February 7th, 2010


Rant: Quickies! Apply directly to the eyes!

Sadly, I did not make the deadline I set for Hoshiuta ~Starlight Serenade~, as the degree of badness contained within its installed files makes me want to throw something at my screen with almost every route I complete.

As such, I'll mumble about it a bit and then see what I can come up with...

Hoshiuta ~Starlight Serenade~: After the lacking storylines of Hoshiuta, most of us who knew about Starlight Serenade had hoped this fandisk would help the original make some sort of sense. Something of a redeemer, one could say. Sadly, that was not the case. At least, with three routes under my belt, that's how it feels to me.

Suou Kazuhiko returns as the protagonist, with the original five girls getting "after stories" (basically, post-ending scenarios). In addition, the game features additional routes for three of the background characters from the first game. I managed to clear two of the new routes, while also clearing the after-story for Midori. So far, I'm not impressed. Midori's after-story decided to focus on a very minor detail from her route in the first game and made a freaking three hour story based on just that.

Much like the first game routes, the new routes in this fandisk also suffer from "let's drag this plot point on for as long as we can" syndrome. The only redeeming quality is that there's good use of comedy and several references to other visual media in the game (Midori beating someone up with Gouki/Akuma's Raging Demon [starts at 0:17], for example).

Rune Lord: This is the first ClockUp game I've ever played, so I had no idea of what to expect. I have played mecha-themed games before (Patvessel being one), but nothing to the extent of Rune Lord in focus on mecha and the use of Sci-fi themes.

Anyway, the player is placed in the shoes of Hagane Seigi, a high school kid that is an overall otaku with a positive attitude and a burning spirit. He specially likes mecha anime and manga (which explains his distaste for some of the members of the club he is in, who seem to be into BL and yaoi). His life get turned in a weird direction when he is suddenly thrusted into the role of a mecha pilot (much to his own delight and glee).

I've currently cleared the first route (Giselle), which was interesting with a good amount of amusing character interactions and even an old anime reference or two (they did a reference to a REALLY old anime about King Arthur near the end of the route). Despite falling in love with Giselle, Seigi accidentally destroys the world, causing everything to go black. As of right now, the game segues into the next heroine's (Gelda) route.

I don't know if I should be happy or sad to recognize so many of the voice actors they got for this game. Amongst them are Oukawa Mio, Kawashima Rino, Kusayanagi Junko, Tamiyasu Tomoe, not to mention that I was right in that Hiyama Nobuyuki does voice Seigi at the very beginning of the game, then making a reappearance as Seigi's VA for the final battle. So far, so good.

G.J?: Well, "Sano Toshihide: Your Personal Manga Man" has been released, and they're planning to do a bunch of small patch releases with artwork from previous G.J. titles. So far data for Akibakei Kanojo and Seven Online Gamers ~Offline~ have been released. Since this gesture as a whole has cost them any support I was willing to give them, I've decided to do a little something to look at their games and talk about the good and bad from each title.

Akibakei Kanojo: G.J?'s first game focuses on the life of Shindou Nikita, a college student that lives in Tokyo with his step-sister, Mei. Nikita considers himself an otaku, while at the same time lacking otaku-inherent knowledge (hence Shingo's comment on Nikita being an otaku of questionable pedigree). The story for the first third of the game focuses on the misadventures of the anime club that he ends up joining, while at the same time trying to pursue the girl of his dreams, Aoi Ren.

Along for the ride we have Hatoko, the older step-sister who has a terminal illness. Then you have Mei, the younger step-sister that likes the protagonist but is not sure where she wants to take things. Then you have Aoi Ren, the girl that is actually an angel that has been looking after Nikita since the death of his parents many years ago. Additionally, we have Misaki Renka and Akiyoshi Tamae as sub-heroines.

On the good side of things, the characters are beautifully designed. There was some actual thought put into how the characters should look (boobs aside). Unfortunately, this mode of work would not be seen in any subsequent G.J. games. Of course, the true show stopper of the game was the use of what G.J? called "Talk Battles". Simply put, whenever the protagonist would get into an argument with someone, he would instantly imagine himself in a setting similar to that of a fighting game, with health bars and all. Comically enough, the person he was arguing with would have no idea of what was going on inside the protagonist's head, which led to some humorous results.

On the bad side of things, the first major sore point of the game is that it switches focus after the first third of the story, becoming enveloped in whatever heroine Nikita chose to pursue. This is pretty bad if the player was expecting the focus to be the otaku that frequent Akihabara (as the game's title would suggest). While I personally take that as G.J's way to telling the player "being an otaku is a bad thing", I can see where people like Shingo come from when critisizing the game for switching from a comedy-centered Genshiken-type story to a serious tale that usually forces the protagonist to renounce his otaku ways.

The next sore point of the game is the lack of overall routes. Renka and Tamae were left by the wayside and given no routes at all. This is somewhat connected to the first sore point, since the former is a voice actress and the latter is a cosplayer, thus beffiting of the game's title and focus on otaku. If anything, their roles should have been greater in the game, or at the least, honor Tsukihime by making Ren, Mei and Hatoko the "Near Side of the Moon" (in that Nikita renounces his otaku ways in their routes) while making Tamae and Renka the "Far Side of the Moon" (where Nikita would have to embrace his otaku side to win them over).

Futago no bouseihonnou: Released in 2004, G.J.'s next game was a rape and abuse game focused on mother-type characters.

The player takes the role of Kusunoki Minoru, a teenager studying for his university entrance exams while living with his mother, Tomoe. He had a fling with an older woman named Akane, who later reveals herself as his birthmother. Minoru is overcome with confusion-induced rage, leading to him raping Tomoe and swear vengeance on Akane. To further confuse things, Tomoe and Akane are twin sisters with a past. Then we discover that Akane was just a surrogate mother, since his real mother couldn't carry him. Akane was able to keep Minoru after his real parents died (the infamous "you're not related by blood, so it's okay for you to have sex" card).

The only good thing I can say for this game is that psychology was very well used when it comes to the way the protagonist sees certain characters, not to mention how screwed up in the head Akane is.

On the bad side of things, this is a game G.J? should have never made. Abuse games should be left to companies that know how to work them to their fullest (Guilty and Cattleya being two). It's not really something anyone would expect from the people that created Talk Battles and used comedy in their first game. A gradual descent into this genre would have made sense, instead of G.J? sweeping the rug from right under the fans.


BOIN: Aside from their less popular games, the true flagship for G.J? has been (much to my dismay) the BOIN series of games. The games were all built around a formula of a protagonist being surrounded by voluptuous women who are fighting over him. The protagonist is usually portrayed as someone who can take his pick, with some comedy tossed in.

The first game of this series was Ane to BOIN, which focused on a protagonist forced to live under the same roof with his ten older sisters. Of course, all ten are looking to get into his pants, and are built in varying shapes and flavors.

AneBO introduced the concept of the "notebook" that the protagonist would make to help the player keep track of data on a particular girl, and usually documented some of the quirks of each heroine.

Second came Tsuma to mama to BOIN, which was about a newlywed businessman who has his pick of various women around him, all married and some with children. Despite being a game that basically thrived on adultery (as the heroines included the guy's sisters-in-law and his own stepmother), TsumaBo tried to introduce a layer to the limited interactions within the game by using "mood cards" that would determine the direction a particular conversation would take.

Lastly, came Hime to BOIN, which in my opinion--oh wait we're out of time...

Intermission End

Seven Online Gamers ~Offline~: G.J?'s next title was an ambitious game that seemed to be a response to the popularity of .hack//sign and the Ragnarok Online anime. The protagonist is named Ichibanboshi Eiyuu, a high school kid that picks up a copy of the MMORPG "Seven Warriors Online". The story follows his beginnings in the game, all the way to forming a guild and eventually fighting against a hacker and fellow player known as Chimera, who is looking to cause trouble and destroy the game world.

The good side of this game is that it is the first eroge to use an MMORPG as part of its gimmick/setting. Additionally, it introduced the notion of the characters as they are in real life and their online personas. The very notion of a story doing this had a lot of potential back when this game was released. Other well-used themes include guild solidarity (at one point the main heroine's character gets hacked and deleted, and the whole guild helps her remake the character from scratch).

The game's music was also a huge improvement from what had been heard from Akibakei all the way to AneBO. Between some of the incidental themes and borrowed works (Leroy Anderson's The Typewriter, Antonin Dvorak's Symphony #9 "From The New World"), the score was definitely notable.

...then, of course, is the greatness of Angry BoobsMinase Anko and her VA, the one and only Oukawa Mio.

The bad side, sadly, is a reprise of several mistakes made during Akibakei Kanojo. The game failed to live up to its title, since there are only six active characters in the cast. Another common complaint is that the scenario is lacking despite the great music and amusing characters. At first I was hesitant to subscribe to this school of thought, but upon looking at the routes as a whole, I came to realize the game lost its direction somewhere down the line, only to be brought back into focus for the final battle against Chimera.

Speaking of Chimera, the game builds her up to be a semi-omnipotent PKer who can hack into the game servers and change whatever she wants. She alters the beseiged event to produce more monsters than planned, can turn on perma-kill (a character killed in combat is deleted upon death) at will, and even alters one of the bosses in a dungeon in an attempt to humiliate the protagonist and his party. At the end, she manages to "destroy" the game world, but is later defeated quite easily by Eiyuu and his party (which kind of kills all that build up from before). Then we find out the player behind Chimera is a girl sitting on a hospital bed, with no more information on her presented.

Mechanics-wise, the game should not have used the Talk-Battle engine from Akibakei Kanojo for the PvP encounters in-game.

Lastly, we have the lack of routes (again). At some point in development, Anko and Maako seem to have had plans for their own routes, but were scrapped for whatever reason. Thus, Seven is limited to three heroines (Kohane, Yuniko and Renka). The fact that the player behind Chimera was not thoroughly explored did not help matters at all.

Personally, Sano should get off his ass and start designing characters for RPGs or something (either that or sell his designs to Toei to make "Dynasty Warriors: Seven Warriors Online Edition"). If anything, Seven proved he has enough imagination to not dissapoint.

Queen Bonjour no!: After surviving by releasing two BOIN games, the next game that came was a tale that tried to span accross time.

Queen focuses on Sir Lukus, a knight in the service of his childhood friend, Juliette. While Juliette yearns to be with Lukus romantically, her kingdom is suddenly invaded, leading to both being killed by the invading army. Before dying, Juliette makes a wish to be with her beloved. As such, the game fast-forwards 1000 years, letting the player take over the reincarnated Sir Lukus (who is now named Kazamatsuri Touya) and his encounters with the reincarnated Juliette (who is now named Sakurasaka Meguru). Along for the ride we have Kazamatsuri Rin (Touya's older cousin), Ayanojou Reiko (Touya's senpai at school), Misaki Suzuka (a sadistic teacher at Touya's school) and Koganei Chako (an underclassman at his school); all of which were also alive 1000 years ago.

The good news is that the game had a ton of story potential given the concept the writers were going for. To further emphasize this, the notebook system that was created for the BOIN games was redesigned as a DejaVu System that kept track of each heroine in both of their incarnations. This explored how much each girl had changed between the past and present, or how similar the present incarnation is to the past.

Then comes the bad news. The game was awfully short. The meat of the content is actually consumed by the story of Sir Lukus, leaving the "present" routes to be very very short, and thus, heavily undeveloped. Touya is too easily convinced that he once had a thing with Meguru or the other heroines, which did not help things.

Production-wise, I didn't like the fact that Suzuka (and her past incarnation, Mira) got a stealth boob job during production. Part of the running gag with G.J? was that any character voiced by Renka-san was flat-chested by default, but Sano changed his mind before the final master up was finished. They also added one heroine at the very last minute, so last minute that she did not even get a voice actress assigned.

Anata no shiranai kangofu: I'm not gonna dignify this game with a pseudo-analysis. All I'll say is that the game was a nurse abuse game that should have never been made. If you want nurse abuse, go play Yakin Byoutou or any of the Nanase Ren games that M no Violet so loves to make (I swear, they're on their 4th of 5th game based on Nanase Ren).

Majodou: This is the game that cemented the decline for me, despite being the third in the top three story-based G.J? games (the other two being Akibakei Kanojo and Seven Online Gamers ~Offline~).

The player takes the role of a guy that is caught in the midst of a battle for the Witch's World Cup, and his life becomes intertwined with that of four witches representing their respective countries. I wasn't that impressed, and admitedly, did not finish the game (I only cleared Subaru and Yuuko's routes). As such, I'll parrot some stuff other reviewers have said about the game.

THe scenario is acceptable in most japanese reviews I've read. Another well-liked point is how two routes go into the nature of the competition amongst the witches and what their role in the greater scheme of things is. A whole lot of them also liked Marie Marigold (the witch that was trapped inside a ceramic pot since the days of the Renaissance).

What pushed me away from it was the overall presentation. While most reviewers found Marie appealing, I got bored of her after I noticed she had a lot more screen time than the other heroines. Her Hadouken joke real old, real fast, too.

Hime to BOIN: *delegated to someone else*

Featured Character

Name: Kirishima Mizuki
Game: AneImo 2 ~Second Stage~, AneImo 2H's
Voiced by: Kimura Ayaka
Designed by: Shinonome Kazuhiko
Character Type: Oneesan-poi osananajimi (older sister-type childhood friend)

Kirishima Mizuki is Onodera Takumi's (AneImo2's protagonist) next door neighbor, living in the large mansion owned by her family with her father and her sister Satsuki.

Mizuki has known our protagonist for a very long time and has been like an older sister to him for as long as both can remember. Somewhere down the line, she developed feelings for Takumi, but decided to keep them a secret up until the beginning of AneImo2.

At the start of the story, Mizuki goes about her usual routine of waking Takumi up in the morning and giving him his lunch before sending him off to school. At times she'll even cut his hair and groom it if she feels it necessary (much to our protagonist's embarrassment). His parents are so impressed by her dedication that they constantly ask Mizuki to marry Takumi so she can always look after him. There are, of course, some awkward moments that greatly embarrass our heroine, to the point that she becomes incredibly clumsy as a result.

As the events of the game unfold, Satsuki and Kasumi (Mizuki's best friend) do their own thing to help her build up courage, or at least give hints of how she feels to our protagonist. Mizuki herself tries to get closer to Takumi in her own way, but is often twarted by her own bashfulness. Near the end of the route, Kasumi's warning that "things won't stay like this forever" is what triggers the resolution to Mizuki's route, which involves a date on Christmas Eve.

2H's decides to explore Mizuki's past relationship with Takumi in a weird way, and as such reveals that Takumi's breast fetish manifested because of her.

Despite being the older girl, Mizuki's relationship with Takumi is usually 50-50 when it comes to who is the "lead". She's also the jealous type, seeing that the only reason she dissapproves of snowboarding is the fact that our protagonist tends to attract "unwanted" female attention while doing so.

That's it for today.

-Moroboshi Yuumei