Visual Novel Theatre-Sunrider: Mask of Arcadius

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I’ve got a real soft spot in my heart for those works that are made not because someone’s trying to make a profit, not because someone wants to get a name for themselves, but simply because someone decides that this is a thing that needs to exist. The urge to just create is a powerful, beautiful thing, and some of the best works of art out there are just these kinds of projects, those that exist for no other reason than to fulfill someone’s passion. In fact, I believe that’s one of the greatest things about the internet, that it makes it so easy for creators to just produce and get their works to an audience, with no worries about the costs of publishing, marketing, or anything else that normally goes into most of the creative works we all enjoy. The freeware creators are incredibly valuable.

There is one big flaw with creators, though. They’re people, too. And that means they need to eat, take shelter, and bungee jump over active volcanoes just as much as regular people like you and me. And for that, they need money. And money changes things. I’ve seen that so many times, through my background in both working with nonprofits and as a small business consultant. Nonprofit projects where everyone regularly stretches every dollar involved as far as possible will suddenly get a lot more convoluted when people find there’s the possibility of getting paid, and artists trying to turn their craft into a business quickly find out how much they need to change their approach to their art. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with trying to make a living out of your work, but the pursuit of compensation does necessitate a different way of creating, and oftentimes your work will be quite a bit different than it would have been had you just done it for nothing other than the need to create. It’s not necessarily a worse situation, just a different one, and we’ve been seeing plenty of it lately with the rise of crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Patreon.

And I think that’s a large part of the reason why I like Sunrider: Mask of Arcadius so much. This is a work that has money behind it. And yet, even though they got money involved, this is very much an obvious labor of love. Love in Space, Sunrider’s creators, ran a successful crowdfunding campaign, raising over $44,000, almost fifteen times their original goal. Nobody’s going to get rich off that, but that’s still more than enough, with proper management, to get a small, limited, indie game out into the world with a tidy profit trailing it. With Sunrider, though, the production values, the amount of content created, the amount of just plain work that’s so, so apparent in the finished product is so high that I will never believe that Sunrider’s turning a profit. All the crowdfunder money and more is accounted for in the completed work. The visual novel has professional quality voice actors, sound design, art, and more, to the point that the amount of money they’ve collected through the crowdfunder could never cover all this alone. It’s obvious that the team behind Love in Space are volunteering at least some of their own time and resources to the project, yet even so, this project is still completely freeware. They’re creating it simply because they want this to be a world in which Sunrider: Mask of Arcadius exists. Just the amount of integrity and passion going into Sunrider makes the work notable. The fact that it actually delivers are long, enjoyable experience for the pricetag of completely, no strings, no expectations, free only makes it more so.

Sunrider asaga screenshot

Sunrider: Mask of Arcadius is a combination visual novel/turn-based strategy game, currently in open beta available on Steam. Basically, you’ve got turn-based strategy battles, with the visual novel format telling the story in between. Or maybe it’s visual novel story segments with turn-based strategy battles in between. Whatever. The game uses both of them and keeps them at about equal importance, so you can’t say it’s a ‘turn-based strategy game with visual novel elements’ or however the reviewers would phrase it these days.

In keeping with Love in Space’s moniker, Sunrider is a good old fashion space warfare tale with a bit of a romance bent. You are Captain Kayto Shields, the suspiciously silver-haired commander of the warship Sunrider, the pride of the planet Cera’s military. Unfortunately, said military doesn’t get to bask in it’s magnificence long, as that organization, along with the planet’s government and a good chunk of it’s people, simply stops existing shortly after the Sunrider’s first taste of real combat with the nefarious PACT. And so, you are left with one of the most powerful military vessels in the galaxy, absolutely no chain of command or oversight, an unlimited amount of ammunition, and a real grudge against the PACT fleet and all their explodable, squishy, bullet-magnet spacecraft. What do you do?

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The Persona 2: Innocent Sin Retrospective-Part 1, Introduction

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Part 2-Gameplay

Part 3-Setting and Tone

Part 4-Plot

Part 5-Player Characters

Part 6-Other Characters

A bit of a change in format for this one. So, usually, when we’re doing these big retrospectives, we’ll just write up about twenty pages worth of text covering as much of a game as we’re able, add in some pictures usually shamelessly stolen from all over the internet, then put it up here in one lump sum. I’ve been starting to rethink that format, though. I’m not sure if just having one big, massive, 10,000 word+ post is best for myself the writer or for you the reader. So we’re going to try something new here. Something novel. Something that’s going to keep poor Matt from having to spend four reading sessions to get through the whole post. This time around, we’ll break things up, covering them topic by topic. We’ll divide the big massive study of this game into bite-sized, easily digestible sessions. Hopefully this will give a better experience for all involved. Sound good? Good. Let’s go!

So! Persona 2! I’ve been looking forward to doing this one. All the mainline Persona games have got some deep, deep roots in me. I’ve spent a good long while immersing myself in the series, and it’s one of the few franchises I actually consider myself passionate about. I’ve carved out a good bit of prime brain real estate for each of them. Yes, even the bad one. Persona 1 has it’s value as well.

Each of them, that is, except for Persona 2. Well, the first half of Persona 2. See, the second installment in this series has a really weird presence here in the western world. Persona 2 is a duology. Two games for the price of one. There’s Persona 2: Innocent Sin and Persona 2: Eternal Punishment, each telling half of the story. And way back when these games were new, Atlus, far from the bold and expansive localizer they’re known as today, decided to only release the latter game. The second half of the story. Flipping to the middle of the book and just starting from there.

There’s quite a few theories as to why that might be. Maybe it was because Atlus USA was a small department with too much on its plate at the time. Maybe it was because they couldn’t get it ready in time for the rush. Maybe it was because of the gay options in a time before America was ready for it. Maybe it was because of Hitler.

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Nobody knows! But the fact of the matter is that we missed out on the first installment of Persona 2. Eternal Punishment came out, and trust me, it was a bit of a challenge making sense of that alone. Still, I powered through it, and while I know that game well, Innocent Sin was always a gap in my Persona knowledge, only experienced vicariously, until finally, the game got re-released on the PSP a few years ago. It’s still the game I’m least experienced in.

So this installment of our retrospective series covers the first release in the Persona 2 duology, Innocent Sin. Eternal Punishment will get its own, probably shorter post. Just seemed like the best way to do things.

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Take a Stand. Take Down Santa.

Photo by Cyril Doussin.  Click for source.

Photo by Cyril Doussin. Click for source.

So, it’s that time of year again. That time when the sun can’t bear to look upon us, the time the very darkness in the atmosphere forces us to hide within our homes, the time when all the first world devotes to worshiping that demonic thief in the night: Santa Claus. Idols to that jolly red roof lurker have pervaded all aspects of our culture. There’s no escape. Trust me, I’ve been trying for years.  Santa Claus, the Christmas mascot.  Normal, sensible people will lose their mind in a false sense of happiness at the mere sight of him.  People look upon him as some sign of peace, joy, and happiness. Oh, those fools.

I’m tempted to say you all disgust me, for your blighted Santa infatuations, but I won’t. Not because you don’t all disgust me, I’m just not going to say it. And, because I realize that you’re all mostly just unenlightened as to the evils of that crimson mass of blubber. All you know is the tales of the rosey cheeks and cherry nose and the magical times at the north pole and the reindeer and sleigh and the presents, presents, PRESENTS! Well, Santa is not that man. And I’m tired of being the only one around that knows it. So, please read these following facts, and hopefully, after I’m done, you’ll be convinced enough to join me in my annual holiday celebration of kicking Santa’s fat butt as soon as he enters our homes.

St. Nick, another name for Santa Claus, is patron saint of:

Merchants-Christmas is not about the presents so that you can make your friends and family happy, no. Christmas is about the presents so that you can fill the coffers of those who bankroll Satan Claws on his yearly quest.

Thieves-fitting, as Santa sneaks into your house like one. And you ever notice how everything you’ve ever loved is missing after Santa visits your home? That’s because Santa is also the patron saint of…

Pawnbrokers-That’s where everything that goes missing after Christmas ends up. Also, half the presents you give out go there too, because people are jerks. Santa-worshiping jerks.

Furthermore, St. Nick has spent his immortal life waging a war with Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt, Women’s Empowerment, and Virginity. As for why this battle’s gone on, well, he is the patron saint of prostitutes.

Everyone knows that Santa gives presents to the good kids. What about the bad kids though? Coal? Well, yes, but he’s also got a long, long history of giving bad children golden colored birch branches to be beaten with. So Santa’s an advocate of child abuse, too.

Santa doesn’t work alone, either. He has a couple of companions, such as Black Peter. Black Peter used to be a murderer, who attempted to serve St. Nick human flesh. So Santa turned him into some immortal… thing who alternatively scares and entertains children by performing a minstrel show in blackface. So Santa’s a racist, too.

There’s also the Krampus, a demon who rides shotgun with Santa, punishing the bad kids as Santa rewards the good. By punishment, I mean those children are whipped, kidnapped, drowned in ink, dragged to hell, that sort of thing.

NORAD tracks Santa whenever he’s flying around. They pretend it’s some kind of cutesy Christmas funtime thing, but clearly, they don’t trust him any more than I do. And if the US Government doesn’t trust somebody, why should you?  Granted, they’re apparently tracking all their own citizens out of paranoia, but still!  My point kind of stands!

Santa is officially a Canadian citizen. That means he’s entering our country illegally every year. He’s also got homes in America, and each of the Nordic countries. Forbes has him as the single richest person in the year. Does he ever pay a cent in taxes? There you have it. Santa is the reason for our deficit.

And this is only a few of the evils that man has committed. I can go on all day, listing his crimes, the various demons under his command, and the rest of the reasons for my lifelong vendetta against him.  But I’d still like to hold onto my sanity. Hopefully, this is enough for you.  You’ve seen the terrors this man is capable of.  This villain, this thief in the night who breaks into all of our houses to steal our cookies and kiss our mothers!  It is time to fight back.  Time to finish the era of Santa Claus.  I have had enough of him.  And so have you! So join me, and let’s end our common nemesis!

New Eden, Page 11-The Color’s Revenge

It’s a bit of a rough week for me.  Standard Content will come shortly, but in the meantime, we’ve got some more of this content to fill the gap.

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At this point, I’m still working on getting used to using the markers, and I think it shows.  The acquisition of some lining markers helps, as it gives us actual outlines for what we’re doing here.  Still struggling with using the color to illustrate depth, however.

That Princess of Time thing is a bit of a relic that I’d be cutting out were I going back and editing this thing now.  Originally, everyone was supposed to have a class and an element.  The element relates to their powers and a main plot point we’ll be seeing later.  The class didn’t really have much in-story purpose, but on a meta level it was supposed to relate to their character arcs.  Lorelei, here, as the Princess character, was originally going to be struggling with the fact that she was thrust into a leadership role but nobody really expected much leadership out of her due to the strong personalities she was surrounded by, which would lead to her being largely used by other characters, particularly the Prince character, either as a motivator or as a tool towards their own ends until she learned to break out of it and stand on her own.  I’ve since dropped a lot of that arc, as well as the idea of using the classes, as a whole.  I feel that in the kind of story I’m trying to put together here, adding in features that aren’t justified in-story is just going to be causing problems.  Lorelei’s now just the Goddess of Time, rather than Princess of Time.

Transcript

Panel 1:
Ah, there we go.  Princess of Time?

Panel 2:

Well… won’t argue with that.

Panel 5:
This game!  So empowering!  I may just stick with these newbie mooks all night!

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The Gays of Gaming

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A while back, I wrote a series of posts celebrating the left-handed characters in videogames.  At the time, I had pointed out that southpaws, while they are clearly stronger, sexier, and just plan better than the average person, are still one of the most underrepresented groups in videogames.  I almost called them the single most underrepresented group in videogames, but I wasn’t entirely sure of that.  Namely, there were two groups giving me pause before making that big, probably wrong conclusion.  And the gay, lesbian, and bisexual community was one of them.

Recently, I’d been thinking back to that.  Wondering which group had it worse in terms of videogames representation, and if the gay community had come far enough to beat out left-handers.  So I started doing a thought experiment, trying to think out how many gay characters have been in the games I’ve played.  And, I figured, since I was doing the mental work anyway, I might as well make a list and share it with the public.  Hence, this post.  Here, I’ve put together a roster of all the homosexual and bisexual characters I can personally remember in video games.  Hopefully, this will be interesting to someone other than myself.

A few notes on the composition of this list:

  • To be counted here, the character has to be, well, an actual character.  They need their own personality and name.  If I could count generic NPCs, we’d never leave.  They don’t have to be deep characters, but they do need to have something going on.  Player Characters are a little tricky with this.  In general, if they have some sort of demonstrable character beyond just following the player’s decisions as their only interaction with their world, they’ll count for this.  Otherwise, nope.  I’ve got a deep love for the blank player avatar, but they don’t really fit in with this project.
  • I’m not counting transgendered or intersexed characters on this list.  I know in a lot of ways the communities and social issues involved are very similar, but I personally view gender identity as a separate matter than where one likes to stick their junk, and this list is focusing on the latter.  Transgender representation in videogames is still a lot more problematic anyway.
  • The creator’s word outing someone as gay will be taken into account, but, as always, they present only one possible interpretation of their own work.  In-game content is king.
  • Much like the list of left-handers, I’m only cataloging characters from games I’ve played.  Just too complicated to explore any beyond that.
  • I’m only counting honest designations.  As much as I’d like to make note of how fancy the King of All Cosmos is, this isn’t the place for it.
  • In the end, if it’s not absolutely explicit, it all comes down to my personal judgement call.  Don’t agree with me?  Well, too bad.  This is my list, I can do what I want.  And that may well be different from what you’d think.  In fact, if you write fanfiction, I can guarantee this list is like a tenth the size of anything you’d put together.
  • As always, I was right.  Homosexual and bisexual characters are totally better represented than left-handers.

Anyways, that’s all the boring stuff out of the way.  Shall we get to it?

1 and 2: Persona 2-Jun Kurosu‘s crushing hard on your main, Tatsuya Suou.  He’s not even subtle about it. Tatsuya himself can get into something of a relationship with either Jun or two of the women on your team, no fuss either way.

3 and 4: Fallout 2-This game was notable for having the first same-sex marriage in videogames, possible between your main and either Davin or Miria. This is followed by the first same-sex divorce in videogames. Fallout 2’s just that kind of game.

5 and 6: Fallout New Vegas-Veronica Santangelo and Arcade Gannon

7, 8, and 9: Kazuhira Miller of the Metal Gear series comes close, but I’m not willing to make the call based on what we’ve seen so far. Snake and Otacan are just dripping with the fangirl baiting, but still nothing definitive. Vamp, Raikov, and Volgin are very clear with their sexuality, however.

10: Killer 7-Kevin Smith was outed by the creator.  Got nothing in game saying either way, but it makes sense to me.

11: Zangief is specifically noted as disliking young beautiful women, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s into men. I’m willing to bet, however, that Street Fighter’s Eagle, being based on the famously fabulous Freddy Mercury, is.

12: The Elder Scrolls III Morrowind-Crassius Curio. Dammit, I really wish I didn’t have to remember him.

13 and 14: Final Fantasy XIII-Fang and Vanille.  According to the designer.  As if the subtext wasn’t thick enough already.

15: Bully-Jimmy Hopkins

16: Guilty Gear-Venom

17: Phantasy Star II-Usvestia. Literally more famous for being gay than any other reason.  Try searching his name and see.

18: Streets of Rage 3-Ash. I guess the walking stereotypes still count.

19: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic-Juhani. Only a romance option for the ladies. Also the first, and still one of only a few, gay characters in the Star Wars franchise.

20: Earthbound-Tony

21: Indigo Prophecy-Tommy

22: Fable-Reaver.  Gotdommit.

23: Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines-Jeanette

24, 25, and 26: Jade Empire: Silk Fox, Dawn Star, and Sky.  All the romance options, whether by deliberate choice on the part of the developers, a glitch, or a combination of both.

27 and 28: Heather from Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn joins your army purely to pick up chicks. Tharja from Fire Emblem Awakening is interested in your avatar of either gender.

29: I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream-Benny.  Knowing that actually changes the way you look at the wicked dealings in his past.

30 and 31: Gone Home-Sam and Lonnie. Their relationship is the main thrust of the narrative, so the game’s absolutely dripping with it.

32, 33, 34, 35 and 36: The Asari in Mass Effect don’t really count, given that they’re a single-sexed race in the first place. The female Shepard going for them in the first and second games definitely do, however, as does the male Shepard if you join with Steve Cortez in the third. Also, Kelly Chambers, Kaiden Alenko, and Diana Allers.

37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, and 43: Oh jeez. Let’s get this Dragon Age thing going. In the first game, there’s Leliana and Zevran. I don’t really count the Warden, as they don’t have much of an established character. In the second, we have Hawke, Anders, Fenris, Isabella, and Merrill. And I’m sure there’s more in the series, but I haven’t played all the content, so anyone outside of these just doesn’t count. So hah.

44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, and 50: OH JEEZ! Let’s see here. So Saints Row’s Pierce was always suggested as being interested in his own kind, but Saints Row 4 just went and made everyone open to both genders. So that gives us the Boss, Johnny Gat, Kinzie Kenzington, Shaundi, Matt Miller, and Asha Odekar (an aside, if you’re basing a character off of your real life child-aged daughter, please don’t make them a romance option. That just makes me feel icky.). King doesn’t count because his romance option is pretty platonic, and Keith David doesn’t count because, although he does have the romance option, he won’t take you up on it either way.

51 and 52: Shin Megami Tensei Devil Summoner 2 has Binbogami and Yabyogami, two bosses who are really, really into fighting (specifically, being beaten by) Raidou.  If only they’d find each other, they could leave me alone.

53, 54 and 55: Grand Theft Auto IV-Bernie Crane, Bryce Dawkins, and, well, Gay Tony

56 and 57: The Last of Us- Bill and, as the DLC reveals, Ellie

58, and 59: The Walking Dead-Matthew and Walter seemed a bit closer than just friends.

60: Tales of the Abyss-Total judgment call here, and maybe my own little fangirl moment but didn’t Jade Curtiss seem awfully intimate with the way he kept teasing Guy?

Chilling Down in Dark Souls

We’ve faced a lot of challenges here, in Aether and his Dark Soul. We’ve broken through the death-trap filled fortress. We have lain siege on the city of the gods. We have conquered the broken home of the undead. And yet, all this is only the beginning, building up to a goal greater than any man dared dream. We saw the first fruits of that last time. We had reached heights that no one in Lordran ever thought possible. We completely broke through the limits of human possibility. We had finally seen our greatest accomplishment yet, as we dominated, completely and utterly… a tree. But not just any tree. It was an evil tree!

Yeah, I don’t know if any amount of editorializing is going to make last episode grandiose.

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Still, it got us to where we are today, so it shall not be discounted. And here, we find our brave hero, steadfastly refusing the call of destiny in the deepest pit Lordran has. Although, actually, are we even in Lordran anymore? I have no idea. That tree took us down a long, long way, and there’s very little clue as to the nature of Ash Lake, here. Is this somewhere below the world’s surface? Are those pillars in the distance structural supports holding up the very foundation of everything we’ve ever known? Or have my travels through the Great Hollow taken me to a different realm entirely?

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I don’t know. What I do know, is that there’s a bonfire to my right. Fire is life for those questing through Lordran, so of course I light it up here.

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And a good thing I did, too. Just across from this bonfire is another large hydra. You may remember one of its brethren giving me trouble back in Darkroot Basin. Something tells me I’ll be needing that checkpoint soon. However, I’ve grown since then, both in strength and in will. Let’s see if that’s enough to give me an easier time cutting down this beast.

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This hydra seems to have a far more limited zone of awareness than the basic one did. I manage to get a lot closer before he notices me and starts spewing his water balls my direction. I take a hit or two, but he can’t stop me from drawing into melee range.

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From there, it’s just a matter of patience. I hang out as close as I dare, being careful not to fall in the water, and try to bait him into striking. As he moves, I dodge back, then strike his heads as they attempt to bite me.

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All too easy, really. That’s the thing. Once you finally learn enough about your enemies to beat them the first time, they’re far less of a challenge revisiting them later. I’m wearing heavier equipment, so I’m a lot slower than the last time I fought one of these, and I still have an easier time breaking him down.

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