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.

July 13th, 2013

365 Days of Pointy Hats and Magic: Day 01

MaverynIDToday I started on my magical education.
I was so excited to finally get out of the boring mundane school system and do something different in my life. I had heard about the Microkeno school from a few of the upperclasspeople in my last school and knew it was the best choice in magic schools.
When I arrived at the school I was sent to the principal, Mr. Sol, to answer a few basic questions on when I was born, my name and such. I had to blur my birthdate as I hear some wizards, when knowing your birthdate, will cause all sorts of havoc with your life.
Mr. Sol seems like a nice person, I can only hope I will not have to see him often.
After meeting with Principal Sol, I met a… very odd gentleman… gentle pepper? Yes I say gentlepepper as this person was not human, I don’t even think he was animal having a pepper for a head.
His name was Reginald and he was the dorm master. I didn’t feel comfortable with having a man be the dorm master, however it seems that the dorms are co-ed anyways. He told me my room was behind the red door and gave me a present for being a new student. I decided to check out my room and see what it looked like.
After entering the room, I noticed mushrooms (Veiled Lady) growing on the floor. I take it this was normal for a magic school and promptly picked the mushrooms. I then set up my wardrobe and stored the mushrooms inside.


Reginald walked me to the gates of the school
After which it was time to take a tour of the school where when I went inside I was greeted by a moon headed individual.
It look me a little bit to figure out that this was principal Sol, it seems his appearance changes based on the time of day. I must keep telling myself that this is normal for this kind of place.
Principal Sol had a few lessons for me before I started formally taking classes. At first I was given my wand and wizard hat after being introduced.


I went on to learn how my wand can change into different tools, quite handy I must say, such as a shovel or a watering can. I needn’t carry those things around with me.
I also learnt in class that there are others that don’t take class seriously. I was tossed a note which I read from Phoebe who was saying that bug catching wasn’t just for boys. I pitied her upbringing in which she was taught that things are for boys and things are for girls. Bug catching was a favorite hobby of mine!


After class I got to talk to Laurel, a flower headed boy, who… is a terrible person. He basically wants to abuse girls from afar and then sweep in to save them. I can only hope if he ever does that, the girl in question will have him figured out and push him down some stairs. Lest to say I will keep my distance from him when I can.
He asked me to play, so I took this as an opportunity to study him further and plan my retaliation against him, should he target me for his abuse.


After fishing for a short bit and catching a Sillago, I decided it was time to explore the rest of the campus. I found so many odd things around. One of them was a magic wardrobe that would allow me to design my own clothes! This was neat, it even included hemming scissors to add a special hem to whatever I was making. I will have to remember this place for later. So many ideas on what to make with it. After being content with this, I moved on.
Outside on my way to the tower I caught a kabuto mushi, or as the locals call it, a dynastid beetle or rhinocerous beetle. However that last one is a bit broad.
After entering the tower I soon found myself face to face with talking books that had been chained to the ground. Each one seemed to be interested in either fish or bugs. The blue one, I will name Sakana, was pleasant for a book with teeth and wanted my fish to.. eat. The green one, nicknamed Mushi, instead was a bit rude and wanted my bugs. However Mushi seemed to like the beetle I gave him. I think I will stick to Sakana for now. I rather not have my arm bitten off.


After a long day of learning the basics, I decided to go back to my room and retire for the evening. I have a long day ahead of me tomorrow.

June 22nd, 2013

The Pink Cage

I really hate how pink is being used as a cage for women and girls, especially girls. Examining toys at how every freaking toy for girls is pink in some way is very heart breaking. While boys get the plethora of colors. It’s a cage because at one time it was used to empower women as it was a masculine color. Then it was used to DEFINE women.

It also sucks in anime that to be the hero of a shoujo anime, you need to LOVE PINK. If you like any other color, too bad, you are the second stringer.
It didn’t start off that way. Going back to Sailor Moon, her colors were red, white, blue and if you include hair, yellow. If you didn’t like those four colors, then yeah you were out of luck, but there was nothing bad associated with those colors. Nothing bad like the associations with pink. After Sailor Moon there’s Wedding Peach, with the main girl’s hair… IS PINK. After that in Futari wa Pretty Cure with back with pink highlights, then more pink, then Splash Star and Oooohhhh fucking… pink it all out!!

So if you want to be a modern day shoujo hero, you have to conform to femininity. You have to love pink, because your outfit will be pink, all the items will be pink, the small creature following you is probably going to be pink in some way. Your room will be pink, it will be your favorite color. If you don’t believe that pink define femininity, they just go to a hard ware store and you’ll find the pink this and that “for women” of course. Pink you see is this color that will melt the flesh off men.
Pink is also associated with babies, and nurturing, and weakness, submission, and helplessness. Despite it being just a color. Funny how all those things are what men (and brainwashed women) use to define women as. Weak, helpless, infantile… One one hand men want us to conform to those traits and on the other find it annoying when we do. Pink is no exception. Guys will kill themselves (yes sometimes literally) if they have to do anything related to the feminine. Pink is no expectation. The guys wearing pink is a parody a joke. They are gay one because that is also associated with being feminine.
And here we have a position that has all this crap behind it, that if you don’t want to deal with, too bad, you can’t have the empowering female fantasy you want because blue and black aren’t colors a proper shoujo hero wears. You want to wear pink!! It’s every girls dream!! That’s they way they sell it to girls and brainwash them into thinking they want the color in the first place. The hero is pink so I must like pink to be the hero. I must CONFORM. it’s shitty where there is exactly ONE anime targeted at you where you don’t have to wear pink. ONE!
Thus we have the cage. That cage girls can’t escape because there is nothing out there that telling them they can also like other colors and be other colors and also feel the ultimate empowerment in being a hero. You can only watch Sailor Moon so many times. You either conform to pink or you get to be a side character.

Yeah you can tell I hate the color pink. I’m not a feminine person and having likes I want to be into and not having a deep selection makes one hate the color, it makes me hate being a woman in the first place. You can’t deny pink is currently a feminine color. So of course you have people that will lash out against the color, it’s currently being used as a weapon to beat women into submission.
So really people, lay off the damn pink already.