In the thriving era of console galge where eroge ports did not make up the majority of releases, school life stories reigned king. From Tokimeki Memorial to Memories Off, the cute 2D girl in a colorful school uniform became the face of the genre. Then it is to no surprise that when F.O.G, a company that claims to be the opposite of trendy, comes out with a game whose cover is a realistic photograph of a road and some grass, it didn’t generate much talk. The game and its premise is something that you’ll find only when you’re looking for it on purpose, and I’m pretty sure that the amount of people looking for a game about meeting 2D girls while traveling through Hokkaido in a Google Street View-esque system is far from high. But that’s just what makes the game stand out in the sea of school-life galge, along with the fact that F.O.G is still alive today.
I’m still not entirely sure whether I like Tri-Ace as a whole, but their early games most certainly feel different. Valkyrie Profile is nothing like any other RPG I’ve played before, from plot to battle system to dungeons. Even though it’s originally a PS1 game, it still feels like a fresh breath of air, since I’ve never played anything else quite like it. I played the PSP version, which is essentially the same game as the PS1 version with added CGI FMVs.
Let’s make a trip back to the PS1 era, shall we? It was a fun time of testing things out, after all, and a time when an experimental low-budget game made by a nobody could still be well-received on a console stuffed full of polished RPGs with better budget. Atelier Marie is the first Atelier game–the game that started it all and made Gust have an iconic series. It was back when Gust had a rather…lacking budget, and it shows. Nonetheless, it is a fun game centered around item-making, and has the peaceful slice-of-life tone that carried on to the Arland games.
System: PS1 (also on PSN’s PSOne classics)
Developer: Game Arts
Despite complaining about it beforehand, I actually ended up enjoying the game after all. For the record I first reached the final dungeon at around 40 hours in, and while it was not a particularly long or difficult dungeon, I had so much fun grinding up the weapon and magic levels for each character. Once I realized what the game truly had to offer was right in front of me all this time, I came to like it quite a bit. Grinding up your magic levels to see what new skills you’d learn is fun, probably the same type of enjoyment I get out of catching and levelling Pokemon.
I’m not kidding. I purchased the PS1 version of Tokimeki Memorial for $6 on eBay before Christmas, and it arrived in the mail today. The shipping cost almost as much as the game itself XD I’ve got an American PS2 and I don’t have a PS1 memory card anyways so it’s useless even if I mod it, therefore I can’t play this on my PS2. The PSX emulator is really great though and it can play the original discs so I’ve got no problem. It’s more comfortable to play games on my PC in my room instead of heading to my parent’s room for TV and consoles.
Looking at the game’s art, you can probably tell at a glance the thing is made in the 1990’s. The art style is reminiscent of the typical 90’s shoujo manga style (especially the style used for school romance stories), and the clothes seem pretty outdated too. The ingame graphics are rather pixellated and have thick borders. The graphics for CG events feel like the style of retro PC-98 eroge minus the ero, but that’s not too surprising considering that it was made in that time.
I want to play Tokimeki Memorial 2 also, but it’s a 5 CD game and costs more on eBay (~$30 + shipping). I’ll buy it later, since I probably want a break from TokiMemo’s pure love romances. 20 normal school girls later, I’d probably end up wanting some…less normal ones.