August 16th, 2013

Review – Dysfunctional Systems

Title screen of Dysfunctional Systems

Title screen of Dysfunctional Systems

Dysfunctional systems was a game who’s execution is nice and the opening is awesome and the music is awesome, however it disappoints in a lot of minor ways that add up to a lot of papercuts that bleed and hurt.

The main flaw of this game lies in the characters, which for a visual novel is crucial. You have the two main characters Winter and Cyrus. Winter is 14 and Cyrus is a misogynistic asshole. Cyrus is also Winter’s mentor so she had to jump whenever he says to. This power dynamic is terrible.

When you start off with him he treats her like a pet than a human being. Constantly calls her “girl” and dismisses anything she has to say. There a scene where she is going to punch him and the creators decided that since she’s a girl she has absolutely zero force behind it, where in Cyrus just pats her on her head. They obviously know shit about fourteen year old girls. I though this would just be his character as terrible as writers feel the need to keep using these shitty characters. Later towards the end of the game however I see that other shittiness peek out.
The main thing that first killed me on this is when they get to Sule and Cyrus is forcing Winter to drink. Winter over and over says she doesn’t want to, so Cyrus overrides her bodily autonomy and forcefully coerces her to drink in the bar using both his status as a mentor and his supposed knowledge. You find out his oh so great experience is a pile of beans. This is where I was shaking my head. Here we have a male character forcing a female character to do something against their will, I might add she’s 14 and considered underage to be drinking here in the real world, there on Earthen and even on Sule. So now her morals are compromised too, all so the writer could sneak in her having him do something for her. Whoop de doo. In stead of writing a good character and a good plot in Cyrus, they chose to write a shitty one. I seriously wanted him to be pulled off the mission. Seriously, the time it comes up for you to use that bit, it could be solved different ways.. like oohhh.. him finally being convinced to do things her way. No she basically has to be mentally assaulted to resolve that.

I did my best to try and ignore that glaring garbage, and was about to write a somewhat better review, then I decided to try for the other ending……. That’s when we get into the fat shaming, gender shaming and homophobia. Oh they also make fun of a characters accent too, because that’s always funny. I would say it’s racist, but the character Irie isn’t described in any detail and the accent to me seemed Irish. I should not that Earthen is constantly being described as a “Utopian/Egalitarian Society”
Anyway, here’s a screen of the dialogue, Waverly (Winter’s Roomate) and Irie (Random Person):

Waverly "She's not gaunt."
Her smile vanishes.
Irie "Aye, you're right, V: ‘er thighs..."
Her smile returns.
Irie "What does she do to fill those thighs, V? Hath she let you give ‘em a
squeeze, yet?"
Waverly "'Y-Yet'!?"
Irie "She's a mess of a girl-'ardly e'en looks a girl-but those legs..."
Irie "Who gave ‘er the idea to wear those stockings of 'ers? Goodness!"
Waverly "You sound like a lesbian."
Irie "V, I'm just admiring another beau'iful woman, as a beautiful woman
m'self. Nothin' lezzy about tha'."
Her lips twist a little, and she looks right into my eyes.
Irie "Tell me, who here would think of another girl with lustful eyes? Who's the
man, Waverly?"
Waverly "..."
Irie but I digress! Winnie could stand to be much more beautiful, eh
right?

Mind you that Winter is sleeping and under the covers so they have basically invaded her privacy here.
They start off with the fat shaming, the move on to going “She’s not a girl because I’m a girl and pass judgement on what girls should look like!” then onto “Your a lesbian how terrible!”, “I’m not a lesbian, that’s a terrible thing to be”, finished with “You are a MAN if you look at women like this!” Because… lesbians are bad, if you look on a woman a certain way your sexuality changes JUST LIKE THAT aaaand you must be a dude becausee… heterosexism? Seriously were they trying to say, if she’s a lesbian she must be the ‘man’ in that relationship?
If you are in the kind of society they seem to keep alluding to I doubt people would go “Your a lesbo!” like that and would just accept what the person was saying without judgement and would be like “She likes to pass judgement on women’s bodies…..” which in that kind of society WOULDN’T BE HAPPENING IN THE FIRST PLACE. (Shit Cyrus wouldn’t be happenigin the first place.)
This dialogue is just all kinds of fucked up and made me just finally table flip on this whole visual novel. Cyrus was terrible then with this…

The final “paper cut” (really these are more like knife wounds) is finding out ALL the mentors are older men and the proteges are girls. C R E E P Yand truly sexist.
In one of the ending Waverly’s mentor even rubs her shoulder. DX!!!

So the overall: Music was good, art/style execution was good, overall plot was good, story and characters were all sorts of bigoted garbage that I’m tired of seeing in gaming.

August 9th, 2013

Review – Rei

Snap 2013-08-09 at 00.35.06Rei is a short Visual Novel made by Sonnet009 in three days for the Pulse Pounding Heart Stopping Dating Sim Jam 2013.  It’s about Aya, who is forced to go ghost hunting with her friend and finds Rei, a ghost that can’t move on thanks to his fuzzy memory. Of course you get to help him and in that you can find romance.

There are I supposed technically two guys you can romance, however they are the same person, just past and present. I’ve only gotten two out of four endings so I don’t know how all of them end up.

The Story:

Overall the story is unique, it’s got a few moments in it that are sexist, like when you say you don’t believe in love you get told “How can you even call yourself a girl” and your going to be an old cat lady, but overall the experience was nice. The story is solid and short and didn’t leave a lot of loose ends to tie up. For a game made in three days, that’s saying a lot that it has a beginning, middle, end and no dangling story.

I can see the story being expanded to include more ghost histories and trying to save them all or only a special one, and a possible harem ending. :D

Characters:

There are only three major character and one minor character.
Risa, Aya and Rei and the minor Taka.
Risa is mostly there as a catalyst to drag you to school and act as a check when your character completes some routes.
Rei is of course the main target in the game. Both the present and past Rei. He’s the jerk type, but if you pick the right options he’s not that much of one. Not like the typical verbal abusing assholes of other otome games.
Taka, well, his character is more of a spoiler than anything, but he’s involved with Rei somehow.
Aya is a nice character and not a doormat. So that is awesome, and most of her choices are given to you so you can basically guide her character how you want. Which is another nice thing.

Art:

This is going to be short because all the art of the game comes from 3rd parties.
Tokudaya and +cube+ specifically. Which means it super nice art, but you might recognize some of the characters or backgrounds.

Music/Sound:

This is where I felt it needed major improvement. There is only ONE sound, and that’s the school bell. Either some more spooky ambient sounds to set the mood or some music or something would have been nice. Maybe have added those at the end and again from a free materials source.

Overall:

Overall Rei is a nice quick game to kill some time and offers 4 routes to play for some replay value. The story can certainly branch out into a fuller game if the author wanted and it could use some more sounds.

August 3rd, 2013

Review – DUÆL

Title Screen for DUAEL

Title Screen for DUAEL

I came across DUÆL while trawling the VNDB for otome games and saw the screen shot popup,  the story was interesting and I had been wanting to explore something similar so I thought ‘why not’.

It should be noted that I played with the adult content OFF, as that was the default and I didn’t know it had any in it…. (I’m not sure how much adult content there was. Play at your own comfort.)

I also THINK I got the good ending so I haven’t seen, or know how to get the bad ending. This review is based on that information.

The Story:
The story deals with two worlds one about Cadfael and his quest to stop the world from being eat by this “Nothing” (think Neverending Story) and Walter a teenage gamer who enjoys playing as Cadfael in the game. Only that people in Cadfael’s world are linking up to the people in Walter’s world.

This is where the story breaks down a bit for me, as we never see another “Linked One”, we only hear that there was a massive group of them that passed through the town.  Thus we never really get to see how they are treated by people that aren’t linked, or how other Linked Ones are dealing with their situation. It was a missed opportunity. Another way the story breaks down is at the end, where everything is being explained. The story never really goes into WHY the things that are happening are happening that way, it’s just.. “Yeah that’s what happened… Don’t know more details… Yup.”

I also didn’t like one part where they are trying to keep some villagers away and the narrative was saying that Lucille was casting weak spells…. I had leveled her up where she could devastate the battlefield, which she did after  you get into that fight, but everyone was powered up.
Also, if Cadfael is the main character of the games, why did he just then bond with Walter. Is the story going with the “Chosen, one out of a million” kind of thing? Still it’s something the story could explore more.

Characters:
There are four main characters in the game, Walter, Cadfael, Lucille, and Kuruk. Honestly I felt that Lucille got the most characterization, even more than Cadfael as we saw more of her emotions. While I felt that Cadfael was going through the motions and had a lot of telling that showing moments. Kuruk by far was the weakest character. You learn nothing about him.

I really didn’t like that the only woman in the party was also the mage/healer as is cliche of the fantasy/RPG world. However she is also the most powerful character in the game. She really breaks the game if you get her Fire 1-3 and level her up in the gym. Kuruk and Cadfael can’t even compare. So at the end boss was basically a cake walk. Walter, since he does not fight, is mostly there for the Earthside aspect of the story. His character is one of the lonely gamer type who finds a connection to the characters he plays. I honestly thought he was done well.
I thought Lucille would also get on my nerves and typically be annoying, however she wasn’t at all and I found I liked her the best. (Her ability to almost one shot a screen of enemies probably helped too, Cadfael looked weak and helpless compared XD)

Gameplay:

Gameplay… was… not so good. While I did enjoy the RPG aspects of the game, grinding at the gym was NOT FUN. You probably don’t need to grind all that much at the gym, but not knowing what comes next I decided to do it. At one point you pretty much have to when you get Kuruk as the enemies are tough enough to kill you.
Lucille is the easiest to level up, Kuruk is the hardest. Also Kuruk is broken, At the end I want to level him up and got him to level 49 and he just would not level up any more. I checked his screen and it constanly said “~8000 point till level 44” Level 44? However he’s not important at the end anyways… especially if Lucille is leveled up to 50. So it was nothing game breaking.
There were also end game items I could not by for whatever reason, maybe on a second play through? In the end I didn’t like the grinding as it took away majorly from the story.

Art:

What is up with that face?

What is up with that face?

The art is proficient enough, not really to my tastes, but the characters feel constant… save Lucille. She has this one face that just does not look good at all. I cringed every time I saw it. If your looking for the kind of anime look that professional Japanese VNs have, this doesn’t have it, but it isn’t so far away from that style like some other Original English Visual Novels (OEVN, OELVN). So Lucille’s face is my major nitpick, past that it might could use a revision later in the artists career to polish things up a bit more.

It also does have a nice shot of Cadfael in there if you so desire it ;3

There’s a character gallery and a CG gallery and a concept art/notes gallery as well. So a bit of stuff to unlock.

 

Overall:

Over all the story was enjoyable, while there was some cliche going on, none of the characters felt too much like a stereotype save for Kuruk the noble knight bear. Lucille most notably felt more human, and while she was jealous of Walter, she showed it more in distrust than the typical clingyness that some authors write. She also has a right to be a bit distrustful of Walter as a whole. Some random floating projection coming out of nowhere and acting familiar with someone you’ve known. Walter was refreshing to see as well, you’d think he’d be a typical power gamer but really he’s a sad loner that gets his human interaction from the games he plays. I feel that there’s a connection to be made there. Cadfael I felt was a bit too stale however, I did like his manner of speaking and his overall personality, but it felt like he was going through the motions and the whole Link between them could be explored a bit more. Kuruk honestly felt jammed in there as a third wheel, but became someone that Lucille could go to after she realized how close Walter and Cadfael had grown together.

I especially liked the ending just after the battle, it was a real smart way to end that kind of story.

DUÆL

July 15th, 2013

365 Days of Pointy Hats and Magic: Day 03

MaverynID
So when I woke up this morning I accidentally found the Door of the Beginning and End, of which I activated “Mystery Time”. Then I went outside.
I felt my gut drop as I looked around. The sky was a different color, the ground was black, strange insects flew through the air. What happened?!
I hopped on my broom and decided to investigate. This was indeed the thing Principal Sol had mentioned. So was there a mystery to solve, or did I just open this for not reason and horrible things from the other side would come to kill me.
My thoughts were interrupted by a chalkboard and a skeleton. Great… this is what Mystery Time brings! However it was not so. It seems that Mr. Graves is the Extracurricular Activity instructor and he is only around on Saturday. I had forgotten what day it was. He tasked me to find and ‘animal’ with the name of a hero. For the life of me I couldn’t think of one. I however did see a very odd looking butterfly or moth near the buildings. It was a ‘Human Face Moth’… what hell did I enter into? I explored a bit more and also decided to fish to see what horrors I brought up then. Just two typical angelfish…. Hrmm… this world was not over yet.


Still having no clue about what ‘animal’ I should be looking for, I decided to explore a bit. I went past the ruin and past Fungi Forest and found a trail that was near a lake. I was stopped by a deep voice asking if I could hear it. I quickly looked around and saw nothing. However there was a house in front of me. Maybe it came from there.
I entered the house, it looked old and very haunted. A very typical haunted house. I saw a ghost approach me and thinking it was one of the ‘locals’ I tried saying “Hi!”. That’s when I woke up in the middle of the hall in front of the Door of Beginning and End. Yes, I guess ghosts are just terrible no matter where you go.
I did a quick check into my room, saw some mushrooms, dropped off some things and went back out. That’s when a small, black, bipedal cat was standing there. It introduced itself as a Mail Cat and then proceeded to read me a telegram. There was going to be some pirate waiting for me on the Island on Sunday. Great just great. My only day off and someone wants to butt into it. Wait… we have an Island? I didn’t know then, but later that Island would become very important.


Having been dumped back in the dorms I decided to go to the town and see if there was anything new. There of course was, but I couldn’t afford it. I did find a new wallpaper for 700 Ritch in Harrow’s. That was about it. I then spent some time in Lime Light to memorize the new song playing. I think it was Enka or something. After memorizing that song I was on my way back to exploring. I really wanted to find that manor again and see what lay inside for me. I was encouraged to explore. I stopped in front of the school house before I went poking around inside. Those.. whatever they are that hop up and down behind the roof are seriously creepy. Especially in Mystery Time.
Determined, I went searching again for the manor, it was easy to find this time. Heading past Fungi Forest, taking the trail near the river, past the gravestone. Those gravestone in front of the manor… those would also become important later. I went inside this time and snuck or ran past all the ghosts. I soon found a room with a treasure chest in it. Just sitting there waiting to be opened. So I did! Not looking back to really see what treasure I obtained I ran out of there, hoping the ghosts wouldn’t catch me and take it back. They were dead, what did they need with a…
Stripey Blue Sofa. That’s the treasure I had found. Well at least it would match the walls and wallpaper.


My bag was becoming full so I decided to sell some of the crap the books had given me as well as some of the mushrooms I found along the way. Some of these items actually sell for a fair bit of Ritch. Still having the bugs and fish in my bag… don’t ask, it’s a magic bag, I headed over to visit Sakana and Mushi. I often wondered about them. Are they prisoners? They are chained to the floor with brackets on them. Maybe that’s why Mushi has such a bad personality. It’s his way of fighting against his enslavement. He doesn’t even get a name just “Insect Catalog”, thus why I gave him a nickname. I really wondered what would happen if the two books were released into the world. I felt a pang of pity for them, yet with Principal Sol watching me from above I dared not ask them about it.
I gave Mushi a bug and for once he seemed slightly impressed with me. I felt a little better about him not being such a big jerk.
I then went back to my room and dropped off the sofa and wallpaper. It indeed matched everything. I was hoping to maybe find a lamp soooooon? Maybe?


I went back to visit the manor and see where that voice was talking to me was coming from, that’s when I noticed a cave I didn’t notice before. So of course I went to explore it! It was filled with fireflies and these furry balls with eyes that I assume were insects? I took out my net and caught a few. At the end of the cave was a lake. What else to do here but fish. The fish here however seemed to be tougher to catch than the ones I was used to. However I did catch a canned tuna… yep. Don’t ASK! Welcome to Microkeno! After getting a few more fish including a vampire squid, I decided to leave, catching a few bugs along the way. I dropped by the Tower again and THIS TIME! Mushi was impressed. I’ve never seen him so happy. Sakana of course was being his usual polite self. I love to visit him. I’ll fish more in the future. Next I decided to try and find this Island. I asked around to whom might know where it is. Heh… it was behind the town the whole time…

So apparently there’s a set of stairs at the end of the beach I missed that leads up to a taxi pad, where ah.. a taxi carpet comes to take me to the Island. Mah is what he was called. He had a very soft raspy voice, like he as dead… he probably was considering where I am. The flight took a short while and then I was on the Island. The Island itself is small with only one palm tree and some sand around it. I went fishing for a little and was frustrated even further by these fish. I did fish up a “Giant Sea Creature” measuring a whopping 31cm big. It was tiny. Lest to say I was not impressed. I decided to call it a day and when I was heading back I noticed a scuttling near the palm tree. I quickly changed my wand into a net and caught the little bugger! HAH! Could this be? It was a Hercules Beetle! Is this the ‘animal’ that I was searching for this whole time? Only one way to find out! I tried to get another thinking Mr. Graves would take mine, but couldn’t find any more. I took the taxi back to home and went to Mr. Graves.
Indeed it was the specimen I was searching for. I was curious as to why nobody else in the class was doing any work, but hey I think I’m the only human here! Mr. Graves gave a short lesson on the beetle’s biology and handed it back to me. I headed to the Tower to drop it off and check out my Giant Sea Creature.


Finally I wanted to see if I could find out where that voice was speaking to me from after getting distracted by the manor and the cave. I went back to the manor and took a closer look at those gravestones. Indeed, it was them. Some black smoke poured out of the tombstone and deep scary voice introduced itself as “Shade”, the former ruler of the place. I was wary. It however wanted to atone for it’s previous sins and asked me to find some “Shade Remains”. Oops, I had been selling those off. I did happen to have one on me and gave it to Shade, still wary of it’s claims. It then told me to go find 10 more. Well at least that’s a quest. After it was done talking I decided I had it for today and started to head back to the dorms. On the way back I tried my hand at the Treasure Hunt magic, because I AM supposed to be a wizard after all. That’s when I found 1000 Ritch!! Huzzah, a pay-off! I then went to my room and called it a day. Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

July 14th, 2013

365 Days of Pointy Hats and Magic: Day 02

MaverynIDI woke up early today an went to finish off my introductory classes. Lydia wanted to play a bit, so I took the time to go fishing in the river. I seem to have caught a neon tetra. I didn’t know such a big hook could catch such a tiny fish. I wonder if Lydia was having any fun, I don’t recall her catching anything at all. Maybe she did and I was too focused on my own hook.
The next class was about music and the teacher seemed to encourage us to hang around in bars. I planned to do just that the next chance I got. Lime Light I heard was open fairly lateish.


Intro classes were over and I took a break outside to water some flowers and stretch. I talked to some of the students that were hanging around the courtyard and then proceeded back in for some more class. I hear there is one class a day! I take it we are supposed to be practicing what we learn.
When I went back in I noticed a new teacher standing by the door. He was Mr. Oakley, the magic spells teacher. The spell we learnt that day was the Treasure Hunt spell. It helps to find things buried in the ground. I was super excited to try it out as soon as class was over.
I made sure to talk to Phoebe and Lydia before I headed out the door, I hear making friends is somewhat a big part of life here at Microkeno.
Outside I decided to try on my wizard hat for the first time and actually do some magic.
The first time I tried the spell I didn’t see anything however moving to the back fence and casting it once again, I saw the ground light up and that’s where I dug.
I only found a decayed tooth… bleh. I kept it thinking it might be worth something later. I tried search for a while more and turned up nothing. I wonder if treasure is rare here or by treasure do they mean buried garbage.
After talking to some students, I went in to the teachers lounge and saw Mr. Vlad and Ms. Strawe in there. Mr. Vlad is the Linguistics teacher and Ms. Strawe is the Incantation teacher. I have a feeling I’ll be seeing them later. By later I mean my next class was with Ms. Strawe. I was so excited!
Incantations are different from Spells as Incantations require some form of catalyst and some form of ritual. Spells are simple chants and then an effect. The Incantation for today was Invisibility. I remember seeing some ruins on my travels looking for treasure and I had gotten a crystal from turning in my fish, so I thought… why not try it later?


After classes I was free to go check out the town finally. I tried looking for more treasure, to no avail, then headed to the barber shop. It seems that hairstyles are somewhat of a special of the day, and expensive to boot. 3600 Ritch for one! I think I’ll stick with what I have currently. I then checked out the clothing shop which had a nice suit but was around 13000 Ritch. I was hoping the tooth I had found would be worth something considering the prices I was seeing. Reginald had given 3000 Ritch earlier and I had put 1000 in the bank and hoped the interest gained would be enough.
I then entered the gardening shop and was amazed at the colors and the various different types of plants in there. I knew I would be coming back later!
Next on my agenda was to hang out in Lime Light, the local bar, as Principal Sol had suggested. I sat at the bar and ordered the special which was blackberry “juice” for 200 Ritch. It tasted OK, but I wasn’t impressed. I had had better at my family estate. After the drink I took the time to memorize the music enough to recall it for someone had a I need for it. Principal Sol had said Piquard would know the tunes. I unknowingly headed to Harrows next. The building was so huge I couldn’t see the sign from up close.
When I entered I was greeted with lavish overheard, in quite a regal setting. I was instantly drawn to the fancy broom off to my right. I must have that broom!
Unfortunately Piquard says the broom costs 71400 Ritch! >Δ< Highway robbery I say. What kind of economy is this!


Next was the potions shop. The old wizard in there wanted me to do a task for her in finding mushrooms that she would pay more for. I love mushrooms so I agreed. Finding the mushrooms wasn’t hard, however I couldn’t take all of them back with me, my bag was too full, so I managed to at least get one of each. I returned and she seemed overjoyed, she actually gave me a sample of the potion and 1000 Ritch as a bonus. So happy. I’ll have to go back and see her later for more work.
When I returned to my dorm, Reginald was there to see me. The principal had made a request for my presence. I had hoped I was in no trouble. While being a bit mischievous was allowed, too much and it would be troublesome.
The Principal wanted to inform me of “another world” that was out there and that only I could open the door to it with the key he had given me. Mystery Time he called it, when the gate to the other side had been opened, and what was over there came to here.
Only.. I had forgotten where the Door of Beginning and End was. Eheh heh heh. I’m sure I’ll find it eventually! This school is big, but not THAT big… I hope.
Finally it was time for me to sleep so I returned to my dorm room. Two new mushrooms had sprung up in my absence. I think I may need a lamp, however I’m wondering if I can even afford one.