, thus becoming VN of the Year 2016.  Unlike 2015, where there were few to choose from, 2016 was excellent, with numerous candidates from various genres to pick from.  While I won't go so far as to say the year was awe-inspiring, it was indeed a pleasure to read the VNs listed above, as well as those below.
    Honorable Knockouts/Worthy of Memory
    Floral Flowlove
    Inochi no Spare
    Senren Banka
    Gin'iro, Haruka
    Akiyume Kukuru
    Ryuukishi Bloody Saga
    Signalist Stars
    Yomegami
    Sora no Tsukurikata
    Lamunation (this and Signalist were the best comedy VNs of the year)
    Sakura no Mori Dreamers (knocked out of the running by Akeiro Kaikitan)
    Soshite Hatsukoi ga Imouto ni Naru  (knocked out by Floral Flowlove and Amatsutsumi for nakige candidacy)
    World Election
    Koi Suru Otome to Shugo no Tate - Bara no Seibo - (sequel, so not a candidate)
    Ou no Mimi ni wa Todokanai (two great games by AXL in one year...)
     
     
  13. Like
    melo4496 reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Looking for partners for VN of the Month   
    As I mentioned in my previous post, I've simply reached a point where playing four VNs from every month's releases is now unfeasible.  However, at the same time, I wish to ensure that the role I set this up for in the first place continues to be fulfilled.
    The Original Purpose of VN of the Month
    The central purpose of VN of the Month is to give people a general idea of what they can expect going into a VN that is untranslated.  Is it enjoyable?  Who would it be enjoyable for?  What kind of genre is it a part of?  Is there something that makes this VN special? 
    The current situation
    I no longer have the energy to do everything I have been doing. Doing VN of the Month takes up amounts of time I'd rather be spending asleep, being social, or helping with translation projects.  Moreover, I'm currently in the middle of an apparent rush season for my work, so keeping up with it has become burdensome in the extreme.  However, I remember when all opinions of VNs were basically given off-hand in instant messaging and chat platforms, and no one really had any idea if a VN was any good, because of the troll voting that plagues all database sites.  While there are some English language VN bloggers out there, they mostly concentrate on translated entries and titles by companies everybody is already familiar with (such as Favorite, Pulltop, Yuzusoft, Minori, etc). 
    My solution
    I want to ask some of the people who regularly play new VNs on Fuwa to take some of the burden off my shoulders... in particular, I'd like to at least offload two of the charage from each month on some people so I can concentrate on VNs I have a standing interest in.  Preferably, I would like four or five people to do maybe one of these VNs each every two months (accounting for other people's reading speed and time constraints).  To be blunt, I have no interest in aiding and abetting another person's burnout by forcing them into handling a VN or two every month on schedule, so that is why I want the greater numbers.
    The issue
    Japanese readers are still a vast minority here, and I don't know if it is even realistic to expect anyone but me to even consider helping with something like this.  I know a few people who read fairly fast, but I honestly don't want to make a request directly that is fundamentally burdensome.
    If you are interested, comment on this blog post and we'll work things out in a PM.
    Edit:   Keep in mind that what I want are opinions.  To be blunt, I can write up a blog post based on someone else's opinions in under ten minutes if I need to, even if they themselves are terrible at writing or organizing their thoughts.  It is what I do for a living, after all.  In this way, the focus will shift somewhat... because I'll be handing things over to people who have a preference for the genre they are playing.  That's why I'd like to get some charage players on board.  While I personally strive for as little bias as possible, the fact is that charage reviews should be geared to charage lovers, and that is something I can't provide, sadly.  The same goes for mystery, sports-focused, and denpa types.  I have no taste for those genres, so it is best that I leave them to someone else who does like them. 
    Current new Members-
    fun2novel: Specialties are mindfuck, mystery, and chuunige.  I'll be depending on him primarily for mystery VNs, which I dislike.  For a start, I've asked him to take over Ouka Sabaki, since I can't bring myself to play it.  He's got a decent level of experience, and he is reasonably fast. 
     
     
  14. Like
    melo4496 reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Suisei Ginka   
    Suisei Ginka is the latest VN made by Akatsuki Works, the makers of such classic VNs as Ruitomo, Comyu, and Devils Devel Concept.  This was written by Morisaki Ryoto, the writer of multiple kamige including Hapymaher, Komorebi no Nostalgica (as an assistant writer), and Re:Birth Colony.  He is one of the most flexible and skilled writers out there, and I've yet to fail to enjoy a VN he's had a hand in.
    This VN is based in a port city half-owned by a company that caused a disastrous chemical spill there ten years ago.  It begins with the reunion of Izana, a young woman with a rather unusual attitude toward life, and Tetsuo, a straightforward young man with an utter disregard for his own safety and survival.  Naturally, this being an Akatsuki Works game, this is the beginning of numerous troubles and tribulations.
    Structurally, this VN is pretty 'to the point', in that the story uses the bare minimum of slice-of-life to give life to the characters and setting, while constantly keeping a laser focus on what is moving in the shadows... and the disastrous potential it holds. 

    Maria
    Looking at it in retrospect, I probably should have done this path second or third.  However, I followed my instincts on the game's first major story choice, and as a result I got into this path.  Maria's path is focused on the company that caused everything to go so horribly wrong, so it reveals details of some factors that spoil the other paths a little bit.
    Maria herself is a classic 'expressionless loli' of the type that is common to a lot of chuunige that have loli heroines.  Normally expressionless and nearly emotionless, she is very much like a cat, acting sweet to those few people she cares about and disregarding just about everyone else based on their use or lack of to her.  Edit: That isn't to say she's completely devoid of emotion... but with the guy who acts as her guardian being the kind of guy he is... she's naturally a little warped.
    This path has a lot of violence to it, primarily because of what the characters face in it.  It is a solid path though... it is just one that I really should have waited on.

    Seika
    Seika is Izana's best female friend and more than a little bit prickly toward anyone who approaches her with ulterior motives (and because of Izana's easy manner and physical beauty, that is pretty common).  She was raised by a strict asshole father who sees her only as a convenient object to augment his own ambitions for the family line, which is a lot of the reason why she is so prickly in general.  Her sole point of softness is Izana, whom she would probably do anything for. 
    Seika's path is wrapped up in dealing with the plot element that drives most of the protagonist-side characters, in a very intimate manner.  It's a fairly standard path for a game like this, serving as a fitting intro to the ins and outs of the story while setting the stage for elaborations in future paths.  I liked how it turned out, though a lot of people might find it an odd ending.  It is more solid than say... Benio's path in Comyu, which was fundamentally unsatisfying (for some reason, Hino Wataru sometimes chooses to drop a single weak heroine path in some of his games). 

    Momo
    Momo is Tetsuo's guardian/oneesan/coworker.  She is a heavy-drinker and a heavy-smoker and she is actually thirty, though she looks twenty.  She is also a brilliant (genius-level) individual as well as being highly perceptive when it comes to people in general.  She and Tetsuo have lived most of the last ten years around one another, and they know each other about as well as it is possible to know another person without being them. 
    After playing this path, I definitely realized there was a play order... Seika>Momo>Maria>Izana.  The reason is fairly simple... Maria's path reveals too much about the 'causes' of all this, removing a great deal of the mystery about what the protagonist is trying to do at the end of Momo's path and the 'why' of certain elements of Seika's path.  Seika's path, on the other hand, paves the way for things that are elaborated on in Momo's path.  Izana's path is, of course, the true one.
    Momo's path focuses on one of the more obvious, if mid-boss type antagonists.  This antagonist is a 'rationally insane' type who has no morals whatsoever outside of their personal ruleset.  In addition, this path has more death than the other two paths combined, lol.  I will say I liked the ending of this one, as well.

    Izana
     
    Izana is the true heroine of this VN.  She is also one of those 'always involved with the protagonist's life' heroines in the style of Kagome from Comyu or Suzu from Ayakashibito (meaning that even if they aren't lovers, they never really separate).  Izana is a very odd young girl... she seems at first to be something of a tomboy, but when you get to know her, she also shows a kind of quiet wisdom that the average tomboy heroine just doesn't possess.  Rather than being intelligent, she really is just 'wise'.
    Her relationship with Tetsuo is so strong that it is unchanged by the ten years of parting between them.  They both care deeply about one another and trust each other absolutely, without reservations. 
    Her path, true to the form of true paths in chuunige, is the most exciting of the paths, bringing together all the elements of the other paths with a focus on the central conflict that isn't resolved in the others.  Tetsuo shows off his manliness quite nicely in this path, as well as his own bit of wisdom (If he was a D&D character, he'd be a true neutral barbarian with an intelligence stat of 9 and a wisdom stat of 16), though it is born of him having such a solid sense of who he is, where he stands, and how he intends to live and die. 
    Neither Tetsuo nor Izana is the type to hesitate or stand around worrying about consequences, as they both have very distinct senses of priorities. 
    I honestly wept at the climax of this VN.  I couldn't help but cry for a certain character who got the sharp end of the stick from beginning to end throughout this story (even mentioning her name is a spoiler).  A toast to those who suffer so that others can be saved! *Clephas smiles sadly and clings his glass of rum against an empty one*
     
    A few extra comments
    One thing you should keep in mind when reading this VN is that neither this writer nor Hino Wataru produces 'standard' romances.  Their romantic elements are generally good, but they are almost universally 'romance born out of a stressful situation', so don't expect a charage-style romantic element in here.  What romance is in there is good, at least from my point of view, and Tetsuo is straight-out one of the manliest protagonists I've seen in a chuunige (since most chuunige protagonists tend to have issues that make them fall a bit short of that standard). 
    I'm glad that this VN kept up the four year tradition of good VNs coming out on or near my birthday, hahaha...
  15. Like
    melo4496 reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Burned out   
    It's been a while since a single VN burned me out completely, but Silverio Trinity managed it.  That VN had many of the best elements of its predecessor, while being more balanced, having added unique soundtracks, and overall creating a mostly new experience that, while it didn't completely transcend the original, still managed to stand on the same plane.
    Unfortunately, it was a highly emotional experience, with a lot of excitement along the way... so I know I won't rate any VNs I play at this moment fairly, regardless of genre.  As a result, I'm taking a week's break from my VN of the Month to recover my sanity, lol.
  16. Like
    melo4496 reacted to fun2novel for a blog entry, Best Visual Novel Writers and Storytellers   
    After reading Clephas’ recent blog update I decided to rip him off was inspired to do something similar. My own experience with visual novel is not as vast as his so go read his blog, his list is awesome and is way more interesting, so just give up reading this and go to his blog -__-
    Every work should be judged on its own no matter who the writer is but it’s impossible, in my opinion, not to rely on those writers that really speak to us, those that know how to push our buttons and inspire us, touch us deeply, bring us to tears, and blow our minds. When you find a writer that does all that for you then you’ll probably want to read more of his works if only because nobody else does that for you.
    Takumi Nakazawa – Best known for his work on the Infinity series, Nakazawa is one of the most incredible writers and story builders of our time. He writes Hard Science Fiction Mysteries and is completely crazy for plot details. Every single scene in his stories have a purpose to be there, every line can have multiple interpretations. Each story he writes explores many philosophical themes and scientific theories. His obsession with details what gives his stories so much depth. His characters is another part where he excels at as each one has a reason and an important part in the overall narrative. Nakazawa is not just a writer but a director and a producer but his plot structure and narrative mastery is in everyone of his major projects.
    Notable works:
      
    Never7

    Ever17

    Remember11

    I/O

    Root Double.
     
    Uchikoshi Koutarou – Very famous among the western visual novel community and one of the very few writers recognized outside the community. Uchikoshi worked closely with Takumi Nakazawa on the Infinity series, that is where he found his passion for Science Fiction Mystery stories and what he kept writing since Never7. His ideas are incredible and just as much fascinating as Nakazawa’s ideas with a detailed narrative structure only matched by Nakazawa himself. It’s impossible to talk about either of those writers and not to compare between their individual works. Uchikoshi is an amazing writer but he doesn’t spend as much time into fleshing out his plots as much as Nakazawa does. But his stories are still amazing and highly entertaining.
    Notable works:
       
                            Never7                                                 Ever17                                                              Remember11

    12Riven

    999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors
      
    Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward

    Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma .
     
     
    Eve - New Generation -
     
    Masada Takashi – This guy is… the only words floating in my mind is insane and epic. His got the most chuuniest chuuni style of any writer out there. Until you read him you don’t know how good his narrative mastery truly is and just how much research he puts into his stories with everything from the bible to ancient mystical rituals to all kinds of mythologies and philosophies. The guy is a freaking poet and manages to turn a chuuni battle story into the most mind blowing FEELS kind of visual novels. What even more interesting about him is that he’s not just about the chuuni, his stories are very character centric and he is a master at making the reader sympathize with his characters and gives just as much attention to them as he does to everything else in his stories. His stories are like epic poems or German operas with extravagant imagery and presentation. He is the guy that put Light on the map and his Dies Irae built a lot of fan following for the company.
    Notable Works:

    Paradise Lost
      
    Dies Irae
     
    Kajiri Kamui Kagura

    Soushuu Senshinkan Gakuen Hachimyoujin

    Soushuu Senshinkan Gakuen Bansenjin

    Dies irae ~Interview with Kaziklu Bey~.
     
    Kurashiki Tatsuya & Takahama Ryou – Also known as the Light’s non Masada chuuni team. Masada has a very unique instantly recognizable style that is both incredible and difficult to replicate. Kurashiki Tatsuya & Takahama Ryou don't try to copy Masada and instead try different a lot more diverse styles compared to Masada and every visual novel they worked on is a completely fresh and unique work by its own merits with different presentation, visual, and writing style. Their stories are epic chuuni through and through with great prose and narrative structure. Sometimes they will bring another writer as they did with Mugi Ayumu when they worked on Zero Infinity, Electro Arms, and Silverio Vendetta or Monaka Koke for Silverio Trinity. Tatsuya also did some contractual work for Clock-Up on Maggot Baits and both of them worked together on Studio e.go!’s Izumo 4. Masada and this non Masada team defined what a chuuni visual novel should be like, they are the superstars of any chuuni visual novel reader.
    Notable Works:

    Vermilion -Bind of Blood-

    Zero Infinity -Devil of Maxwell-

    Electro Arms -Realize Digital Dimension
     
    Silverio Vendetta

    Maggot Baits

    Izumo 4

    Silverio Trinity(coming soon).
    Higashide Yuuichirou – Another one of the best chuuni writers. His style is both varied and distinctly his own. One of the most noticeable things about him is how much he loves to create very unique settings and puts a lot of time into building his worlds. The settings in his stories are as much a character as the main characters themselves, pick any of his works and you’ll be pulled into a place so alive and imaginative you will believe it actually exists. When it comes to characters Yuuichirou is a master, at least when it comes to protagonists and the main cast and his characters really shine. Besides writing cool stylish epic battle scenes Yuuichirou is also the best comedy writer in the chuuni genre and his comedy can get absolutely hilarious. Sometimes he’s so good with characters and humor that you’ll not want those so called ‘slice of life’ scenes to end once the real plot kicks in. Unfortunately he left Propeller the company where he created his most famous works and went to work for Type-Moon.
    Notable Works:

    Ayakashibito

    Bullet Butlers

    Chrono Belt

    Evolimit

    Tokyo Babel.
    Ryuukishi07 – One of the most prolific visual novel writers of this decade. The guy is like a perpetual machine never running out of oil and never rusting. He is known mostly for Higurashi and Umineko two of the longest visual novels ever made and are well known for being some of the best mystery stories ever written. His prose style is long but never boring, slow, or full of filler. It’s quite amazing to see long works without being full of fillers but Ryuukishi07 somehow does it. His works are very diverse on the one hand and very recognizable as his own style on the other. He also did a lot of work for and with other people like Lucia’s route in Rewrite, Ookamikakushi for Konami, and Iwahime for DMM. He can write anything from horror, a style he is known for, to drama and mysteries. Currently he is working on Rewrite side stories and is writing one of the scenarios for the Kamaitachi no Yoru remake.
    Notable Works:

    Higurashi no Naku Koro ni

    Umineko no Naku Koro ni

    Ookamikakushi

    Rose Guns Days

    Iwaihime

    Trianthology ~Sanmenkyou no Kuni no Alice~.
     
    Hideo Kojima – Aka the father of Metal Gear series. His Snatcher and Policenauts are a lot more like Japanese adventure games than straight out visual novels but these games are story driven and any visual novel gamer should not miss on either of those games. Kojima fills his stories with a very detailed setting, detailed and interesting characters, and a very detailed well crafted plots. This incredible detailed stories never feel like too much or too overwhelming because every single detail is explained in a clear and understandable manner and it’s a lot of fun to try out every item and every option just to see what new stuff you’ll learn about the world, characters, and plot. Both games are full of futuristic atypical detective stories and have what could only be said as the best moments in gaming history. Even back then Kojima was a master game designer and an excellent storyteller.
    Notable Works:

    Snatcher

    Policenauts.
     
    Takumi Shuu – The man behind the Gyakuten Saiban aka Ace Attorney series. Similar to Kojima games, these are more of the Japanese adventure genre rather than pure visual novels. Not much else can be said about the awesome Ace Attorney that hasn’t been said before. It’s got one of the most boring premises, you play as a lawyer Yeah, Sure. That sounds like fun. But Takumi Shuu took the idea and turned it on its head with of the wall over the top characters and a lot of very well crafted mystery cases to solve. In a way all the cases are episodic but Takumi is such a smart writer he always has some kind of surprise up his sleeves by changing the formula in some way and brings everything together by the end in clever unexpected ways. Most of his characters are, for lack of a better word, very annoying. But even then the stories are so interesting that even that won’t stop you from having a lot of fun with his games. His Ghost Trick is a very innovative puzzle style game and shouldn’t be missed either.
    Notable Works:


      
    The Entire Ace Attorney series
      
    Ghost Trick.
     
    Kodaka Kazutaka – Worked in the games industry for a long time now and was a secondary director on Clock Tower 3 Kotaka Kazutaka is more famous for a small little series which today has exploded into a huge franchise, the Danganronpa series. Once again, like the previous two writers his games are Japanese adventure games and not what the purest will call a visual novel but really who cares about these small details anyway, Danganronpa is here to tell a story and that’s what’s important. Referred as as the Psychopop genre by Kazutaka himself, who sees himself as the creator of his own genre, Danganronpa can very easily be compared to the Ace Attorney series because of the episodic style of mystery cases the characters must solve. But Danganronpa has an overarching plot and a plot that is very detailed and a cleverly crafted crowning achievement of mystery, horror, despair, dark and bright humor, and plenty of twists and turns. The closer you get to the end of each game the more your head will be spinning and twisting with your jaw dragging on the floor. His characters are really fun, interesting and very likeable, most of them at least and they go through a lot of extreme stuff. Kazutaka loves to leave gamers  in complete despair.
    Notable Works:

    Danganronpa

    Super Danganronpa 2

    Danganronpa Another Episode
     
    Danganronpa 3 (anime)

    the next game in the series New Danganronpa V3
     
    Fujisaki Ryuuta – The Grisaia guy. An excellent writer putting a lot of care into his characters and brings them to life. Not everything he writes is gold but with each new story he gets better and better. With a clear and easy prose and a lot of character and hilarious comedy Ryuuta is master at writing fun character exploration scenes almost perfectly avoiding the long boring nothing happens so prevalent in other visual novels. Grisaia is his most famous work and while the first game in the series had some very slow scenes that feel like they shouldn’t have been there, most of the game is a lot of fun and entertaining as well as humorous enough it never gets tiring. However he’s also known for writing in other genres like in Draculius and Hatsuru Koto Naki Mirai Yori both of which are great and highly entertaining. An interesting trivia, Grisaia is not the first work by Fujisaki Ryuuta to have an official English release, he was one of the scenario writers on Tea Society of a Witch released by Hirameki International.
    Notable Works:
     
    Draculius

    Grisaia no Kajitsu

    Grisaia no Meikyuu

    Grisaia no Rakuen

    Hatsuru Koto Naki Mirai Yor

    the upcoming Grisaia: Phantom Trigger.
     
    Hiei Murasaki – The Cyberpunk guy heading the Baldr series. But he also worked on a lot of other visual novels with very different genres. He has great with characters when needed and a big idea man when appropriate. The Baldr series is what he’s mostly known for because of the awesome ideas but he also worked on the mecha anime style and highly entertaining Dengeki Stryker visual novel. His prose is very easy to read except when he goes into info dumping in which case it’s doubtful even the Japanese readers can understand him completely. But Murasaki’s awesome and crazy entertaining stories earned a huge place in a lot of visual novel player’s hearts.
    Notable Works:

    Cho Dengeki Stryker

    Baldr Force


    Baldr Sky

    Baldr Heart.
     
    Watanabe Ryouichi – An almost sinfully unrecognized writer. Watanabe Ryouichi is a very diverse writer adapting different style depending on the needs of the company and projects he works on, ranging from sports stories to science fiction. His prose is simple and very easy but can be highly emotionally charged full of dramatic elements. He is also a big ideas man and his ideas are BIG. Ryouichi also likes to troll his readers by disguising epic science fiction stories with marvelous ideas and wrapping it all in what, at first, appears to be a boring nukige. Nevertheless he is the one writer that needs more recognition and his works need to be translated into English ASAP.
    Notable Works:

    Ao no Kanata no Four Rhythm

    Harumade, Kururu

    Natsukumo Yururu

    the upcoming Akiyume Kukuru.
     
    Fushichou & Shimantogawa Seiryuu – Another pair of great chuuni writers. Fushichou and Seiryuu work for 3rdEye and wrote all four of their games so far. All chuuni, all have great beautiful and sleek presentation with great writing and good prose. Bloody Rondo was not their best work but with each subsequent game their stories got much better with a better focused plot and great narrative structure techniques. They are one of the best chuuni teams in the industry with a style all their own different from what Light, Propeller, or any other chuuni developers do in writing technique and presentation design. As chuuni stories go this pair’s games are full of action, packed with battles, fighting techniques and a fully developed magic system. Like every good chuuni writer Fushichou and Seiryuu also write great and lovable characters with their own dreams and motivations with personalities easy to care for. Fortunately their latest game Sorcery Jokers is officially coming in English, probably sometime next year.
    Notable Works:
     
    Shinigami no Testament ~menuet of epistula~

    Gensou no Idea ~Oratorio Phantasm Historia~

    Sorcery Jokers
     
    There are many more visual novel writers I wanted to talk about but I don’t have enough experience with their works yet to write about them in depth. Writers such as G.O., Sca-Ji, and some other interesting mystery, comedy, chuuni, science fiction, and drama writers. Maybe in a year or two I’ll expand the list. Thanks for reading.
  17. Like
    melo4496 reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Clephas' list of high-quality writers: Tier One   
    I think we can all agree I've read a lot of VNs. *waits for audience laughter with a smile*
    *looks sad when the audience laughter recording doesn't work*
    Anyway, over the years I've encountered a lot of writers.  Some were mediocre, others were decent, yet others were good... and some were just great.
    I decided to list the writers I honestly think have a lot of talent and whose works are something we, as VN fans, should at least keep an eye on.  Tier One presents writers who are 'masters of their craft', to the point where they can be put onto a pedestal with few qualms. 
    My list:
    Hino Wataru- Hino Wataru is Akatsuki Works' primary writer.  His bad habits include a tendency toward overuse of line repetition (like 'soredemo, to' in Comyu and 'norowareta sekai' in Ruitomo) and an absolute adoration for hedge philosophy themes in each VN he writes.  However, if you can endure his quirks, his raw writing is actually really high quality, and he does have a serious talent for scenario construction.  It's just too bad that you can tell how he favors his heroines based on their path length and closeness to the 'true' heroine.
    Masada Takashi- Now, the first thing that comes to mind to any of us when we hear 'Masada' is the famous/infamous VN Dies Irae.  For chuuni fans and fans of elaborate prose, Dies Irae is a drug more powerful than heroin.  For people who want prose to be straightforward and easy to understand, it is pure poison.  His adoration for the use of phrasing rarely utilized in modern prose, flowery descriptions, and poetic phrasing have also made him one of the most impossible writers to translate, though.  His preference is for grandiose settings, 'archetypical characters escaping their archetypes', and over the top plot twists.  He is surprisingly good at avoiding giving away future story developments to the reader, and his most brilliant characters are usually the antagonists of the story, rather than the protagonists or the heroines.  He is also a first-class master of the art of presentation.
    Kurashiki Tatsuya and Takahama Ryou- These guys are what I like to call the 'Masada Fanboys'.  Their prose, their scenario and setting construction, and even the cadence of their poetry is all an imprint of Masada.   For those unfamiliar with Light's works, Kurashiki Tatsuya was the scenario writer for Maggot Baits (which had unbelievably good prose outside of the torture/sex scenes) and Takahama Ryou was one of Izumo 4's writers.  While their writing shows off a rather obvious obsession with Masada's works, that doesn't seem to keep them from writing enormously enjoyable stories and characters.  The biggest difference between them and Masada is that they tend to place more of an emphasis on the protagonist and heroines than Masada does (as Masada is a master of the 'supreme antagonist' as is evidenced by Amakasu, Reinhardt, Mercurius, and Hajun).  Evidence of this is Vermilion, Electro Arms, Zero Infinity, and Silverio Vendetta, all of which were VNs that were defined almost entirely by the protagonist and/or the heroines. 
    Kinugasa Shougo- The writer of Akatsuki no Goei (the series) and Reminiscence (the series), Kinugasa Shougo is perhaps best known for his character-based situational comedy, despite having a surprising flair for building a setting.  He has an inordinate fondness for dystopian settings and characters who are either amoral or outright villainous.  Kaito in Akatsuki no Goei is perhaps one of the most amoral protagonists I've ever come across, possessing a capacity for directed brutality that I've found nearly unmatched in VNs combined with an arrogance that causes endless hilarity throughout the VNs involving him.  However, this writer does have one huge flaw... he loves leaving things unfinished and/or to your imagination.  He never concludes his stories, and things almost never have a 'happily ever after' feeling to them after he gets done with them.
    Takaya Aya- Perhaps one of the most versatile writers on this list, Takaya Aya is Caramel Box's primary writer, having been responsible for many first-class VNs, including Semiramis no Tenbin, Komorebi no Nostalgica, Shuumatsu Shoujo Gensou Alicematic, Otoboku 2, and Kikan Bakumatsu Ibun Last Cavalier.  He is absolutely brilliant at creating empathetic characters and pulling the reader into their situations.  He can do chuunige, slice-of-life comedy, nakige, and even a dark social commentary.
    Higashide Yuuichirou- Like Masada, Higashide Yuuichirou is/was (he is retired) primarily a chuunige writer and was Propeller's main writer until 2011.  Unlike Masada, he specializes in a more 'standard' version of the hero.  His protagonists are designed to inspire, his writing is full of humor (both standard manzai and self-effacing), and he has a mastery of catharsis that Masada simply doesn't possess.  To be honest, I've only come across a few writers that can balance so many elements in a single literary work without having it all fall apart, and his works don't lose their flavor after multiple playthroughs.
    Takehaya- Takehaya is a master of catharsis, the creating of characters, settings, and scenarios that can draw out the emotions of the reader, forcing them into an emotional release despite themselves.  All of his best works - from utsuge Konakana to the more recent Rakuen no Shugosha - rip into your heart and force you to make a place for the characters there.  There are few writers out there that can do what he does, but I can't help but wish there were.
    Morisaki Ryouto- Morisaki Ryouto is a challenger for Takaya Aya in terms of versatility, capable of writing nakige, charage, hard sci-fi, chuunige fantasy (Fate/Hollow Ataraxia) and even heavy eros.  While he isn't as brilliant as Takaya as a writer, he does have a gift for adapting himself to the genre he is writing, and it is always worth it to at least try anything he writes, even if the genre itself turns out not to suit your tastes.
    Shumon Yuu- Shumon Yuu is something of an enigma.  He occasionally appears in the VN industry (every three years or so) and puts out a VN that is artistically brilliant (in the general sense) and possesses depths that are almost impossible to fully plumb in a single playthrough.  Every VN he has put out since he hit his stride with Itsuka Todoku has been a kamige.  He is also a light novel writer.  He is brilliant at portraying both suffering and joy, drawing you into the setting and characters while presenting them in their best lights.  If there is a writer in the VN industry I can say unequivocally is a genius, he is it.
     
  18. Like
    melo4496 reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Clephas Top 50 VNs   
    For the last two years or so, I've gotten repeated requests to unequivocally name my top VNs made up until the present, ignoring objectivity, my vndb votes, etc.  I've more or less just ignored most of those requests, because it is a pain in the ass to name a 'favorite' VN in the first place.  I've made lists of VNs I loved from various genres, and I've also made lists of VNs for a specific purpose.  However, I've avoided making a list like this one up until now, mostly because my 'favorites' switch out so often. 
    Let's get this straight for those who are going to criticize my choices... these are the VNs I like the most, not the fifty best VNs of all time.  I make no pretense to preeminence of opinion in this case, because I'm also discarding all attempts at objectivity.  What a person likes is ultimately a matter of personal tastes, not a matter of logic.
    Why did I make it fifty?  Because my number of VNs played, setting aside replays and nukige, is over six hundred already (with replays and nukige, it is closer to eight hundred...)... I'd be surprised if I didn't have this many VNs I considered wonderful. 
    Keep in mind that these aren't in a particular order.
     
    1.   Evolimit
    2.   Dies Irae (the one by Light)
    3.   Ikusa Megami Zero
    4.   Nanairo Reincarnation
    5.   Semiramis no Tenbin
    6.   Bradyon Veda
    7.   Vermilion Bind of Blood
    8.   Hapymaher
    9.   Tiny Dungeon (as a series)
    10.  Bullet Butlers
    11.  Chrono Belt
    12.  Ayakashibito
    13.  Otome ga Boku ni Koishiteiru 2
    14.  Chusingura
    15.  Draculius
    16.  Otome ga Tsumugu, Koi no Canvas
    17.  Silverio Vendetta
    18.  Konata yori Kanata Made
    19.  Grisaia series
    20.  Akatsuki no Goei series
    21.  Reminiscence series
    22.  Haruka ni Aogi, Uruwashi no
    23.  Harumade, Kururu
    24.  Soukou Akki Muramasa
    25.  Tokyo Babel
    26.  Tasogare no Sinsemilla
    27.  Komorebi no Nostalgica
    28.  Yurikago yori Tenshi Made
    29.  Izuna Zanshinken
    30.  Moshimo Ashita ga Harenaraba
    31.  Kamikaze Explorers
    32.  Devils Devel Concept
    33.  Suzunone Seven
    34.  Baldr Skydive series
    35.  Baldr Sky Zero series
    36.  Toppara Zashikiwarashi no Hanashi
    37.  Tsuisou no Augment (series)
    38.  Kikan Bakumatsu Ibun Last Cavalier
    39.  Shin Koihime Musou (series not including the original Koihime Musou)
    40.  Soshite Hatsukoi wa Imouto ni Naru
    41.  Tenshi no Hane o Fumanaide
    42.  Irotoridori no Sekai
    43.  Noble Works
    44.  Koisuru Otome to Shugo no Tate (series)
    45.  Kitto, Sumiwataru Asairo yori mo
    46.  Jingai Makyou
    47.  Sakura, Sakimashita
    48.  Abyss Homicide Club
    49.  Re:Birth Colony Lost Azurite
    50.  Owaru Sekai to Birthday
     
     
  19. Like
    melo4496 reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Kanojo Step   
    Kanojo Step is the latest VN from Smee, a company famous (or infamous) for making old style first-generation charage (right down to being able to name the protagonist and having him be a non-person, as well as there either being no drama or only weak/easily resolved drama in the story).  As such, I wasn't anticipating a blowout hit, and I didn't get it, of course.  However, it did surprise me a bit in one aspect...
    ... and that was its comedy.  Ok, most of it is cheesy and 'familiar', but the timing of the comedy (usually emanating from the protagonist, as he is a 'class clown' style protagonist) is pretty much perfect and frequent enough that I spent about sixty-percent of this VN laughing.
    Unfortunately, the slice-of-life in this VN and the romance (which make up everything that isn't comedy) are... unimpressive.  They chose to go with heroines that were surprisingly dependent and deredere after they and the protagonist get together, and that wasn't a bad choice.  However, the simple fact is that there is a huge gap in the quality of narration and dialogue between parts meant to be funny and parts that are meant to be semi-serious.  This is the first VN I've encountered in a while where I felt like going to sleep whenever I wasn't laughing... and that isn't even an exaggeration. 
    Part of this can be attributed to the fact that the common route pretty much gluts you on everyday slice-of-life, and by the time you hit the heroine routes, it feels like being handed an apple pie after having gorged yourself on six others only an hour before.  Another part is that the way the everyday life parts are sectioned out is almost always the same, leaving you with a somewhat exaggerated sense of  monotony.  This, combined with the frequent meaningless choices and map movement systems (the classic type seen in a lot of older slice-of-life VNs that went out of style because they drove most people up the wall) made this a VN that reflected older styles... in a bad way. 
    For all the salt I just spat, this VN is actually fairly enjoyable most of the time... it's just that when it starts to feel monotonous, it really feels monotonous... Given a more story-driven plot combined with this same comedy and the complete elimination of the map movement aspects, it would have probably inched its way up into the top five percent of the charage I've played over the years.  Unfortunately, those aspects made for a VN that was far less than it could have been, at least from my perspective.
    Edit: Understand, the people who like the 'warm and fuzzy, devoid of any stains of negative emotion' charage will lap this up.  If I were to design a VN engineered solely to prick at 'mainstream' Japanese VN otakus' desire for 'an ideal everyday  youth' this would be what I would aim for.  However, as a story, it is fatally boring, unoriginal, and lacking in any entertainment value outside of the comedy, which happens to be hilarious.
  20. Like
    melo4496 reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Random VNs: Nanairo Reincarnation   
    Below is the original mini-review I wrote of Nanairo Reincarnation in 2014, which I mostly pulled out because it is much harder to access than this blog because of how buried that thread is.  Also, I was feeling too lazy to completely rehash everything I said back then.
     
     
    Nanairo Reincarnation
     
    Kamige kita!!!  lol
     
    I've been waiting all this  year for a kamige to appear, and thankfully, I wasn't disappointed.  Every once in a while I come across a game that gets every last aspect of what it included right.  These games are rare... usually just one or two in a given year.  Last year had two, for example... and so far, this year has one. 
     
    The Game:  Most of this VN is the common route, with a few scene changes on the way based on which of the two (inhuman or human) sides of things you chose to go by.  Kotori (the main heroine) and Iyo (the zashiki warashi) are on the inhuman side of things, whereas the human side is Azusa (the policewoman) and Yumi (the protagonist's ex).  There are a lot of common text and scenes to all the routes, which is why I say the common route is about ninety percent of the VN... this is because the basic flow of events in the main story doesn't change.  What changes is who the protagonist ends up with and how they deal with certain issues (such as the protagonist's three oni servants), as well as the ending.  By 'ending', I really mean about an hour and a half of story followed by a relatively short prologue that is nonetheless quite satisfying.  The story itself is initially focused on the antics of the protagonist, his oni, Iyo, and Kotori as the protagonist accustoms himself to his duty of seeing the restless dead off. 
    However, about one third of the way through, things take on a much more serious tone, for reasons I won't give now, and the central mystery of the story comes into play.  To be honest, I want to avoid any hints here, because this is a game that definitely goes over best if you play it from the beginning.
    This VN is a combination of a lot of genres... it verges on an utsuge at times, a nakige at others, and at yet others it feels like a comedy or an occult mystery. 
    The Heroines:  First, let me state that you should not play the inhuman side first.  To be frank, there is this one scene that is just downright cool near the end of the inhuman side of the common route that just makes certain events pale in human side of things.  Play Yumi>Azusa>Iyo>Kotori (do Kotori's two endings in the order suggested by the walkthrough) to get the best experience.  Yumi is a sweet, devoted young woman who parted from the protagonist sort of by default as they grew apart during college.  Unlike the other heroines, she can't 'see' ghosts or oni, which causes problems.  Azusa is a policewoman assigned by Unit 13 of the local police to be the liaison with the protagonist, who takes on requests to 'deal with' ghosts from them.  She is light-hearted, serious about her job, somewhat easily frightened (the first scene with her is total rofl), and gets drunk easily.  She is really hot-blooded about her work as a policewoman, which causes problems because she thinks she was dumped on Unit 13 as some kind of punishment.  Iyo is the zashiki warashi that has protected and guided the protagonist's family for eight generations, teaching each new one how to manage the oni... while at the same time doing her level best to bankrupt them with her spending habits.  She is foul-mouthed, mischievous, and gluttonous... and also surprisingly wise, though she has trouble being serious for more than a few moments at a time.  Kotori is a young woman the protagonist meets who is looking for her dog.  She becomes attached to him as a result of the incident's conclusion and begins hanging around his house, working as his 'assistant'.  She can see ghosts and the oni, and she gets along with the protagonist's oni famously.  She's somewhat shy with strangers but otherwise cheerful and easygoing. 
    The Oni:  The four oni seen in the story are Kikyou, Aoi, Fuyou, and Iris.  Kikyou has the appearance of a beautiful and mature woman and she was inherited from his grandfather for the purpose of teaching the protagonist about oni.  She is soft in manner, though she 'changes' when she gets angry.  Aoi is the first of the oni born at the protagonist's command.  She has the form of a cat-girl and she acts just like it.  Her personality is very similar to Iyo's, though her personal devotion to her master is different from Iyo's role as protector and mentor.  She wants what she wants at any given moment, and she won't hesitate to go after it.  Her special ability is psychometry, the ability to read objects and people for memories.  Fuyou is the second oni born at the protagonist's order.  She is very similar to Kikyou in appearance and manner, and her special ability is that she can be seen by normal people (something none of the other oni can do), though in exchange she doesn't possess a more mystical ability.  Iris is the third of the oni made at the protagonist's orders.  She is, to be frank, a cute goth-loli who prefers to talk using her puppet or through her telepathic abilities (she can read minds, communicate mentally, and link other people's minds like a wi-fi hotspot, lol).  She is the quietest of the three, though she is just as devoted to the protagonist as his other servant oni.  She is a little shy and a bit of a crybaby... though it is understandable considering what her first duty upon creation ends up being.
    Overall:  This VN is a first-rate story-focused, suited for people who want a good cry, a good mystery, and a few laughs along the way.  If you can't stand some mild guro and some really tragic scenes... you should still play this, because it is an excellent VN, lol.
     
    Now that you've read what I thought then, here are some new thoughts I've had since, having put two years and Akeiro Kaikitan behind me. 
    Nanairo Reincarnation is one of those rare VNs that does not pale even a little bit on  a second playthrough.  I thought being spoiled to the mysteries and the small-scale mindfuck would ruin this for me, but it didn't, in the end.  In fact, I found myself enjoying certain aspects of the small-scale mindfuck that exists in this VN with real appreciation for the skill and subtlety of the writer... I don't think I've ever seen a writer so perfectly walk the line between spoiling the surprise and concealing it too deeply.   There are hints... but not really strong ones.  In fact, most of them only feel like hints in retrospect, which is really how it should be in this kind of story.
    Another issue, which I didn't mention above, is the effects of the music and artwork.  To be blunt, Silky's artist, Sumeragi Kohaku, is a straight-out muchi-type nukige artist.  This lends a somewhat stronger emphasis on erotic atmosphere to the oni that really fits well with the setting, and she is also surprisingly good at non-H CGs...  Most nukige artists are horrible at clothing details, non-H positioning, and other such issues that fall outside of their preferred emphasis, but this artist does an excellent job of using her nukige-influenced art style to help define the characters. 
    Music-wise... while there are some BGMs that feel generic, the more intense ones are both unique and well-used to emphasize the atmosphere of the story.  While the impression of this VN is primarily formed from the subtle narrative and the artwork, the music more than does its job at enhancing the work of the other two legs of the tripod.
    I cried in this VN... a lot.  I wept for each ghost in their own time (well, except for one in particular who was just a joke), and I honestly felt for the characters throughout this VN, to an extent which is rare even for someone like me, who tends to like getting emotionally wrapped up in his stories.  A lot of this comes from the situation... but as much comes from the fact that Makoto is one of those rare protagonists who is honestly empathetic without any of the density or merely surface-level kindness that you see in love-comedy types.  For those who like to live behind the eyes of a VN's protagonist, this VN really is a treat.
  21. Like
    melo4496 reacted to Deep Blue for a blog entry, Gin'iro Haruka general thoughts.   
    Bethly

    After many...many...many hours of reading I finally finished one route which I think is enough since one route in this VN feels like finishing a long VN on itself, also picking a different girl feels incorrect at this point, like I'm cheating someone... (forgive me Bethly ) 
    Giniro is a pure love story, slice of life with some very mild drama(almost non existent), most of it consist on developing the bonds between the main character and his group of friends(only females)  and later on the girl you chose from that group.
    This VN shows you that each one of the girls has a great potential inside of them but they wont be able to use it on their own, they are like rough diamonds, with the help of the main character will "unleash" they full potential(it sounds like an action vn xD), is not like they will turn out to be unhappy or anything like that but each one of them wont fully accomplish their respective dreams or reach their full potential on their own.
    This might be a little spoilerish but Yuzuki wont become a great chef, Mizuka wont reach the first place in the figure skating thing she does, Bethly wont become a famous illustrator, Hinata wont even be able to realize what her true dream is in the first place, finally Momiji won't become a great actress. 
    Another thing to point out is that while all the girls hang around the main character they actually dont love him in secret or anything, in fact it's a long process for each one of them, the only exception to this is your non blood related sister, which is kind of sad since she starts tearing up every time she realizes that she wont be able to be with the person she loves.
    The first part, which is the common route is really long and from there you go into the heroine route which is again really long. It's so freaking long that the vn itself thinks that you are an idiot without memory and re-introduces you the characters like 3 times at some different points... 

    There are 5 heroines to chose from:

    *Yuzuki, your non-blood related sister, she is really shy and probably the "loli" of the group but she works very hard and even though I admit I hate the imouto heroine type this one didn't feel that bad.

    *Mizuha, your childhood friend, again the VN surprisingly didn't go for the cliche thing of the "childhood promise" or anything like that (well, it did but it was pretty subtle and it was also resolved very early in the game without forcing you to pick her just out of pity) she is some kind of figure skating star, to be fair I found her to be the most boring character, specially because I have 0 interest in what she does, so meh.

    *Hinata, the best friend of your sister, she is amazing and really charming, has this quirk way of speaking and expressing herself, most of the users on the internet hate her and her voice acting for some reason, she loves everything about girl stuff (like clothing, hair, how a girl should act etc etc) very sharp and lively, a true energetic type of character.

    *Momiji, she goes to the same class as the MC and thus they become friends, she loves acting and has a very normal character overall, still I found her to be one of the most interesting character... I almost do her route but at the last moment I went for...

    *Bethly, she is probably the character that most of us will chose because she is the foreign girl, she is from Canada and at first she doesn't speak any Japanese so it's kinda of funny to see how she struggles in every situation (the vn doesn't really do a good job portraying this...just a decent job.) She likes to draw, has a really calm personally and a great sense of morality, she is also very stubborn, finally she is the girl I picked.

    *Finally the MC (Yukito or whatever name you used for him, I recommend to leave his default name), he is for my taste.... a bit too perfect, he is a perfect student, friend, son, boyfriend, husband, father..you name something and he is perfect in that, not because he does everything in a perfect way but because he doesn't have a glimpse of malice or egoism in him, which is hard to believe.
    He has a very strong sense of duty and morality and wants to help anyone that needs it, very proactive, he is not naive and doesn't behave like a retard in front of the opposite sex... he is... yep perfect, which was a bit of a let down for me.. because him being that way takes away many opportunities from the novel thus the drama in the VN it's almost non existent or very predictable.There is a reason why he is like that but still I didn't like it.

    The pace in this vn is slow, really slow, for example you won't kiss the heroine until much much later on into the story(let's not even talk about having sex xD), if you don't enjoy slice of life then you will hate this vn because that's pretty much what it is.
    It's hard to compare anything with this or find some equivalents but the closest thing that I can think of is nagisa's route in Clannad (if you take out the funny parts with sunohara and pretty much everything else) and all the heavy drama.
    It does have some funny parts here and there (most of them are generated either from Hinata or an school teacher that you find later on and occasionally from the MC's biological mother.)
    I chose Bethly and later on I regret it, I really wanted to pick momiji or hinata but at that point it was too late...
    Bethly's route was ok, but her inability to speak Japanese was what it kinda ruined it for me, I came to hate the words うれ fucking しい and おいしいい, you will hear those words probably more than 500 times in the novel (or more and no I'm not joking), yes, it's tasty and yes you are happy "I got it" I really do but just stooooooooooooooooooooooooop, this again is something that makes sense in the context of what it's going on but it just pissed me off really bad.

    On the other side, it's really interesting to see how the characters grow(mentally and physically too) and how your relation with the main heroine gets stronger by the passage of time, it reminded me a lot of my own experience with my ex lol so in that sense it's pretty realistic and also maybe boring for some readers.

    Now I will force myself to finish momiji's route even though I'm not very sure if I will be able to do so 
    What I liked it:

    The music.
    Very rich characters development.
    Amazing art.
    Some really good and interesting characters that I won't be able to enjoy xD at least not right now.
    Amazing voice acting.

    What I didn't like:

    A bit slow.
    Too long for its own good.
    The main character.

    What I hated:
    Repetition, specially of some words.
    Not enough strong drama.
    One awkward and very unfitting scene in the story.
    How difficult is it to read?
    Really easy, you can read this as as your first vn without any doubt, I wouldn't recommend Hinata's route for someone new because of the way she talks (not hard at all but still be careful)
    I rate this vn:  Snowman out of 納得.
    EDIT: a little spoiler part to actually point out what was really boring, unfitting and what was actually pretty good.
     
    Hinata
    Since I don't want to create another topic about hinata's route I will keep adding info here, 
    So Hinata's route has a really different dynamic and it has a lot more of comedy than bethly's, the combination between hina and yuzuki is amazing. I won't say that bethly's route was bad but so far hinata's is overall way more enjoyable.
  22. Like
    melo4496 reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Gin'iro, Haruka Part 2: Yuzuki   
    I'm going to be blunt... I can only take Tone Works games in small doses (one path at a time), so I'll be setting Gin'iro Haruka aside now, though I am interested in two of the remaining three heroines (despite Hinata's horrible VA). 
    Yuzuki's path actually starts out fairly similar to how you would imagine the classic 'imouto' path would if it was done by Tone Works... the slow growth into full sibling-hood, the slipping into habits that go a bit too far for teenaged siblings, then the realization of love... and that's the first part.  I'll be honest when I say that I fell asleep on three occasions during this path.  It wasn't so much a problem with the path itself as the simple fact that I went into slice-of-life overload after a while.  Bethly's path alone had enough slice-of-life and heart-warming 'lovers being lovers' scenes to fill out an entire charage.  When I added Yuzuki's on top of that, I just shut down after a while and couldn't go any farther. 
    As such, Yuzuki's path was an experience in suffering for me, despite its quality.
    From this, I have to recommend that Tone Works games are done in pieces, paced out over the course of several months to retain your sanity.  As it is, I know I won't be able to go back to this any time in the next thirty days. 
    Edit: It is a lot like the feeling I get after finishing an entire medium-sized bag of M&Ms (which I don't do anymore, for obvious reasons)... that sense of utter exhaustion combined with blood rushing to my head and my eyelids growing heavy, lol.
    Edit2: To further clarify my thoughts about this path, all Tone Works paths follow a similar pattern, in my experience... the 'youthful years' making up the first arc, with semi-adult and adult years making up the second half.  In most charage, you cut out when they are just starting to get into their dreams, but in a Tone Works game, you get to see them fulfill their dreams, step by step, with at least some of their travails portrayed as a spice to the sweetness.  In Bethly's path, the best part would probably be the college years or possibly the time after, which makes it kind of a striking contrast to the average young romance you see in most VNs, where you stop while they are still in their teens, save for maybe a small cameo of them as an adult.  Yuzuki's path follows a similar pattern, where the semi-child to late teen romance is trumped by the time they are together as an adult. 
    Edit3: I decided to play something violent and gory, as devoid of slice-of-life as possible, for a day until I have the wherewithal to continue.  I don't intend to bother with Momiji's path, regardless, though.  Her character might grow on me in time, but it didn't during the common route.  As a side-note, one of the things I've noticed is that they go out of the way to portray how the girls' lives change by getting into a relationship with Yukito, giving his participation in their lives a relevance that isn't always present in other VNS.
  23. Like
    melo4496 reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Floral Flowlove   
    Now, as I stated in the previous post, Saga Planets' has two types of VNs it primarily produces... a story-focused type that doesn't avoid the kind of bitter drama that charage/moege tend to despite the moege-type visuals... and a 'strong charage' type that essentially is a more character-focused VN with many of the same strengths as the former type.  Floral Flowlove is the former type, being much closer to Hatsuyuki Sakura and the other 'Four Seasons Series' VNs. 
    As such, as in all VNs by this company, there is a definite 'proper' play order, if you want to fully enjoy this game.  First, unless you are inexperienced at playing VNs, you probably would have figured out that Kano's path is the one that touches on the core elements of the story most intensively... and that is the case, so I seriously suggest you do her path last.  This is my suggested path order Adelheit>Aoi Suu>Kohane>Nanao>Kano.  My reasons are that Adelheit's ending is the one that goes the most out of its way to avoid touching on the protagonist's most intensely personal issues and is the most 'charage-like' path, and Suu is a sub-heroine whose path branches off of Kohane's path.  Nanao and Kano share a basic flow of events up to a point that basically requires you to choose one of them and it dramatically splits off, so it is best to play Kano's path right after Nanao's.
    Now that I got that out of the way, I'll make a few comments on the setting and subject matter.  For those who dislike Christian mythology, this VN might make you feel uncomfortable, though - given that it is a Japanese story - it isn't full of the moralist excess that a Western Christian writer would have put into it.  The focus on angels does have meaning, but for most of the VN, you won't know what meaning it has.  Another issue is the protagonist.  He isn't a cipher in any way, shape, or form.  He is an extremely emotionally-scarred, somewhat self-derisive character who also happens to be eminently capable at whatever he chooses to do (my favorite type, lol).  However, his tendency to distrust everyone, despite his ability to see the nature of people's intentions, will probably drive some people up the wall.  The guy is fundamentally a rationalist (which is fairly rare in Japanese VNs), save on a few issues regarding his emotional scars and the need to protect Kano from her own bad luck.
    The common route of this VN is fairly dramatic and interesting, and Adelheit's path branches off from the rest almost immediately after the first dramatic point.  A second turning point occurs after the turn-off for Adelheit's path that sends you digging through the protagonist's half-healed emotional wounds and his past, and it is actually pretty interesting.  Save for Suu's, the paths and endings are universally first-rate (Suu's path is this game's abortion, though it is fun to watch the protagonist seduce a nun, lol).  I will say that I - as always - have to complain a bit about the fact that the endings only go a few months to a few years past the climax of the story (I really, really wanted to see Adelheit five or six years later, because I thought it would be rofl-worthy).  However, for most people this won't be a problem.
    Each of the paths gives you a final snippet of the past after the credits, and it is, in part, this that made me give you that order of completion.  To be blunt, Kano's revelation is a bit too big in comparison, and as a result, it would be problematic if you saw it too early on (it is meant to be viewed right before going to the final path). 
    About nine out of ten people are going to spend this VN wondering 'who the hell is Riku?' because the protagonist never really explains her in any of the game's main paths.  So... I'm not going to spoil it for you (though a lot of you will probably figure it out anyway).
    Emotionally, this VN definitely has impact... but a lot of it is pitying, sympathizing, or empathizing with the protagonist.  I will say that Kano has seriously awesome hidden depths that come out in all the paths (think a ditz with an intelligence of ten but a wisdom of five hundred in a D&D game), as she is perhaps the single wisest, most selfless and compassionate heroines I've seen.  She isn't terribly intelligent though.  On the other side, Adelheit is pretty hilarious... she is easily the laziest heroine I've ever seen (though she is also one of the more intelligent ones).  Kohane is the kind of girl who would make the perfect mother for a family of twenty adopted kids, and Nanao is basically your standard tsundere (on her own merits, she is probably the second-weakest heroine). 
    The true route... you will cry, so I predict (lol).  Anyway, the true route had me crying for a while, and it was definitely worth playing.  Unfortunately, it is also impossible to talk much about this route without spoiling the entire mess, so I'll just stop here.  I will say that they did manage to avoid the 'true route renders all the other routes meaningless/relevant only relative to the true route' screwup, which is what happens in most VNs with a true route.
    Overall, this VN is Saga Planets at its best, having learned from a lot of the little mistakes in their previous games.  For those who liked Saga Planets already, it is crack, and for those who like a good story-focused VN that isn't a chuunige, this is an excellent choice. 
  24. Like
    melo4496 reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Poll: Which Random VN?   
    Now... I've been asked to play/replay several VNs and post on each by several people who read but don't post here, as well as several members.  These will have to come after I finish Damekoi  and after the VN of the Month (currently playing Floral Flowlove), but there is a distinct possibility I'll manage to play at least one more VN through before the release of Deus Ex later this month.  I've also had requests to play and comment on more JRPGs, but I'll be honest when I say there aren't a ton of jrpgs coming up that I'm actually that interested in.  I do plan to play FFXV, because a friend of mine asked me to go in for half of it (neither of us trusts SE enough to pay full price for one of their games), but I can't really say I'm looking forward to it.
    The VNs I've been asked to replay include:
    Hatsuyuki Sakura- To repeat one of my usual phrases, I'm going to be blunt with yall... this game is the last truly awesome game I played by Saga Planets (Hanasaki was good but not great).  I am tempted to replay it now that I've had some people bug me to replay it... but I'll also be honest when I say that I remember the story a bit too well to really enjoy it the same way on a second playthrough.
    Bradyon Veda- Mmm... I really don't know why they want me to replay and post on this one, since I'm pretty sure I already blog posted on it once.  It is a kamige, so I don't have any objections to replaying it that I can think of off the top of my head, but I am also uncertain of whether I really want to go out of my way to replay it just yet.
    Hoshi Ori Yume Mirai- The console version of this is coming out soon, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised someone wanted me to replay this... and I actually don't have that much of an objection to doing so, as my bad mood the first time I played it ruined the experience for me. 
    Muramasa- Due to the recent release of a freeware side-story for this VN, I got twelve requests for me to replay and post on this VN.  Considering that this is one of my favorites, I again have no objection to replaying it.
    Mirai Nostalgia- This is the game that pushed Purple Software from a mediocre to a truly great VN-maker.  I still remember being stunned at the massive gap in quality between this and their previous games, and it is the reason why I played Hapymaher immediately upon its release rather than waiting until after I played something else.
    The Baldr Sky series- Since the possibility of this series coming over here got raised again, I've had forty-seven requests to go back and play this series again (almost all of them when I dropped into IRC for a few minutes on a whim).  I honestly think it is a bit too soon for me to go back and replay this, though I might consider it after I've played Baldr Heart, which comes out next month (but I'm not really sure about). 
  25. Like
    melo4496 reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Amatsutsumi   
    ... it's been a while since my feelings on a VN have been as complex as my feelings for this one are.  I say 'feelings' because this VN has massive emotional impact... not as much as Hapymaher, but nonetheless a lot of emotional impact. 
    To be blunt, Makoto is nothing like Hapymaher's protagonist, so if you were hoping for more of his 'consumed by sorrow and despair but still living my life' personality, sorry, no luck here.  Makoto is... a blank slate.  I don't say this in a bad way.  For better or worse, Makoto has lived his life in an isolated village where people literally don't talk any more than is absolutely necessary, lest they accidentally compel one another with their power, 'kotodama'.  Makoto has a fiance named Mana (and no, not that kind of lukewarm, 'distant fiance' sort of thing you see in some VNs, since they actually get down to business), and a rather nice, slow life in that village... However, he yearns for the outside world, where people can talk to people without restrictions.
    He escapes from the village and collapses from hunger in a small town four days later, where he is saved by the first of four heroines, Kokoro.  From there the story begins, as he makes the journey from an innocent 'kami' to a real human being with all the baggage that comes along with it. 
    A lot of the most interesting parts of this game come from the fact that he naturally doesn't understand much about the outside world.  Makoto's innocent, unstained viewpoint, combined with his natural kindness and willingness to embrace new experiences, feel surprisingly refreshing.  Things other 'normal' protagonists would worry over don't even occur to him, and he is so laid back he makes the drugged hippies of US in the sixties seem tense.  While he does change as part of the story, his personal 'lens', through which he sees the world, remains remarkably clean throughout... not to mention the guy has absolutely no sense of sexual morality (in other words, his idea of sexual morality is 'don't use his power to compel people to have sex with him').

    The first of the heroines, Kokoro, is a shojo manga addict who has fantasies about immoral relations with older brothers.  She is a natural at unconsciously grasping the hearts of others around her without trying, and she is pretty much the picture of a heroine who 'exists to be loved by everyone'.

    The second heroine, Kyouko, is a miko that can see dead people (yes, I went there).  She has huge self-esteem problems and is more than a little weird... for one thing, her reaction to Makoto is one of the more unique heroine reactions to a protagonist I've encountered over the years... for another, she is abnormally self-derogatory in both action and word.

    Mana... is the protagonist's fiance from the village.  She is pretty much apathetic about other people, unless they have the decency to provide her with food (from her point of view, people who give her food move up from 'stone in the road' to 'slightly adorable insect' in most cases).  She is a bit of an S, when it comes to Makoto, and Makoto is pretty much her reason for living.  Because of a careless use of kotodama by another member of the village, she is always cold and in her eyes, it is always snowing.

    Hotaru... is the true heroine of this story.  Cheerful and active, not to mention highly intelligent and perceptive... she is actually a fairly attractive heroine from the start.  However, she has less initial impact than Mana or Kokoro, for reasons that are fairly apparent.  Since that is by design, I actually am not complaining about this, though.
    Now, to get to the downside of this game... it uses the G-senjou 'ladder' story structure, wherein the story progresses arcs where you choose to either pursue the heroine associated with that arc to an ending or move on with the main story.  I can say that the path endings for the non-true heroines were actually pretty good, but having played the true path, they are comparatively low-impact.  A lot of this is the fact that the major events of their 'paths' are in the arcs they branched off from, so little is added by their endings save for more sex and some minor tying up of loose ends. 
    To get back to the main game... the true path is the impact I was talking about.  The main arcs were all emotional, so I guess you can say that the other heroines' 'paths' were also emotional, but, as I mentioned above, there is a definite sense that very little was added by choosing one of the other heroines.  Hotaru's path is easily the most powerful 'arc'.  In fact, it is so emotional and powerful that there are two ends for it.  The first one (which you are required to watch first) is... sad, to say the least.  It isn't a bad ending, but it is a sad one.  I know I cried.  For the second ending... well, let's just say it is a good one and leave it at that.
    Overall, my viewpoint on this game is... just as mixed as I said above.  My conclusions on the G-Senjou story structure are unchanged in the least.  I still believe that all VNs that use that story structure should be changed to kinetic novels, just so I don't have to deal with heroine endings that are neglected by the creators of the stories themselves.  While all stories with true heroines inevitably put a much larger emphasis on the true heroine, the way this story structure trivializes the other heroines is really irritating, especially when they are good heroines, like these were.  However, if you take the arcs, characters, and the true endings separate from that source of irritation, it is a great VN.  It just happens to use the single worst VN story structure in existence.  Indeed, that story structure and the inevitable realities it brings along with it are the only thing that kept me from naming this as a kamige. 
    PS: I will erase any and all comments that spoil anything in the last arc.  I say this because this is the type of VN that can only be enjoyed to the fullest once, not the type that merely changes flavor with each playthrough, like Devils Devil Concept.  Anyone who spoils this VN should have their skin sliced open, drawn back, then have salt rubbed into the exposed flesh. 
    ... *Clephas drools and goes off to make BBQ*
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