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Miniature Garden


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Miniature Garden is a doujin game made by Sekilala (their first game) 

Link to game >> http://www.dlsite.com/maniax/work/=/product_id/RJ141831.html

Link to circle >> http://circlesekilala.blog.fc2.com/

Back in elementary school I remember seeing a motivational poster that said "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll end up among the stars." Although this is a bit of a cliche phrase, it is rather accurate when being applied to Miniature Garden. The game was extremely ambitious in terms of plot and although in the end I feel it fell short, the game is still easily one of the best doujin games I've played. Overall the actual plot/story behind the game was pretty interesting and enjoying to read, but I feel there's quite a bit of lost potential in things they did not explore, as well as in their presentation of the plot points. The game was moving along at a pretty decent pace, and then suddenly hit the "Charlotte" button and all hell broke loose. I still ended up finishing the game due to wanting to know what was going on, although I didn't really like how a lot of the information dumps were presented.

Now then, to the game itself. 

Although Miniature Garden is a doujin game and indeed suffers from problems doujin game makers have to deal with, it is still different from most doujin games. Miniature Garden is a scenario-based RPG game that actually attempts and to some degree succeeds at having a serious plot. The actual writing in the game in reference to style and character design is actually done quite well, and doesn't make me want to tear my hair out due to characters not making sense or just being plain stupid. I did indeed get frustrated at some parts with some plot elements, but I ended up going with it since I wanted to see where they were headed. The game play elements in the game are actually relatively unique, and follow the philosophy of skill > stats, which I enjoy. The art was pretty decent and quite high quality for a doujin game, especially one that wasn't 100% nukige, and I enjoyed the music as well as music usage since it was the type of music I like. A lot of the erotic content can be opt-out of by not losing, which is good since pretty much all the ero content is rape (if that's your thing, then you'll probably like the ero content in the game since it's pretty well done). I can't really say too much on that regard due to skipping most of it except for when some parts actually seemed plot related. 

Short Introduction to the Story 

I'll make an effort to not be too spoilerly, but if you intend to read the game, read as little as possible. This game is enjoyed best going in blind. 

Miniature Garden is a game that follows the story of a young human girl named Kureha, who has succeeded in the herculean task of not pissing me off despite being a character archetype I despise. A theme consistent in Japanese writing is a character that is just really nice that the readers can side with, and you'll see it in pretty much every game (example Eustia, from Aiyoku no Eustia). Miniature Garden actually succeeds in this department to an astounding degree by succeeding in creating this "nice person" character that the reader sides with without making the reader think "that's complete bullshit. why do you even exist". Kureha is actually important and does stuff, and her kind nature is kept in check by the realities of the setting instead of getting free plot armor so everything goes her way. 

Setting

The actual world is quite interesting. Race is incredibly important in this game, as well as the social hierarchy between the different races. Each race has their own village, and for the most part the races all co-exist with each other (although of course there is conflict). Imagine a political setting in which there are an innumerous amount of factions divided along racial lines, with the faction at the bottom being naturally selected for extinction. That gives a general idea of the situation of the game. The factions near the top have a lot of power and don't really have too much to worry about except keeping their power. The factions in the middle are safe, but always need to be vigilant and keep close tabs on the balance of power in order to try to rise to the top, and avoid falling to the bottom. The bottom factions live under constant pressure with the threat of extinction looming over their heads, and pretty much lack the tools to improve their situation (there is a reason they are there in the first place). To give a glimpse at some of the social standings, elves are one of the top factions, humans are in the lower part of the middle factions, and goblins are among the bottom factions. This environment is probably one of the best parts of the game, as there is so much that can be done with a situation like this, and the game does explore some of the possibilities. 

Religion

Religion is a kind of important factor in the game as it relates to the plot, although it isn't developed on too deeply. Monsters, demons, and angels exist in this world. Attending church and receiving the protection of the Angels is important to the survival of one's race. Angels are tied to the thoughts of virtue, while Demons are tied to lust. I won't go too much in to the church since it's mainly a plot device, although as always you can spout some religious symbolism bullshit and whatnot. 

Atmosphere

I’m not entirely sure if many people actually care about this, however this is extremely important for me. It greatly affects how well I can enjoy a game, and thus I will talk about what I liked about the atmosphere in the game.

To sum up the atmosphere of the story, is that it is governed by a strong contrast between the light and dark forces within the game. (this ain’t no moege!)

The real world is a dark place, filled with irrational and the unreasonable. However, in order to maintain our sanity we turn our eyes away from such things and live to the best of our abilities. Miniature garden is a dark world, and the darkness is just around the corner, but we as a player for the most part turn our eyes away from this darkness and instead indulge in the relatively cheerful and hopeful environment that surrounds the main character and the story(before Charlotte button is pressed). However that is only during the day time, for darkness, terror, and cruelty rule the night. When the character goes to bed, we are once more reminded of the darkness of the world from which we are not released until night passes, and the character wakes up once more. 

The first half of the game is predominantly filled with nice stuff/light, while the latter half is filled with darkness. 

Main Characters

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Kureha

A young human girl who serves as our main protagonist. She is extremely kind, as well as naive, but she is not stupid. One of the two important human characters in this world, she serves as the "adventurer" type who is able to fight monsters with modern day weaponry(literally the weapon you start out with is a submachinegun). Her work usually consists of collecting materials, fighting monsters, and helping people in need. She suffers from some form of amnesia, in which she is simply unable to remember anything. Due to this, she needs other people around her and she keeps a diary to help her remember what she has done. (Kind of a spoiler since it's kind of a plot point, but there's so much foreshadowing it's not hard to figure it out pretty early in to the game) The writers did a pretty good job making her likable and believable, and it's possible to make her memory loss believable as well if they turn it in to anterograde amnesia. 

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Luna

A fairy with a dirty mouth that is basically Bell from Cocoro Function. She was told to look after Kureha by Agriel since Agriel would not always be able to see Kureha due to other obligations. Although that was the start of the two's relationship, Luna grows fond of Kureha and they become close friends. She's pretty perverted, and quite helpful in combat. 

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Agriel

An elf onee-san like character who has a pretty powerful presence throughout the game due to her influence on other characters. She doesn't show up too often due to actually being quite busy and doing stuff, and not being able to see Kureha often due to the discord between humans and elves. I think I like her combat style the most. She uses a bow. 

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Shion

The other important human character in this world. Shion is a genius engineer who makes weapons and tunes them for Kureha. She is an important part of Kureha's support network, and is responsible for a lot of the more technical/practical needs that show up in the game. Best friend character. 

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Noa/Noir 

A succubus with two personalities (twin sisters). Noa is kind of like a weaker version of Kureha, a sheltered frail girl that one wants to protect, while Noir is more powerful and has a stronger personality. Noir wants to shelter Noa, and has a deep convoluted role in the plot of the game that comes in to play after the Charlotte button is pressed. 

Gameplay

The gameplay is scenario based with a two-stage combat mechanic. The first stage is the standard dungeon-crawling set up, with monsters you can see on the map. Monsters have a detection circle, and if you engage with them while undetected by their detection circle, you gain an advantage going in to combat. The character also has a certain number of ranged attacks (type changes based on character) as well as SP for skills. If a monster engages in combat with you from behind, you gain a disadvantage going in to combat.

The second stage is real-time combat. You press the left/right arrow keys to switch between enemies targeted, z to shoot with your weapon, a s d to switch stances, and x to activate skills. When your ammo goes to 0, you need to reload, during which you need to wait for the gauge under your health to fill up. Some guns refill one bullet at the time, while the submachinegun needs to wait till it can refill all the way to full before you get any bullets back. (You don’t need to empty the canister before reloading). Each character combat mechanics are a bit different, but essentially you want to stay alive, and bring the enemy’s HP to 0. Enemies also have a “break” gauge, which if you max out by launching repeated attacks stuns the enemy. This resets the gauge to 0, and makes it harder to max out based on each successive stun. (Gauge cannot be built while stunned) A degree of skill is required to actually beat the bosses/harder monsters in the game, as you need to manage your skills/ammo and enemy break gauges well.

One annoying combat related thing is your clothes, which breaks as you take damage. This damage is permanent on non-story missions, which is fucking annoying. If you run out of non-broken clothes to change in to, you can’t go back in to town and you’re basically just stuck if you press X to open the menu if you were moved back to town with broken clothes. You can avoid this by just taking off all your clothes at the start of every non-story mission, although this will cause you to take more damage from monsters. If there are any outfits you like, be careful not to ruin them.

The game is very close to creating an extremely interesting/entertaining combat system, but falls short of actually completing what they started. The first stage of combat is new, interesting, and excellently done. The second stage is where the potential is unfulfilled.

The part they get right is related to the basic combat mechanics. Fights are actually difficult, and your ability to get through the battles is related to how well you set up the battle beforehand, and how good you are with the mechanics of the game. Leveling up or whatever and improving your weapon does help, but your skill is much more important than your stats, which is how it should be.

The part they fell short on is adding colorful/interesting elements to the second phase of combat. There are some special effects that exist which are interesting to a degree (oil + fire combination one of the more interesting ones), but the combat could be a lot more engrossing if they fully fleshed out the clothes mechanic. Right now the clothing mechanic is just kinda stupid and annoying, with your clothes disappearing as you take damage with them on. (Separate from HP). If they had the enemies have special/different attacks based on clothing, and made clothing repairable at least able to be remade if broken, the gameplay would be a lot better. (Maybe make clothing status apply special effects to the character as well.)

 

There is some other stuff to say, but this is kind of getting long already. I might provide a plot summary later, as well as my thoughts on that portion of the plot for people who can't read japanese/don't want to read the game. 

Edit: Oh yeah, I just noticed, there's basically no fucking male characters in the game except for monsters. what the fuck man 

 

Edited by Mephisto
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Playing the trial. There's quite a bit to get used to, thank god the game reminds me you where you need to go. The combat system is close to real time, pretty interesting design.

I usually have a hard time getting into rpg's that don't have a strong atmosphere or art. Trying to go into it blind as Mephisto recommended, so I guess I'll have to just wait to see what the story is about. From the start, the game's clearly going have to do something with the different races.

Edited by Chronopolis
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I trying not to read, as spoilers warned. But since there are so much ero content, can I expect this game to be similiar to MonsumuQuest? Given similiarity like losing = rape and stuff

Some characters look like those in Marunomi.

Not exactly like MGQ, although has some similarities. If you lose to an enemy with a purple heart, there's a kind of animated ero manga defeat sequence. The plot is a lot more serious than the one you find in MGQ, which is relatively juvenile the whole way through. Miniature Garden gets pretty dark at times, although it still holds on to a little bit of childishness. 

some pretty bad stuff happens in this game to the main character. feelsbadman

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