The Witch’s House

It’s the season for it, right? Picking up some good, spookifying tales of your medium of choice. Seems to be one of the funnest things about fall for a lot of people.

This year around, even I, who am convinced that time is an illusion created by the greeting card industry, got into the horror season. Now, I’ve had an odd relationship with the horror genre. I really can’t put my finger on why, but I just stopped feeling it. Haven’t been getting the thrill, chills, and spills that people so much enjoy about it. Even so, I wanted to revisit those feelings this year. See if I could find a hint of that point of being deliciously disturbed.

Screenshot (283).png

So I picked up the Witch’s House. Freeware puzzle horror game made in RPG Maker by Fummy, officially translated into English by vgperson. “Freeware RPG Maker horror game?” I hear you ask. “Those are all over the place. What makes this one so unique.” Just hold your horses. I’m getting to that. Patience is a virtue, you know.

Continue reading

Advertisements

The Lady’s Signal Boost

Once upon a time, I introduced all y’all to The Lady’s Choice, a pay-what-you-want regency romance visual novel that’s actually pretty good, and I’m not just saying that because the developer is a good friend of mine and lurks on this blog and is probably watching me right exactly now!

Right.  In any case, you may recall from that last post that one of the three main romance options ended up without a route.  Pretty standard, getting cut for time, for what started as a NanoRemo game.

tumblr_inline_oig0syWo8s1ty7ix2_500.png

Well, that’s been corrected.  And you know what?  Even if the lead in that route isn’t as hunky as my main man Lord Isaac “Drubmaster” Stanton, the route itself is good.  Really good.  Was my favorite one in the novel, in fact.

And it seems Seraphinite doesn’t quite understand the concept of DLC.  See, there’s no charge for this.  The game as a whole still goes under the voluntary payment structure, so pay what you want, or nothing at all.

So yeah, I’m shilling here.  But I honestly enjoyed the experience.  You might as well.  What do you say you give it a try?

Visual Novel Theatre: Everlasting Summer

Hey, you remember when those degenerates at 4chan decided to make a visual novel, and how they were supposed to make something horrible and shameful and a blight on society but they threw a big curveball at us by actually making something really meaningful?  What if Katawa Shoujo wasn’t just a one off?  What if that exact same thing happened again?  And while we’re playing with our fun little vision, let’s imagine that everyone was wearing giant furry hats while they were doing it.

20160825220316_1

And that brings us to Everlasting Summer.  No, it’s not a 4chan game.  Rather, this one came from the minds at… well, whatever they have going on at IIchan, a Russian imageboard.  Now, I don’t know anything about IIchan.  I got out of the whole chan culture around the time the edgelord thirteen year olds started flooding it.  Which, really, aside from the somewhat shared origins, Everlasting Summer doesn’t really have a whole lot in common with Katawa Shoujo that isn’t absolutely standard for the form, so let’s let the comparisons drop there.

So, Everlasting Summer is a romance story that you can turn into a sorta-eroge assuming you hang around all the right (or very wrong) places on the internet.  It’s Russian.  Very Russian.  It does its best to not be inaccessibly Russian, and does a very good job of that, but yeah, it’s Russian.  Be prepared for that.  Also, full of references to Russian imageboard memes that are guaranteed to fly right over your head.  It first seems a slightly oppressive dark paranormal mystery, then turns into a light fluffy romance with somewhat malevolent overtones, then, when you know where to look, those overtones start taking over and the mystery comes way to the fore, then the story just kind of peters out without going anywhere at the end.  Oops, spoilers.  I did find it to be a pretty enjoyable ride up until then though.  Also spoilers.  Sorry if you were hoping to whiteknuckle things all the way to the end of this rollercoaster of a review.

20160825215917_1

Everlasting Summer places you in the surprisingly roomy pants of Semyon, an anime obsessed shut-in who spends his life on imageboards and who hasn’t had a meaningful interaction with another human being in years.  I am struggling so much not to ‘accidentally’ confuse him with one of the many other people I know who fits the description. Continue reading

The Manly Guide to the Lady’s Choice

I’m going to be shameless today.  Well, more shameless than usual.  Yes, even more shameless than my standard practice of filling every reasonable opportunity with a treatise on how good I look.  Which is very, incredibly good, by the way.  Seriously, just check me out.

Okay, and now try your very best to put that out of your mind for the moment, because I have something else to talk about, and I don’t want you getting distracted.  A very close personal friend of mine is an independent game developer.  She recently came out with a new release.  The Lady’s Choice.  It’s a regency romance otome visual novel, which I never realized was a genre until she started work on this game.  Anyways, I played it, and you should too.  After all, if I enjoyed it, and my heart is already a stone-cold hunk of bitterness forged by way too many late-night Linkin Park sessions, someone with a more “healthy” personality will probably find it quite enthralling.  And it’s free, pay what you want or nothing at all.  Find it here.

Thing is, the game, as previously mentioned, an otome.  Literally translates into ‘games for girls’.  So I, being the manliest warbeast ever to bless this Earth, am obviously not in the target demographic.  You might not be either.  So I thought I’d do us all a favor, and take the opportunity while I’m shilling to present the man’s man’s man’s perspective on The Lady’s Choice.

So let’s run down our crew.

The Lady

Yeah, here’s our lead.  The game has a default name for her, but you’ve got no obligation to stick to that, and can name her whatever badass name you wish.  Anyways, she gets called back to her homeland from the country due to some happenings with her family, and finds herself immersed in the world of the society once more.  Has to deal with all the social gatherings of a bunch of people whose primary focuses in life are counting all their money, being posh, and finding a socio-politically advantageous mate.  She’s a strong, independent woman and don’t need none of that, but given that this is a romance game, winds up finding herself a little someone to call her own anyways.

Arabella

So, Arabella’s your main homegirl, and the Obi-Wan all over your quest to find love.  She’s been part of the society for quite some time, and has done it all already, so she knows the lay of the land.  Knows who’s the jerks, who’s the hunks, who’s the bad boys you just can’t be seen with, who’s the types to hold a grudge.  Whatever you do, whoever’s feathers you ruffle, she’s got your back.

Lord Stanton

So here’s Lord Stanton.  Lord Stanton’s the man.  Nobody else likes him, but they don’t know what they’re missing.  You see that cane there?  It’s not for walking. It’s not for looking cool.  No, that’s a drubbing cane.  See, Stanton’s walking on the dark side of town, and he needs that cane to deliver these drubbings to all the bad boys and girls.  Every time you’re walking around, running into some guy who just desperately needs a drubbing?  Bam, Stanton’s there.  He’s the classic shadowed hero on top of that, too.  Dude with a strong sense of what’s right and wrong, set up in a society that just assumes he’s always on the dark side.  And he bears that all.  Dude knows he’s righteous, he doesn’t need to worry about what everyone else thinks.

Guy Blake

So here’s the guy, Guy.  Guy Blake is a member of the military in an era where only the well-born get enlisted, in spite of coming from a pretty poor background.  He does this by being straight up harder than everyone else.  He works harder, fights harder, lives harder, that’s all how he do.  The only thing he doesn’t do harder than everyone else is put up with the stupid jerks at the Society.  Until they push him too far.  Then he’s putting them in their place in the most proper way possible.  Probably the realest character on cast.  Aside from you, of course.

Mr. Amesbury

Here’s Mr. Amesbury.  We don’t know much about Mr. Amesbury.  He shows up in the first party you go to, but doesn’t get his own route.  People might say that’s because this was a NanoReno game, and time was at a premium, but I think it’s more that he just got busy right after that party.  Very busy.  After all, you didn’t hear of England getting invaded by the horde that year, did you?

That’s the Lady’s Choice!  Find it here!

Visual Novel Theatre: Yandere-Chan

Usually, for our Visual Novel Theatre series, we highlight one of the best visual novels available. We take our pick of the crème de la crème. We either go for something professionally created by a team of high caliber auteurs, or a freeware project that has proven itself well by garnering a lot of regard through those interested in such things. Today, though, I thought we’d do something a bit different. Rather than picking up on one of those projects that has actual teams, money, or experience behind it, I thought we’d go for a story that’s a little more grassroots. Something put together by an amateur hobbyist with no goals of ever making it as a visual novel rock star. Today, we’ve got a piece from someone who simply had a story they felt needed telling, and that a visual novel was the way to do it.

Yandere chan 1

The VN on our plate today is Yandere-chan, a freeware story by Zero-Q Dimension, also known as Nyodude, also known some-guy-who-did-a-bunch-of-anime-parody-fandubs-a-few-years-back-I-never-heard-of-him-Aether-why-are-you-doing-this-Aether-why? For those of you who are just that specific level of nerdy where you’re actually able to find this page but not nerdy enough to know your niche moe terminology, a Yandere is a term for a character in a work who is and is driven by an obsessive, sometimes stalker-level love for another into insanity and generally violence. So think Kathy Bates from Misery, Knives Chau from Scott Pilgrim, Anakin Skywalker from Battlestar Galactica, you get the picture. Mentally unbalanced individuals who are primarily motivated by love for another and often hurt the ones around them because they’ll lash out at anything to get to the one they love. We’ve all dated at least one of these, right? And obviously, that’s the topic of our story here. You play as some geek moving to a new high school, then soon meet yourself a traditional Yandere. Then you do your best to not let her spontaneous, irrational, psychotic love which appears out of nowhere lead her to brutally murdering you and ditching the body someplace you’ll never be found. So, it’s basically an OKCupid simulator. Sounds like fun, right?

So far, we’ve covered either professional productions or amateur works that nonetheless had a lot of time and expertise put into them. Yandere-chan’s not like that. It only has one creator, on his first Visual Novel, who didn’t have the time nor the resources we’ve been seeing from most of the creaters here at Visual Novel Theatre. There are a lot of ways to handle that, when you don’t have quite the production the big players do. Zero-Q Dimension elected to focus on a story of a really small scale. There’s only two real characters, you’ve got one main story event to get through, and the experience as a whole is really quick. I got through it in about 45 minutes my first run, then, thanks to the magic of the skip function, the rest, save one, took about 5 minutes a piece, catching up on all the myriad endings I missed. In fact, I may actually spend more time on reviewing this work than I actually did experiencing it! Let’s try to avoid that. In any case, yeah, this is a remarkably simple visual novel. The author was aiming low for his first attempt in the genre, but he hit that point solidly. There’s not a lot of depth, but for the most part, the story’s not carrying any extra fat. The only elements included are those that need to be there. The visual novel doesn’t have much in the way of flourish, but it carries its bare bones structure well. With a few exceptions, the author composes his minimalist work competently.

yandere chan 2

As mentioned above, there’s only two characters we’re playing with here. You’ve got your main, he of the user-generated name. He’s a perfectly bland high schooler come to a brand new school. He’s got pretty much the behavior you’d expect, concerned with making friends, his hormones drive his thoughts a bit into the dark side when girls pay attention to him, but never too far, possibly comes from an abusive home, but for the most part, he’s a pretty good kid. At the end of his first day at school, he encounters himself a mysterious young woman, who seems oddly familiar with him…

yandere chan 3

Here’s the Yandere-chan of the title. Mia, a strident loner at school, she seems to go out of her way to avoid talking to anyone. Yet, she’s really, really happy to open up to you. Extremely so. She claims that the two of you knew each other some time ago, and event you have absolutely no memory of. She is all over you from the word go, which reminds me of my own high school experience. Also reminding me of my own high school experience, she will straight up try to BLOODILY MURDER YOU as soon as there’s the slightest hitch in events. Yeah, as it turns out, Mia’s a loner because she’s a bit touched in the head. Specifically, she’s touched in the head by some crazed psychotic hate-god, because she will lose track of reality and murder you over the smallest thing. Mia’s personality is never consistent over the course of this visual novel. You could call that bad writing. Or it could be deliberate, she’s that way because of her clearly unstable sanity. It is a little striking, though. Through one path, she clearly has no sense of reality and is manically trying to kill you because she believes you’re an imposter sent to hurt her. Through another, she’s cold, remarkably intelligent, and very, very lucid as she attempts murder upon you following a very strongly prepared plan. It’s hard to get a handle on her because of how much her personality varies. The one thing that is consistent is that she is just plain sick.

One thing that really impressed me about this work is that while it’s not very vertically long, it is pretty sizable, horizontally. By that, I mean that while you’ll never spend a lot of time on any individual playthrough, the story has several branches, and every one of them past the first gives you a completely different story after that point. This isn’t one of your lame ‘make your choice now and it will maybe change some numbers two games from now while having no impact on the story’ Mass Effect style choices, every choice beyond the first gives you something completely new to experience. In all, there’s eight endings you can get.

yandere chan 5

Most of them end like this. Bloody murder of some sort or another. Usually involving scissors. There’s one good ending you can get. It’s not really that good for the people involved, but hey, everyone ends up alive, and that’s better than any other ending. No matter how much the moe fandom may fetishize them, getting involved with murderous crazy ladies doesn’t generally end well. That’s the moral of our story today.

When thinking about how to review this work, the phrase ‘limited, but competent’ came up a lot. That really would describe this whole work pretty well. The plot really just has one point to hit, but it does so well enough. The visuals are perfectly fine, there’s just not a whole lot of them, nor is there much in the way of variation in Mia’s character portraits. The game as a whole is obviously a small, limited project, but it seems comfortable in being that, and hits its low targets solidly without really excelling.

Yandere chan 4

There’s just three main weaknesses, all in writing style, that I felt were apparent enough to be worth pointing out. First, Nyodude could really have used himself an editor, or at least someone to take a look over his text. Typos abound in this work, and there are some words, such as ‘chili’, that it’s really apparent he doesn’t know how to spell. Second, and this is a weakness Yandere-chan shares with a lot of its contemporaries, the Visual Novel has a habit of getting too wordy. There are a few instances where the work will keep going on and on after we already get the point, using several lines to say what really only needed one. And third, the author doesn’t seem to have much of an idea of how court or mental illness really works. It’s not such a big deal, the court scene is quickly brushed over and if you can accept the premise of Yandere-chan, you probably won’t be too bothered by the fact that being a Yandere still isn’t a recognized condition in the DSM-IV, but still, if your suspension of disbelief is fragile, that may be well more than enough to break it.

yandere chan 6

In closing, I’m not sure if I can give Yandere-chan a recommendation to those who aren’t already a fan of visual novels or the moe fandom. Other visual novels have more of a story to tell, and, speaking as someone who is about as far from moe as you can get, I feel like there were some anime-style calls or features put in there that I was completely lost on. If you’re already into visual novels? It might be worth your time. It’s free, quick, unique, and competent, and may just scratch a quick itch for you.

HAPPY END

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.

Screenshot (49)

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.

Continue reading