Archive for the ‘Visual Novels’ category

Narcissu Steam Greenlight Campaign

November 10, 2013

 

http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=191616515

 

I like the video. This was one of those freely translated and released by the copyright owner, which somehow found its way to Western hands.

 

Most people can probably get an idea of whether they’ll like the visual novel by their reactions to the Japanese song.

A Greenlight is something Steam uses to gauge interest in a product, and if there is enough they will put resources into listing it. Steam is an online digital distribution service mostly for downloadable content and PC games. As it also serves as a chat, message, and website, a game listed there will receive a lot of ancillary support as well as advertisement to a broader audience and market. A broader audience and market is something visual novels need to create, if the subject matter is going to succeed here in the US.

Dysfunctional Systems Review

October 1, 2013

The visual novel in episodic format released on Steam and elsewhere.

It has been a few months since I’ve read it but given that it has been released on Steam, I’d thought I’d provide an insertion point for those unfamiliar with the genre/theme.

Dysfunctional Systems is a science fiction short story with an introduction of the characters, a journey where they meet challenges, and a satisfying ending. Like Brandon Sanderson’s novels, the short term goals will be finished up, even though the long term goals are still long term (it’s Episode 1, with possibilities for further episodes). Other episodic VNs are うみねこのなく頃に – Umineko no Naku Koro ni – When the Seagulls Cry and Gun Rose Days (by same authors).

The theme and environment setting is very easy for Westerners to understand once you start reading. The main protagonist is essentially on an apprenticeship to a job, overseen by a superior. Similar to those paid internships college students go through. However, her job is to go to different alternative realities and ensure that no threat manifests that can harm their Origin universe.

Unlike a longer visual novel or Western novel, there’s not any filler. There’s no time or room for filler. Everything is vital and critical to the task at hand or the short term goal the characters have set for themselves.

The gameplay itself is only “role playing” in the original meaning, where you ‘play’ a ‘role’ that someone else has given you. In this short (kinetic) VN, you play the role of the main protagonist, but the setting, her emotions, and her goals are set by the dungeon master, or in this case the writer and programmers. You have a few limited choices, but only when programmers (or DM) lets you make a decision. Most of the time you’ll just be clicking along, like moving pages in a book or watching a movie. So first of all, don’t expect a VN to be like a number crunching RPG simulation of fantasy or sci fi weapons.

As for what about the novel I liked and why I liked it; to put it into a fundamental level, I liked it because it dealt with a high level analysis of cultural imperatives and cultural changes due to technology and external influences. If you ever got excited with First Contact, where you have a superior or different level of technology and thinking but come into contact with a whole new civilization on a planet no human has ever visited, then you will come to understand the feeling that Dysfunctional Systems give off. For instead of studying aliens or civilization, it studies the dysfunctional systems inherent in other cultures. Things that don’t function right, in our judgment, but still exists as a “system” that is maintained or expanded by human hands. Examples might be North Korea, Jim Jones’ death/suicide cult, and so forth. Unlike Western science fiction shows, the main protagonist and her allies aren’t reliant on their technology to accomplish things: their primary role is as an observer, not a fixer or ruler. This novel feels more like a survivalist story or about an individual being a stranger in a strange land, than as the normal sci fi alien invasion story or the sci fi Cool Gadgets theme found oftentimes in stories like Star Wars 1-3.

It didn’t take me more than say 20 hours to read the story. So for those that want to have a easy to read entry on visual novels, I would say this product is a good option.

P.S.

For those that want to read more about VNs, check out my archives here.

Rewrite: Visual Novel Review

May 7, 2013

This was pretty good. Either at the top 5 or near it in my personal estimation.

I started normally, finishing the routes for the 5 heroines. 3 were open at first, 2 were unlocked later. I suspected, however, that there was some secret ura stories like in Muv Luv. It turned out to be true. The details, of course, I will leave the reader to find out for themselves.

The dramatic component was done quite well, with different combinations of sadness and sublime beauty combined together on each story plot. Each route essentially tells the story of one world line in quantum mechanics, split based upon player decisions and then plot forking.

The romantic elements were varied between action sequences, dark heroic moments, hero of justice moments, and various gray shades between. Multi themed, I would say it was. This VN is listed as having routes being completely different in plot from each other. Thus it makes it similar to Fate Stay/night, the first VN I read. Very exciting and far less boring to redo the common route from the beginning.

Those with weak mental or stomach tolerances, perhaps should watch out or at least train yourself to a higher tolerance as you read the story. Many of the things in the story I have experienced myself, faced the question of doing, or otherwise dealt with in my life, so I found it easy to accept some of the more dramatic confrontations. Others may feel different.

Overall, the protagonist was someone, especially at the end, that I felt very close or comfortable with. In that sense, it takes away some of the adventure (people doing crazy things that would be too scary to do yourself) and excitement from it for me. In compensation, I felt comfortable and pleased with the True End. No disagreements or fundamental disgruntled emotional opinions. For those with little or no experience of certain human phenomenon in the world, they may be more disturbed emotionally by the events depicted in Rewrite. Which is part of the fun, challenging your own self to change emotionally or intellectually. See if you are up to the challenge.

This is a great story for males that want a combination of romance, action, and seinen (teenager grows into an adult) story lines. I can’t speak too much for what females may like in the story, except that the romance is quite well done. Romance is often a side plot in action movies, a way to justify two characters being together but not much else. When I say “romance” in Rewrite, I mean the kind of story where the man is motivated to save or destroy the world because his love of his woman demands it. That kind of epic romantic adventure.

Muv Luv Total Eclipse Anime

July 24, 2012

Total Eclipse is a side story about my favorite subjects: love, war drama, and military survival.

It was a toss up whether it would come out as glorious or a train wreck. The first two episodes were definitely a good run and made me remember all those fond (or psychologically damaging, depending on your perspective) memories concerning Takeru’s role in MLA and MLU. (Muv Luv Alternative/Unlimited)

I’m not sure if they changed the sequence of the character’s backstories or not, but for new comers to the MLA franchise, that set piece battle definitely sets the tone for the story and the world. It is a very accurate portrayal too. If you couldn’t handle episode 2, chances are you would try to kill yourself at the end of MLA. So it’s a good thing people that can’t handle adult material, drop it early on.

The original Muv Luv Alternative/Unlimited and Total Eclipse were visual novels and light novels respectively. The anime industry has gotten quite a bit of experience adapting light novels to the anime screen, so I have marginally high hopes that they can carry it out. Train wreck still possible though.

Muv Luv Alternative: Reply to Tsukuru Review

January 19, 2012

This is a review by Moogy. Courtesy of Lala, a commenter that linked it here. Now I comment on it.

There are a couple of things I disagree with in the review, simply because two people always should have different conclusions or at least different ways of arriving at the same conclusion, unless they think they’re telepathic personalities of the same mind, that is.

Two primary disagreements are the artwork and the pacing. Moogy noted that the character designs weren’t high quality, compared to the good looking TSFs. Moogy also mentioned that the pacing had issues, rated it 33/100.

“Personally, I approached Alternative expecting to enjoy it quite a bit – and indeed I did. However, I enjoyed it for nearly wholly different reasons than I had imagined I would. I suppose that basic concept is what I’m attempting to express with this section.

To put it simply, Alternative will probably betray your expectations in interesting ways – it’s most likely not about anything that you think it is. (I’d like to note that I’m speaking to the western fandom here; more specifically, the people who will be playing it in some months from now when Ammy finishes translating it. And if you weren’t planning on playing it, you really should!)

Ed.: Once again, the translation is available now.

Well, now that we have my likely misguided rambling out of the way, let’s move on to something more concrete.

Aesthetics
Artwork: 60/100
Music: 80/100
Voice Acting: 80/100
Presentation: 100/100
Overall score: 95/100

Standard disclaimer: This section generally has little impact upon the final score I assign to a game. It is included simply for completion’s sake.

In a word, the character art in Alternative is mediocre. It accomplishes its task, but does little beyond that. The designs themselves are fairly funky as well. Also, it doesn’t help that the majority of tachi-e are reused from the original Muvluv – making the new ones they drew for Alternative stick out like collective sore thumbs. That said, I’ll give it a 60 because the mecha designs are attractive and all of the artwork for them is very polished indeed.”

Personally, I found the character designs to be surreal and very charismatic, charming, but also military and disciplined. None of the character’s hair styles or what not changed from Extra to UL to MA. But at the same time, wearing a uniform (which looks good on the women and men), and the introduction of a far more edgy atmosphere, changes them. It really feels like you’re in an alternative dimension, where people look the same but have different personalities underneath. It’s kind of freaky, if you, like me, paid extra attention in… Extra and Unlimited. If they had changed the designs too much, it would have been easy for me to differentiate the personalities from Extra, from Unlimited. And the ones in Unlimited, from Alternative. It wouldn’t have given me that “edgy” queer, unsettling feeling at times.

Now, that’s mostly a superficial issue concerning aesthetics or beauty. Not surprising people have disagreements on that. Now unto something more substantial: pacing and the plot development.

“The story is frequently interrupted by mostly uninteresting briefings and (quite literal) lectures about things that aren’t even very important in the long run.”

I’ll address that first, since it seems to be a central or common concept behind this issue. My viewpoint is that a lot of the briefings are basically what people need to understand about the war with the BETA. If the reader doesn’t pay attention to this, then they aren’t going to understand… about 50 or 80% of what goes in the battles in terms of tactics or military strategy. I think people just got excited by the action, and say they like the action scenes, but they don’t understand what the heck was going on in terms of operational planning. A lot of the more emotional moments required you to understand the decisions being made, why they were being made, and what it cost to make those decisions. Takeru was also supposed to understand this, and when he understands, he doesn’t explain it to you. You were supposed to have learned it with him, combining the info in the briefings with experience of the plot and events. Those that found the briefings boring, missed out on a substantial chunk of MLA’s military substance, so to speak. Of course, I’ve heard those briefings around 2-3 times already, so I find them boring because I already know the info. I have them memorized, essentially.

There was at least one spoiler in the review concerning relationships, but for those of average analysis ability or the uncurious, it shouldn’t be too bad. For someone that likes to analyze and reverse engineer words, ideas, concepts, and information, it’s very easy to figure out some of MLAlternative’s plot surprises with just that one line in Moogy’s review, however. This falls under the category of counter-espionage or data mining, where piecing together seemingly innoculous pieces of information allows one to read the enemy and thus defeat them. Again, something of a military vogue that civilians or those lacking in curiosity or analysis ability, don’t need to know, but it would benefit them if they did.

Moogy mentioned that the character development for Meiya and the squad, stopped in MLA because the focus was on other things and Extra/Unlimited were the ones to focus on them. I agree in general, but disagree about MLA. I’ve played through MLA enough times to understand that they added in the character development for Meiya, Chizuru, Ayamine Kei, Tama, and Mikoto in two parts. When Takeru is stomped on by life, so to speak, he has a choice to choose one person to talk to out of those 5. That person he chooses now becomes the person that will send him a letter at the end of the game, explaining their view and observations of Takeru’s life in MLA. The letter was extremely important and explained many things that would have normally been left unchecked. These are spoilers, but since the game takes so long to even “re skip through”, I’ll describe some of them for you. Skip past the names if you don’t want to be “spoiled”.

Meiya’s ending is perhaps canon and she didn’t write a letter. Everyone knows the reasons, from the game. Don’t think about this one too much. She’s very straight forward, honest, and doesn’t hide much. Not much to “expose”.

Chizuru explains the things that made her insecure, her inflexibility, and how she changed in MLA. Chizuru noted that because of Takeru’s abilities and actions, she came to believe and rely on him. And that is what gave her the strength to take a position of leadership at the end, when the stakes were as high as one can get in life.

Ayamine=haven’t gotten her letter yet. Maybe it got lost in the yakisoba pan.

Tama is a pure and innocent spirit. She is someone that wants everyone to get along, and has ideals that are closest to what Takeru came to believe in at the end of Unlimited. She, however, has problems standing by her beliefs, because doing so causes friction. Her nervousness about shooting also comes into play, and often Tama worries more about not causing friction than making sure everyone gets along in a world of peace and mutual cooperation. Because of Takeru’s actions and abilities, Tama became more confident and tried to change herself to be as disciplined and strong as she saw Takeru to be.

Mikoto is the person (….) that always likes ignoring what people say, a common comedic act or theme in Japan. Mikoto is also a very genki, lively, type, and does much to bring humor and relaxation to the squad when morale is down. The changes are similar to the above.

The letter begins with “Dear Takeru-sama” (which can be hilarious if you don’t understand formal Japanese writing, plus who Takeru is) and often ends with a statement that they respect (sonken) him for what he has done and how he has changed them.

Also, another unique scene was on the carrier at night. Whoever you chose before, ends up coming to talk to you about things. Some of the topics are the same person to person, but some are very enlightening and worthwhile to read concerning the person in question.

END OF SPOILER FORBIDDEN KNOWLEDGE.

So there is the “character development” Moogy wanted, but didn’t see in MLA. It’s hidden. It’s like some easter egg put in because of lack of time and focus, but it’s there if you know where to look. When I first read MLA, I would have agreed with moogy, because I didn’t get ANY LETTER at the end. I didn’t even know it was there to be found. I found myself wanting Takeru to talk more to his squad mates about their various issues, but he never did. The letters, however, explained many curious behavior the squad mates engaged in. So after the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th reread. I was mostly satisfied. Found a lot of info that made a lot of stuff make more sense. That’s always nice.

And it’s sad. If people thought the other stuff was sad, this will make it even more sad: kanashi.

The other things in the review were mostly positive and I either agree or at least do not disagree. My original review and comments on this game can be found here

To read the review that this was all about, go here.

Eien no Aselia: Aselia the Eternal

December 8, 2011

This visual novel is one of my top 5 in terms of quality and enjoyment. It’s definitely worth more in terms of value than the 40-50 dollar range of triple A games in the US.

The sheer force it pulls you into its universe is stupendous. You really feel like you are playing the main character and thinking his thoughts, feeling what he feels. The combat system is a bit slow, but very enjoyable, even after you beat the game once. Then you go back and unlock different plot endings and increase the level of your characters. I do wish there was a skip function for battles, because I want to see the endings of everyone, but perfection is not yet here.

The plot is so long that more than once I thought to myself “this game already ended right, because I feel more than satisfied”. But it didn’t end yet. There was more to it.

Extraordinarily Good Background for ML Alternative Characters

November 27, 2011

This shows the older Suzumiya and Storm Vanguard of the Valkryies, their backstory, how they grew up, and what ultimately became of them and their friends.

Those unfamiliar with the individuals in question, won’t know what happened from the video. But I do, and it’s very touching.

As you can see in the photo, these are 4 students at an academy. The girl with the flowery blond hair is Haruka Suzumiya, HQ coordinator (3rd in command of the Valkyries). The one with the purple silk hair is Storm Vanguard 1 (Mitsuki Hayase: 2nd in command). These two are class mates on the same level and thus graduated at the same time. Their male friends, however, graduated one year sooner being in a higher level, and were commissioned as officers in the war against the BETA. Suzumiya and Hayase are very competitive, but also close and dear friends. To the point where they shared the same taste in men and fell in love with the same person. Who then got commissioned ahead of them in the que. Being commissioned themselves and meeting him afterwards, was their motivation. To finally settle the matter between the 3 of them.

Takayuki Narumi and his male classmate friend fought in the Hesperus Operation to retake the mainland of Japan, Yokohama, from the BETA hive that had spawned there. During it, a new weapon was decided to be used, one developed by the Americans called the G-Bomb, and evacuation orders were sent out to all ground forces to leave the battlefield. Narumi disobeyed that order and continued to fight, because the anti-air defenses were taking out the forces deploying the weapon. As you can see in the vid, he charged past a lot of enemies and successfully eliminated enough of the anti-air defenses that two G-Bombs were deployed successfully, leading to the Hesperus Operation’s victory and the retaking of the mainland, culminating in a full seizure of the Yokohama hive. He, of course, did not survive the gravitational explosion.

I greatly respect both Haruka Suzumiya and Mitsuki Hayase, since they were the superior officers of the protagonist in Muv Luv Alternative. They provided a lot of morale and emotional support, as well as discipline and tradition. That’s a lot of things weighing in on people, but they showed how to pull it together and keep on fighting.

Story Telling

November 26, 2011

When I first read/watched Fate/Stay: Night, I had never encountered the particular Japanese form of story telling it contained. I was familiar with time paradoxes and loops from Star Trek, and they were certainly interesting in a time, causality, and quantum mechanics perspective. People have done some work on alternative worlds such as historical fiction or alternative fiction. It was the first time, however, that I was just blown away by the sheer verisimilitude and impact of this mode of story telling. Fate/Stay Night is basically 3 stories that all start from the same space-time coordination. The same day, the same location, but because the characters made a few different decisions, it branched off into one of the 3: Fate, Unlimited Blade Works, or Heaven’s Feel. What was most well done was that these stories are told in order. In the beginning of the game, you are given some seemingly inconsequential choices. But none of them matters because you’ll always go into the Fate story line or die. Only until you finish Fate and get to the end, can you then loop around start a new story, and proceed to Unlimited Blade Works. It was very surprising. I was like, “Oh, Fate was a pretty good story. Some things I wasn’t too sure about, but generally very nice”. Then I went to Unlimited Blade Works and I was like, “What more can they do with these characters and settings, isn’t it getting boring now”. Well, I spoke too soon given my inexperience with Japanese visual novels. There was a whole heck load of more stuff to discover and read, because Fate was only… an introduction. Only an intro, even though Fate took tens of hours to finish reading and had a great beginning, interesting middle, and moderately satisfying ending. Stuff I would expect from a really good American tv series or book… but there’s 3 of em. And each one is better than the one before, in terms of expanding the characters, their motivations, the world, and the plot. Something my mind had trouble encapsulating and comprehending. How is this kind of art and craft possible.

Visual guide

A lot of wiki links concerning FSN is full of needless spoilers. But this one is very clean. FSN being the first visual novel I ever experienced, yet also the one I have yet to reread, occupies a special place in my memories.

Muv Luv Alternative: Third Re-Read

November 11, 2011

Playing this visual novel for the third time, reading it for the third time, is especially gut wrenching since I know how it all ends. This allows me to form more logical and emotional connections between events and what characters say. Many things are perfectly explainable, once you think about them or have advance knowledge. Often times, those things were hidden on the first or even second play through. This is a very complicated story to tell, with many characters and personalities. But it is a noble story. Instead of people’s personalities conflicting with each other, and throwing the entire game plan into the loop as we see often on Hollywood movies, Alternative is a story about human nobility, sacrifice, and love. That includes many of the characters, even most of them. Even the villains are, prototypically in Japanese style, more complicated in their motivations than might seem. Although the primary enemy is left relatively mysterious until the end. How a team of humans work out their personal issues and collect themselves into a cohesive unit in order to defeat that enemy, is how the plot can generally be read. This will require motivation, hardship, and surmounting challenges.

Alternative is the third plot line in Muv Luv, the conclusion of the story begun in Extra and Unlimited. It is made by Age (Wisdom in Japanese) and there is currently no English port or translation, other than unofficial ones (fan based) by Amaterasu.

A lot of people, depending on their mental and emotional maturity, can get torn up by this story because it has so much impact, verisimilitude, and emotional connections. I remember reading March to the Stars by John Ringo and David Weber. The ending to that one left me unsatisfied, depressed, and unsure of my emotions. If it wasn’t for that, ML Alternative might have been an even greater shock than it was.

An Introduction to Visual Novels

August 9, 2011

Those looking for an all ages, no stress installation and preview of why some people play visual novels and even prefer them to manga or anime, take a look at Planetarian.

Download, read, blow up from the drama firepower, the end. It’s about the length of a short story, hence the “introduction” part.

For those “looking” for a reason, for the girls this has romance and relationship difficulties. For the guys, this has action and combat. I found it very emotional and impactful, just as advertised for a kinetic novel. There isn’t a large cast, so you tend to get to know the people pretty well. The Japanese concept of “giri” or duty is also shown here so if you are weak to loyalty or duty, this is what you need to see.

LINK

 

 


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