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Finished Baldr Sky yesterday, and sadly, it didn't live up to my expectations.
The final/true route managed to fall completely flat and made me uninterested to the point where I didn't really care about what happened to any of the characters. Quite an impressive feat, considering how much I enjoyed the other routes. (Well, I guess it's not that uncommon for Japanese works to start off interesting and then fail to deliver in the end due to going way over the top, adding too much nonsense and whatnot.)
I also have to say that this is one of the worst gaming experiences of my life. Every moment the story wasn't progressing was more or less just a pain in the ass. I didn't enjoy the combat one bit, and it didn't exactly help that the text skip function was more or less useless, so I was forced to wade through repeating content for hours on end as I progressed through the different routes. I probably had to spend at least 20-30 hours on manually going through stuff I'd already read, just because it wasn't properly flagged as such in subsequent routes. Not exactly my idea of fun.

Anyway, I'm done with that now and have started playing Evenicle. Does the story get interesting later on? I've only finished chapter 1, but so far it's just been some shallow plot mixed with rape and the protagonist going around calling girls cute every 10 seconds. (Perverted protagonists really aren't my cup of tea, and it's one of the main reasons I'm skeptical about delving into the Rance series.)
It's kinda annoying that there's no gamepad support, and I don't understand why there has to be unit bars covering 30% of the screen at all times. (It would have made sense if there were real-time battles or as a way to mask a 4:3 resolution while converting the game to 16:9, but that isn't the case.)

/end of whining

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11 minutes ago, Seraphim88 said:

Anyway, I'm done with that now and have started playing Evenicle. Does the story get interesting later on? I've only finished chapter 1, but so far it's just been some shallow plot mixed with rape and the protagonist going around calling girls cute every 10 seconds. (Perverted protagonists really aren't my cup of tea, and it's one of the main reasons I'm skeptical about delving into the Rance series.)

There's, uh, stuff going on in the background, sure, and some stuff might be mildly interesting as far as plot is concerned but, uh, why would anyone play Evenicle if they're not in it for the harem of wives?

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3 minutes ago, Mr Poltroon said:

why would anyone play Evenicle if they're not in it for the harem of wives?

I honestly knew very little about it. I've just seen a bunch of people recommend it, and since it has a decent rating on VNDb, I figured it would be worth a go. I'll keep playing for now since it, despite my complaints, is rather fun, but I hope the protagonist's vocabulary evolves somewhat over the course of the game. The "cute" barrage coming from his mouth could lead to some serious cases of alcohol poisoning if used as the basis of a drinking game.

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1 hour ago, Seraphim88 said:

The "cute" barrage coming from his mouth could lead to some serious cases of alcohol poisoning if used as the basis of a drinking game.

But if you used water instead of alcohol, would you drink enough to suffer from water intoxication?

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37471.jpg 33439.jpg

Out of curiosity I've also tried two of those new western render VN's, and for the most part I was positively surprised. Apparently Acting Lessons and Depraved Awakening are the ones that stand out the most at the moment and so I picked those. The former goes more into slice of life and drama territory, while the latter is pretty much a nukige.

Depraved Awakening:
Overall, I found the quality of the two titles comparable, although Depraved Awakening impressed me a bit more with its erotic thriller approach. H-heavy titles with a solid plot are pretty rare and Depraved Awakening certainly tried to give you an interesting story to keep you engaged. You're playing a detective trying to solve a murder case in a film noir setting. There aren't a lot of Japanese VN's like that. The Innocent Grey titles have a similar setting but are way more serious and plot focused with less H-content. Except Cartagra maybe which was also quite H-heavy. The closest thing are probably the mystery titles of Astronauts: Sirius which have a strong western touch and a lot of H-content. Writing was a bit crude for my taste, but I liked the atmosphere and the fast pacing. It also had a decent soundtrack, but almost no sound effects and no voices.

Acting Lessons:
I think the writing of Acting Lessons was a bit better (except for the H-scenes) but I had the impression that it struggled a bit with what it wanted to be. Some plot developments towards the end were a bit... odd to put it mildly. It was also bit 'slow on the uptake' so to speak. I mean, if the VN asks me twenty times if I prefer Melissa over Megan and I'm answering "HELL, YES!!!" and the conclusion of the VN is 'Deeply in love with Megan, but plays around with Melissa', then I really don't know what to say anymore. I think the plot arc with your buddy was the most consistent one, even if I found some of his escapades a bit too over the top lol. The actual acting lessons and 'Improv' in particular was a bit boring for my taste, but I liked when they were just hanging out with each other. H-scenes were poorly written with almost no text in them which is a serious issue considering it had quite a lot of them. Soundtrack could have been better and just like Depraved Awakening, it had spare sound effects and no voices. Overall, I think if you want slice of life and drama and don't care too much about the style, then you probably find a lot more and better stuff amongst Japanese VN's.

3D versus 2D:
Nevertheless, there are a few things that stand out in both VN's and I guess in render VN's in general. First and foremost, the art content is way higher than in tradional drawn VN's. I guess it's way easier to come up with lots of render images and even animations if you have a finished scene in your 3D-render program. Roughly estimated, traditional 2D VN's usually have around 100 - 200 CG's if you include backgrounds, but 3D ones have thousands of CG's. Though it has to be considered that 2D VN's usually create their scenes on the fly by adding sprites in different poses to a background. In 3D VN's those are all pre-rendered.
However, a common problem of the 3D VN's is still the somewhat synthetic look of render scenes and as nice as animations are, they often feel unnatural if you do them without motion capturing. Though both VN's made huge improvements in that regard through the chapters. On the other hand, rendering seems to be a good technique if you want to produce glamour girls with an emphasis on sex appeal. While the faces are still a bit of a problem, hot appealing bodies seem to be easy - there's certainly a lot of potential in 3D VN's with an emphasis on sex. It can't really compare with the 'cuteness' aspect of manga art though. If you want adorable characters there's nothing to see here.

Style differences:
Another point that stood out amongst both VN's is the unique western style of them. The age group of young women in the age of 20 - 30 almost doesn't exist in Japanese VN's. Judging by appearance it usually goes from 5 - 15... and then continues with 30+ in milf nukiges. :lol: Furthermore, since there's fortunately no obsession with school life scenarios, the heroines are older and more mature (and slutty) and less childish than their Japanese counterparts. The pacing is also way faster - almost too fast sometimes. But I definitely appreciate that they don't stretch 5 minutes of story content to 50 hours of slice of life like Japanese VN's.

Overall ratings:
Acting Lessons: 6.5/10
Deprived Awakening: 7/10
But Acting Lessons had best waifu with Melissa... :rolleyes:

I've also tried the first three chapters of the upcoming City of broken Dreamers, the successor of Depraced Awakening and I was quite impressed to be honest. It has a cool cyber punk scenario and is more plot focused than its predecessor. And the technical advancements in comparions to the last title are impressive. There's certainly a huge potential here for western developers to make their own thing. Think 'Resident Evil 2 - The Visual Novel' with Leon as protagonist, Claire as waifu and Sherry as walking hugging pillow. Well, I guess I can dream... :wub:

Edited by ChaosRaven

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1 hour ago, ChaosRaven said:

Depraved Awakening

This one has gone completely under my radar, just like basically all other 3D EVNs (Acting Lessons was my first and so far only one). It sounds interesting enough, so I picked it up on Steam just now and will probably read it when I'm done with Evenicle in the next week or so!

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5 hours ago, Seraphim88 said:

This one has gone completely under my radar, just like basically all other 3D EVNs (Acting Lessons was my first and so far only one). It sounds interesting enough, so I picked it up on Steam just now and will probably read it when I'm done with Evenicle in the next week or so!

Actually, your conversation with @adamstan a while ago inspired me to play those two titles. :rolleyes:

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Heh, I had totally forgotten that a mention of Depraved Awakening was what initially brought us into that conversation. I guess it's less a case of it going under my radar, and more one of me having a faulty memory unit then. :P

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8 hours ago, ChaosRaven said:

I've also tried the first three chapters of the upcoming City of broken Dreamers, the successor of Depraced Awakening and I was quite impressed to be honest. It has a cool cyber punk scenario and is more plot focused than its predecessor.

Yeah, it sits pretty high on my wishlist. But I guess we'll have to wait at least about a year for it to be finished - unless the author suddenly speeds up his work ;)

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28 minutes ago, adamstan said:

Yeah, it sits pretty high on my wishlist. But I guess we'll have to wait at least about a year for it to be finished - unless the author suddenly speeds up his work ;)

Yes, this will probably take a while, but 'Being a DIK - Season 1', the successor to 'Acting Lessons', will be released next week and I'll probably check that out as well. I guess it won't be too long anyway, so it should be easy to squish inbetween the other VN's I'm currently reading.

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With some nostalgia for old JAST titles I read xChange 1-3. I had played a lot of the JAST games way back when, but this was one series that still remained on my want to read list that I didn't get around to.
All of the games are clearly outdated and the shift of how VNs are written can be seen in this series to some extent. The first one is all over the place with shifts in tone, logic and character personalities.
The further the series progressed, the more these mistakes get remedied, but none of them get it quite right, since they don't stop putting unreasonable h-scenes into the games. After those, every attempt of serious storytelling just didn't reach me anymore, even though they got surprisingly real at times.
Can't say I didn't expect it, it's like many other old JAST games in that respect, mostly read through them to appease my OCD. It was on my want to read list at some point, so I had to go through with it. No regrets, but I can't recommend them either.
xChange 1 4/10, xChange 2 5/10, xChange 3 5/10

Besides that I read Wabisabi and it's pretty mediocre, a very basic homecoming story with the deal sweetened by some cute animal girls. There is not much depth to it, but it's not terrible either, if you're into animal girls and want a short story without too much conflict or downers to just have a sort of Iyashikei experience, it might be worth checking out. 6/10

The reason I even read those was because I finished Ikusa Megami Zero with over 80 hours "played". That's because the game played by itself most of the time and I read other stuff while it did. During auto-battles I read all of the 4 VNs above and the common route and 2 of the girl routes of My fair Princess. That kind of worked out for me, but it obviously shouldn't be the way the game is played.
The JRPG aspect of the game is much too easy, I didn't even grind, it just kind of naturally occured. I'm very thorough during dungeon exploration and regularly lightly overleveled because of it. In this game that was enough to skip most of the gameplay, which is kind of a shame after setting up all those game mechanics. You could consider it my fault for playing that way, but I don't think that's the case, exploring every angle is the point of the dungeon crawler and the turn-based battles becoming redundant in the process is definitely bad tuning.
Speaking of bad tuning, the end game aspect in this game is ridiculous. I did 2 of the after-game bosses with each fight taking over half an hour, even with capped 99999 damage rolls on some characters and the enemy barely doing damage to me. (I stopped partway during the second boss, because there clearly was no point to it, Kamidori Alchemy Meister had much better post-credit content)
It took me about 20 hours after finishing the game to get the content I missed because of choices. I do save separately about every hour when I play these kinds of games, but the choices take effect some time later and there was a lot to replay because of that and only about half an hour of that was actually new (inconsequential) content. That ratio left me kind of underwhelmed and I can't recommend doing that to anyone. Some of those optional bits were unedited machine translations to boot.
That's a lot of bad points but I still liked this game a lot. I rarely had this feeling of true epic fantasy in a VN, even though it takes dips into sexual magic a bit too much. (Gotta get that H-content in there somehow) The protagonist had a substantial role in this world, but it still felt like the world would go on existing without him and the story took a lot of unexpected turns in interesting directions. Story wise it never got boring and I also liked the dungeon crawling with some little secrets, puzzles and generally good design. A flawed but very worthwhile experience. 8/10

I could sum up My fair Princess in one word. Boring. Or in another word. Lazy. The girl routes are textbook examples with nothing memorable in them. The girls are either bland, stupid or both and the protagonist has the most boring attitude and reactions I can remember witnessing in a VN. Sometimes VNs have unlikeable protagonists or girls, but in this one I was indifferent towards all of them, which was even worse. It's a bit sad, because the theme wasn't that bad in theory. The protagonist is poor but with a loving family and the girls are rich with dysfunctional families, a good contrast, surely nothing completely new, but a VN that completely focuses on that and explores it from different angles could have been interesting. The explored stories however feel samey, the bland heroines don't help at all and the protagonist just lets the story impartially pass him by, the story resolves in some dumb way and the credits roll. I don't think this is worth anyone's time. 4/10

 

By the way, anyone having thoughts if the machine translations of the Eushully games in the Ikusa Megami series are worth it?

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3 hours ago, Ruberick said:

they don't stop putting unreasonable h-scenes into the games.

Well, they're nukige after all ;)

3 hours ago, Ruberick said:

I could sum up My fair Princess in one word. Boring. Or in another word. Lazy. The girl routes are textbook examples with nothing memorable in them. The girls are either bland, stupid or both and the protagonist has the most boring attitude and reactions I can remember witnessing in a VN. Sometimes VNs have unlikeable protagonists or girls, but in this one I was indifferent towards all of them, which was even worse. It's a bit sad, because the theme wasn't that bad in theory. The protagonist is poor but with a loving family and the girls are rich with dysfunctional families, a good contrast, surely nothing completely new, but a VN that completely focuses on that and explores it from different angles could have been interesting. The explored stories however feel samey, the bland heroines don't help at all and the protagonist just lets the story impartially pass him by, the story resolves in some dumb way and the credits roll. I don't think this is worth anyone's time. 4/10

Ouch, that makes me sad :( I had high hopes for this title. Will try it when it comes up with some decent discount on Steam sale then ;)

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2 hours ago, adamstan said:

Well, they're nukige after all ;)

Maybe that was poorly worded. I meant to stress unreasonable. A nukige can have a lot of (in-universe) reasonable h-scenes, but when the protagonist shrugs of being raped like mosquito bites and an orgy bus freely drives through the town, then it's pretty hard to take one of the heroines depression and coping after losing her boyfriend to a terminal illness seriously. It just creates too big shifts in tone.

2 hours ago, adamstan said:

Ouch, that makes me sad :( I had high hopes for this title. Will try it when it comes up with some decent discount on Steam sale then ;)

Sure, go for it given the opportunity. I wouldn't give a cent for this in hindsight, but opinions are still just opinions and I'd be interested to hear thoughts on this, especially from people who have read a lot of VNs allready and will recognize the (lazy) tropes that are used in this one.

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5 minutes ago, Ruberick said:

I'd be interested to hear thoughts on this, especially from people who have read a lot of VNs allready and will recognize the (lazy) tropes that are used in this one.

I haven't read that many, compared to some of the veterans ;)

I've read one of the older PeasSoft's titles - Koi Iro Chu! Lips. While it was filled with popular tropes, I still enjoyed it, because they executed those tropes reasonably well, and I liked the characters. So I guess that's how it is with me - I'm okay even with seemingly overused tropes if they are executed well. It's a problem however, if the execution itself is also lazy.

 

On a side note - recently I browsed my reading history on vndb, since I've been filling out start and finish dates. It struck me, that in 2018 I've read over twice as many VNs when compared with 2019. Incidentally, 2019 was the year when I started reading untranslated titles. And I guess it shows how much slower I am when reading in JP compared to EN. "Medium" sized VN would typically take me around a week when reading translated, but untranslated it can easily take one month or more - it takes around a week to finish one route ;)

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6 hours ago, Ruberick said:

By the way, anyone having thoughts if the machine translations of the Eushully games in the Ikusa Megami series are worth it?

I don't check Verita yet, although looking from other Eushully VNs that use MTL, there's a chance that it night not worth it especially if I remember Soukoku no Arterial here. So yeah just don't play it, because you'll have a hard time to understand the dialogue from text alone if the narration translation is really bad.

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1 hour ago, adamstan said:

I've read one of the older PeasSoft's titles - Koi Iro Chu! Lips. While it was filled with popular tropes, I still enjoyed it, because they executed those tropes reasonably well, and I liked the characters.

I didn't particularly like that one either. At some point I started remembering it as the VN I kept forgetting I had read before. :D
I actually even went back into the game and reread parts of it to figure out why I couldn't remember and it wasn't too bad honestly, just nothing too memorable but at least some likeable heroines.

In My fair Princess however I really felt like they didn't try at all to make it engaging and every route felt like a chore. (The best parts for me were the common route and the protagonists relationship with his family)

41 minutes ago, littleshogun said:

I don't check Verita yet, although looking from other Eushully VNs that use MTL, there's a chance that it night not worth it especially if I remember Soukoku no Arterial here. So yeah just don't play it, because you'll have a hard time to understand the dialogue from text alone if the narration translation is really bad.

Well, I thought so. Maybe at some point a group tries to edit them or make a proper translation, or I brush up on my japanese beyond hiragana/katakana...

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5 minutes ago, Ruberick said:

I didn't particularly like that one either. At some point I started remembering it as the VN I kept forgetting I had read before.

I see. Now we have some common point of reference at least. And it means, that after all there is some tiny chance that I might still like My Fair Princess ;) (unless it's much worse)

Edited by adamstan

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So, I think I'm done with Venus Blood -Frontier- (All Ages Version). Being ill for the past few days created the perfect conditions to marathon through it and my experience was pretty positive. To large degree thanks to the protagonist, Loki, who has some very interesting features – he's full of contradictions, having a lot of compassion deep inside but being shaped by the brutal years of humiliation in the demon empire and his lust for vengeance. It's exactly the kind of character that can become either a pure villain or a sympathetic anti-hero. And no matter in which direction you steer him in, he's still a very rational, cunning individual that will do whatever is necessary to achieve his goals, but not violent or cruel for no reason. Interestingly enough, the corruption mechanic, where you taint and mind-break the Goddesses, is completely separate from the Law/Chaos choices – narratively speaking, it makes no sense to keep then uncorrupted in the chaos route, but other than that, it's reasonable to mix and match.

Speaking of Goddesses, they were cool as characters, but I probably liked Loki's cousins even more, with their wild personalities and rivalries with the protagonist. It's a shame they don't get individual endings, but only a harem one. In general, I think endings mostly do not give justice to the heroines, especially the strongest ones like the cousins. The story is full of twists, but doesn't feel contrived – I really liked most of it, despite some problems with tone. The SRPG mechanics are really in-depth and offer tons of variety, but also are a bit hard to grasp at first – there's a criminal lack of tooltips and proper tutorial – and can get really grindy at times.

In general, I think it was a very solid experience, 8/10. And this is completely ignoring the porn aspect – I don't think I lost much of story by skipping on it, everything was pretty well laid-out and flowed nicely despite obvious cuts on the fanservice scenes.

Edited by Plk_Lesiak

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On the JP front, been stretching my Japanese understanding to the limit by playing Sengoku Koihime X and got as far as the first ero scene and on the dark end of things giving Bishop a try with Shihai no Kyoudan. For the former I am enjoying the story and characters quite a bit, plus I am liking how the game's writers expect you to know a little more history than normal by using the historical characters' original lesser used names and how some characters can be a combination of different historical figures. I will say about my only complaint so far is it the story can be a little slow even for slice of life and maybe I've been spoiled by the anime Demon Slayer, but the oni design feels pretty samey; it's good enough for a monster design but I kind of want a little more variation. For the latter game, I admit the prologue was better than I thought it would be as the protagonist is actually presented in a way that makes him come off as kind of likable and when he starts targeting the heroines it doesn't feel like it's against character. It just feels a little refreshing to have a dark nukige protagonist who's believably affably evil and not one who might as well end every sentence with "MUHUHAHAHAHA!".

Admittedly at a bit of standstill on the English front thanks to Fire Emblem Three Houses. Not sure whether to resume my playthrough of Hoshi Ori Yume Mirai (Natsuki's route) or to give Senran Banka a spin. 

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Yesterday I finished true route of Tenohira o, Tayou ni first arc. It was very good although I have some issues with route system structure itself. I will post more when I finish whole game - for now I have second arc left, which features another protagonist and has two routes.

For now I think it's heading towards ~7.5 score ;) (which in my scale means "very enjoyable, but has some annoying issues")

Edited by adamstan

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I'm currently trying to clear my backlog, especially the titles I paid more than 20€ for. First up was AI: The Somnium Files and well, it is probably what happens when Uchikoshi is trying to do something a little more lighthearted than usual. Despite still getting rather dark at times and the overarching mystery being quite complicated, there are several wacky characters and a lot of silly humour (one of the recurring locations is a mermaid café, sigh). What I really like in general about Uchikoshi's writing style though is that his stories - despite employing complicated supernatural concepts and plots - still at their core explore themes that feel deeply human without ever getting too clichéd, with his favourite seemingly being about the importance of meaningful relationships while growing up in an otherwise unloving environment. AI is no different in that regard, making for an overall satisfying experience. 8/10

I also wanted to mention that, although AI is not as heavy on characters explaining unintuitive concepts through metaphor as other Uchikoshi titles, it still manages to have the uchikoshiest of uchikoshiisms:

Spoiler

uchikoshil6joz.png

 

Next up was Raging Loop. Being based on Werewolf/Mafia (games I really like) and receiving pretty positive reviews, I went into it with high hopes. After finishing it, I'm torn about if I liked it or not. For about 80% of the reading time it was just as I hoped it would be, but there are two major aspects I don't like. The first one is the third act. The explanation for what is going on feels like the writers were trying too hard to be clever and the order in which the remaining conflicts are resolved seemes backwards, with the emotional arcs of the characters being concluded first and the lore discussion with the big bad at the end. The other thing that annoys me is the way the protagonist is developed. I get why a story like this needs a protagonist who is so level-headed to degree that borders on cynical and sometimes even sociopathic. What I don't like is when this way of thinking doesn't ever really get challenged. 

Other than that it was an entertaining read, with enough suspense for three VNs and an intriguing mixture of occult stuff and psychological thrills. 8/10

And lastly, yesterday I started reading SubaHibi. So far it seems nice enough. Yeah, I know of its notoriety and expect things to get way darker over time. I feel like this this VN could be either a thought provoking masterpiece or pretentious bullshit. I'm pretty excited because I love passionately hating stuff, so either way it's going to be a win for me.

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Few days ago I started reading second arc of Tenohira o, Tayou ni. I find it a bit difficult to switch to another protagonist in this case. The only other VN with multiple protagonists I've played was Sakura Sakura, but there it was easier. In Sakura Sakura Naoki was one of the main characters in first arc, and his arc was a continuation, so the switch flowed smoothly, at least for me. In TenoTai it's different, since Jun'ya was just a side character in first arc. And in his arc we are seeing different side of the same story, so it's like starting from the beginning - and the start is pretty slow, especially after quite intense true route. Fortunately, it's starts gaining traction again, so I hope for the best ;)

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