Visual Novel Theatre-Re: Alistair++

Re: Alistair Title

It’s always a little odd, experiencing a story that connects with something in your personal life. Whether it’s about a subject that relates to your job, speaks to something you do as a hobby, or includes something you’ve been through in the past, it’s like you’re experiencing it on a level somewhat different than the average viewer. You’re seeing the same things, but absorbing something completely different. I had that feeling recently when I made my way through the freeware visual novel Re: Alistair++. There were three things that called out to stuff I’ve been going through in real life, in fact. First, it’s about video games, which anyone who reads this blog knows I’m well immersed in. Second, a large part of it is about exploring how relationships between people online transfer into the real world, again, a subject I have experience in. Third, it really calls back to that one time I was a high school girl in some vague setting and had to go get all the boys. In fact, that’s probably the strongest connection I have with this game. Re: Alistair++ gives me the freedom to relive those days, to linger in the memory of having the wind blowing in my hair, of the constant sleepovers and pillowfights, of the eternal fight to spend as much time as possible shopping, or whatever high school girls are supposed to be into. I don’t know, I wasn’t in that state very long.

Re: Alistair++ is a freeware visual novel put together by sakevisual. You can download it here! It’s an otome, a game targeted towards the interests of young Japanese ladies, which I’m sure you’ll all agree fits me perfectly. In this game, you play as Merui Lucas, a short-tempered but otherwise average high school student with a deep passion for the MMORPG Rivenwell Online. And it is during one session of the game that our adventure starts. Merui and her online partner in crime have been taking on a boss above their level, hoping to get the precious Blessed Stone it drops. After a grueling fight, they’ve got it ready to fall when some total knobhead, known as Alistair, killsteals it out from under them, landing the final blow and taking the Blessed Stone for himself.

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Of course, Merui’s not one to let things go, and an argument follows. It’s cut short, however, as Merui’s school, where she’s playing the game over lunch, is struck with a network outage. As Merui finds when she’s able to log back on, Alistair was affected by that outage, too, meaning she knows he goes to her school. Further investigation reveals that only three other people were logged onto the school network at the time of the outage. Merui’s got quite the lead onto who he could be. In response, Alistair lays down a bet. If Merui can figure out who he is in real life within one month, she gets her Blessed Stone. If not, he gets all the gold she makes in that month. Merui, not one to turn down a challenge, begins the investigation.

In game, RuiOfTheSword may be a mighty knight who answers to no one but herself, but in meatspace, Merui is a high school girl, with all the responsibilities that entails. You’ve got your investigation ahead of you, sure, but you also have to work on homework, maintain your social life, go shopping (see! I told you!), and, if you’re lucky, get yourself a boyfriend. It’s only by managing all of those that you’ll be able to find success in your endeavors.

The three boys who may possibly be Alistair are also your eligible bachelors, and naturally, you’ll be getting closer to each of them as you investigate who Alistair may possibly be. It’s already hard forging bonds, knowing that any one of them may be a rampant dicknostril in disguise, but to make matters worse, all three of your potential suitors/future punching bags play Rivenwell Online but are somewhat cagey about it, for various reasons. However, as the game progresses, the search for Alistair takes more and more of a backseat, and your goal becomes more about growing close to these potential mates.

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Enjoying that Dark Souls View

Last time, on a Dazzling Display of Dark Souls, we kicked some ass. Like, seriously. Did you see the fight against the Iron Golem? I haven’t seen anyone lose so humiliatingly since the Netherland’s victory over Spain in the World Cup. Ha ha! Topical humor.

Anyways we got dropped off in Anor Londo, city of the gods and, now that I spend most of my time in my undead form, one of the last places in Lordran where you can find true beauty. I head down the staircase to explore this new destination.

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These sentinels are the only beings still seeming to reside here, at least in these upper levels. I’m not wanting a fight before I’ve found a bonfire in the area, but luckily, these guys don’t seem to be looking for one either. Judging by their posture, they’re definitely guards, but mayhaps they’ve already heard that I am the Best Chosen One, and that I have honorable business here? Or maybe my reputation has preceded me and they want to avoid the thrashing I’ve been giving half of Lordran. Whatever the case, I don’t bother them, and they don’t bother me.

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Two more of them inside what looks to be some sort of temple or shrine. Again, I’m not looking for a fight, so I don’t get close.

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The shrine opens out onto a large landing. I take some stairs down from there, and find a bonfire, tended to by a fire keeper. I talk with her first, before settling down. She gives me a bit of direction, telling me that a revelation will visit the Best Chosen One if he visits Geezer Zeus’s old keep that’s just across the way. She also tells me a bit of life as a fire keeper, referring to herself as “a gatekeeper and a guide”, saying that she sticks with the job because otherwise, there’d be no beacons in Anor Londo. Turns out, the bonfires tended to by the keepers are special beyond just giving me a bit of extra estus. They’re linked to one another, somehow, and shall never die as long as the keeper lives. However, it seems keepers can’t leave the area around their bonfires.

Thus enlightened, I rest at the bonfire and level up before moving on.

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I’ve said it before, but this area is absolutely gorgeous. It strikes me as a bit odd, in fact. I’m just a little over 30 hours into the game now. Usually, game makers will blow their visual design load pretty early on, catching as many players as they can before some will drop out. I’m impressed that From Software has held out for so long. Hopefully, this is a sign that they’re still holding plenty of other great sights in reserve.

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Now that I’ve got a checkpoint, I think it’s time to mess with some people. I start by seeing what those sentinels are really guarding. I want to see what’s worth protecting. Turns out, the sentinels are aggressive, although you have to get fairly close to trigger them. I do with the two of these. There were treasure chests behind them, although it seemed to me they’re defending the statue more than the loot.

Their shields are the most annoying part of the fight, completely blocking any attacks that so much as brushes up against them and leaving their fronts and sides absolutely invulnerable most of the time. That means I have to brush up my counter game, but unfortunately, their attacks don’t leave them open for long.

Particularly when fighting two of them at once, the openings to attack are rare. It only takes two or three attacks in sequence to deplete my stamina and knock my guard away. I might be able to handle one of them, but two is just too much, and working in concert, they wear me down. Continue reading

The True Power of Artistic License

Artistic license.  The concept that a good plot is more important than a realistic depiction.  That which an author uses when reality selfishly refuses to accommodate what they need for the plot to work.

I was talking with Harliqueen a while back, when she was in the process of writing what would become Heart of the Arena. At the time, she was greatly concerned about historical accuracy, about making sure all the facts she was implementing to her story conformed as much to historical fact as she could make them. She wanted to ensure that her story stuck as closely to reality as reasonably possible.

At the time, I was struck by that. I’ve been taking the exact opposite approach in my own ongoing work, treating my subject matter with however much flexibility I needed to make the awesome scenes I wanted, and I’d been considering that one of my strengths. And you know what? I still do. Both approaches, that of perfect accuracy and of wanton artistic interpretation, definitely have their merits. It just so happens that the latter is serving my story a lot better.

Even from the outset, I have a lot of room, a necessity even, for utilizing artistic interpretation. While Harli’s tale draws its roots from Roman history, mine bases a lot on mythology and religion, a much softer science. Moreover, I’m drawing from both quite a few different cultural tales and faiths, and taking some inspiration from apocrypha as well, so I really need to implement a lot of ‘creative interpretation’ to ensure my story’s logic can integrate all these sources yet still be consistent. Even beyond that, though, I’ve been thinking that heavy use of artistic license, to the extent I’m looking at with my current work, could be a very beneficial factor in itself.

Basically, what I’m thinking is that a properly applied sense of artistic license can add its own layers onto the work as a whole beyond just what it allows for plot. A good, strong, consistent manner of deviating from what’s established by reality can help to establish an atmosphere and tone for the work on its own, helping it to stand out and creating its own unique. Pretty much any work based in any way on the real world makes use of some degree of artistic license. By being deliberate about it, though, and ensuring its applied consistently throughout, the author can take command of it to help make the work as a whole more unique, having a stronger overall design, and more flexibility in how to implement stories.

There’s a fine line there. Artistic license should only be applied where there’s room for it. That’s one of the reasons I have a lot more flexibility in working with mythology and religion than on other subjects. I’ll already be using a lot of various sources with a lot of internal inconsistencies, where there may not be in something like history. However, every inconsistency is the seed for some sort of interpretation. And by managing those inconsistencies and growing out of them creatively, I’ll be able to make my work a lot stronger than it would be otherwise.

Breaking Through Dark Souls

Last time, on Aether Gets Destroyed at Dark Souls, we tackled the trap-filled serpent’s den that is Sen’s Fortress. We made good headway into the dungeon, then unexpectedly got killed in a way that is both manly and heroic and would totally take down pretty much anyone else anyways.

But now we’re back! We’re back, and we’re going to cow this fortress! We are going to singlehandedly drive it and everyone within to their knees.

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Right. I do that, and make it back to where I previously died. What? You want me to write up re-doing everything I did last time? Nope. Did pretty much the same things, except better, with less treasure-hunting. Although I did score a sweet flamberge off of a fallen serpent mage.

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Also, It looks like I wasn’t the only person to die at this bridge. Why are the ghosts I find never wearing clothes?

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First things first, I have to take care of the mage watching over this bridge. I try matching her magic with pyromancy, but I find I can’t get a spell to hit her without leaving myself open to hers. Instead, I just stick with my bow, slowly and steadily plinking her health down with my archery.

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I’m in there somewhere, I promise. In the time between my last one and this, someone has kindly left a message on the ground marking where the safe spot in between blades are. That’s a genius idea, and I took up the habit on every one of these pendulum bridges I passed through after this. Which is totally none, because this is the last one in the fortress and I certainly didn’t die a couple of times past this point. So I’m not sure why the thought even crossed my mind.

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The bridge ends at a T-intersection, both paths covered by pressure plates. I head to the left first, and avoid the darts shot at me. Turns out, there’s nothing really worthwhile on that path, although it’d let me sneak up on the serpent mage were I coming from the other direction. I take the other way instead, again triggering the dart launcher, but I’m up the stairs and through a fog gate before any projectiles even reach me.

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Pressing On in Dark Souls

Last time, on Doom, Despair, and Dark Souls, my status as the Best Chosen One became known to the world after I rang the two Bells of Awakening. Of course, this isn’t a role one can take lightly. Just being a chosen one has a lot of responsibility, but being the World’s Best Chosen One is more than most people can bear! Will I be able to handle the burden? And what is that burden exactly? Let’s find out together!

We ended up in Quelaag’s Domain last time, a giant sexy spider’s den deep in the bowels of Lordran. This place has an exit leading even deeper, into a place called the Demon Ruins, but honestly, after a sewer level and that blasted Blighttown, I’m done with being underground. I need some sun on me. So I head upwards, back towards Firelink Shrine.

Upon arriving back at the closest thing I have to a home base, I stop for a bit to chat with my new best friend, Laurentius of Great Swamp. You remember this guy. He’s the guy who gave me the power to unleash the fiery passion in my soul upon my enemies. I buy up all his pyromancy spells, because being able to throw fire is awesome, and he tells me a bit about the nature of pyromancy magic. A pyromancer’s power truly does come from the soul, as it turns out, and when Laurentius gave me my pyromancer’s flame and the ability to throw a blaze from my hands, he also gave me a little bit of himself.

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I’m honestly touched.

Aside from that, there are two new things at Firelink Shrine, one good, and one bad. The good part is that we have a new resident, yet another person who’s not a complete jerk. Yay!

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Although he does happen to be a bit monstrous.

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Ah, so that’s all the Best Chosen One needs to do? Just become the next Geezer Zeus, lording with godly might over the realms of man? I just link the Fire, cast away the Dark, and purge Lordran of the Curse of the Undead? Is that all?

If you’ll excuse me a second, I’m starting to get a little lightheaded.

It’ll be ok, right? I am the Best Chosen One, after all. It’s not like I’ve died dozens of times already just ringing the Bells of Awakening, and besides, even if I have, which I totally haven’t, I’m undead, so it doesn’t much matter. I can die all the times! All I’ve got waiting for me is eventual demented insanity, and an eternity of looking a burned and wrinkly and…. ugly? Ok, I’ll do it. I’ll purge the undead curse. I can’t go through life not being beautiful!

To cure the undead, though, first I need to get the Lordvessel from Anor Londo. Before that, though…

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Right. So, the Kingseeker Frampt does have some usefulness for me, besides just dispensing direction and looking like an inbred worm demon. He’ll eat my junk items for me, removing them from my inventory and giving me some extra souls in return. I take advantage of that, to make things less cluttered. My pockets started getting a little full after the fortieth set of crappy armor I stuffed in there.

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Even Captain Mopey here is impressed with me. Doesn’t stop him from complaining about our new guest, though.

I did mention that there were two new things at Firelink Shrine, right? The first was Frampt. The second, well…

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The bonfire’s out, and I can’t light it. This concerns me.

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I investigate. The Firekeeper has been slain. Our bonfire, the main factor that made Firelink so welcoming and safe, has been lost. The mute woman has left behind nothing but her clothes, and a Black Eye Orb. This orb allows me to invade the world of the murderer of a Firekeeper and reclaim their soul. Something tells me she left this there knowingly, hoping someone would be able to save her. Conveniently enough, the eye constantly watches towards Anor Londo, our future destination.

In not unrelated news, the knight Lautrec of Carim has gone missing. Methinks I have a suspect.

But, before I can reach Anor Londo to track down the firekeeper’s killer and regain the Lordvessel, first I’m going to need to traverse Sen’s Fortress, and insidious den of traps that random giant opened up when I rang the two bells. Now, there are quite a few places I have yet to explore, and most of my gaming instincts are telling me to take care of the side areas before bothering with the route the game wants me to take, but I’ve read up on what this Lordvessel does, and I’m thinking I want to get my hands on that before I go exploring. So, it’s the plot path for us!

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