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visual novel

Japanator Live photo
Japanator Live

Japanator Live: Let's try out the Steam version of Steins;Gate

El Psy Kongroo
Sep 10
// Salvador G Rodiles
[Update: The stream is over, but you can watch it here.] So MAGES released Steins;Gate on Steam yesterday, which means that we're going to take the game for a spin tonight. Since Former Japanator Community Manager B...
Steins;Gate 0 photo
Steins;Gate 0

Grab your lab coats: Steins;Gate 0 gets a more affordable limited edition

It's time to open another Dr. Pepper
Aug 23
// Salvador G Rodiles
If you feel that you won't be able to afford Stein;Gate 0's Amadeus Edition for the PS4 and Vita, the gang at PQube have concocted a new option for folks who want something special with their copy of the game. While this...
MangaGamer photo

MangaGamer announces two Rance titles, Sona-Nyl, and more

In which six becomes an awesome number
Aug 18
// Salvador G Rodiles
I may not have gotten the chance to dive into more traditional visual novel titles, but I still enjoy keeping with the stuff that gets announced for the West. That way, I have an idea on which games to jump on when I get the ...
Muv-Luv photo

Prepare for the BETA invasion: Muv-Luv is up for pre-order on Steam

July is about to get some Luv
Jun 17
// Salvador G Rodiles
As the BETA prepare for their attack on Earth next month, the Muv-Luv team has prepared their own countermeasure in the form of giving people the ability to pre-order Muv-Luv on Steam. If you happen to have HTC Vibe, you can ...

Steins;Gate 0 photo
Steins;Gate 0

All hail Dr. Pepper: Steins;Gate 0 heads West this year

Let's give everyone a big "Tuturu!"
May 29
// Salvador G Rodiles
Once again, it's time for us to grab a bottle of Dr. Pepper, which happens to be an intellectual drink for the chosen ones. This time around, we're celebrating the fact that PQube plans to bring Steins;Gate 0 to Europe and No...
Steam Anime Sale photo
Steam Anime Sale

Steam's Anime Weekend sale reveals the depths of our infiltration

'Send the rest', he said
Apr 29
// Josh Tolentino
Sony isn't the only place putting the deals out for Golden Week. Steam, that hive of all other things Japanese when it comes to gaming, has just pulled the trigger on its Anime Weekend Sale. Running through Monday May 2nd, th...
MangaGamer photo

MangaGamer puts the axe to Soul Link and Shuffle!

Get one of them while you can
Mar 24
// Josh Tolentino
Here's a quick PSA for folks hankering for a classic visual novel to read: MangaGamer is discontinuing sales of two titles by March 31st: Shuffle! and Soul Link, both developed by Navel.  According to the company, t...
MangaGamer Giveaway photo
MangaGamer Giveaway

Answer some questions and win a free game from MangaGamer

Show them your Kindred Spirit
Feb 02
// Josh Tolentino
Are you into lesbian ghosts?  If not, how about a free game? All you've got to do is tell MangaGamer, publisher of far more than lesbian ghost games, about what you want to see from them, by filling out this handy survey...

Review: Sakura Santa

Dec 24 // Josh Tolentino
Sakura Santa (PC)Developer: Winged CloudPublisher: MangaGamerMSRP: $9.95Released: December 21, 2015 The aforementioned solitary souls seem to be situated smack in the target-audience sweet spot for Sakura Santa's story, as it revolves around Koji, an otherwise unremarkable college student whose main claim to fame is that he'll be lonely on Christmas eve. Yeah, that's really about it. Sakura Santa takes advantage of the fact that Christmas in Japan is more of a romantic holiday than a familial one, and kicks off with Koji visiting a nearby shrine to wish for someone to spend Christmas with. His wish is granted in short order, by fateful run-ins with Itsumi, an old childhood friend, Akina, a local fox spirit, and none other than one of Santa Claus' daughters. Then the only question is: Who shall he spend the time with? Now, before anyone gets any ideas, it's worth pointing out that Sakura Santa is not an adult game. The game's Steam store page takes care to stress that it contains "no sexual content." And they're technically right. There is no nudity, nor are there sex scenes in the whole of the game's two to four-hour runtime. There is, however, plenty to ogle in the form of the three girls' character designs and the event scenes from the four available storylines. The art does stand out as the main draw, given that Sakura Santa has little else going for it. It's shorter and possessed of a much more bland premise than Sakura Spirits, and features a smaller cast to boot. Akina and Santa's stories quickly fall into too-similar "magical/alien girlfriend" templates familiar to anime, and though Itsumi's plotline also veers on the generic side, the story of trying to connect with an old flame after years growing apart is, at least, more inherently engaging. Then again, the other girl has fox ears and a short kimono. A dilemma, to be sure. Ultimately, Sakura Santa fails to stand out from the growing crowd of visual novels on Steam and elsewhere, except in the single respect of being a Christmas-themed story, coming out just in time for the holiday. Unfortunately, one would probably have to be as lonely as the game's protagonist to find a compelling reason to play. Batman: Arkham Knight: Season of Infamy (PC, PS4, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: WB Games MontrealPublisher: Warner Bros.MSRP: $9.99Released: December 22, 2015 Sakura Santa (PC)Developer: Winged CloudPublisher: MangaGamerMSRP: $9.95Released: December 21, 2015 The aforementioned solitary souls seem to be situated smack in the target-audience sweet spot for Sakura Santa's story, as it revolves around Koji, an otherwise unremarkable college student whose main claim to fame is that he'll be lonely on Christmas eve. Yeah, that's really about it. Sakura Santa takes advantage of the fact that Christmas in Japan is more of a romantic holiday than a familial one, and kicks off with Koji visiting a nearby shrine to wish for someone to spend Christmas with. His wish is granted in short order, by fateful run-ins with Itsumi, an old childhood friend, Akina, a local fox spirit, and none other than one of Santa Claus' daughters. Then the only question is: Who shall he spend the time with? Now, before anyone gets any ideas, it's worth pointing out that Sakura Santa is not an adult game. The game's Steam store page takes care to stress that it contains "no sexual content." And they're technically right. There is no nudity, nor are there sex scenes in the whole of the game's two- to four-hour runtime. There is, however, plenty to ogle in the form of the three girls' character designs and the event scenes from the four available storylines. The art does stand out as the main draw, given that Sakura Santa has little else going for it. It's shorter and possessed of a much more bland premise than Sakura Spirits, and features a smaller cast to boot. Akina and Santa's stories quickly fall into too-similar "magical/alien girlfriend" templates familiar to anime, and though Itsumi's plotline also veers on the generic side, the story of trying to connect with an old flame after years growing apart is, at least, more inherently engaging. Then again, the other girl has fox ears and a short kimono. A dilemma, to be sure. Ultimately, Sakura Santa fails to stand out from the growing crowd of visual novels on Steam and elsewhere, except in the single respect of being a Christmas-themed story, coming out just in time for the holiday. Unfortunately, one would probably have to be as lonely as the game's protagonist to find a compelling reason to play. Batman: Arkham Knight: Season of Infamy (PC, PS4, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: WB Games MontrealPublisher: Warner Bros.MSRP: $9.99Released: December 22, 2015
Sakura Santa photo
A Christmas Miracle for the Solo Set
[This review was originally posted on Destructoid.] When it comes to holiday traditions, Christmas-themed video games aren't as common as Christmas movies or television specials. For whatever reason, be it development times, ...

Review: Clannad (PC)

Dec 03 // Christian Chiok
[embed]34545:5224:0[/embed] Clannad (PC [reviewed], PS2, S3G, FOMA, Xbox 360, PSP, PS3, Android, PS Vita)Developers: KeyPublisher: Sekai ProjectReleased: November 23rd, 2015 (NA)Price: $49.99 Clannad follows the story of Tomoya Okazaki, a high school student who tragically lost his mother as a child and now lives with his abusive, alcoholic father, Naoyuki Okazaki. One day, during his third year of high school, he stumbles upon a young girl named Nagisa Furukawa, who he befriends and later helps to revive the defunct drama club at Hikarizaka Private High School. As he helps the club during his spare time, Tomoya grows closer to his peers as he learns about their tough pasts and challenges and does everything to help them overcome it as he slowly grows to become a stronger and more supportive person. You will be able to interact with a set of interesting characters including Kyou Fujibayashi, Kotomi Ichinose, Tomoyo Sakagami, and Fuko Ibuki, as well as Youhei Sunohara, his delinquent who is often the comic relief in this visual novel.  As the game progresses, you will be given various decisions that will have an effect on the direction and outcome of the game depending on how you respond to a specific character or situation. Saving the game at multiple points is highly recommended if you want to redo certain scenarios to avoid a bad ending. Fans of the anime should definitely play the game as you will be able to explore through many of the character’s routes, and even meet characters that were omitted from the anime adaptation.  Being in control of my own Clannad experience was definitely refreshing, especially seeing “Good Endings” that didn’t just involve Nagisa. While I like Nagisa in the anime, she definitely isn’t the best girl in the game. While I did enjoy her overall route, playing through it felt boring at times. For the most part, I did enjoy interacting with a lot of the characters such as Kyou, Youhei, and especially Tomoyo. With characters like Kyou or Youhei around, I can’t say that there wasn’t a time that I didn’t laughed when they were around. It’s really funny how Tomoya picks on Youhei and his weird shenanigans and how Kyou puts Tomoya in weird yet comedic situations. However, Clannad isn’t only great because of its comedy but also how because it’s an emotional ride. Whether it was the Sunohara Siblings route or the Fujibayashi siblings route, there wasn’t a moment when I didn’t feel emotionally involved with their stories. As someone who watched the Clannad anime adaptation while still being in High School, a lot of the character’s issues were somewhat relatable, and experiencing these moments once more via the Visual Novel made me feel the same emotions I felt back then. For a Visual Novel that’s more than a decade old, the art style still looks fresh and it’s very pleasant to look at, not to mention that Sekai Project gave the game an HD improvement making the game look a lot better than it did 10 years ago. Of course, it still has a style that makes it obvious that the game is quite a bit old compared to Key’s newest releases.   As if the soundtrack in Air and Kanon weren’t already great, Key’s composers manage to surpass the soundtracks for Clannad’s predecessors.  It’s just so powerful and it makes the dramatic scenes even more dramatic. My personal favorite has to be Roaring Tides. The Steam version of Clannad will have new features such as Dangopedia, which offers a brief description of words and references used in the game. It also features the same achievements that the console versions of the game had.  The Steam version has also been visually improved and now features a 1280 x 960 resolution. Additionally, user interface has been polished and made easier to use. As a person that never liked or played a single Visual Novel, I really enjoyed playing through Clannad. Being one of my favorite series, I thought it was imperative that I played the original material. For Clannad fans thinking about getting the game but never played a Visual Novel, it’s hard to recommend the game, unless you don't mind going through still images and long dialogues.  I personally don’t mind going through endless dialogues, but I can understand why one would be opposed to play the game, Clannad fan or not.  So unless it’s Tomoyo After, Air, or Kanon, or games that feature visual novel gameplay like the Ace Attorney and Zero Escape series, I don’t see myself playing any other Visual Novel. For a first, Clannad was definitely enjoyable, and I can see myself spending a lot of time playing the game.  [This review is based on a digital copy of the game provided by the publisher.] Clannad (PC [reviewed], PS2, S3G, FOMA, Xbox 360, PSP, PS3, Android, PS Vita)Developers: KeyPublisher: Sekai ProjectReleased: November 23rd, 2015 (NA)Price: $49.99
Clannad Review photo
The Place Where Wishes Come True
For the past 10 years, I’ve been a fan of the (popular) anime adaptations of Key’s various work including Kanon, Air, Clannad, Little Busters, and Angel Beats. Although I was aware that both Kanon and Air started ...

Clannad on Steam photo
Clannad on Steam

Clannad gets its first official English release next week

Sad Girls on Steam
Nov 15
// Josh Tolentino
If you told me even three or four years ago that visual novels would be one of the fastest-growing game genres in 2015, I'd have laughed in your face. But you'd have been right: Ever since it came out that people would be wil...
Muv-Luv photo

Mission Complete: Muv-Luv Kickstarter comes to a triumphant close

The Earth is now saved!
Nov 05
// Salvador G Rodiles
Ladies and gentlemen. It looks like we've successfully vanquished the BETA, as the Muv-Luv Kickstarter ended a total of $1,255,444 on Nov. 3. Not only did they managed to achieve every stretch goal possible (such as...

Review: Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls

Oct 03 // Josh Tolentino
[Note: This review will mention certain elements from both Danganronpa games that may be considered spoilers. No major plot developments in Ultra Despair Girls will be discussed but some details that hint to towards the circumstances of the other games are unavoidable.] Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls  (PS Vita [reviewed])Developer: Spike ChunsoftPublisher: Spike Chunsoft (JP) / NIS America (EU, US)Released: September 25, 2014 (JP) / September 1, 2015 (US) / September 4, 2015 (EU)MSRP: $39.99 The change I'm referring to, of course, is the swapping of the core games' visual novel mechanics with third-person shooting gameplay. Players will use a specialized, bullhorn-shaped "hacking gun" to shoot "truth bullets" with varying effects at the legions of Monokuma, the two-tone robotic death bear that serves as the series' mascot.  The mechanics themselves are serviceable but unremarkable, with the act of shooting resembling nothing so much as a stripped-down version of the laser-sight-guided gunplay of Resident Evil 4 and the like. Different truth bullets have different effects and enable varied tactics against enemies. Knockback bullets send hostiles flying while Dance bullets stun enemies with the power of funky music. Link bullets take control of enemies by remote while the Detect "bullet" is more of a flashlight that highlights puzzle clues, rather than a tool for combat. Ammunition is kept relatively scarce, privileging good aim as players can save on shots by hitting oncoming foes in their weak spots, and enemies come in varying shapes, sizes, and attack patterns. The game also mixes things up with "game rooms", essentially puzzle sections with specific win conditions and restrictions on ammo type. One room might demand that players clear every enemy in a single explosion, or by exploiting both the special functions of the different truth bullets in conjunction with environmental elements. [embed]34161:5059:0[/embed] It's all solid and works fine, for the most part, but Ultra Despair Girls hardly distinguishes itself against any dedicated shooters on the strength of its gameplay. And for the most part, that's not what fans of the Danganronpa series will be playing the game for in any case. Thankfully, the parts of Ultra Despair Girls that Danganronpa fans will be playing the game for - the bizzarro narrative twists, the off-the-wall characters and unpredictable storytelling - are all intact and fully present. Any fears that becoming a shooter would diminish the series' ability to spin an engrossing yarn are quickly proven unfounded. As with the core games, virtually all but the most cursory discussion threatens spoilers, so I'll keep the summary somewhat vague: Players take on the role of Komaru Naegi, sister to Danganronpa protagonist Makoto, as she and a partner fans will find familiar roll through the ruined city of Towa, fighting a group calling themselves "The Warriors of Hope". The narrative is quick to let on that virtually nothing is what it seems at first, and even subverts some of the core games' key themes through its story beats. Fans of the deeper lore will also find plenty of interesting references and callbacks to both Trigger Happy Havoc and Goodbye Despair, as Ultra Despair Girls functions, chronologically, as a bridge of sorts between the two games. Twists and turns aside, Ultra Despair Girls also features good characterization, quickly and effectively establishing its cast in the over-the-top manner unique to the series. The English dub is effective, with key performances from actresses Erin Fitzgerald and Cherami Lee anchoring the project. The quality of the other voices is a bit more variable, but overall it works, and purists have the option of grabbing the original Japanese voice track (which helpfully adds subtitles to the cutscenes) as free DLC on the PSN Store. Side content is also plentiful, as collectible books poke fun at common tropes in Japan's geek-literary scene. Fans who don't mind reading on the Vita's screen can also peruse a tie-in novel included on the game cartridge, starring Danganronpa alumnus Hiro Hagakure.  All this in mind, one can't help but feel that Ultra Despair Girls' greatest flaw isn't that its adoption of shooting gameplay doesn't work - it works fine - but that the game is almost as good without it. Just as some may make the credible argument that the original games' minigame sections were a blemish on an otherwise pristinely entertaining visual novel, here, it's the gameplay portions of this game that are the least remarkable aspect. In the end, though, that's hardly an offense, and everything works well enough that it's quite easy to recommend putting up with mediocre shooting to get to a meaty and substantial entry into the Danganronpa canon.
Danganronpa Review photo
Shot Through The Heart
When it was first announced that Spike Chunsoft's third Danganronpa game wouldn't be a visual novel, a lot of folks, including yours truly, were understandably apprehensive. Trigger Happy Havoc and its fantastic seq...

Muv-Luv photo

Humanity Wins: Muv-Luv's Kickstarter is off to an amazing start

This calls for a celebration
Sep 27
// Salvador G Rodiles
After an amazing great start on Thursday, the Kickstarter for Muv-Luv and Muv-Luv Alternative has reached its goal to be localized in the West. In other words, the BETA might as well pack their bags and leave Earth...
Man at Arms: Reforged photo
Man at Arms: Reforged

Watch Man at Arms bring Saber's Excalibur to life

Servant not included
Sep 21
// Salvador G Rodiles
Ever since Man at Arms switched to a new group, I started to miss the old team's style, since their weapons were more accurate than the current gang. Nonetheless, the main thing that both blacksmiths have in common is that t...
MangaGamer Uncensored photo
MangaGamer Uncensored

Make it Steamier: MangaGamer gets an uncensored game on Steam

Hot stuff
Sep 02
// Josh Tolentino
Well, here's a surprise: It looks like Steam is about to get its first true adult game...of sorts. MangaGamer have just announced that they've managed to prevail on the PC's premier game market to allow an uncensored version ...
Steam Comiket Sale photo
Steam Comiket Sale

Go nuts for doujin games with Steam's Summer Comiket Sale

Indie-credible Deals
Aug 11
// Josh Tolentino
If there's one thing otaku like more than otaku things, it's otaku things bought for cheap, which makes Steam's latest excuse to have a sale especially relevant. Y'see, Summer Comiket is happening right about now, and the ota...
Muv-Luv photo

Watch out, BETA: Muv-Luv localization to get Kickstarted

Coming soon to a Kickstarter near you
Jul 01
// Salvador G Rodiles
It looks like visual novel fans are in for some good news. The gang at DegiGames and Ixtl have revealed that they're creating a Kickstarter to localize Muv-Luv and Muv-Luv Alternative. While the funding campaign wil...
Go Go Nippon photo
Go Go Nippon

Revisit Japan with Go Go Nippon! DLC

So many places to go and see!
Jun 08
// Anthony Redgrave
Life is bleak for an otaku with a Macbook such as myself. I'm too poor to buy a ticket to Japan because I spent all my money on a Macbook, and I cannot be escorted around virtual Japan by two anime sisters in Go! Go! Nippon!...

Review: Starless: Nymphomaniacs' Paradise

May 18 // Soul Tsukino
[Warning: This is a very adult game and is unsuitable for minors. This review is work-safe, but the game is definitely not. It also contains plot spoilers. Seriously, you've been warned.] Starless (PC [reviewed])Developers: Roll7Publisher: JAST USAReleased: May 11, 2015Price: $39.99 Anyway, Starless: Nymphomaniacs' Paradise is a game brought to you by the same group that brought you Bible Black (the titles are references to the 1974 album Starless and Bible Black by prog rockers King Crimson) . Starless was first released in Japan in 2011 and even has a hentai anime series based on it. The game was licensed by JAST USA and the English translation was released in May of 2015. The story is a rather simple one. You are Sawatari, a poor kid about to be off for college. He has no job, little money, and more importantly no girlfriend. He is desperate for some quick cash since, while he has his driver's license, he can't afford a car and if he doesn't have a car, he can't get a girlfriend. He find an ad for a house servant position in the back of a car magazine that advertising 4 million yen for 2 weeks worth of work. PERFECT! Not really.  It turns out that he will be serving the Mamiya family. A rich, influential, but somewhat reclusive clan who are, to put it simply, sexual predators. So while he does do menial house chores, most of the time he and the other staff are just sexual playthings for the family. You must survive the 2 weeks (actually it's like 16 days) trying not to buckle under the stress, offend any of the family members, or die. The characters in the game really do fall into one of 2 categories, they either make you feel sorry for them, or you want them to die a million deaths. The main character, Sawatari, is a decent guy and I will admit he pretty much shared my personal feeling for a lot of the events in the story. The fellow staff members of the house are Sachie. A cheerful girl who starts out like a decent person but as the game goes on, she turns into a lazy good for nothing who either tries to get you to do all her work or take money from you to gamble away to one of the family's daughters. You also meet Mikako, the older gentle mother like figure who works in the kitchen, and her son Matoko, who is about your age (supposedly anyway) and very feminine. You are then joined by fellow new staff member Mitarai, an innocent girl who much like you has no idea what she is getting into. On the other side of things are the members of the Mamiya family. The mother, Marie, is the current head of the family, with her husband have died. She abuses her power to torture people to do whatever she wants. She also has constipation problems that gets mentioned.. a lot. Her eldest daughter is Marika. She is soft spoken and gentler, but she is more putting on a front. She takes a liking to Sawatari and is always trying to convince him to stay and get married so he can father her children. Then there is the younger daughter Marisa. She is a spoiled rotten brat who is implied that she is underage. She does everything to torment you, so guess who you spend most of the game dealing with? Yeah, you grow a urge to want to punch her in the mouth rather quickly. You also have Marie's son, Kyouichi. He has zero interest in you and spends most of his time either in his room playing video games or in the arms of Mikako, since he has a mother fetish.   There are other characters that show up in the last few days of the game, but they are all minor and don't have a lot of depth to them. The mechanics of the game are good. You get the basic menu for a visual novel with Save, Load, Skip, Options, and so forth for buttons. The skip function only works on skipping parts of dialog you've already seen, so it's useless until you've beaten the game already. The English translation is decent but I found a few spelling errors along the way. Nothing horrendous and there didn't seem to be a whole bunch of them, but they were there. The art is very well done for the game, even if in typical visual novel style they reuse several art frames, with minor added differences, in many scenes. Noticed that I'm avoiding talking about the actual game play yet? This game is not for the faint of heart. If you have never played a Japanese visual novel before, Don't start with this one. The games I played before are nothing compared to this. This story isn't some cute story about a fumbling loser who has a girl he kind of likes, this story is about flat out abuse. Depending on which of the different endings you end up with (I played to 5 different endings), the sex is only consensual once to four times, the rest of the time everything is watching characters get raped, abused, tortured, humiliated, and degraded in every worst nightmare way possible. The things that go on in this game cross the gambit from incest, bestiality,  and a horrendous amount of scat play. Even some of the more benign scenes are "pissed away" if you know what I mean. There is nothing subtle here. What little consolation there is, is that the American producers of the game removed the art explicitly showing poop (let's just say the farting sound effect is used quite a bit though), animal encounters, and dismemberment. Well, that's a load off my mind. Although they created a patch to put them all back in if you want.  Besides the actual acts that are committed in the game, the game repeats itself way to much. For a good chunk of the two weeks you have to "dress" the youngest daughter every morning. Once or twice is one thing, but they play these scenes out multiple times with very little difference. Same goes for the morning breakfast scene between Kyouichi and Mikako. Neither scenes are very fun to watch either, unless you really get into that kind of thing. The game also doesn't skimp on the other scenes either. Very little of the different scenes have you just doing a quick moan & groan and then you are done. Scenes are stretched out to an ungodly amount, with the excuse of being drugged and injected with hormones and aphrodisiacs. Again, if you are really into this kind of thing then I guess you would enjoy it, I'm not so not only does this game feel like a chore to play before the first day is even done, but it actually made me strain the muscles in my throat trying not to hurl all over my computer desk. And the sad thing is that it really isn't worth it. Now, maybe this is the difference between the American sensibility and the Japanese sensibility, but for me if I played this game and had to watch not only the first person character but the characters I feel pity for go through this for 2 weeks, I'd like an ending that really gives the Mamiya family the what for. I wanted to see the mother reduced to a drooling vegetable (or worse), the snooty brat daughter get mauled by her own dog, something. But nope, even the best of the endings has you leave with only part of the money, Sachie makes off better than you and in none of the endings of the game do any member of the family have anything bad happen to them. So after playing this game for nearly a week waiting for one of these rich pieces of shi... err... garbage to get their what for, it doesn't happen. As I have read from others who played it, none of the endings has any member of the family have anything happen to them. Yeah, not a satisfying ending for me at all. But it's not like it's the first game to do that. Typically these kinds of games never have a "everyone has a happy ending" finale to it. So in all, I can not recommend this game unless you are an absolute hardcore visual novel fan. I'm not so I found this game not only to be the stuff of nightmares, but it seems like it's a parody of the genre. It's just one terrible over the top scene after another padded out to the point where I'm just as glad to have the 2 weeks done as the main character is. The endings were not worth the time it took to play this, let alone the physical strain of me not seeing my dinner come back up on my keyboard. If there are any positives to this game is that the art is good, the characters are decently written, and the damn thing didn't crash. Beyond that I found absolutely nothing redeeming in this whatsoever. If you get your rocks off on this stuff, more power to you. but if you aren't turned on by repeated scenes of rape, sex with animals and people crapping all over the place, avoid this like a case of the clap. [This review is based on a digital copy of the game provided by the publisher.]
Starless Review photo
So many shades of rape
So here I am, brand new writer for Japanator looking for content I can write for the site. The offer is made to review a game that I had heard plenty of buzz about in Starless: Nymphomaniac's Paradise, a visual novel type gam...

Steins;Gate photo

Grab a Dr. Pepper: Steins;Gate gets a release date for Europe

Just in time for the Summer
May 15
// Salvador G Rodiles
Well, folks; May has arrived and it turns out that PQube's release of Steins;Gate for the PS3 and Vita has been pushed to June 5 for Europe. While it's unfortunate that we won't get to experience the Future Gadget Lab's adven...
TyranoBuilder photo

Rawr: TyranoBuilder lets you make your own visual novels

Sounds like a roaring good time
Mar 23
// Salvador G Rodiles
I may be prehistorically late to the festivities, but there's something intriguing about Nyu Media's collaboration with STRIKEWORKS. Thanks to their cooperation, TyranoBuilder, a user-friendly program that lets you create yo...
Steins;Gate photo

Praise Dr. Pepper: Steins;Gate's special edition includes a Metal Upa

The future has been saved
Mar 20
// Salvador G Rodiles
For a good while, I was on the fence on whether I should play Steins;Gate on the PC or consoles. Now that PQube has announced a special edition for the game's PS3 and PS Vita release, I might have to lean towards the latter f...
Tokyo School Life photo
Tokyo School Life

Enrol as a Virtual Exchange Student in Tokyo School Life

School Girls in seifuku 'nuff said
Feb 19
// Anthony Redgrave
Visual novels are nothing new in Japan but they're still incredibly niche in the west. I don't think we'll be seeing copies of Clannad or School Days on the shelves of Gamestop anytime soon, but they're gradually finding thei...
Steins;Gate photo

Tuturu: Steins;Gate's PS3 and PS Vita version go West

The Future Gadget Lab has expanded!
Dec 16
// Salvador G Rodiles
Now this is what I call an unexpected turn of events, people. If you've been yearning to play more visual novel titles on your consoles, then you'll be happy to hear that Steins;Gate's PS3 and Vita release are heading to Nort...
Dragon Dating Sim photo
Dragon Dating Sim

Wait, what? It's a Dragon Dating Simulator

Dec 04
// Josh Tolentino
I'm conflicted about this. On the one hand, it's really cool that designers outside Japan are taking visual novels and relationship-centric games more seriously. More people making more types of games can only be a good thing. On the other hand...Dragon Dating Simulator.
Visual Novel photo
Visual Novel

Huzzah: J-List/JAST USA unleashes a series of new announcements

Just in time for the holidays
Nov 28
// Salvador G Rodiles
The holidays are among us, which means that many outlets are having a bunch of sales as we speak. Speaking of which, J-list is having a sale until Dec. 2 where people can get up to 18% off any product (based on how much they ...
Contest Winners! photo
The lucky five!
Free stuff is great, isn't it? That's likely what you all were thinking when you signed on to our giveaway with Moenovel for free Steam copies of If My Heart Had Wings! Sadly, we only had five copies to give away, and we've j...

Contest: Win Steam copies of If My Heart Had Wings!

Nov 18 // Josh Tolentino
[embed]33274:4319:0[/embed] Here now is your contest question: What is the name of the school Aoi attends?
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Just answer one simple question!
[Update: Contest is over, everyone! The winners will be contacted by the email address they signed up for Japanator with!] We've got a treat for you story-game fans out there, and it comes to you courtesy of our buds at ...

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MangaGamer sale

Celebrate Moe Day with MangaGamer!

Also, it's Moe Day!
Oct 10
// Josh Tolentino
October 10th is a special day for fans of moe and puns, because today is Moe Day! Why, you ask? Well, the Kanji characters for "October 10th" (十月十日) just so happen to line up just right to spell th...

Review: Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair

Sep 21 // Josh Tolentino
Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair (PS Vita) Developer: Spike ChunsoftPublisher: NIS AmericaRelease: September 2, 2014MSRP: $39.99 For the uninitiated, the Danganronpa games are visual novels with a courtroom twist, their gameplay (such as it is) a fusion of Phoenix Wright with Battle Royale. As with the first game, Goodbye Despair stars a group of sixteen elite high school students, "Ultimates" among their peers, recently enrolled at the exclusive Hope's Peak Academy. Their first day at class sees them abducted, spirited away to the tropical Jabberwock Island by Monokuma, a murderous, two-tone teddy bear. Also as before, Monokuma presents the Ultimates with an ultimatum: Stay trapped on the island forever, or kill a schoolmate to earn the right to leave. The caveat: Once a murder happens, the whole cast gathers together to conduct a "Class Trial", debating the case and voting on the "blackened". The murderer needs to avoid getting fingered, or else suffer deadly consequences. [embed]32999:4157:0[/embed] Players are put into the shirt-and-tie ensemble of Hajime Hinata, the one member of the group who can't seem to remember just what his "Ultimate" talent is. Thankfully memory loss hasn't impacted his prowess at playing "getting to know you" with the world's most puissant (and unstable) studentry. Nor has it hindered his ability to argue way to the truth, something that will come in handy once the bodies start hitting the floor.  But, though Goodbye Despair is no mass murderer. The need for would-be players in Monokuma's "killing school trip" both make the kill and get away with it ensures that every new case, investigation, and subsequent class trial a roller-coaster ride of elaborate murder plans, red herrings, and last-second plot twists. In any rational setting the logical leaps required to make sense of each incident would drive one to despair, but the Danganronpa series sells the inherent absurdity of the scenario, setting, and characters so well that virtually anything is fair game. Goodbye Despair upholds that tradition, and in fact manages to surpass the original in some key ways, particularly where it comes to characterization. The sequel's cast of sixteen students is more dynamic and colorful than the original's, hard as that might be to believe for series fans. The archetypes employed are less obvious, and all but the earliest victims manage to grow out of their initial one-dimensional niches, becoming characters that one really doesn't want to see kick the bucket. As for the larger plot...well, "nuts" doesn't quite do Goodbye Despair justice. Somehow, it even tops Trigger Happy Havoc for off-the-wall happenings and genuinely surprising twists. Even more than the first game, Goodbye Despair glories in its inherent pulpiness, rather than striving to "elevate" itself. This gives it the freedom to play with expectations, fulfilling them at first glance right before pulling the rug out from under the player. All the while, the goofy, screwball tone of it all prevents the premise from ever becoming too bleak. Players will be sad that so-and-so character kicked the bucket, but they'll never fear being overwhelmed by the seriousness of an island trip where young high-schoolers are forced to murder each other for survival. And that's exactly the point.  NIS America's localization manages to capture the slightly unhinged tone of the game perfectly, despite a few typos and some questionable decisions to "westernize" certain references. It's one thing to find familiar cultural touchstones to ensure the jokes get across, but converting Yen figures to US dollars seems an out-of-place thing to do when most everyone in the story is quite obviously Japanese. But these are minor quibbles overall. The voice performances are serviceable in English, though dub purists will miss out on an all-star Japanese voice cast, including standout jobs from the likes of Kana Hanazawa and Evangelion alumnus Megumi Ogata. When it comes the individual cases themselves, they're more difficult to predict, with much of the crime-solving done during the actual Class Trial, rather than during the investigation. The characters themselves also tend to play bigger roles in each trial, so there's less of a feeling that events are contrived to allow Hajime to solve every aspect of the murder. The changes, however, cut both ways, as the more unpredictable stories and involved characters tend to lessen the feeling that the player is genuinely involved in the proceedings, rather than simply pushing buttons to advance. Put plain, Goodbye Despair trades away a key component of a good "whodunnit"- the sense of audience participation - in exchange for deeper characterization and plotting. The trade has paid off, though players looking to get their detective itch scratched may come away slightly disappointed. If this all sounds rather familiar to series veterans, that's because it is. In straight mechanical terms, Goodbye Despair is virtually identical to Trigger Happy Havoc. Every major gameplay element from the original has been carried over, either as-is or with slight tweaks. Map navigation is less time-consuming, with the first-person exploration swapped for looping two-dimensional plane. A leveling system has been put into play, based on the amount of steps Hajime takes. Skills - the perks that make class trials easier - are now purchased using "Hope Fragments" awarded for progressing classmate relationships. The minigames do their job, though, using mechanics to make literal the idea of debate-as-combat. As before, players shoot down contradictions with ammunition made of evidence, with a new twist that allows Hajime to agree with a classmate's statement. Stubborn comrades can be convinced in the new "Rebuttal Showdown" that swaps Truth Bullets for blades and marksmanship for Fruit Ninja-esque screen-slashing. The Logic Dive challenges players to solve key dilemmas by surfing their way through a Tron-like landscape of multiple-choice questions. It could be said that the minigames, and particularly their emphasis on getting things right or risk "failing" the trial, ultimately distract from the story, but they're simple enough to get by (especially if one sets the difficulty to "Gentle", with no consequences), and help preserve the manic tension of the arguments going on. If real-life jury deliberations worked that way, one would bet that jury duty would be a thing to look forward to. Not to mention that they make up the bulk of gameplay, and a not-insignificant portion of its stylistic flair. There's no doubting that it's all arbitrary and unecessary, but there's also no doubting that Danganronpa 2 would be a poorer experience without it. There's no shortage of worthwhile extras as well. Once the main game is rounded off, "Island Mode" is unlocked, allowing players to explore Jabberwock Island risk-free in the kind of dating sim-like scenario Goodbye Despair parodies in its own opening movie, and a throwaway minigame starring Monokuma's sister Monomi allows one to earn more Monocoins (used to unlock extras and buy relationship-boosting presents). Most interesting, though, is Danganronpa If, a full light novel containing an alternate scenario for Trigger Happy Havoc, telling the story from the perspective of a new character. The latter is worth reading through, if only because its viewpoint is much less milquetoast than the game's "canonical" hero. Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair is the perfect sequel. It preserves everything that was good about its predecessor, while building on its foundation a worthy story that not only helps draw in newcomers but excites and satisfies fans of the original. If there's anything to be held against it, it's that it accomplishes all this by barely deviating from the path gone before, but that's hardly a complaint when the result is a solid, thoroughly entertaining coda. Anyone who won't accept those terms, though...well, they can go feel some despair.   9 -- Superb (9s are a hallmark of excellence. There may be flaws, but they are negligible and won't cause massive damage to what is a supreme title.)
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Double Jeopardy
I almost don't want to be writing this review. That's because Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair is quite a lot like its predecessor, Trigger Happy Havoc. That means it's one of the few games where "spoilers" really matter, and t...

Promoted Community Blog: Break it Down: School Days

Sep 17 // MrRasczak
School Days, at first glance, seems to be one of the more derivate animes you could possibly imagine. It has every trope of the romance genre out in full force. You have a smoothened out, bland protagonist in Makoto Itou (complete with one of those oh-so-punchable anime protagonist faces), a shy, wispy love interest in Kotonoha Katsura, and an electric, tomboyish friend in Sekai Saionji. Their love triangle, in any other anime, would form the basis of the entire plot. Will he pick Konoha? Will he pick Sekai? 12 episodes of vacillation later we’d have our answer and go home happy. But, the unthinkable happens. Within the first episode Makoto confesses to Kotonoha, Sekai congratulates him on having the balls to go ahead with it, and the show goes on. This is where School Days is so effective, it tells the story after. If this were any other show, it would have ended with the confession. We would have had 12 episodes of fun and games, maybe a little fanservice, but ultimately it would have ended with Makoto getting the girl and watching the sunset from the riverbank. At this point, School Days shifts from your standard romance story to a tale of jealousy, mental abuse, and the slow dehumanization of characters through their actions. Out of all the anime I’ve seen, no show has ever shown the awkwardness of physical intimacy and first dating quite like School Days manages to. There are so mnay little touches that feel like the show pauses and decides to cut through the all the trappings of anime to something that actually can speak to teenagers in all their foolishness. In one great scene, Kotonoha is railing off this long fantasy about what she imagines her first sexual experience will be like. It involves Europe, hiking in the mountains, being trapped in a cabin as it snows outside, huddling together for warmth in front of a roaring fire. Meanwhile, we get a shot of Makoto’s room, with the opening image being his tissue filled trash can and then a shot of him flexing his hand with a single sentence of him remembering how soft her breast was from an earlier make out session. If it comes off as callous and immature, that’s the point. Teenage life is full of callousness and immaturity. In the episodes that follow we begin to see Makoto’s relationships slowly become more toxic and self-destructive. He quickly transcends simply being a terrible person to being poison to all he touches. By episode 3 Makoto has admitted that he finds Kotonoha boring to be around, and pushes for physical intimacy as a way to relieve that boredom. When Kotonoha rebuffs him, he finds solace in Sekai, and the whole tragedy begins with Makoto’s influence extending to nearly every other girl in the series. He never forces himself upon them, but capitalizes on their own emotions for his own gratification. He takes from them without having to give anything back. By either curiosity or their own boredom, nearly the entire cast eventually finds their way to his bed. In a recurring theme, Makoto is marked as being apart from the normal selection of anime romance protagonists. Keichii from Oh! My Goddess he is not, nor is he the comical pervert of Golden Boy. Rather, he comes off as someone using sex as a form of escape from the rest of the world. In place of facing emotions, he simply moves on to whatever girl in his immediate vicinity happens to be willing to get naked. This is meant to reflect the nature of dating sims as games with concrete goals rather than as essentially visual novels. Players are meant to work hard to get a single girl, but then once they get her, well, are they really expected to stay with her for the whole rest of the playthrough? There are seven other girls they could potentially seduce. It’s the movement from cutesy role playing to the aggression exertion of power as a way to relieve boredom, just as how School Days plays out. He has a brief moment of self-reflection near the end of the series, but he makes no point of acting upon it. Women as Agents One of the big criticisms I’ve seen leveled against a lot of harem animes and anime based on dating sims is that they go out of their way to develop the female characters as perfect reflections of the main character’s desire. They don’t have true agency because their sole purpose for being is to provide something the protagonist (in this case the viewer or the player) could imagine themselves dating. Tsundere and yandere archetypes are just that, easily digestible collections of tropes that serve as the framework to hang whatever trappings the creators care to add to her. In School Days, women can be classified into two tiers, with Kotonoha and Sekai being in the first tier, with all other women in Makoto’s life operating in the second. Kotonoha and Sekai together represent the impossible ideal of Makoto’s desire, with Kotonoha being unconditional romantic love (it should be noted that she is one of the few girls to never have sex with Makoto) while Sekai represents more grounded, carnal love. It’s the dichotomy of the chaste, beautiful angel and lustful whore split across two people, and it is Makoto’s inability to see either of them as true individuals capable of pain that drag the lot of them down. Both women suffer horribly, emotionally and physically, as a result of his actions, and it their fate that School Days asks us to see as tragic. Nowhere is this hammered home more than in the final episode. Despite having killed Makoto, the scars and baggage of having been in such close contact to him remains. Where killing him should have been liberation, it only serves to seal her fate. Convinced that she is carrying his child, Sekai can do nothing but face Kotonoha. If the two could simply stand down and realize what fools the both of them had been, the final bloodshed could have been avoided, but instead the series must end with two women fighting to the death over the severed head of their mutual lover. The women from the second tier, however, are able to interact with Makoto differently. Unlike Kotonoha and Sekai, side characters like Hikari treat their interactions with Makoto with equal coldness. Hikari just wants sex, as do all the other girls. When the immensity of Makoto’s philandering is finally revealed to the school, the other girls have no trouble abandoning and letting him fall into despondency. The tables have turned. Makoto has no power over them and so they can walk away knowing that they avoided the fate of their friends. Of special note is the role (or lack thereof) of Makoto’s mother, who is nonexistent in School Days. All we know is that she is divorced and apparently shows little concern for Makoto or his state of being. Whether this is a deliberate choice on the part of Overflow or merely casting her aside to avoid any complications, it might explain why Makoto is the way he is. Perhaps his actions are an emulation of his father, or maybe he blames his mother for breaking apart their family. There is little evidence given, but the lack of parents seems to indicate a breakdown of guiding principles somewhere in the world. The Darker Truths of Relationships Finally, perhaps the one must underappreciated element of School Days is the sheer boldness to present an anime that skews towards the idea that relationships can be unhealthy, and that they can lead to people being deeply hurt. Whereas in seemingly every other show the audience is yelling at the protagonist to grow a pair and just tell the girl how he feels, School Days is about tearing out your hair and begging the girls in Makoto’s life to escape the cycle of abuse they’ve become trapped in. Anime about relationships, especially about those involving teens and young adults, rarely venture into the territory of exploring what those relationships are actually like. We see it rarely enough in American media, to say nothing of anime where the fetishization of middle and high-school life is firmly set as a creative bedrock. Complications of sex, so often brushed aside or made the topic of “special” episodes of TV, are at the forefront of School Days. These are children acting in a vaccuum, and as children are wont to do, they pretend to adulthood. Sekai, before starting her affair with Makoto, volunteers as a kind of impromptu matchmaker between him and Kotonoha. Despite later admitting in an internal monologue that she has no idea what she’s doing, she plays house with Makoto, allowing him to kiss her and to practice initiating physical contact. It’s a bizarre, awkward scene that illustrates just how much these characters are fumbling in the dark. Later we meet Taisuke, Makoto’s only male friend in school. Coming off as a laughable joker, giving the old wink and nod every time a pair of breasts show up on screen, he quickly becomes a lonely, distanced character. The one girl who has a crush on him, Hikari, eventually solicits Makoto for sex, leaving Taisuke with no one. Lonely, despondent, he stumbles upon a dazed Kotonoha, professes his love for her and proceeds to rape her before she can respond. Part of the reason this scene is so terrible is because of how understated it is and how sudden it developed. Taisuke and Kotonoha just happened to be alone, and he chose to take advantage of her in her state of weakness. We know that his is how the majority of assaults in America take place, not by evil guys jumping from the bushes, but by people that the victim knows. Taisuke, despite being kind of a pervy guy, never struck me before as being capable of doing that, which I realized is exactly what every person who has ever lived next to a serial killer says to the news crew. Nothing particularly graphic is shown, but they take a moment to focus on the characters in the aftermath. Taisuke seems oblivious that he has done anything wrong, Kotonoha stumbles out, and a day later it’s simply another blow to Kotonoha’s already fragile mental health state. Still, relationships are not totally bleak in the world of School Days, and there are even healthy relationships. One character, Nanami, is said at the beginning to have a boyfriend, and the two have a touching scene later in the series around the time of the school festival. It’s a small moment, but it’s still acts a slight counterbalance to the drama of Makoto and the others. The (Infamous) Ending No discussion of School Days is complete, it seems, without picking apart the ending and  reeling back in horror at how grisly the scene is. For those who haven’t seen it and don’t care to watch it, Makoto is killed in a mad rage by Sekai after he blows off their christmas dinner to spend the night with Kotonoha. When she confronts him about it, he pushes back and makes out with Kotonoha in front of her. Later, in a rage, she stabs him in the stomach and kills him. She then chops off his head and puts it in a bowling bag and heads off to meet Kotonoha, but not before engaging in scene with a trio of characters who are half greek chorus, half witches from Macbeth. At last she meets Kotonoha. The two acknowledge each other, brandish weapons, and start fighting over the head of Makoto. Sekai is killed and Kotonoha cuts into her stomach, discovering that there was never any fetus. At the time it certainly was grisly, and an escalation of violence as of yet unseen in the series. Cheating is one thing, but your mind doesn’t really wander to a murder that borrows the MO of the Manson family. It was shocking, it was brutal, and it was a big, bombastic  ending to a series of characters whimpering along to Makoto’s tune. The final scene, of Kotonoha cradling the head of Makoto in her family’s sailboat, presumably off the coast of France, does at least fulfill her saccharine romantic desires. I posit, however, that the ending might have worked too well, to the point where all other discussion is either inchoate or lacks any momentum. The ending of School Days is no different from a particularly bloody rendition of Romeo and Juliet, even following a similar theme of teenage idiocy. The game actually took this a step further and made Sekai be Makoto’s neice, making it a further betrayal of blood. It is strong, and it is satisfying to a degree to see Makoto die, but I can’t help wondering if the graphic nature of it has overwhelmingly overshadowed the greater purpose of the series. Whatever you think of the ending, it’s important to remember School Days for the whole of its parts. It’s a strong, short anime that takes an idea and skews it towards darkness in a way that feels believable and grounded enough in reality to make it impactful. It is certainly steeped in anime tropes, but the slivers of humanity that shine through are laser-like in their precision. There is enough here to make Makoto and the others caricatures at first that show a surprising level of depth and life. And though their drama and stakes might seem small compared to other shows, it is nonetheless as gripping and saddening as any show based on a dating sim has a right to be. If you have any thoughts or comments, please feel free to leave them below, I’d love to read them.  
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Back to school!
[Awesome user MrRasczack has a great breakdown of School Days, everybody's favorite "Nice Boat" anime. Want your deep thoughts to get on the front page? Write a cool community blog! -Josh] When the anime adaptation of Sc...


Visual novel CLANNAD is getting a Steam release in English

Sekai Project takes the first big step with Visual Arts/Key
Aug 24
// Jeff Chuang
During their panel at Japan Expo USA, Sekai Project announced that they are releasing Key/Visual Arts's CLANNAD visual novel on Steam. It will be the full-voiced edition of the game. However there aren't much more details bey...
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Otakon '14: MangaGamer grabs eden*, euphoria, and more

MangaGamer has a few new tricks up their sleeve
Aug 09
// Salvador G Rodiles
As Otakon 2014 continues to invade Baltimore's region, MangaGamer's ready to reveals their latest acquisitions. This time around, the company's working on a goal that'll please many visual novel fans if everything goes accor...
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AX '14: MangaGamer announces OZMAFIA, No, Thank You!!, and more

Otome and BL Game fans rejoice
Jul 04
// Salvador G Rodiles
MangaGamer's ready to reveal their new titles, and team's ready to try something new. If you happen to be a fan of Otome and/or BL Games, then you'll be happy to know that MangaGamer's planning to localize OZMAFIA and No, Th...
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Visual Novels

AX '14: Sekai Project to localize Grisaia no Kajitsu, planetarian

Front Wing and Visual Arts on board
Jul 03
// Jeff Chuang
At Anime Expo Sekai Project announced that they are partnering with Visual Arts, the studio that publishes high profile Key titles, to release planetarian in English officially. There was a previous release of it with a ...
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Hatoful Boyfriend

Pigeon-date sim Hatoful Boyfriend getting English remake

This is the world we live in now
Jun 10
// Josh Tolentino
Forget Danganronpa. Ignore Hakuoki. Trash Katawa Shoujo. If there was ever any proof that visual novels and their ilk are real, actual things that might just matter outside Japan, this is it. Hatoful Boyfriend, the Japan...

Review: World End Economica Episode 1

May 27 // Brittany Vincent
World End Economica Episode 1 (PC)Developer: Spicy TailsPublisher: Sekai ProjectRelease: May 5, 2014MRSP: $12.99 The tale of pipsqueak stock broker Yoshiharu (nicknamed "Hal") is one that piqued my interest right away, as it didn't include your average (and faceless) high school student seeking a girlfriend or sifting through a boring harem. Its sci-fi lilt brought with it an air of freedom from the chains that traditionally bind VN protagonists, and thus I was all in from the beginning. World End Economica follows the completion of mankind's greatest accomplishment: colonization of the moon. Humanity is migrating to space, though this advancement creates as many new problems as it does opportunities. There's a growing rift between those born on the moon and those born on Earth, and it's clear through Yoshiharu's journeys that "moon children" aren't exactly welcomed on our blue planet. As the teenage son of the very first two colonists on the moon, Hal decides he's had it with working-class life and wants to strike it rich through stock trading. He drifts from net cafe to net cafe, a vagabond narrowly avoiding scrapes with the police, until he runs into Lisa, a friendly church owner who gives him room and board. [embed]32623:3921:0[/embed] Unfortunately, there's another teenage runaway who's also taken up residence with Lisa, and she's as tsundere as they come. She's a mathematical genius, but a loner through and through. In case you couldn't guess that simply by looking at her (her character design is typical of the archetype), the novel finds plenty of ways to remind you here and there of how "cold" she truly is. Hal and Hagana simply can't get along, and right about where they begin their ceaseless bickering is when I decided World End Economica just wasn't doing it for me. There's something to be said about new and gripping ideas when it comes to visual novels, and with a story that appears to be heavily focused on elements so far outside the norm for the genre, seeing cookie-cutter tsundere girls and a protagonist who's little more than a selfish brat is more than a little disappointing. It's especially disconcerting when you factor in the main focus of this episode, which happens to be a virtual stock trading competition that Hal will be competing in. There's so much fluff masquerading as character development from the beginning up until the big reveal that it's difficult to maintain even a passing interest in what the characters are actually doing. Given that I didn't connect with any of the cast at all in the first place other than with Hal and his love of money, it was a difficult read. While both Hal and Hagana do tend to soften considerably and both become more personable near the end of the episode, I didn't feel moved to investigate the next one -- especially if it all it's going to deliver is a heavy dose of exposition with characters I'm not even interested in learning more about. And then there's the stock trading itself. For a game wholly based on the idea of virtual stock trading, there's little to no visual representation of said activity or any attempt to involve readers in the economical side of things beyond technical jargon and straightforward descriptions of how playing the stock trade actually works. I was hoping there would be at least a few interesting attempts at making the trading accessible for any type of audience, but it just didn't work out, and with bland visuals and sometimes black screens accompanying simple text, I found myself bored to tears more often than not. When reading is already your primary interaction with a VN, the story has to keep you entertained, and this one failed to on several occasions. Luckily, the CG scenes were quite aesthetically pleasing, even if the character models themselves had an amateurish feel to them overall. Poses don't always seem natural, and there's a strange look to the shading in some areas, particularly the necks on both male and female characters. It's hard to ignore, especially considering the fact that it gives young girls the appearance of having wrinkled skin where there should be a youthful complexion. And the music's nice when it's around, but wholly forgettable. World End Economica has so much going for it: an interesting premise, a protagonist with an actual design and personality (even if it is a little rotten) and the opportunity to capitalize on a business rarely (if ever) explored in video games: stock trading. Unfortunately, it squanders the opportunity to capitalize on these great bullet points and winds up a generic, muddled mess of pacing issues, bland dialogue, and characters too difficult to connect with. There are plenty of other more meaty and fulfilling visual novels out there that may be a little more expensive than this budget indie release, but you'll come out of those feeling much better about your purchase than you would about World End Economica. 4 -- Below Average (4s have some high points, but they soon give way to glaring faults. Not the worst games, but are difficult to recommend.)
World End Economica photo
Don't fly me to the moon
[Originally posted at Destructoid.] Visual novels are a finicky medium. It's difficult enough to drum up interest because of their exotic origins, and harder still to find an audience due to their nature -- it's a bunch of re...

Review: Steins;Gate

Apr 16 // Brittany Vincent
Steins;Gate (PC)Developer: 5pb., Nitroplus Publisher: JAST USAReleased: March 31, 2014MSRP: $39.95 Find out by stepping into the shoes of one Rintarou Okabe, self-proclaimed "mad scientist" and college student who prefers to go by the alias Hououin Kyouma. He's also "Okarin" to his friends, a motley crew of individuals you wouldn't expect to have befriended such a weirdo with the delusions of grandeur Okabe has. Mayuri, his childhood best friend, is so innocent and oblivious to the world around her you wonder what's really going on in her head, while Kurisu the genius girl is abrasive, but Okabe's intellectual equal. Then there's buffoonish hacker Daru, androgynous Luka, and the rest of the cast with their own sets of quirks.  Rather than simply acting as supporting cast members, each and every one of these characters is fleshed out in a manner that gives them as much life as Okabe, impressing a weight upon your relationship with each and ensuring you feel the gravity of more pressing situations as you progress. When you're faced with difficult decisions regarding your friends' lives later on, it becomes startlingly obvious just how much Steins;Gate has forced you to care about them. [embed]32306:3830:0[/embed] This may seem difficult to do, since interaction in-game is much different than that of other visual novels. In fact, you'll be staring at a cell phone screen most of the time, waiting for your next "D-mail" to arrive. Fittingly, that's short for "DeLorean mail." You'll also be engaged in face-to-face discussion, which could be interrupted by voice calls as well. These events are where you begin traveling down branching paths, hurtling toward one of the multiple endings. The first half of the game is spent attempting to decipher how time travel actually works, which is admittedly confusing at first, but quite deftly explained via Okabe's hilarious tirades and at times harrowing inner dialogue. This is a man charged with the sole responsibility of noting differences between several diverging timelines. A mistake could mean watching his friends die again and again, and if you don't play your cards right, that's exactly what could happen.  While you'll have plenty of time to acclimate yourself to the game's Phone Trigger system, you'll also be introduced to other methods of time traveling, as well as multiverse theories and parallel universes that twist and turn into deliciously convoluted territory. It can be tempting to skim through page after page of text (it's a visual novel, so obviously there's a lot) but you'll want to pay close attention, lest you gloss over subtle cues that really tie everything together. Unfortunately, those same subtleties can be obfuscating for those unfamiliar with internet slang like that used on 4chan, the rules of time travel, or even the fact that the Phone Trigger system replaces branching dialogue options. There's an index to be used as reference if you need help researching specific terms, and there's a decent bit of expository text, but sometimes you're left to your own devices. It can be understandably overwhelming to anyone having chosen Steins;Gate as their first visual novel experience. In addition, the first 30% percent of the game is a bit plodding compared to the high-octane drama that unfolds during later moments, a pacing issue that could frustrate players too impatient to stick around and see how intense things get. And things will indeed get intense. Steins;Gate is a taxing game, but it's also quite beautiful, from the talented Japanese voice cast (no English dub, unfortunately) to artist huke's unorthodox visuals. It's an exemplary visual novel with a thrilling premise, memorable characters, and a fantastic "true" ending that may very well move you to tears. If you've played Saya no Uta (a personal favorite) one time too many, branch out to Steins;Gate and then devour the anime series. Then immerse yourself in time travel literature, because you're definitely going to want to. 8 -- Great (8s are impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.)
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The life and times of Hououin Kyouma
[As originally posted at Destructoid.] Time travel is infinitely more interesting once you leave the trappings of the TARDIS or any one of those familiar (some would say hackneyed) science fiction mainstays behind. Stein...

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Video games

New videos of Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax!

AKA, my 'Misaka v.s. Shana' simulator.
Mar 18
// Dae Lee
Arcade fighting game Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax has released in Japan, and we have a ton of videos to look at!  Developed by Ecole Software and French Bread, known for their work on the Melty Blood franchise, Dengeki...

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