Short blurbs about recent reads. I should do this more often because writing legit reviews is too much work and I have trouble writing about stuff I like.
Romeo’s new work about a bunch of high school kids making an eroge, aiming to tackle the state of the industry by comparing it to a barren land. Too bad it’s from Minatosoft and directed by Takahiro, because he ruins everything he touches. Ok, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. A bit. I had fun with Majikoi and all, but Takahiro’s project with Jackson (Anegin) was a disaster and his idea of having talented writers work on his projects frankly doesn’t work when he’s the one coming up with settings and characters and probably watching the writer’s every move. Yeah sure Kouya has Romeo’s text, but everything about it feels like Takahiro’s production. I don’t dislike Takahiro as much as some others, but I’d have to agree that him and Romeo just don’t mix very well and neither do their core audiences.
Kouya feels to be about 90% Takahiro, being told in short comedic scenes with any drama being shallow and lasting for about 5 minutes before being revealed to be no big deal. I haven’t read Romeo’s most renowned works, but I did read Kentoma and it’s the exact opposite of Kouya in how it approaches its topic. Kouya wants to talk about the waning eroge industry and how difficult it is to survive in it while being an all-ages story about a group of high schoolers making a hit porn game without any real roadblocks. It shies away from any legit drama and ends up being a really shallow work that doesn’t provide any unique insight into its primary topic. Also for how much was poured into advertising it, it’s a very rushed and incomplete work with entire routes that consist of a bunch of disjointed scenes over anything resembling a fluid story.
I think the best part of the game is when Buntarou talks to other eroge writers; there’s some good criticism of the current state of user-creator relationships and how the industry has changed. But those are few, and the game ends before
Rakuen is an eroge about people making an eroge. It’s an eroge about being an otaku, and is both absolutely hilarious and painful because it hits too close to home. There’s no revitalizing a wasteland or creating a legendary game — the protagonist and his company are a poorly managed maker in an oversaturated market with a deadline that they basically have no hope of meeting. The director doesn’t do anything but play pachinko, the writer is gone with no output, the programmer writes buggy spaghetti code, and the artist — the protagonist — is a newbie and can’t do anything until the writer comes out with something. They’ve been in this situation for months, with progress at 0% until a month before master-up.
There are no miracles, no sudden channeling of genius ideas at crucial moments. You know from the very beginning that they are fucked and their product is doomed to be…not very good. There are no genius highschoolers making a breakthrough in the industry here, only a bunch of geeks who decided to work where their hobbies lie and stepped into a world of 堕落. The protagonist is also a ronin and studying for next year’s university entrance exams while working at an eroge company and slacking off in his free time. We can see where this is all going, and it’s not places where we would want to go. Rakuen is not a story about improving oneself — the protagonist doesn’t go through the “character development” that we normally expect from fictional characters. He’s not going to become hardworking and start studying diligently for his exam, and he’s not going to create anything beyond just-acceptable drawings during crunch time. He will go through the same pattern of indulgence and escapism that you probably did or are doing, ignoring whatever that needs to be done for an “ideal” future.
Yet, in the end, the game is titled ‘Rakuen.’ For a good reason. I don’t think there’s anything that will hit as close to home as this game. It’s extremely entertaining and filled with good lines from a writer who knows how to keep his text simple and down to earth. It’s hilarious, and painful. Usually for the same reason. You can tell the staff, whose company died a year later, poured their soul into making this game.
Oh, and it illustrates how the eroge industry is a 荒野, a decade before Kouya. This is the difference between a game written by a guy who hit eroge jackpot with wide-appeal entertainment like Tsuyokiss and Majikoi, and one by a guy whose company died a year after he made the game.
For a change of pace, here’s a doujin chuuni-ge with an all-female cast. The art is like something drawn by an amateur on DeviantArt and the music consists of repetitive 5-second loops, but I would be lying if I said this isn’t the most fun I’ve had with a game just being pure chuuni. There are definitely games better than it that can be categorized as chuuni-ge, but Mushi no Me is the novel game that puts my middle-schooler self’s dreams and fantasies into a coherent story. The entire game is basically talking about powerlevels and affinity and evolution of abilities. It throws around characters who theoretically cannot die and those for whom death is just a minor setback, giving the reader the delight of seeing a protagonist whose power grows from the most useless thing out of the bunch into something absolutely broken. Just when you think something cannot get any more ridiculous, it does.
The premise is a battle royale between 3 groups of 3 participants. Each person has powers based on a bug, and they are to fight until one group of 3 remains. Mushi no Me is very straightforward about what it wants to do, and does it in a clean way. It tickles my middle school delusions like no other, and the end of chapter 3 (heck, the entirety of chapter 3) is incredible. The writer knows how to keep the reader on the edge, that’s for sure. His writing style is pleasant as well — he demonstrates a wide vocabulary while writing some very crisp and easy-to-read sentences. The text feels very comfortable to me, to say the least.
I found the major downtime to be in chapter 2, where you repeat a lot of events from chapter 1 and the game spells out to you what you’ve probably already figured out. Depending on the person chapter 4 may be too ridiculous as well, though I enjoyed that part about it. There are definitely a fair share of cheesy and cliched part, but I can’t actually disagree with them from the gut and I did wish for everyone to get a happy ending. I suppose it’s very chuuni of me to want a ridiculously positive ending after loads of suffering, but I like how Mushi no Me satisfied that part as well. This was a fun ride, and Sancha is the best.
The writer is a train otaku and extremely enthusiastic about sharing his knowledge of how trains work with the rest of the world. It’s always cool to see something oddly specific being told in great detail in eroge format. The common route had a nice atmosphere that I could basically breathe in forever, but the routes aren’t what I hoped for. It seemed like the writer had trouble balancing all the train infodumping and politics with storytelling, and I couldn’t get into any of the routes except for Hachiroku’s. The side routes for the sub heroines are also really short and have the most forced developments and resolutions ever, and the “grand” route is basically a short harem end that presents what should have been an idea that deserved significant build-up in a very rushed way.
As for the main routes themselves, I find Hibiki’s to be the weakest link. It wanted to do town politics but what came of it in the end just looked like some child’s play. Paulette’s and Hachiroku’s were decent, but I still expected better circumstances for the climax. I feel conflicted about the game as a whole. It’s a pleasant and relaxing thing to read but I expected something more satisfying.
Production values and moving tachi-e and CGs were top-notch, though. Music and backgrounds were great. I’m tempted to check out Monobeno in the near future, but I heard it’s needlessly long so maybe I’ll do it later.
The VN sequel to a 3DS shooting game about the 18-year-old President of New Japan piloting a mech in the late 21st century. Kaihou Shoujo SIN actually expands that to 5 more teenage girl politicians who pilot mechs to defend Japan from invaders. It sounds like the most ~galge~ thing ever, except for the part where you spend a great deal of time listening to political debates and talking to a bunch of stubborn middle-aged men like an actual politician. It’s more about what goes on behind the scenes in the new Japanese government in this SF setting, and you’ll spend more time thinking about the various political scandals going on rather than anything that has to do with robots and fighting.
It gets pretty hardcore with the whole corrupt politicians concept, and even the cute teenage protagonists aren’t free from scandals, retarded decisions, and severe punishments. The game sounds like a cheesy harem thing except for the part where a main heroine gets charged for a murder she actually committed and goes to jail halfway into the story, or where another one starts out a poorly-planned coup d’etat and dies for it. There are loads of scenes with old men yelling at each other over military strength vs. international relations, and if you preach for ~peace~ and ~communication~ on the battlefield you get shot down mercilessly.
It’s not like there aren’t any “cute” scenes though. You get obligatory silly arcs like a heroine’s greatest secret being that she is an otaku and sells her cosplay photos to Americans, and a school festival where they interpret the idea of a maid cafe entirely wrong. The characters’ comprehension of early 21st century entertainment is hilariously wrong and spins karaoke into something that sounds much classier than it actually is, for example. There are no character routes and most of the heroines end up being reliable allies rather than romantic interests, which is pretty cool. The scenes with Nagisa are kwi, too. My main complaint would be that Shouko, the main heroine, ends up being the most boring character because her “defining moment” basically happened before the start of the game.
Despite the way the story is set out, the writing lacks emotional charge. This isn’t actually a bad thing as I found it refreshing how it’s always trying to look at the big picture, but because of the emotional distance between the reader and the characters (even the narrating character), it takes a while to get into and a lot of the scenes lack the emotional impact that users are probably looking for. There’s lots of political infodumping too, and a lot of people probably don’t like those. It’s a solid story though, and I enjoyed most of it.
A relatively short VN with bad side routes, but I only played the main route so I’ll refrain from commenting on the others. Anyways Nanarin is FUN. There are loads of hilarious scenes and the writer definitely knows how to pace things to keep the story constantly entertaining. It’s a small-scale story with nothing more than some local happenings, but the emotional scenes do pack a punch and the ending got to me.
Anyways I will forever remember the floating fat ドM man ghost, it’s been a while since I’ve laughed so hard. I’m told that Akeiro is a lot better about the routes, so I gotta check that out.
Iyo is A++++
The best release of 2016 so far, thanks G.O.
G.O. is the writer of Himawari, known for having Aqua, one of the best heroines in eroge. Island is a 尖った work that is reminiscent of stuff from the 90’s/early 00’s, with many people comparing it to Yu-no. It’s an SF story about romance and time-travel, with several cool twists that betray what the user would expect from a time-traveling ADV. G.O. is a nice writer and Island is a very polished work compared to Himawari. I’d argue that Himawari still lingers on my mind more due to how in-depth it goes in exploring its characters (or well, Aqua) while Island puts more fuel into having a grand plot, but I really liked the latter’s ending. Everything fits well into its genre of せつなとえいえんのおとぎばなし, and outside of the preliminary routes, the game is very focused on what it aims to do to the very end.
The thing I really like about G.O., aside from his meta twists for an SF work (time traveling in Island is presented like the concept of aliens in Himawari), is how he injects a very human element into his grand “brix-shitting” story. Setsuna’s lame jokes sometimes turn out to be hilarious foreshadowing, and the various sci-fi infodumps (if you can call them infodumps) are nicely done as they are presented in theory and what actually happens in practice remain a mystery until the end. It’s a rather “academic” approach, and it’s neat to see Setsuna flip-flop between shutting down academic theories with a very 凡人 mindset in rough times and then embracing cool scientific ideas again for the sake of grand ロマン at the end. Something G.O. does that I really want to see more of is his exploration of man’s relationship with academic science.
I think I still like Himawari + Aqua After better, but the true ending just sits incredibly well with me. I wanted to write a legit post but have trouble putting my thoughts into words.
People said Island was similar to Yu-no so I decided to play the 90’s masterpiece. It suffers from a short development time, which makes it a much less polished work, but it has a cool system (that’s cool but very annoying to play through without a guide) and that neat 90’s atmosphere.
It really succeeds at being the grand time-traveling, dimension-jumping plot it wants to be, but lacks the polish that made Island better in my mind. If I experienced Yu-no in the 90’s I would definitely still sing its praises today, though. The main problem is that it takes too long to get going, forcing you to go through some really bad routes like Ayumi’s poorly done NTR, and the actually good part of the game was rushed and cut down to a fraction of what the writer intended it to be. As a result, you get some massive infodump concentrated at the end and a bunch of repeated scenes in the 5 preliminary routes that could really have been condensed into 3. The 異世界 part is the best part of the game, and could have been even better if Kanno was given adequate time to work on it since there are various timeskips that happen at the wave of a hand and some sketchy divide between the intended character development and eroscenes.
As far as humor goes, both G.O. and Kanno really like to stick 下ネタ everywhere. It gets overwhelming at times, but I found the former’s to be mostly funny whereas the latter’s took a while before I got into it. The humor through the game’s system was great though, and can only be done with Yu-no’s point-and-click gameplay. As for comparing Yu-no to another Kanno eroge I played, Eve Burst Error, the former executes its sci-fi twists and final parts much better, but the latter is more enjoyable from the get-go as the humor and characters really worked better there.