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Visual Novel

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    boxart
    Game Info:

    2236 A.D.
    Developed By: Chloro
    Published By: Sekai Project
    Released: May 11, 2018
    Available On: Linux, MacOS, Windows
    Genre: Visual Novel
    ESRB Rating: No Rating
    Number of Players: 1
    Price: $14.99

    Thank you Sekai Project for the review code.

    People always look towards the future in many ways. Some people are excited to see what it holds for them while others are terrified of it. Sometimes, the past, and the future is a judge of character. Finding yourself, your purpose, can be a lifelong journey for many. One of the scariest things for a person to experience is themself, but what happens when a seemingly small situation leads you on an adventure of self-discovery and worth?

    The visual novel 2236 A.D. stars our protagonist Yotsuba, a young boy attending school in the distant future. This future doesn’t have flying cars or instant teleportation like how many futures are portrayed. What differs from this reality and our own is that the people of the future are capable of telepathy, which for the most part bypasses verbal communication. Telepathy can also be used on objects to see who previously had them and what they have done with them. Some of the people even have special devices called Smart Tools, which act as personal assistants.

    2236 A.D.
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: An engaging philosophical and scientific story that is much deeper within than it leads on. A strange, yet appealing soundtrack that fits the tone of every situation.
    Weak Points: Character art is sub-par. Dead inputs quite frequently, requiring multiple inputs to achieve an action.
    Moral Warnings: Various sexual acts and situations. Full frontal nudity of characters, some who may be quite young. Mild and strong language usage. Some characters submit to their more lustful urges. God’s name is used in vain quite a few times. Blood is sometimes shown in scenes and some instances of descriptive violence. 

    Our protagonist finds himself drawn to the only two classmates that are incapable of telepathy, which makes it very difficult for the two to complete their tasks as most forms of communication are by telepathy. He takes a special interest in one of these classmates; a girl named Haru Shion who stays completely quiet in the classroom, of whom he finds very intriguing. After class ends, he finds a screwdriver on the ground when walking home. Using his telepathy on it, it leads him to an abandoned house, where he then meets a motionless girl, also by the name of Haru Shion. Opposite to the other Haru Shion, this one is only able to communicate by telepathy. Are the two Haru’s the same person, and why do they look so much alike?

    As 2236 A.D. is a visual novel, it puts a heavy emphasis on story, character interaction and dialogue. Some visual novels have gameplay aspects to it, but this one is like most visual novels, where there are some dialogue choices to make. There are not a huge amount of choices in this one, but like most, choosing the wrong dialogue will lead to a sudden and abrupt end. It is pretty obvious what choice or choices to make when the time arises. 2236 A.D. differentiates itself from other VNs by taking a more philosophical approach to its narrative. It really peers into the mind and thought process of a person. It will make you question why people do the things they do, and what things make them act the way they act, and frankly, it does a great job at it. When going through the VN, many different kinds of emotions will be felt, and some situations will hit the heart very heavily. As the game goes on, it takes a more scientific approach where it will talk about various theories that scientists have made in the past, but still keeps up with the philosophical questions about the natural curiosity of a person and ones self-worth.

    As this strange world is based on a possible future of our own, the developers took this liberty to make most of the backgrounds pictures of real life. There are many effects added to these photos such as inverted colors in some of them which give off a bizarre and unsettling feeling. The backgrounds also contain these little subtleties that make the world feel more organic such as wrinkled bed sheets, scattered items throughout and natural settings such as rain and snow. Even though the backgrounds are beautiful and eye catching, I unfortunately cannot say the same for its character design. For a game that originally released in 2015 in Japan, the art of the characters are mediocre and even border around the edge of bad in some scenes. I’ve played low budget VNs that have come out in the late '90’s and early '00’s with vastly better character art. Contrast to the scenery, it makes the characters stick out in a bad way even more and left me very unimpressed.

    2236 A.D.
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 82%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 53%
    Violence - 6.5/10
    Language - 1.5/10
    Sexual Content - 0/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8.5/10

    Most VNs utilize voice acting to bring more life to it, but as the VN was created by a smaller team on a smaller budget it does not have voice acting outside of a few intro scenes and credits. With the lack of voice acting, they more than make up for it with the music and sound production. The music covers all sorts of genres, at times focusing on classical pieces and other times focusing on modern sounds. Whenever a strange scene happens, strange music accompanies it, with distorted notes and beats, really giving an abnormal feeling. Even though I did not experience any crashes of the sort, there was some odd moments where the game just would not accept my input. I have a computer that far exceeds the system requirements, so it is rather annoying to experience random pauses and eaten inputs.

    Visual Novels have many subgenres to them and one of those genres are of the eroge (erotic+game) variety. 2236 A.D. was originally an eroge, but to be distributed through the Steam client, it has to have its graphic sexual scenes removed. Thus, the version on Steam is an “All Ages” edition. As such, there is an “18+” version distributed via Denpasoft if one is interested in the additional scenes. Even with the removal of the H-scenes, it is still a game marketed and meant for adults. Instances of mild and strong language are shown, with frequent F-bomb usage, as well as some instances of using God’s name in vain. Even by omitting graphic sexual acts, there are still sexual moments such as the groping of breasts or instances of masturbation. Frontal nudity is also shown of a few characters, and some of these characters are of a fairly young age as they are depicted as being in middle school and high school, but their exact age range is never specified. Violence is never outright shown in any of the scenes but there are some scenes where blood is shown, as well as a few scenes where violence is described in detail.

    2236 A.D. takes you and its characters on a crazy journey, letting you see a similar, yet different world through someone’s point of view. It is a coming of age story where many emotions are experienced: anger, jealousy, fear, cowardice, but also joy, and happiness. As the story goes deeper and deeper, it starts to make you question yourself. Do you accept yourself? Do you even love yourself? How far are you willing to go to achieve your dreams and find a place where you belong? 2236 A.D. ends up being a very enjoyable visual novel with a strong narrative, a complementing and compelling soundtrack, and realistic characters that is great for VN veterans and newcomers of the genre, even with its rather unappealing character design. Lovers of science will get enjoyment out if it due to its views and how it tackles the subject. Just be aware that since the game in its original form is of the eroge genre, it still has many sexual situations, and content to match. As such, I would advice caution when considering this title, as there are many tamer games in this genre to enjoy.


    -Cinque Pierre

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    A Clockwork Ley-Line: The Borderline of Dusk
    Developed by: Unison Shift: Blossom
    Published by: Sekai Project
    Release date: December 18, 2017
    Available on: Windows
    Genre: Visual Novel
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $19.99

    Thank you Sekai Project for sending us this game to review!

    I have seen many games begin with a disclaimer about the names and characters being fictitious, but A Clockwork Ley-Line: The Borderline of Dusk takes it a bit further to note that the characters in this game are also 18 or older. While there are some moral concerns in this title, this review is based on the Steam version without the available 18+ patch installed.

    The story begins with the main character receiving a letter of acceptance for a college he did not apply to. Besides the magical blue birds flying out of the envelope, the promise of granting any wish catches his eye. With his sick brother in mind, he sets forth on his adventure in checking out this mysterious school.

    On his first day at school, Koga Michiru meets his first friend by catching him as he accidentally falls out of a window. In order to save his life, he winds up breaking a valuable statue of the school’s founder. As it turns out, this wasn’t an ordinary statue, but a seal that kept magical mists at bay. With the seal broken, chaos ensues and Koga Michiru along with his new friend are recruited into a bureau to solve these mysterious cases. The principal accepts their duties as repayment for the valuable statue that broke.

    A Clockwork Ley-Line: The Borderline of Dusk
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Good story and character development; funny scenarios
    Weak Points: Steam integration does not work 
    Moral Warnings: Lots of references to magic; blood and talismans are required to seal magical items; sexual references and imagery; a male butt is shown along with up skirt shots of females; lots of strong language and blaspheming

    The Libra Lapis Lazuli Private Academy isn’t your typical school. After classes, the students are whisked away to their dorms and are not allowed to leave until the following day. A disciplinary committee strictly enforces these rules. The Bureau for the Investigation of Special Affairs and disciplinary committee often work together to solve cases affecting both the day and nighttime students. At night, the school magically transforms and students from another dimension appear and attend classes there.

    Some of the cases you’ll get dragged into involve missing items, students acting abnormally or even left unconscious. Most of the time a magic infused item called a mist is behind the fiasco. For example, there was a rash of keys missing and the main character and a female bureau member spent more than a day handcuffed to each other as a result of the key being taken by a mist right before their eyes. It took him a while to be forgiven for his little pranks but he had no idea that there was a fairy on the loose swiping keys on the campus. As it turns out, the fairy was asked to find a key, but no details of its appearance were given so she took every one she could find. Once getting to the source of the fairy and unlocking the handcuffs, this case is solved.

    Like many visual novels, you are given choices on how to answer various questions. I like how you can save at the questions and I highly recommend doing so. Answering incorrectly will cause you to lose the respect of your colleagues so loading and retrying is worth the effort. Some other nice features include the ability to lock save files or to skip ahead to the next prompt if your previous save was a ways back.

    A Clockwork Ley-Line: The Borderline of Dusk
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 84%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 54%
    Violence - 9/10
    Language - 0/10
    Sexual Content - 6/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 2/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The overall interface is really nicely done and has a lot of polish to it. I like the animated clockwork gears in the pause menu and the voice overs on the menu is a nice touch as well even if I can’t understand it in Japanese. The voice acting is all Japanese, but there are subtitles for native English speakers. Unfortunately, the subtitles have some character spacing issues and some trailing letters appear out of place from the words they go to. Graphically, the artwork is really well done and I like the appearance and facial expression changes of the characters.

    Each of the characters have distinct personalities and much humor is derived from their differences and clashes. The dialogue and language get heated at times and pretty much every curse word (d*mn, h*ll, *ss, b*stard, sh*t, f*ck) and some blaspheming is seen in the subtitles. In order to dispel mists, a bureau member must cut herself and place a talisman on them. The blood dripping from her hand is shown. Some awkward situations are present in this game and nudity is referenced but not explicitly shown other than a male’s rear end and some female underwear shots.

    Since the Steam overlay wasn’t working for me, I’m not exactly sure how much time I spent playing this game. I will estimate about six hours since A Clockwork Ley-Line: The Borderline of Dusk is broken down into five episodes and a finale, and each of the episodes are roughly an hour in length.

    If the magical and moral issues don’t bother you, there is much to like in this visual novel. It’s part of a trilogy and I look forward to the release of the future installments. The all ages version on Steam sells for $19.99.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    ACE Academy
    Developed By: PixelFade Studios
    Released: August 22, 2016
    Available On: Windows, Mac and Linux/Steam OS
    Genre: Visual Novel, Sci-Fi, Romance
    ESRB Rating: N/A: Recommended 16+
    Number of Players: 1 Offline
    Price: $24.99

    Before I go any further in this review, I do wish to note my own personal biases for this game. I really, REALLY, loved this game. I love the studio; I'm not a Patreon for them but I totally would be if I had the disposable income and I think I have a good relationship with one of the writers and the development team as a whole. Now watch as I get mass tweeted by them telling me how they actually don't think I am that cool. But whatever, I felt the need to point out I have a personal bias in favor of this game. It was basically my perfect game.

    ACE Academy is the debut title from PixelFade Studio, an independent studio based in Toronto, Ontario. They funded this game through two methods: a Patreon and Steam Early Access (which is how I got a hold of the game). The developers have made it a point to keep in touch with their fanbase. For example, they changed Mayu from a non-romanceable to a romanceable character.

    ACE Academy
    The Full Gang from left to right: Shou, You, Nikki, Valerie, Kaori, Yuuna, Mayu

    The story takes place in the not-so-distant future of 2049. GEARs, what this game calls its giant robots, were developed for military purposes and, much like military technology of today, eventually made their way to the civilian sector. They were used for commercial purposes and somehow found their way into the sports entertainment industry. This sudden boom of interest in GEARs created a new field called "Cenorobotics".

    The protagonist finds himself transferring to ACE Academy after his parents are killed in a car crash. Now, in a new place with no friends, he has to find a team willing to deal with his outdated American GEAR so he can compete in the intramural tournament. As he begins to lose all hope, a group of pilots are just desperate enough to accept him into their fold.

    ACE Academy
    Eagle Powered Up
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Memorable characters; GIANT ROBOTS; witty references; great art; catchy music; strong family themes
    Weak Points: Several noticeable typos; missing audio; one particular dialogue was played with the sentences reversed (First sentence was second and second was first)
    Moral Warnings: Anime hot springs and beach day show the characters in swim suits

    The gameplay is rather vanilla as far as visual novels go. Read and click your decision, decide who you're going to hang out with, pick your girlfriend. However, as the old saying goes: “If it's not broke, don't fix it” and PixelFade has held strongly to that. Occasionally, you will be thrown into a match with competing teams as they use their GEARs to fight yours. The original combat system was, as they put it, "keyboard DDR." However, they since recreated the combat system by having the player choose through the usual visual novel choice selection on what your character is going to do combat wise. These fights are usually placed closer to the end of the chapters, which is how they break up their stories.

    In this game, the stories are divided into four chapters. The first being more the introduction, the second is when you're getting into the swing of things, and also where you pick your girlfriend. The third is a few lovely dates with your significant other and some nice story chunks. The fourth chapter is the lead up to your team's final match and the story wraps itself up from there. I personally felt the final chapter was rushed a little; they could have easily extended it to beyond a fourth into a fifth chapter. Things seemed to go by a little too fast for my comfort, at least story-wise. During the final chapter there is a lack of unique backgrounds that feel a little off sometimes; I'd go to an entirely new restaurant and the café would look exactly the same as the school's cafeteria. However, in their defense, we only went to those new locations once. Also, there aren't any epilogue scenes, something I really enjoy about other visual novels.

    Which brings me to a series of compliments they may not get. I chose Valerie as the young woman for me. She was very much into PDA, innuendos, and talked in a rather sultry tone. I chose her because I figured she would be the best chance to see if this game had sex. Surprisingly, it did not. There was a “Fade-to-black” scene, but it is later revealed that nothing sexual happened as Valerie is apparently very bad at describing what sex is like because she's never had it before. The game has a reassuring lack of sex that made me all the happier to play it.

    ACE Academy
    Team Pilots
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 88%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 79%
    Violence - 9/10
    Language - 3/10
    Sexual Content - 4.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    They didn't use God's name in vain for a while, which I was really hoping they wouldn't because I was thinking that would be really cool. Unfortunately, they used God's name in vain, though thankfully, it was a rare occurrence.

    There are more innuendoes and sexual comments than some may be comfortable with. Valerie wears a two-piece bathing-suit level cat costume for Halloween, which you can choose to buy for her. Certain comments are directed at Yuuna's breasts, and you can choose to wear fetish police gear for the same Halloween party Valerie wears a cat-girl costume to. I chose to be the Batman parody and thought it was a clever play on Batman and Catwoman. Sadly, that dialogue choice wasn't programmed in.

    If you can deal with blasphemy, prime-time television swears, beachwear, the occasional bad typo, missing dialogue, and you really love your visual novels, I would recommend this to you. It is one of my favorite games of all year, and definitely among my top picks for visual novels.

    -Dabuddah453

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Cherry Tree High Girls' Fight
    Developer: 773
    Published by: Sekai Project
    Release Date: June 13, 2016
    Available on: Windows
    Genre: Visual Novel, Card Game
    Players: 1
    ESRB Rating: Unrated
    Price: $ 12.99

    Thank you Sekai Project for sending us this game to review!

    People who know me think I have a bias towards anime games, but this is not true. A good game is a good game and a bad game is a bad game no matter how kawaii or “bouncy” things may get. People also think I am too soft on games with a lot of focus around luck. Today's game, Cherry Tree High Girls’ Fight, pushes the limits of luck tolerance to the most extreme level. The most credit I'll give the game is that it has a good game trying to get out. However the luck reliance got so bad it felt like I'd have a better chance getting amazing line hits on a slot machine.

    Cherry Tree High Girls’ Fight puts you in the role of a faceless gym coach who recently got a job at the elite academy Cherry Tree High. You are put in charge of forming a team for the Girls’ Fight, a mixed martial arts tournament to see which combatants are the best in Japan. Once you pick your three girls to form your team, you spend each week training, talking to, and taking care of them. Every Friday in the game is a match for the tournament. If you win enough matches you'll qualify for the finals, eventually reaching the final fight in the game.

    Cherry Tree High Girls' Fight
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: None Whatsoever, buy a better game.
    Weak Points: This game will give you the feeling of sitting at a slot machine in a casino. All luck, no skill. 
    Moral Warnings: Sexy outfits and perverted moments are in this game such as touching breasts for no reason or giving the girls a punch below the belt, also a strange reliance on  high school kids to fight demons. Some fighters use magical based attacks to win the tournament.

    When you name your coach you also have an option to pick between different perks for various bonuses. In the gym, you choose what stats to boost through various training exercises. You may teach your girls new attacks as well instead of boosting stats. If you choose, you can walk around the school to eavesdrop on conversations. This may give you various hints about the game or new conversation topics to have with your girls. You can talk to your girls to find out more about them. If they get injured you can choose to massage them in various places. If training goes poorly you can scold, encourage, or punch them in different places as well. Some of these actions cost Action Points or AP, you gain more the better you do in fights. During fights, every turn you draw five cards which can activate punch, kick, throw, grab, rush, ki, or special attacks. Each card has a number and each attack has a number next to it. The number on the card dictates advantage points, while the number next to the move indicates how difficult the move is to pull off. You can also choose to guard or evade as well with any card. You pick three different moves to do every turn and then the best attacks go through. You win by knocking out your opponent's three girls or by having higher combined HP than your foes at the end of twenty turns.

    So for quick reference I did manage to beat the game at least once on normal. Just because I beat it doesn't mean it must be easy to figure out. The game doesn't explain certain status ailments like downed. You are apparently better than your opponent if you see their cards on occasion, yet what determines that? Stats? Moveset? What determines what attacks are evading and which aren't? I would ask more questions yet that would feel like I am cheating my own paragraph. The only really clear thing about the game is what moves benefit from what stats. Through trial and error I was able to figure some of it out, yet it didn't feel satisfying. Sure a game doesn't need to hold your hand; challenge is always good. However the definition of challenge isn't black and white, you don't always want to be thrown headfirst without knowing whats going on. The tutorial and tip section in the game are rather bare bones. The company released a translated manual, yet that doesn't give you the depth of the game either. When figuring out a game feels like trying to solve the riddle to the Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, it's just not fun. It's not true difficulty, it's trial and error figuring out a luck based game.

    This game prides itself as a strategic card game yet I don't see that. Sure you can prioritize what stats you get, but when you focus your character on strength based attacks, If you don't get your punch and kick cards then your other attacks will either be weak or you'll be forced to try and guard and evade. If you draw only level one or two punch cards and your opponent draws level 4 or 5 attacks, you won't get a single hit in and you'll just take punishment. I've checked every character's move set through repeated save files, and there is no move to upgrade the level of cards or draw extra cards. This is a common thing in other card games to mitigate luck yet this game is absent of such mechanics. In other non-card games with an element of luck, they always have a mechanic to mitigate and lessen the reliance on luck.

    Cherry Tree High Girls' Fight
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 50%
    Gameplay - 5/20
    Graphics - 5/10
    Sound - 5/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 64%
    Violence - 7/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 5/10

    Backgrounds are bare-bones and minimum, artstyle is ok yet it seems low effort compared to Sekai Project's other games. Even their visual novels have more movement. Animations are minimal and most of the time you're looking at still pictures. The music is generic and repetitive; at first I thought each girl had unique theme songs yet I quickly found out I was wrong. The story setup and payoff is the most generic thing ever: the tournament is a cover to train fighters to fight off some ancient Japanese flower demon with a dumb name. Does Fleurdermort sound like a credible threat or some weird cosplay original character? Also, while there may be scenes and even special unlocks with characters if you just talk to them, there do not seem to be any special benefits for doing so. Save your AP points for special training. The less you focus on your stats the more you set yourself up for failure.

    With morality, expect the usual perverted moments and scantily clad outfits with this game. No gym coach would need the option to massage his fighters breasts. Certain outfits in the game are intended for an erotic response. The boxer in a sports bra and gym shorts I can understand, that is the common outfit for most female boxers. A belly dancers outfit or a jungle girl in a thin and tight outfit that barely covers her body seems like its for the fan service. I am only going to knock the violence down one point because it's all text bubbles and flashing lights. I'll knock it down a bit more for giving the option to pull random sucker punches on your fighters. It's not only unethical, it's just bad coaching. Even if the story didn't impress me, it's still strange to rely on high school students to protect Japan from some flower demon. Some fighters use magical based attacks as well.

    If you're in an anime mood and you want to weeb out, you'll have superior anime style games to choose from. If you want a strategy game you'll have superior games to choose from. If you want a card game or game with an element of luck, you guessed it, you'll have superior games to choose from. This game fails in three categories and succeeds in none. The only positive out of this experience? Maybe I'll give a visual novel style game a try and see if I have fun with it.

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    boxart
    Game Info:

    CLANNAD
    Developed By: VisualArts/Key
    Published By: Sekai Project
    Release Date: November 23, 2015
    Available On: Windows
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    Genre: Visual Novel
    Mode: Single Player
    MSRP: $49.99

    Thank you Sekai Project for sending us this game to review!

    CLANNAD is a visual novel (VN) originally released back in 2004 in Japan, that ended up spawning several sequels as well as anime adaptations.  Given the quality of this source material, it’s easy to see why – contained herein is quite a moving tale of friendship, love, and hardships – and how we can get through it all by supporting each other.  There are also many times the game will bring you to tears – both from laughing, and immense sadness.

    Like a massive percentage of all Japanese media exports, this takes place in and around a local high school.  Tomoya Okazaki is a third year student (out of three) who is at a highly regarded prep school, but has long ago lost any desire to go to college, so he slacks off in a major way with his close buddy Youhei Sunohara, who finds himself in a similar situation.  So rather than study and prepare for entrance exams, they skip class, mess around, have fun, and talk to girls.  Like many other visual novels, what conversation choices you make impact everything from which girl you go out with (if any) to various school activities.  

    Despite being labeled as a delinquent and having a sharp tongue, Okazaki has a very good heart, and it really comes through in the way he treats the people he loves when it matters.  He tends to say exactly what he thinks, and can be a little rough at times, but he always cares and his friends know it.  His mother died before he could remember, and his relationship with his father is very strained, so he looks for deep relations outside of home.  Depending on the choices you make, you can get to know many of the people in your life quite well, and form deep connections with the girls you date.

     

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Incredibly well written story; excellent Japanese voice acting; very nice art and music; lots of routes which deeply explore each character; many laugh out loud moments, along with some so sad that tears are virtually guaranteed; takes a deep look at the hardships in life
    Weak Points: No controller support; 4:3 resolution
    Moral Warnings: Alcohol and tobacco consumed by several characters, including player; fortune telling present, including tarot cards and astrology; magic spells can be cast in story on a certain route; many jokes border on inappropriate, including some that joke about homosexual things; a girl gets love letters from other girls; one ending has a character going gay (it’s a joke ending); one male character looks like a girl at first, and makes many jokes of this fact, including a guy falling for him even though he finds out (it’s played for laughs); several students skip school on a regular basis; porn and masturbation talked about, including as part of jokes; sexual fantasies explored in some routes; one relationship becomes sexually active before marriage; in one route, they move in before they get married, but it appears sex does at least wait until after marriage for them, and the girl’s father encourages him to bring some dirty books home until she opens up to him; most foul words are used, including ‘b*st*rd’, ‘*ss’, ‘hell’, ‘d*mn’ and variations, ‘sh*t’, ‘b*tch’, and one noted use of ‘f*ck’

    With a few exceptions, most of Tomoya’s circle of friends suffer with some kind of loss or disadvantage compared with the expected norm.  Many have lost parents, siblings, loved ones, or suffer from some kind of physical malady.  Part of the richness of the story is seeing how these problems not only hold them back in some ways, but it also matures them and draws them closer to each other for support.  

    There are many character routes to choose from, and almost all of them must be completed in order to unlock the After Story, which leads to the true ending after gathering a couple of endings there as well.  The After Story is around half of the game, and takes the story in a much different, deeper, and more mature direction than the mostly silly school scenarios.

    The writing in CLANNAD is legendary in that even the creator said that he reached heights that he is not sure he will be able to reach again.  And the translation, as done by Sekai Project, is simply masterful.  Rather than trying to translate out some of the Japanese terminology, they added a 'Dangopedia', which translates and explains each cultural reference to keep the readers in the loop.  They also show up as red words, to make them even easier to refer to.  And the voice acting, despite being in Japanese, is simply amazing.  Each character is clearly discernible, and some of them make me laugh or smile just thinking about those voices.  (My favorites are probably Fuko, Akio, and Kyou, though I could just as easily name any of the rest as also great.)

    What surprised me is how each route, even the ones that are not canon (i.e. do not lead to the true ending) are extremely well developed, and could easily be expanded to whole new stories by themselves.  Incidentally, one of the routes was expanded on as its own VN, and it has just been released on Steam.  In some ways, I kind of prefer some of the other girls, though I still appreciate the main heroine, Nagisa.

    Despite all of this praise, it’s fair to say that there are still some faults.  The true ending feels forced, and not nearly as interesting or fleshed out as some of the bad endings.  Most of the characters follow some kind of anime trope, though that doesn’t actually bother me.  But if you dislike that, you may want to reconsider, or just watch the anime (which I have not seen yet at the time of this writing).  After all, this VN took me over seventy(!) hours to complete, so it is a pretty significant investment to see everything.  And another thing – it’s practically impossible to see everything without a walkthrough.  There is a very good one on Steam that should cover most needs.  The game does not support controllers.

    There is also the issue of appropriateness.  Visually, this novel has no graphics that are inappropriate in any way.  That is a relief, as I haven’t played one like that so far.  The only problems visually are some of the pranks that have Sunohara flying across the hallway.  They are funny though.

    Thematically, there are some moral points to be aware of with the story.  There is spirituality, as though there is some spirit watching over the city that takes care of people.  There is some mention of God as someone to be prayed to, and Christ is used as a curse word a small number of times.  Language wise, most common curse words are used to varying degrees.  They aren’t too common, but all present. Even the word ‘f*ck’ is used once.  ‘B*tch’, ‘b*st*rd’, and ‘sh*t’ are used a few times, and ‘hell’, ‘*ss’, and ‘d*mn’ in its various forms are used more often.  

    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 88%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 70%
    Violence - 9/10
    Language - 0/10
    Sexual Content - 6/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7/10

    Bonus points:
    Promotes the importance of family: +3
    Delivers a good moral lesson: +3

    A fair amount of written sexual content is present, with much of it for laughs. Sometimes Okazaki or Sunohara will say something stupid or try to get someone else in trouble, and hilarity ensues.  One joke revolves around trying to clear up a misunderstanding about one’s sexual orientation (no one in the story is actually homosexual, though misunderstandings in that way are used to comedic effect).  In another, the girlfriend’s father is trying to get the main character to bring home dirty magazines, even though he doesn’t want them, since she is a rather modest girl.  Porn and masturbation are mentioned a few times, and appears to be considered normal by most guys where discussed, though the main character seems to rarely indulge in that, as he seems to display self control.  The words ‘jerking off’ is used in that context.  There is also the occasional reference to breasts of various sizes.

    * spoilers *

    Most of the relationships with the girls are thankfully pure, with notable exceptions.  One of the couples live together before marriage, though it appears that they do save sex for after they get married.  Another relationship is quite the opposite – they have sex quite early and often.  It clearly changes how the main character looks at her, as he has (humorous) sexual fantasies about her as well, and he occasionally makes his desires known to her.  The rest of the potential girlfriends do not cross that line in the time those relationships are given in the story.  

    * end spoilers *

    CLANNAD is a highly celebrated visual novel, that spawned two sequels as well as various other media, like manga and anime.  It is this way for a very good reason – it's very well written, has a compelling story to tell, and it brings on the feels train – keep those tissues handy.  This grown man had cried at least twice.  It has a great soundtrack, and nice art.  There is its fair share of appropriateness issues, and should be kept away from children despite its all ages appearance.  If you enjoy slice of life anime, and similar relationship stories, there is a lot to like in CLANNAD.  It's a story that has great moral lessons woven throughout, and really made me think about life and value my family a lot more.  And thank God for my many great blessings, and may I have more compassion on those who don't.

     

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    CLANNAD Side Stories
    Developed By: VisualArts/Key
    Published By: Sekai Project
    Release Date: June 2, 2016
    Available On: Windows
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    Genre: Visual Novel
    Mode: Single Player
    MSRP: $19.99

    Thank you Sekai Project for sending us this game to review!

    CLANNAD Side Stories is a relatively short set of additional stories that expands on what CLANNAD already showed you.  Several stories take place during the high school arc, with others taking place in other side arcs, and a few canonical ones also.  It’s a nice set of stories for those who have already played CLANNAD and are looking for more.

    Half of the stories take place before the story of CLANNAD.  They help set up background information to help you get to know the characters better.  With one exception (I’m not a fan of the first story), they are all wonderful.  After all, who wouldn’t love a story told from the perspective of a baby boar?

    CLANNAD Side Stories
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: If you love CLANNAD, there are more stories here, and almost all original ones; voice for Tomoya; new sound effects; widescreen; nice art
    Weak Points: Kind of short (6-7 hours); no gameplay choices (it’s more like a DVD with a menu); no choice to manually forward or skip text, and no scrollback (if you miss a line, you need to restart the chapter); no way to save progress; no controller support
    Moral Warnings: Spirituality similar to CLANNAD (town spirits) and a character is summoned by saying her name; fortune telling (with playing cards); magic spells cast using a spellbook; words like ‘h*ll’ and ‘t*ts’ used; alcohol is consumed by main character and father in law (legally); some jokes include innuendo with some homosexual; dirty books mentioned; phrases ‘bumping uglies’ and ‘grow a pair’ used; a couple of different bath scenes, where females are shown undressed, with steam covering the necessary parts; silly ‘girl talk’ comparing breast sizes; a ‘pretty’ guy is confused for a girl; an angry girl is accused of being on her period

     

     

     

     

    The other stories take place during or after the main scenario of CLANNAD.  I really liked these; some were very funny, and a few were really touching.  It was also really nice to see a story that takes place after the true ending in CLANNAD After Story.  I felt like the final ending in that novel was a bit short, and this expands on it in a nice, heartwarming way.  It is good to see how the main character Tomoya has grown, also.

    On a technical level, the visual novel engine is improved, with nicer, widescreen graphics, and sound effects that corroborate what is happening on screen and in the text.  The character art is slightly different, and mostly for the better.  Tomoya is voiced for the first time, which is a nice touch.  There are some really nice still shots that appear to be hand drawn, and look great.  The music is pretty much the same as the base game, not that it’s a bad thing.

    While the game looks better, I was disappointed to find that you have no control over the progress at all.  Voices and text automatically continue with no input. You can’t save, and once you start a story, it simply continues at its own pace until it completes.  Honestly, this could easily have been a DVD with a menu – that’s exactly what it plays like.  The only difference is you can access a menu to pause or quit – which you can also do with DVDs.  You don’t even get an icon saying what you already played.  Despite that, it’s not the end of the world, as each episode is about twenty to thirty minutes, so it’s not too hard to get through them.

    Like CLANNAD, there are some appropriateness issues to be aware of.  There is actually less language, as I only noted ‘h*ll’ and ‘t*ts’ as far as individual words go.  There is still present the spirituality issues, like the town spirits, and magic spells out of a spellbook.  Alcohol is consumed by both the main character and his father-in-law, but they are both of legal age.  The phrases ‘bumping uglies’ and ‘grow a pair’ are used.

    CLANNAD Side Stories
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 76%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 5/10
    Sexual Content - 6/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7/10

     

    The sexual content as described isn’t much different than CLANNAD, though there is a bit more visually.  Like CLANNAD, there is occasional perverted or suggestive talk, mentions of dirty books, and ‘girl talk’ about breasts.  (There's 'guy talk' and fantasizing about them, too.)  There is a scene with shopping in a lingerie store. Also, it appears that a girl wants her much older sister to be in love with her, but it’s hard to tell if it is serious because of the character saying it.  

    Unlike CLANNAD, there are a couple of visual things that are inappropriate.  There are two bath scenes that are drawn.  Naturally the important parts are covered by steam or other things, but you can see girls in each scene (there is a male one also) and breasts are visible either from behind, or frontally at an angle, with steam covering them up as needed.

    CLANNAD Side Stories is a nice companion to CLANNAD for fans of the series.  There are sixteen mini episodes, each focusing on a different character, and all of them (except maybe one) are enjoyable.  Having seen them, I would recommend playing them in the order listed in the game.  Do not watch the last three out of order.  Of course, please consider appropriateness issues from the start; other than the two bath scenes, they are nothing out of the ordinary for existing fans of CLANNAD.  Given the length, waiting for a sale does seem reasonable.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Companion
    Developed by: Narrator
    Published by: Sekai Project
    Release date: March 31, 2017
    Available on: Windows
    Genre: Visual Novel
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $9.99

    Thank you Sekai Project for sending us this game to review!

    Companion is a kinetic visual novel that tells an interesting tale in roughly two hours. There are no choices to be made, so the ending and dialogue will be the same for everyone who chooses to embark on this story about finding love despite an apocalypse quickly approaching.

    You play a male astronomer approaching thirty. He is one of the few humans who will hibernate underground, as the rest of the world is oblivious to the massive asteroid that will strike Earth within a couple of months. Not many people know about this and even fewer are taking safety measures to ensure humanity’s survival. The hibernation slots are so limited that the scientists are not even allowed to bring their young children to the bunker with them.

    Companion
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Interesting story
    Weak Points: Only two hours long; the Mandarin voice acting isn’t that good
    Moral Warnings: The story begins with the main character accepting solicitation from a prostitute; sex is referenced but not shown; Airi wears some revealing outfits; language and blaspheming

    With less than a week before going underground, the main character is on his way home just like any other day. The rain is coming down pretty hard when a young girl asks to share his umbrella and home with her for the night. This isn’t his first time with a street worker, but her helpless demeanor pulls on his heart strings and he falls for her charms.

    The game’s text is vividly detailed and the story is very well written. Sex is implied, but not drawn out or expounded on more than necessary. The F word is used to describe the encounter. Blaspheming is also found in the text as well. Many of the dialogue lines are voice acted with the exception of the main character's. The voice acting is done in Mandarin and in all honesty I found the prostitute girl, Airi’s voice quite grating at times.

    Aside from her voice, her character didn’t really resonate with me. I get that she had a troubled past and a hard life, but she comes off as fickle and is even more difficult to figure out than a standard female. As a woman, I can vouch for how complex we are at times, but still there is usually a reason for why we act the way we do and Airi seems to fly off the handle more than I would anticipate.

    Companion
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 78%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 69%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 1/10
    Sexual Content - 3.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The main character is still drawn to her and wants to give her happiness and show her kindness in the limited amount of time he has left. This becomes more than a one night stand and he put her feelings above his on many occasions in this story. Because this game is so short I’ll leave the story a mystery and not spoil it for any visual novel fans out there.

    The artwork is really nice and you can view many of the stills from the extras menu. Some of Airi’s artwork is provocative and revealing. The background music and sound effects are well done. Most of the voice acting was well done with the exception of Airi’s in my opinion.

    In the end, I enjoyed the story and time in this visual novel. Because it’s only two hours long I’m not sure if I would want to pay $9.99 for it since it’s only good for one play through. It’s certainly worth adding to your wishlist and picking up on sale as long as you’re not offended by the cursing and adult content.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars
    Developed By: Spike Chunsoft
    Published By: Atlus
    Release Date: April 15, 2014
    Available On: Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita
    Genre: Role Playing Game
    Number of Players: 1
    ESRB Rating: M; Fantasy Violence, Language, Mild Blood, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes
    MSRP: $39.99
    (Amazon affiliate link)

    Thank you Atlus for sending us this game to review!

    Dusk Circles have appeared around the world, launching monsters formed within into many populated areas, seriously threatening everyone.  Each Dusk Circle represents one of the seven deadly sins.  To combat this, the Star God, some time between a child's 16th and 18th birthday, will make a brand appear on their hand. This brand is a sign that the child has been chosen to combat the forces of evil, and has been granted special powers to do so.  They are called Disciples.  This brand, and their powers, disappears on their 19th birthday, so the government of Aterra has setup a special school where all children who have the brand are gathered and are trained to fight the monsters and save the world from this grave threat.  Female Disciples possess Star Energy, which is the main power for most magic, and males possess Ether, which can greatly amplify Star Energy, and is also a direct counter to Dusk Energy, which is what flows out of the Dusk Circles.  

    In Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars, the protagonist, named by default Wake Archus, is a male Disciple who finds out quickly after having his skills and Ether levels tested that he is more than what he appears.  While most Elite Disciples (those who show higher promise than most) have an Ether count of around 50, Wake shows a reading of at least 1500 – the highest level ever measured in the 20 years since the Dusk Circle crisis began - before promptly causing the measurement device to crash.  As a result of this, he is seen to be a fulfillment of a promise the Star God made to the High Priest – and is heretofore referred to as God's Gift.  Since you can customize the main character's name, the voice acting often refers to you as such, or alternatively, G.G.

    And the voice acting is strong with this one.  Seriously, there is a lot, and it's great.  While not every written line has a voice over, much of it is, and it's all done extremely well.  Where there is not voice acting, there often are emotion noises that convey the sense and character of the person speaking it.  Many characters follow some anime trope, especially the girls, but despite this I found them very likable.

    And the game strongly encourages you to get very close to all seven of them.  You see, in order to fight against the monsters, and ultimately cleanse the Dusk Circles by defeating the Dusk Spawner, you need to raise lots of Star Children. Much of the game mechanics revolve around ways of making stronger and stronger Star Children.  They are born by a ritual that takes place in the Church where a male's Ether and a female's Star Energy combine inside a Star Womb Matryoshka doll.  This process brings about a Star Child in every case for God's Gift; others who practice this ritual also have a very small chance to produce a Star Child, but you travel with your heroines and children.

    conception2
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Decent story; very likeable characters; fantastic voice-overs; good graphics and music; interesting party composition options; many, many hours of gameplay
    Weak Points: Dungeons get boring and very repetitive; quite a bit of grind (the bad kind...); enemies very repetitive with little variety
    Moral Warnings: RPG Violence; blood in a few places; some language, including 'sh*t', 'a**hole', and h*ll; Lots of sexual themes and imagery, including: perverted priests, bouncing breasts, girls wearing extremely revealing clothing; accentuated crevices of nearly every kind; near-nudity and sexually charged situations in a few places; silhouetted girls in extremely sexual poses; “promiscuous” (though not technically) behavior towards your 'harem' of seven girls; many, many romantic or near romantic situations; a few moments of homoerotic tension

    These children are not your physical descendents, but they are the Star God's children that you bring into the world.  Despite this, they do take on physical characteristics of their mother.  Each of them looks like a ten year old, and comes ready to fight.  Depending on the stats, levels, and mood of the mother, the Star Child's maximum level and available classes can change.  As a result, Star Children can become both disposable, and very valuable depending on their maximum level and skillsets.  Those with lower maximum levels, or are maxed out, are often made independent – where they can raise the level of the town the game takes place in, and raise the levels of various buildings and functions.  It does make for some interesting strategy, though it makes it harder to feel any sort of bond with your Star Children, despite enjoying their silly banter in dungeons.  Of course, if I let my ten year old child live on their own, I'd be in jail.

    While the game makes it clear that the process of making Star Children, called 'classmating', is in no way sexual, the developers decided to unnecessarily saddle the process with sexual imagery.  The process itself is described as touching each other in some way (holding hands is enough), along with thinking deeply about each other.  The better they know each other, and the more they like each other, the more powerful the Star Child.  But during this process, they insert a scene with a pink silhouette of the girl (or girls in the case of tri-mating later on...) in ridiculously sexual poses.  As you progress in the story and in your relationships, these scenes get longer, with poses getting dramatically more sexual, and the song (with lyrics) eventually saying 'I want to make love to you'.  Thankfully you can skip this scene, but it adds overt sexual overtones to a mechanic that, while a little odd, did not need it.  Later on there is also 'classmanting', with two guys... which is less sexual in the silhouette scene, but the game sure does play up the obvious homoerotic angle in ensuing dialogue.

    But even before the first classmating scene in the intro, there are hints, some more subtle than others, that sexual tension and related humor will be present throughout.  Even before the first fifteen minutes is up, there have already been upskirt jokes, perverted priests, and a “smokin' hot tomater!”, referring to the busty lab chief Ruby.  Included are associated breast physics.  And her response is “You're an honest young lad.  I like that.  I might have a nice reward for you later.”  It is quickly clear that she likes to tease the boys.

    Despite the obvious sexual overtones, they did do a fantastic job with character interaction in general.  In the visual novel/storyline scenes, characters talk, their bodies move, and there are a lot of small details that make the characters feel alive.  And with the top notch localization job, it can be very entertaining to watch at times.

    conception 2
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 80%
    Gameplay - 14/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 56%
    Violence - 6/10
    Language - 6/10
    Sexual Content - 1/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

    The visual novel/storyline sequences were by far my favorite part of Conception II, despite the many appropriateness problems contained within.  It is so well polished, and the characters are all so likeable and fun to talk with and listen to, that this was the main draw, for me.  But because of the content, I felt very conflicted at times playing it.  If my wife did not offer to allow me to review this game, she probably would have given me dirty looks had I spent my own money on it...

    And I would have deserved them.  By design, you are encouraged to flirt with seven different high school girls, each at various levels of 'development', simultaneously.  In a way, it's a form of sanctioned two-timing – except it's really seven-timing.  While a few of the girls are appropriately non-sexual, and your character is always a gentleman, it's still obvious that romance is an undertone with most of them.  Near the end of three of the girls' storylines, you get to see them naked – though at least some of it is left to your imagination in each case, which doesn't really make it much better.  On the other hand, there is an ending for each girl if you choose them, and at least two of them feature you getting married, which is a pretty nice.  Now the harem ending on the other hand... (it's cute up until the last line, where they all agree to have your children!)

    While the visual novel aspect is well polished, the dungeon crawling is far less so.  Each girl has to transform into their battle suit, with a few of them being completely ridiculous outfits.  While some are actually kinda cool (girl carrying a minigun, anyone?) one in particular is basically wearing a leather bondage outfit only fit for the most risque of bedrooms.  The environment you travel together is a bunch of boring randomly generated combination of rooms and hallways in a fashion that is quickly rather predictable.  The monsters are visible and can be avoided if you wish, though not always, as some will block the exits.  Dungeons are between five and twenty-five levels deep.  Shorter dungeons aren't so bad, but the deep ones get really boring in a hurry.

    And the battle system, while not terrible, doesn't do enough to keep grinding from getting monotonous.  In theory, it should be great.  Your party is made up of you and a chosen heroine, and three groups of three Star Children, which, like you and your girl, act as a unit.  Each Star Child has skills of their own, and combinations can enable team skills which are often very powerful.  In battle, you can position your teams to attack enemies either at their weak points, or make direct attacks, which can raise a chain gauge, which once activated, can allow you to get in extra attacks on an enemy.  In practice it works, but the repetitiveness of the battles, with little enemy variety, and the same with the dungeons, makes that aspect of the game rather boring.  It also doesn't help that the first half of the game is dead easy – but near the end, the challenge ramps up significantly, which requires you to learn battle tactics, where they really didn't matter too much up to that point.

    The graphics are quite good outside of dungeons, and passably good inside. Dungeons and battle do have decent stereoscopic 3D effects, which helps some.  But based on screenshots I have seen, the PS Vita version looks much better.  While the bottom screen is used, it is also a wasted opportunity – the dungeon map, for example, would have been a great use for the bottom screen; instead, it overlays the top screen like it would have on the PS Vita.  On the other hand, the music is really decent, with some very catchy tunes.  Even the ones with the dorky lyrics can be a fun listen.

    Conception 2: Children of the Seven Stars is a really quirky game with a bit too much over the top sexuality to recommend to even our most adventurous readers. There is a good visual novel combined with a decent (but not great) dungeon crawler that makes a very long and somewhat entertaining package.  Being the completionist that I am, I clocked in over 150 hours.  Most people could easily beat it in half of that – but again, should you?  I would say that the primary target audience, men, probably should not.  With softcore porn-like imagery, and sexual humor, it's probably best to pass.  

     

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    CyberRebeat -The Fifth Domain of Warfare-
    Developed By: E.N.Nach
    Published By: Sekai Project
    Release Date: August 24, 2018
    Available On: Windows, macOS
    Genre: Kinetic Visual Novel
    Number of Players: 1
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    MSRP: $9.99

    Thank you Sekai Project for sending us this visual novel to review!

    Hiro Yoshino is a loner whose memory goes back only a couple of years. To survive, he works several odd jobs at places that don't ask questions about ID and pay in cash. As he arrives to work at his pizza delivery job one day, he finds that it's more than closed - it's been completely stripped and abandoned suddenly, and without explanation or warning. As he's contemplating what to do next, a girl he worked with, Kana Izumi, runs into him and is also wondering what's going on. Given her extreme kindness and innocence, he takes a chance on her and tries to get her a job at his other place of work, an internet cafe called the Little Garden.

    It turns out that Hiro actually lives at Little Garden as well as works there part time, and everyone, including the owner, absolutely loves Kana, so she joins him there in part-time work. In addition to Little Garden, Hiro has another part-time gig freelance writing for a tabloid magazine.

    While investigating a legendary hacker named Warlock for an article he is working on, a fire breaks out at the company he writes for - that kills several. As he looks into it more, he learns that the computers were hacked into. Clearly freaked out by what he finds, he teams up with another Little Garden resident, the hacker Misa, who then begin to find out what is really going on here.

    CyberRebeat -The Fifth Domain of Warfare-
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Excellent story and characters; riveting conflict that keeps you glued to your screen; neat art style
    Weak Points: VN engine is probably the worst that I've seen; you can only progress to the next slide via a mouse click, as no keyboard key goes to the next sentence; clearly low budget; very low resolution everything
    Moral Warnings: Most common curse words used, including 'd*mn', 'sh*t', '*ss', 'f*ck', and uses 'God' and 'Jesus' in vain, including in conjunction with 'd*mn'; God is mentioned once or twice as being unlikely to exist; glorifies breaking the law in the form of hacking; a few sexual jokes; one woman goes out of her way to say how cute another one is, but it never goes farther than that; blood is shown in a few scenes; alcohol is consumed to drunkenness; a character smokes cigarettes

     

    CyberRebeat is a kinetic visual novel, so it's mostly words and art, and there are no choices to make. Having read several VNs of each kind, I'm honestly not sure which I prefer. VNs with choices tend to have more overall play time, since there are several arcs, and you can get to know each character well. On the other hand, those without choices tend to be a tightly-woven narrative, and far more closely mirror novels which inspired the genre. This is one of the latter, and weaves quite the tale - one that I couldn't pull myself away from once I started reading it.

    Beyond just dealing with a local hack, the story dives much deeper into hacker culture, history, and the future. I really wish that I could go into more details on what the story is about, but I also really don't want to spoil it - it's worth reading, so please do so!

    Technically, the VN is honestly pretty terrible. The engine is incredibly basic, and the art is all in a very low resolution - though thankfully, what you can see is done well enough, especially the characters. The backgrounds are a bit odd, but you get used to it. The music fits the mood, but is nothing special, and it doesn't loop properly. There are a couple of short video clips, but the quality is also not particularly great. But by far the worst of all is that in order to read the next page, you must left-click the mouse - there is no keyboard equivalent, though you can use auto progress if you wish.

    Morally, it also has flaws. The main issue is that it glorifies hacking, which of course is a crime. As someone who knows quite a bit about computers, they did a great job of straddling that line between believably accurate and extremely unlikely. Suspending disbelief was not difficult, despite knowing quite a bit about the internet and computing technology. Nevertheless, hackers are shown in a semi-Hollywood glamorous way, with hacking competitions (called CTFs) broadcasted live on video streams everywhere. It was certainly entertaining, if not exactly realistic.

    CyberRebeat -The Fifth Domain of Warfare-
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 70%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 2/5

    Morality Score - 70%
    Violence - 6/10
    Language - 3/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 9/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7/10

    It was also interesting to see how the stakes of hacking are much higher in the near future of this story than they may be now. While there are certainly cases now where hacking can be life or death, to see a future where peoples' computers, appliances, and other devices can all be forced to malfunction in such a way that can lead to death is quite the sight to behold. It's also fun to see how viruses, botnets, and other tools of the dark net are used in interesting ways to bring about real-world consequences. As a result, blood and death are shown in a few scenes.

    Other than the clearly illegal hacking taking place, there are some curse words used, including 'd*mn', 'sh*t', '*ss', 'f*ck', along with using 'God' and 'Jesus' in vain. There are also cases where they are used in conjunction with 'd*mn' and other strong exclamations. Thankfully, these uses are very rare throughout the 15+ hour story. God is mentioned once or twice as being unlikely to exist. There are a few jokes of a sexual nature, especially near the beginning, and one woman likes to comment on the cuteness of other girls she is in the proximity of. Thankfully, it doesn't go much farther than that. Alcohol is consumed to drunkenness in a few places, and smoking is depicted as well.

    CyberRebeat -The Fifth Domain of Warfare- really surprised me. The publisher warned me that the visual novel was originally free in Japanese, and still is, and the quality of the presentation suffered as a result. If you can read Japanese, then there is no reason to purchase this version. However, if you cannot, then I would say that the twists and turns you take with Hiro and Misa is quite excellent, and is worth suffering through the low-budget presentation in order to find a story absolutely worth reading.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Danganronpa 1-2 Reload
    Developed by: Spike Chunsoft, Abstraction Games
    Published by: NIS America
    Release date: March 14, 2017
    Available on: Linux, macOS, PS4, Vita, Windows
    Genre: Adventure, Visual Novel
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Mature for Blood, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language
    Price: $59.99 physical $39.99 digital
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you NIS America for sending us this game to review!

    We have previously reviewed Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, and Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls, but we never covered the second installment Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair. The combo pack Danganrona 1-2 Reload comes with the first two games in one awesome bundle.

    Our other reviews were written by different reviewers and this title is a great place to start in the series and I’m glad I finally got around to checking these games out. Since the first title is adequately covered in our Vita review, I’ll be focusing on the second installment, Goodbye Despair. There are many references to the first game so I highly recommend starting with that one.

    Goodbye Despair starts off similarly with the main character, Hajime Hanata, looking forward to attending Hope’s Peak Academy. Instead of a classroom, Hajime finds himself stranded on a tropical island with several other high school students and a pink and white stuffed rabbit for a teacher. The teacher, Usami, is nice enough and encourages peace between the students and to interact with one another and gather hope fragments as a result.

    Danganronpa 1-2 Reload
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great murder mystery/adventure game with likable characters, unique art style, and humor 
    Weak Points: The game did crash on me once
    Moral Warnings: Lots of language including F-bombs; blaspheming; blood and violence; gruesome murder scenes though the blood is usually hot pink instead of red; plenty of sexual references though nothing is shown

    By talking to classmates and giving them gifts you’ll earn hope fragments which can be used to unlock abilities that come in handy during the class trials. If you max out a relationship you’ll see some exclusive events, earn a new ability, and receive a unique present as a reward. Money to buy presents is earned by finding hidden Monokuma bears, completing class trials, and by successfully rearing your digital pet.

    One of the biggest changes in this game is the side scrolling perspective. The ability to warp and see where people are on the mini-map is a great improvement over the original game. To discourage you from warping everywhere, the digital pet will grow and reward you for every step you take. You just have to check in on your pet and clean up the poop or it will become full of despair and die. To offset the despair you can give your pet gifts from the market.

    Speaking of despair, it doesn’t take long for Monokuma to appear and insist that the students murder one another in order to leave the island. Naturally, the students don’t want to commit murder, but Monokuma pressures them with different incentives like starvation until somebody finally caves in. Once a murder is committed, the students must investigate the crime scene and gather evidence/truth bullets for the pending class trial.

    Once all of the evidence is collected, the class trial will begin. During the trial the students will ask questions and you’ll have to literally shoot down their arguments with the truth bullets you have obtained. There are several new and improved mini-games since the first installment too. The Logic Dive game has you surfing and answering various questions by steering toward the correct multiple choice answer. The Hangman’s Gambit is fine-tuned and in this mode you have to shoot and collect letters to fill in the blank. The Truth Blade mode is new and you have to slice through arguments with a sword and cut through the inaccuracies. Last but not least, the Panic Talk Action rhythm game is a little different but the core gameplay is the same.

    Danganronpa 1-2 Reload
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 88%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 42%
    Violence - 0/10
    Language - 0/10
    Sexual Content - 3.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7.5/10

    The goal of the trial is to find out who the killer is. Throughout the trials there are many twists and turns and the guilty person is usually a surprise. I like how there is a save break in the middle of the trial. There is even an option to bet your game save and guess who the killer is in advance but I didn’t want to risk it! Once the killer is outed, they will get a dramatic execution from Monokuma. If the wrong person is selected, everyone else will suffer so it’s imperative to solve the cases accurately. If the guilty/blackened person is found innocent, they will graduate and get to escape.

    I cannot deny how fun these games are, but they are most certainly twisted and have plenty of moral issues to consider before playing them. Although the characters differ between the games they often fit into typical tropes. The bike gang/Yakuza students cuss constantly and they don’t hold back whatsoever. Although the voice acting is limited, it’s still riddled with swearing and blaspheming. Some of the dialogue is sexualized as well and there are some references to sexual acts. Nothing intimate is shown, but the murder scenes are pretty graphic. Most of the blood is hot pink but one of the rooms in the first game had red bloodstains. Many of the deaths are brutal and bloody.

    Outside of the blood and gore, I really do like the visual style of this game. When you enter an area the objects will unfold into place. The characters have a 2D cut out appearance to them, but still display emotions and gestures in conversations. The dialogue is really funny and worth reading, though you can skip through it if you prefer.

    In the end, I enjoyed my time solving the various murder mysteries in these games. If you like adventure and visual novel games and don’t mind the many moral issues, Danganronpa is worth looking into.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony
    Developer: Spike Chunsoft
    Published By: NIS America
    Release Date: September 26, 2017
    Available on: Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita
    Genre: Adventure, Visual Novel
    Players: 1
    ESRB Rating: M for Blood, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language
    Price: $60.00 (PS4/PC) $40 (PSV)
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

     

    Thanks to NIS America for providing a review code for the PS4 version! The reviewer bought their own copy for the PS Vita as well to test cross-save as well as technical differences.

    It’s Punishment Time again! Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is the third main game (not counting the spin-off Ultra Despair Girls) in the Danganronpa series. Danganronpa (a compound word from the Japanese “Dangan” meaning “bullet” and “Ronpa” meaning “refute,” which you can combine into “Bullet refutation”) is a series that fuses elements of mystery fiction presented as a visual novel with courtroom legal puzzles akin to the Ace Attorney series. In these games, a group of special high school students (localized as the “Ultimates” who each have an “Ultimate” talent) are trapped in a prison-like setting and forced to participate in a “Killing Game” overseen by the exceptionally creepy Monokuma. The students are imprisoned until they “graduate.” How does one graduate? By killing a fellow student! But merely killing a fellow student isn’t enough; the killer also needs to survive the Class Trial. In the Class Trial, the students will debate over who they think did it, and if they are correct, the murderer (referred to as the “Blackened”) will be punished (a word which here means brutally executed) and the remaining students will continue to be imprisoned. However, if they are incorrect, all students except the blackened will be punished, and the blackened walks free.

    We don’t have reviews for Danganronpa 1 or 2 on this site (yet), and some familiarity with the game should be assumed to adequately describe the differences in V3. Further, despite being the third main game, the game should be referred to as V3, because there is an anime series already called Danganronpa 3, which has very little connection with this game (save for a few references here and there). V3 represents a series of refinements to the Danganronpa formula that work reasonably well. As such, despite any statements to the contrary, I firmly believe you should play Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc and Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair before playing V3. The final chapters of V3 spoil major elements of both prior games, and familiarity with the characters is highly recommended.

    New this time around are the Monokubs, the “kids” of Monokuma. They each have distinct personalities and designs, all of which have a unique color that replaces the black in the black-and-white design of Monokuma. First is Monotaro, the leader the the Monokubs, whose color is red, and has a scarf with a sheriff's badge on it. Next is Monodam, who is the most robotic of the group, and is colored green. Monokid, who is blue, has distinctive features of talking like a rock star, having noticeable chest hair, and carrying an electric guitar. The pink-colored Monophanie is the only female of the group, who wears a flower in her ear and a coconut bra. Finally we have the yellow-colored Monosuke, who wears glasses and flashes luxury items around. Interestingly, Monosuke is apparently meant to be an Osaka stereotype, and he even speaks in the Kansai dialect of Japanese in the Japanese dub.

    The setup is thus: 16 students are trapped in a prison-like complex with only very vague memories of how they got there. The cast of characters is especially diverse this time around, including such folks as Gonta Gokuhara, the large, well-dressed Ultimate Entomologist who speaks a bit like Tarzan; Korekiyo Shinguji, the masked and somewhat-withdrawn Ultimate Anthropologist; and Kirumi Tojo, the prim and proper Ultimate Maid.

    Gameplay consists of three major parts: Free Time, Investigation, and Class Trial. In Free Time, you wander the school, and can talk to characters. If you choose to hang out with them, you can get closer to them. You can also give them a gift (but each character has different likes and dislikes!), which will help strengthen your relationship with them in the form of Friendship Fragments, which are used to buy abilities for the Class Trial. Developing the relationship in this way also gives you insight into their backstory. If you continue to strengthen your relationship with them, you can unlock new abilities for the Class Trial (without having to buy them with Friendship Fragments), as well get a better backstory for the character in question. Hanging out with someone passes the time (a mechanic similar to spending time with Confidants in Persona 5). You only get a limited number of Free Time slots per chapter, so choose carefully! Further, unlike the Confidant/Social Link system in the Persona games, it is impossible to max out everyone on a single run of the game. Some characters will almost certainly die before you can max them out, and because of the limited slots, it is mathematically impossible to complete everyone even if you are playing the game for the second time. However, if you want to complete them all before starting the game again, the bonus mode Love Across The Universe allows you to max everyone’s bonds out and allows you to use their abilities in the Class Trials. Free Time comes to an end when someone is murdered.

    Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Best-looking and sounding Danganronpa game ever, great cast of characters, highly intriguing plot, lots of bonus modes, improved minigame mechanics.
    Weak Points: Sometimes it is not obvious where to click to find the item needed to complete the investigation, ending is definitely polarizing, some bonus modes feel a bit simple.
    Moral Warnings: Intense and graphic violence, partial nudity and skimpy outfits on occasion, many sexual references and jokes, very strong language, some occult references

    Once someone is murdered, the investigation is on! You interact with elements of the crime scene and interview characters to earn clues (referred to here as “Truth Bullets”), and once you have found all of the Truth Bullets, the game will progress to the Class Trial. The Investigation is impossible to fail, but it can be difficult to tell where to go to find clues. Usually a character will tell you where you need to go, or a marker will be placed on your map. Further, your character won’t allow you to leave a room until you’ve collected all the evidence in the room at that time, so don’t worry about missing something crucial, but there will be times you haven’t investigated a non-obvious part of the room and might tear your hair out trying to figure out what you missed. New to V3 (this can be done in any room) is the ability to slap things around. By slapping things around, you unlock monocoins, which you can use to buy presents to give to people during Free Time.

    Then comes the real meat of the game: the Class Trial. In the Class Trial, you must piece together the truth of the murder, including who did it and how. This is accomplished through various minigames and logic puzzles. The first minigame you come across is the most common: The Non-stop Debate. In a Debate, statements appear on the screen as characters talk. Certain statements will be Yellow/Orange, indicating that they are weak points. You will also get a loadout of selected Truth Bullets with which to attack these weak points. To attack the weak point, aim the cursor at the weak point with the selected Truth Bullet, and fire! However, only the correct Truth Bullet and the correct weak point will work, otherwise you will take damage. If you take too much damage, the Trial will end, and you will lose. Additionally, other mechanics come into play here, including White Noise and V-Counters. White Noise is a staple of Danganronpa, where colored text (in V3, it is red) can appear in an Argument, and hitting it with your Truth Bullets will cause you to miss. You can use an alternate fire called the Silencer to dispel white noise. V-Counters are a new thing to V3, where you can hit a specific part of the weak point (indicated by holding the Focus button) and gain extra points. It is wholly optional, but a nice test of skill.

    There are other minigames too, which tackle various parts of the Trial proceedings as well. These include a tile-flipping game, a rudimentary driving simulator, and a couple variations on the Argument that spice things up a bit. Part of the fun of Danganronpa is figuring these games out on your own, so I won’t go into too much detail here, but for returning veterans, here’s what you need to know: There is no Bullet Time Battle/Panic Talk Action; instead you get Argument Armament which is a mostly-less-frustrating rhythm section. Cross-Sword confrontations are back, and don’t seem as limiting as they were in Danganronpa 2. The Logic Dive from Danganronpa 2 has been functionally replaced by Psyche Taxi, which involves picking up objects to construct the question, and then answering the questions. Finally, there is a new mechanic added to the debates: lying. By holding the fire button, your truth bullet will invert its meaning, and there are some weak points where you can lie to progress the story. This doesn’t always seem optional, but it is mostly something you don’t need to do aside from a few places. The lying mechanic allows you to progress the trial differently, enabling what is called a “back route” in the trial.

    The story is the main draw to Danganronpa games, and the story in V3 is really something else. Without spoiling too much, the story goes in very unexpected directions (especially near the end) that not all fans may like. I was left speechless by the end of the game, and had to think on it for a few days before I could determine how I felt about it. In the end, I decided that I liked it, but felt like it could have been executed better.

    Once you complete the main game, some bonus modes unlock for you to play with as well. The first of these is called The Ultimate Card Death Machine. This operates a lot like a Gacha game, where you have absurd drop rates for certain rarity cards, and while progressing another mode makes the rates better, it also makes each “pull” more expensive. Next you have Ultimate Talent Development Plan, which is a board game that features all characters from prior Danganronpa games and allows you to level up those cards you got in the dispenser. With them leveled up, you can then proceed to the next bonus mode: Despair Dungeon: Monokuma’s test. This bonus mode is a dungeon crawler that is a pretty standard turn-based RPG. It’s very similar to NES-era RPGs, and you shouldn’t have any trouble with this.

    The final bonus mode is a continuation of prior Danganronpa bonus modes, which allows you to complete the Free Time events for characters you did not have time to complete during the main game. It also adds dating sim aspects. This mode is fun if you like the characters, and allows you to experience Free Time events that would otherwise be inaccessible in the main game. The dating sim portion seems equal parts played for laughs and for fan service.

    Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 92%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 26%
    Violence - 0/10
    Language - 0/10
    Sexual Content - 3/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 3/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7/10

    The bonus modes are completely optional, and do not have any impact on the story other than giving you extra things to do once the main game is over. The bonus modes definitely add to the overall package value of the game, but do not worry if you don’t find them interesting; the core of the game is still well worth the price of admission.

    Alright, now that we’ve talked about the gameplay, let’s talk about some of the more technical and aesthetic aspects of the game. The Danganronpa games have always had a very eccentric visual style to them, and V3 continues this trend with vastly improved UI, higher resolution textures, and higher quality sprites. The character designs are excellent, the backgrounds are top-notch, and the overall style is very good. This is the best-looking Danganronpa game yet, especially on PS4.

    Another standout for Danganronpa games has been the music, which always hits the right notes for the situation. Composer Masafumi Takada has done it once again, and created an excellent score that reuses the best parts of prior soundtracks while blending new songs in too. His music serves as great backing to the tense Class Trials, or the relaxed Free Time, and even the brutal Punishments. The music hits all the right notes when it needs to, and it is excellent. On the other hand, voice acting is a more complicated issue. On the Vita version, the audio is severely compressed and clips noticeably while also sounding very distorted. Spike Chunsoft has released a patch that I highly recommend downloading from the PlayStation store, as it gives the game the uncompressed audio it deserves. It’s called Danganronpa V3 - HQ Audio Pack. Meanwhile, the game comes with both English and Japanese audio. I played the game with Japanese audio, and I found it to be a very good experience. English audio in Danganronpa games is a bit more complicated. I think I am in the minority of Danganronpa fans who prefers Japanese audio to English (based on a StrawPoll on the Danganronpa subreddit). The English dub here is fine. Nothing bad, nothing particularly outstanding either in my opinion. In the end, this choice is up to you, and you can’t really go wrong either way.

    One thing I feel compelled to talk about is how the game was localized. The localization of the game makes some adjustments to the text, and if you know a little Japanese or are great at picking up details, you can hear inconsistencies in the dialog in the Japanese audio track and the text being rendered on screen. One character has lines changed that really alters the way their character is perceived, and I’m not happy that they did. Spoilers abound, but the description is here: http://oumakokichi.tumblr.com/post/166327441530/what-do-you-think-about-nisamericas-localization  

    A new feature this time around takes advantage of the simultaneous releases on Vita and PS4. The game supports cross-save between the PS4 and Vita versions, and as I already had the Vita version on pre-order when I was given the review code, I decided to try it out. The good news is: it works! The bad news is: it feels excessively complicated. To transfer a save, on the first console you need to back out to the main menu, select Cross-Save, then select Upload. Then pick the save you want to upload. First, it will load the save. Then you will be prompted again to actually upload the loaded save. Finally, it will upload to the PSN. On the second console, go to the main menu and select Cross-Save. Then select Download, and download the save onto your device. Then you go back to the main menu, and load the save. While there are far worse ways this could have been handled, it still feels unnecessary to go through so many menus to accomplish it.

    Loading times could be a severe issue at certain points in the game. In chapter 4, a new area is introduced that was rife with loading pauses that made that section of the game really drag. Near the end, I also encountered some longer load times when entering and leaving buildings. I did not encounter any serious bugs, nor were there any crashes on the Vita or PS4. The Vita version has reduced texture quality compared to the PS4 version, and pop-in was sometimes noticeable as well, however it was not obtrusive as to ruin the experience.

    The moral content section for this review was the one I was most dreading to write, in part because there are so many things to cover. Please be warned that there will be minor spoilers throughout this section except where more direct spoilers are needed. These will be tagged accordingly, but consider yourself warned.

    Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony

     The sexual content in Danganronpa games has always been pretty minimal in my experience, but V3 seriously ups the ante here. Danganronpa games have always had at least one perverted character (someone who has an innuendo-laden response to almost any situation), and V3 is no exception. The main difference this time is that it’s a girl, Miu Iruma, who happens to be the perverted one. She frequently makes references to her and other female characters' breasts, makes jokes about how all the guys are just dying to sleep with her, talks about sex toys and condoms, makes references to her very...unique fetishes, and so on, usually seeming to arouse herself in the process. She flirts with K1-B0, and even gives him some upgrades (which DO have actual uses), but the entire topic is approached in a very innuendo-laden way. I have to admit, it got really tiring. A scene near the beginning involves a female character changing clothes and we see a naked silhouette that isn't too scandalous, but is a little bit revealing. Additional scenes involve seeing characters in their underwear, or naked but from angles such that nothing is shown. Maxing out a bond with a character during Free Time will give you that character’s underwear, and while normally this is not addressed in the segment, in the case of Miu, she uses a device that teleports it off of her and hands it to you during the last Free Time event.  One of the characters mentions being “very in love” with his sister, and while the rest of the cast reacts with appropriate levels of disgust to revelations of incest, the entire sequence where he mentions how much he loves his sister is exceedingly uncomfortable. In fact (tying in with the occult section below), he has been (or at least claims to be) partially inhabited by his sister’s spirit since he performed a seance, and their dynamic is very odd indeed.  

    On a more minor note, one of the characters refers to all of the male characters as “Degenerate males” and doesn’t really let up her slack outside a few Free Time events where you learn more about her. One character is always wearing a swimsuit, but usually also wears an open robe that makes it a little less scandalous than it would otherwise be. In a scene in the A/V room, a character finds what is almost certainly a pornography video. They never show anything onscreen, and the character is clearly very embarrassed that they found such a thing. Further, as part of the Love Across the Universe section, going on a date with someone allows you to select from a range of options, including the ability to read a dirty book together in the library. The content is never explicitly discussed, but it is still something you can do.

    There is also what is sometimes referred to as the “Love Hotel” where you can spend casino coins (more on that in a moment) to buy a key. Using the key at night will give you a random scene with one of the characters. In this scene, you are a participant in that person’s fantasy. The fantasies can take several forms which range from touching conversations to those that heavily imply the two characters slept together.

    Drug content consists mostly of just references, and non-specific ones at that. Miu makes reference to wanting to take some drugs and forget about the situation they are in. Monosuke is sometimes seen holding what looks like a cigar.

    Given all this talk about executions and murders, it's no surprise that there would be a lot to talk about here with respect to violence. Danganronpa games are very violent, and V3 is no exception. Characters are killed in very gruesome ways (*SPOILER TAG*)(one character is killed by having a sickle forced through their neck, another is killed by drowning only to have their body consumed by piranhas, and so on), and blood is often everywhere. One particularly gruesome case involves a body being crushed by a hydraulic press.(*END SPOILER TAG*) Thankfully we don’t witness the actual killing, only the aftermath (*SPOILER TAG*)(with the exception of the piranhas scene, and an off-angle view of the hydraulic press case in video form) (*END SPOILER TAG*). The blood is purple, but it’s still very clearly blood. Executions are just as bad, including such items as: (*SPOILER TAG*)a character being hung by the neck and swung around before being crushed by spikes, a character being forced to climb a spiked rope while being slashed at with saw blades only to fall to their death, and a character being boiled alive in a melting pot. (*END SPOILER TAG*)

    Danganronpa has never really held back in the language department either, and again, this game is no exception. Characters use all manner of curse words from the C-word in reference to female anatomy, F-word, S-word, both B-words, and other swears. The game definitely earns an M rating in this department.

    The occult/supernatural content of this game is a little tricky to pin down. One of the characters claims to be a mage, but her title is magician. All of the stuff she does are normal magic tricks, but she claims it is real and not the illusory stuff. A resurrection ritual is mentioned, but never performed. A seance is held, but does not work. In one of the executions, the character’s spirit appears to leave their body, only to be pelted by salt (injuring them in the process). As mentioned above, (*SPOILER TAG*)one character claims that his dead sister’s spirit has inhabited his body. Further, he has killed girls so that they can be friends with his sister in the afterlife. (*END SPOILER TAG*) One of the characters worships a god (or claims to) called Atua, that she claims possesses her when she makes art. Further, she often claims to speak for Atua, and even manages to convert a few characters to her side for a brief period of time. This character seems to be heavily inspired by Polynesian culture, where Atua is a word often used to refer to plural gods or a monotheistic god.

    Lastly, there are some points to make about ethical content in the game. The big thing to note here is the new lying mechanic. Lying is mostly optional and is not usually needed to progress the story (I only used it a few times when I saw no other way to progress), but lying will give you a different route to the end of the trial. Whether or not this is seen as encouraging it is left as an exercise to the reader, but it is something I believe I should note. Further, at the end of the game, you are left with the impression that lies are not inherently bad, and can lead to hope, while some truths can lead to despair.

    Danganronpa V3 almost feels like a swansong from the developers of Danganronpa. The story and characters are more ambitious than prior games, and the ending is definitely the kind of polarizing that will keep people talking for a while yet. The improvements to the gameplay and aesthetics are proof that a lot of love went into the development of this game. If the content outlined is something you are willing to put up with, you will find a very competent set of murder mysteries with a plot that really wants you to think about the game more. But on the other hand, the ending is polarizing enough that I can also see being massively let down by it. In the end, I can’t really recommend or not recommend this game, as how you will like it is entirely dependent on how you feel about the story developments, and of course, if you are willing to put up with the very large amount of objectionable content in the game.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Doki Doki Literature Club! 
    Developed by: Team Salvato
    Published by: Team Salvato
    Release date: September 22, 2017
    Available on: Windows, macOS, Linux
    Genre: Dating Sim
    Number of players: Single player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: Free

    As a visual novel/dating sim, this game is most unique in the areas most prone to being spoiled. I will spoil no plot, but the less you read about it, the more this game will be able to have its intended effect. This is a short and carefully-crafted narrative unlike any other. It's available for free through Steam and the developer's website, though it's not for kids. If that's enough for you, play it now. If not, read on.

    "Doki doki" is a Japanese onomatopoeia for a heartbeat, such as a middle school boy might feel when confronted with a cute girl or a bloody knife. Depending on your inclinations, Doki Doki Literature Club! (DDLC) will earn every part of its title, including the exclamation point. The player-named protagonist is invited to join the high school Literature Club by his next-door neighbor female friend whom he has known since childhood. That day he goes to the club and meets the three other club members. If you guessed that they are also female, then you’ve probably played a dating sim before. If you further adduced that the four girls range from shy yet deep to hyperactive yet insecure, all the better. Your expectations will let you ignore the growing chill in your spine just a little bit longer.

    The player is inexplicably attractive to each of the girls, but naturally, you have the choice of who you want to get close to. This is primarily done by composing poetry that you think your personal best girl will enjoy. In gameplay terms, you pick words from lists like “cloud, slipper, corpse, cake, kiss,” and the game lets you know which girl will like that word the most. It's a simple minigame to determine which girl you focus on. The writing, not the gameplay, is the star of the show--except insofar as the game plays you.

    Doki Doki Literature Club!
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Strong writing; effective music;  avoids sexual imagery typical of dating sims; foreshadowing adds appreciation to replays
    Weak Points: Not a typical dating sim, and knowing that weakens the effect already
    Moral Warnings: F***, s***, d***, b****, God's name in vain, and more; graphic blood, death, and self-harm; a reference to masturbation in dialogue; themes of depression and abuse

     

    Do you tend to forget that choices have consequences? DDLC will remind you. Every day, you swap poems with each of the other club members and receive feedback. Each girl has a distinctive style of writing, and the poems they produce are well-written and insightful in their own right. Whichever girl most enjoys your poem will start to spend more time with you, typically in scenes alone with her. Said scenes are light and playful for a while, and there is no sexual activity or even kissing. There is, however, a reference to masturbation in dialogue.

    DDLC comes with standard visual novel quality-of-life features like variable text speed, a save/load system, and the ability to skip over previously-seen dialogue. You can skip almost any dialogue by changing a setting, making experimentation with different choices much easier. The game is text-only aside from certain noises I'd rather forget and a very catchy credits song. Actually, all the music that isn’t distorted and dissonant is quite catchy. By the way, remember that DDLC is not over until the credits roll.

    Doki Doki Literature Club!
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 90%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 58%
    Violence - 3/10
    Language - 3/10
    Sexual Content - 7/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 6/10

    Graphical design is likewise exceptional. The environments tell more stories than you will understand on your first time through the game. The designs of the girls are full of detail and expression. The very paper and handwriting through which the poetry is conveyed give almost as much insight into the characters as their faces do. The eventual heavy swearing adds additional flavor.

    The messages of DDLC are more bright than one might expect from a dating sim. Again, there are no sex scenes or explicit sexual imagery. Instead, DDLC tells a story of dealing with loneliness, rejection, and depression. A thoughtful handling of these topics demands sad moments, small rays of light, and, in retrospect, several subtle indications of the issues experienced by the girls. A thoughtful handling does not demand detailed and colorful drawings of violence, death, and self-harm, so consider those a bonus.

    I recognize that I have not been entirely upfront with you in this review. To be fair, DDLC was not entirely upfront with me. If you have been at all intrigued as to how, then play the game. It is a dating sim with multiple endings. It teaches lessons about friendship, depression, and helplessness. It is best experienced late at night, alone, and can be finished in about four hours. Experiences of its kind will probably become old hat soon, but today, you still have a chance to dig into something unique in this game. You’ll be the freshest victim DDLC has ever played.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Fatal Twelve
    Developed by: aiueoKompany
    Published by: Sekai Project
    Release date: March 30, 2018
    Available on: Windows, macOS, Linux
    Genre: Visual Novel
    Number of players: Single player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $19.99

    Thank you, Sekai Project, for sending us a review code!

    Stop me if you’ve heard this one. A certain number of people have been gathered up to compete in a knockout killing competition taking place over several weeks. Each of the characters can be immediately (and accurately) shoehorned into a well-defined archetype. The game proceeds as presented, but twists and reveals lead to the inevitable conclusion that the rules given are not as clear-cut as it was thought. Do [main characters] have what it takes to win, and can they live with their consciences?

    Were this an actual conversation, most of you could have stopped me at “knockout.” Did you think of Battle Royale? The Hunger Games? Danganronpa? Tomodachi Game? PUBG/Fortnite? In any case, add “Fatal Twelve” to the list of killing competitions in anime and the media at large. But before writing it off, consider: an overused premise must have qualities which commend that premise to so many writers. Killing games provide a spectrum of characters on a pedestal, free to display the best and worst of humanity. Consequently, a killing game lives or--if I may say so--dies on the strength of its character interaction and storytelling finesse more than on the specifics of the competition itself. Fatal Twelve knows what it’s doing as a visual novel and a story, and it builds a premise which inherently requires deep character interaction. This visual novel earns a place next to its many genre siblings. If some of its component tropes have been done better elsewhere, the tropes serve Fatal Twelve admirably regardless.

    Shishimai Rinka was a high school girl who ran her grandma’s coffee shop in her free time. On the train one day, she saw a metallic glint in a fellow passenger’s backpack. It almost looked like a--Ah, so it was. Fatal Twelve’s cold opening ends in an effective fiery explosion which ends Rinka’s life and begins her participation in Divine Selection. This process, overseen by self-proclaimed goddess Parca, decides who will get a chance to undo their untimely demise.

    Fatal Twelve
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Premise leans into strong character interaction; good translation in general; consistent characterization backed by effective Japanese-only voice acting; helpful controls and navigation; consistent thematic tone
    Weak Points: Formulaic elimination game setup; occasional distracting translation errors; lazy sound effects; romance could be seen as heavy-handed
    Moral Warnings: Several kinds of death described and depicted, including suicide; intentional killing and “elimination” by multiple characters, including the main character; some revealing clothing; PG-13 swearing throughout, including s**t and the Lord’s name in vain; casual and pervasive homosexuality; lewd humor; alcohol consumption and drunkenness; goddesses and supernatural beings throughout; subjective morality and denial of a Supreme Being suggested

    Rinka’s death coincided with those of eleven others across the globe. For twelve weeks, each of their deaths is undone, and the participants can live out their lives as they wish. However, only one will continue living after the twelve weeks. Every Sunday, the participants can encourage long-term survival by “electing” others for “elimination.” “Elimination” means the death which had been reversed is reverted; in other words, the participant dies at the original time in the original manner. “Electing” is performed by determining and announcing three pieces of information about another player: their name, their cause of death, and their life’s regret. In short: to eliminate competitors and survive past twelve weeks, find the names, causes of death, and regrets.

    It is a shame that Fatal Twelve’s strong opening must be followed by an info dump even harsher than the one I just gave. Divine Selection has specific rules about the order of elections, multiple overlapping elections, what constitutes enough information to eliminate, and more. The details are important to the plot, as are the apparent holes in the rules. For example, competitors are referred to by numeral to hide their identities and define the order of elections. The main character Rinka is Numeral I and, therefore, must announce her election decisions without knowing what other competitors plan to do. Most of the participants are in Japan, making them more vulnerable than the others; an in-universe reason is provided by the end of the game. As game master Parka acknowledges, “I do not recall saying anything about fairness.” This is more than a lampshade hung on a convoluted premise; there’s a reason for nearly every aspect of Divine Selection, and Fatal Twelve parses out its secrets wisely. It’s not critical to follow everything at first, and the game makes sure you understand specifics when they become relevant.

    Being a high school student, Rinka can do little to actively research her opponents. Furthermore, it’s a constant struggle to decide if she wants to win. After all, two of the participants are younger than she is. One of the participants is a school friend with a major crush on her. Election might not be active murder, but it does result in another’s death. Is that murder all the same? Rinka spends a large portion of the game considering this question with her friends. This group of four had been driven together by their shared ostracization at their competitive school whether for looks, talents, or simple association with the others. The friends are divided along expected lines: generically kind; popular yet isolated; quiet and smart; and spunky. Each character shows more depth as the story goes on, and each is shown to be true to core character traits in the end. A love triangle loaded with excitement, awkwardness, and tension rocks the group in convincing ways, especially because two of those involved are in Divine Selection. The romance plot comes off a bit strong at times (teenagers can be so dramatic), but it is well-written and believable within the context of the story. This group of friends provided a strong backbone to the visual novel.

    Rather than deal with Rinka’s limited perspective, Fatal Twelve freely hops to another perspective character for interactions that would otherwise be hidden. At first I was suspicious, and sometimes Fatal Twelve sloppily resorts to an omniscient narrator who says things like, “He was acting selfishly out of his wish to survive. That desire, at least, was not wrong.” When confined to a character’s inner monologue, the perspective shift was appreciated as it gave me more time with the rest of the participants. On the surface, they are only so many conniving slimeballs, adrenaline junkies, and cowards. But an important theme of Fatal Twelve is each person’s unique life and perspective, so the player will learn about why these disparate people might be the way they are. The need to discover regrets often fuels these interactions.The interpersonal nature of Divine Selection is what makes this killing game premise special. The theme of individual personalities lends itself to subjective ethics and relativity; indeed, Fatal Twelve addresses those issues head-on with a very clear stance. There are few monsters; there are many desperate souls. I found the discussion interesting, but its conclusion earns a spot in the coming paragraphs on moral issues.

    Fatal Twelve
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 42%
    Violence - 4/10
    Language - 2/10
    Sexual Content - 3/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 6/10

    Whatever one’s stance on the litany of potential ethical concerns, Fatal Twelve presents itself well. The graphics are good rather than exceptional. It’s a visual novel, so come for the story and forget about gameplay. There are a few dialog choices which control the multiple endings. Most of the ending-critical choices are packed after the half-way mark. Despite getting all the endings, I could not tell you with certainty which choices are innocuous and which steer you to a premature bad ending. I can tell you, though, that the endings tended to feel like a natural result of the choices made. Previously-seen dialog can be skipped. This, combined with saving, means it is easy to see all Fatal Twelve has to offer. An epilogue of sorts is hidden in plain sight after the True Ending; I leave its discovery as an exercise to the reader.

    Fatal Twelve is localized into English from Japanese. The Japanese-only voice acting is well done across the board. Music is good; alas, effects are provided by weak stock sound bites. The translation is better. It hides honorifics from English speakers, so if not reading “sempai” bothers you, pay attention to the voice acting. Avoiding honorifics is indicative of a translation focused on localization. In one sense, this is great. Idioms are understandable, and grammar irregularities are far between (though a few stand out in the opening song). Those who are used to visual novels or anime will feel right at home. And yet, Fatal Twelve is set in Japan without effort made to acclimatize the uninitiated to the cultural festival, geography, Tanabata, seniority, and other Japanese norms. It is dissonant to set such an accommodating translation next to thoroughly-foreign and unexplained content. While I expect those new to Japanese media to get along alright, Fatal Twelve might give such people a slight fish-out-of-water experience.

    Fatal Twelve could also shock with its one female character who walks everywhere in, more or less, her underwear. Dialog dips into lewd propositions from male adults to teenage girls at times, though this behavior is never condoned. Hand-holding is as “sexual” as the action gets. There is a good deal of combat between characters, along with guns, knives, and explosions. Characters regularly consume alcohol, sometimes to the point of drunkenness. One character cuts and acts suicidal; another is a child soldier (like I said: archetypes). Most characters swear at a PG-13 level and take the Lord’s name in vain. Some murder takes place. Of course, characters “eliminate” each other. While the game acknowledges the inherent “evil” of this action, it contends that the human drive to survive explains and, maybe, condones this behavior. Divine Selection takes place in an abstract moral realm outside of death, so the ethics are creatively muddled. Philosophically, the game promotes relativism. It is stated and shown repeatedly that perception shapes reality. Despite the atheistic bent of a few characters, Divine Selection is run by a so-called goddess, and a “something” more powerful and essential to the universe is alluded to at times.

    One thing this game is unambiguous on is homosexuality. Every romance in Fatal Twelve is lesbian, including the adolescent love triangle. One character is openly bisexual and confesses her romantic love for a woman. A different confession and player-determined response is tied to the final resolution of the plot. Maybe this comes off as heavy-handed homosexual promotion. If anything, I’d say Fatal Twelve is notable for how mundanely it treats homosexual relations. Sexual orientation is never a defining characteristic. A few characters state that they don’t find lesbianism unusual. I think the writers truly believe that, even if the need to state it indicates that the writers know not everyone believes it. The romances are written and integrated into the plot with as much care as any heterosexual relationship might have been. This stance is not unique to Fatal Twelve, but you should be aware of it nonetheless.

    Fatal Twelve derives ideas from a variety of sources, which is arguably the best way to be inspired by previous works. Visual novel fans who are bothered by a lack of originality might balk at the premise. The game nevertheless distinguishes itself among elimination game stories. It gave me over 16 hours of engaging story couched in an excellent visual novel interface. Its ethical and philosophical questions appealed to me personally. The questions are tied to characters from many backgrounds who feel like humans because, like me, they all want to live.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    G-senjou no Maou - The Devil on G-String
    Developed By: Akabeisoft2
    Published By: Sekai Project
    Release Date: November 5, 2015
    Available On: PC
    ESRB Rating: N/A
    Genre: Visual Novel
    Mode: Single Player
    MSRP: $19.99 voiceless, $39.99 voiced

    Thank you Sekai Project for sending us this Visual Novel for review!

    While I have played other games with visual novel aspects, this is the first time that I played a game fully in the visual novel category.  There is no game here – it is a choose your own adventure book with pictures.  Despite this simplistic description, the story written here is anything but simple.

    The main protagonist is a character called Azai Kyousuke (in Japan, last names come first).  His real father got into trouble with the yakuza, and owed them a massive sum.  His adoptive father is Azai Gonzou, a notorious yakuza boss that is tough as nails and always gets what he wants.  Thankfully, Kyousuke has a brilliant mind, and has found himself in a very important role in the company, and earns a hefty paycheck as a result.  He has been doing this work to slowly get his family out of debt, as well as take care of his mother, if he can.

    Over time, he does start to 'think' like a yakuza.  While he tries to avoid outright crime most of the time, he is willing to make back room deals and exert undue influence to get what he wants.  And, the occasional thug is still employed to accomplish various tasks.

    Azai Gonzou is an intimidating and powerful man.  Though he has taken Kyousuke in as his son, he treats their relationship as more business than personal.  His 'love' is more approval based on his successes rather than anything else.  He also seems to have an uncanny sense of what is going on, with contacts in many places, high and low.  

    G-senjou no Maou - The Devil on G-String
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Very interesting and engaging story; lovable characters; great localization; voice acting (in Japanese) is really fun to listen to; very interesting multiple endings
    Weak Points: Maximum resolution is 1080p; Steam overlay doesn't work; achievements would be nice
    Moral Warnings: Every curse word in the book, including the F-word; characters are criminals, and manipulate people to get what they want; lots of references to the devil; God's name (and Jesus, with and without Christ) used a few times; premarital sex, sometimes without negative consequences; some female body parts shown before or after sex, or in other compromising positions, though key parts are cut off; adoptive-incest, and it is encouraged by their 'father'; student hits on a teacher successfully; tons of suggestive content; one girl is lesbian, and seems to have a history with another, though the other girl did it only out of necessity; gay characters mentioned but not shown; blood and violent scenes described and shown; at least one character seems to be atheist

    Many legitimate businesses are a front for various yakuza organizations, and their moneymaking arms.  There are various other ways that they make or bleed money, including splitting territories between other yakuza branches, or siphoning money from famous people and others with connections.  The novel does a great job of making the world of the yakuza seem alive and interesting.

    The story revolves both around Azai Kyousuke's work life, and the diversions that he can enjoy with his classmates at high school.  The school they go to is generally for those who miss grades for various reasons, including those who are too busy taking care of their careers at a young age.  There are several famous stars there, children of politicians, and so on.  As a result, it is not unusual to find older students, even into their early 20s.  While most students find school as the most stressful part of their life, Kyousuke goes there to relax and take a break from his grueling work career.

    Kyousuke makes some very good friends.  There is his buddy Eiichi, who is a pretty boy with a rather selfish streak.  He also makes friends with several girls: Tsubaki, Kanon (who is also his adopted sister), Mizuha, and Haru.  Each of them can become a love interest, with another girl Tokita playing a major part, but is not usually a love interest (she is lesbian).

    There are in the area of twenty choices the reader can make, and some of them make only small changes, but a few of them are critical, and lead to either each girl's special branch, or towards the one true ending.  You can also get a few bad endings if a few certain choices are made while going down each girl's path.

    * minor spoilers below *

    Each girl's path seems to focus on healing and personal growth in a certain way. Tsubaki's is probably the 'happiest', with Kyousuke seeing what a good family looks like, and having it help heal his wounds.  Kanon's is a bit odd, but he helps her resolve conflict and turmoil in her past and present.  With Mizuha, he helps take a very shy and insecure girl and make her into someone great.  The main/true path is a bit more complicated to describe, and I would rather avoid spoilers in this case.

    * end minor spoilers *

    I must say that the story is really compelling and very, very well localized.  It also has a decent length, as I was able to clear the shortest path in around 12 hours, and I saw all of the various endings in around 35 hours.  I did see the occasional typo, but overall, the personality of each character comes through really clearly.  The art is also great, as is the music and voices, though only in Japanese.  Despite this, the character's personalities come through clearly even in another language.  I found this visual novel very memorable and I doubt I will forget about it any time soon.  

     

    G-senjou no Maou - The Devil on G-String
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 90%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 41%
    Violence - 7.5/10
    Language - 0/10
    Sexual Content - 2/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 8/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 3/10

    Despite all of this excellent writing, it's absolutely full of adult content, including nearly everything but visible sex itself.  (That was in the original Japanese version, but was thankfully removed for the Steam release.)  In a few cases, a woman's body parts are in view, but critical parts are covered or obscured.  Girls in only underwear are also shown.  There are several instances of fade to black sex.  Sometimes it's implied, and sometimes it's much more explicit, with descriptions of how much or often they did it.  It is always premarital, though there are also cases (usually around bad endings) where it is borderline consensual.  In those cases, you can see the results, as people can have their lives ruined as a result.  Consensual premarital sex is not shown as a negative.  

    Some of the characters, Eiichi in particular, are incredibly selfish and say some pretty ridiculous things, like 'I'm going to mount her a*s', 'fooling around with those stupid sl*ts', and 'I'm at the age where I just want to penetrate something'.  Curse words are very common.  This includes words like 'b*tch', 'a*s', 'sl*ts', 'hell', 'd*mn', 'f*ck', and God's name in vain is used, including Jesus (with and without Christ).  There is reference to a 'booty call', and Gonzou even tells his adopted son to 'tame' his own daughter, which is of course incestuous.  If you go down that character's storyline, they joke about being siblings, and don't feel guilty about their sexual relationship.

    There are cases where characters choose to betray their friends for the money, though there is some self-preservation going on there also.  People can and are used in the worst sense.  People are murdered, and one is murdered because he is homosexual.  One character is lesbian, and she seemed to have an unhealthy relationship with another of the major other characters.

    There are many mentions of the devil, and people acting like or being him.  There is also a line 'unheard prayers to a useless god as I used to', implying that the main character is now an atheist.  How the darkness is people's hearts can be manifested or restrained is a major part of the plot of this visual novel.

    G-senjou no Maou – The Devil on G-String is an incredibly fascinating and well written visual novel with an equal amount of incredibly inappropriate content. (For the record, G-String refers to a string on a violin, not a certain type of undergarment.)  It surprised me how hard it was to pull myself away from my PC while I was reading it.  However, it cannot be understated how much inappropriate content is contained within.  No child should read this.  There may be cute anime graphics, but this is incredibly mature and not for children.  I have mixed feelings about recommending it at all, for this reason, but it is a very compelling story that really makes you think.  You may lose a small amount of faith in humanity in the process.  It's hard to get a peek into that amount of darkness and evil in the human heart without stepping back impacted.  Even still, somehow, there are glimmers of hope in even the darkest circumstances.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Harvest December
    Developed by: Talestune, Flyhigh Works
    Published by: Circle Entertainment
    Release Date: December 10, 2015
    Available on: 3DS
    Genre: Visual Novel
    Number of Players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: mature
    Price: $11.99

    Thank you Circle Entertainment for sending us this game to review!

    As a fan of both anime and visual novels, Harvest December piqued my interest.  Instead of flashy visuals, solid voice acting, or player interaction, this title relies on the story alone to captivate its audience.  The artwork and background music are sparse and recycled often, but the story and likable characters made me overlook those minor details and enjoy this game as a whole.

    The story is broken down into thirteen chapters that elapse over a year period as a high school student named Masaki moves from the city of Tokyo to the town of Tagami where it is rumored that their god roams the land in human form.  Not only does Masaki discover that the rumor is true, this attractive female god wants him to be her husband and he agrees.  The very next day in school a kimono-wearing (Masaki has a thing for women wearing kimonos) heiress takes notice of Masaki and asks him to be her boyfriend.  Attracted by her boldness, he accepts her offer as well.   It doesn’t take long for the two ladies to find out about each other and fight over Masaki.

    Harvest December
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Engaging story with likable characters and funny situations
    Weak Points: The story changes narrators without much clarification at times 
    Moral Warnings: Lots of language and blaspheming; violent acts are graphically described; many sexual encounters and situations but nothing really becomes of them; lots of references to other gods, shrines, rituals and divine powers

    As time goes on, more female (and some male) students become infatuated with Masaki and this adds a lot of drama, stress, sexual situations, and physical abuse.  The beatings Masaki receives are usually at the hands of his girlfriend, Yuki.  As the Towada heiress, (the most powerful family in town) Yuki often gets what she wants and carries around a marriage certificate hoping for the chance to get it signed by Tagami’s most eligible bachelor.  Her family has a tradition of marrying and conceiving young.  She desperately wants to have a child though she’s not familiar with the process involved.  Thankfully Masaki is a gentleman and doesn’t take advantage of the many opportunities provided to him.  His classmates and townspeople think otherwise though.

    Throughout the year the story switches perspectives from Masaki to sometimes his friends and their siblings.  Masaki has a habit of overthinking things and toying with peoples' feelings to get the best possible outcome he can devise.  For example, he would tell a pregnant woman to get an abortion just to see their reaction.  His over-analysis rubs off on his friends who go through identity crises along with Masaki to make sure they’re setting down with the right girl and for the right reason.  Masaki and his best friend, Kohei, want to follow their dreams and not be forced to live the dream of a significant other.  There are many lessons on life, love, sacrifice, and forgiveness.

    Despite the redemptive qualities, there are many moral issues to take note of in this title.  Harvest December earns it Mature rating for the graphic depiction of violent events and strong language.  There are many battle scenes with bones being broken and limbs being nearly torn off.  Fortunately, the gory imagery is not shown and it’s up to the reader’s brain to supply the violent imagery.  Cussing and blaspheming is pretty commonplace and every word except for the F-bomb is used.  In place of the F-word are Xs in some cases.  

    Harvest December
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 78%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 41%
    Violence - 3.5/10
    Language - 0/10
    Sexual Content - 3.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8.5/10

    With some of the characters being gods and children of gods, there are a fair amount of religious references.  There’s a wedding scene that depicts the rituals and blessings given by the goddess Shiro.  The gods in this game vary in powers and have the ability to lose it depending on their actions and influence from their believers.  Many Biblical characters are referenced including Moses, Job, and Joseph.  Joseph was brought up as an example of a guy having to deal with the consequences of sex without experiencing it for himself.   

    Most of the sexual situations are unintentional, funny, and awkward.  There are co-ed bathing scenes but usually one of the characters still has some clothes on of some sort.  Some accidental breast grabs provide a little humor and punishment beatings for Masaki.  There are also some peeping Tom and kissing scenes as well.  As detailed as the violent scenes were, I’m happy to say that there are no sexual encounters told in this story.  There was a scene with Kohei applying suntan lotion on a girl’s back and she flipped over for him to do the front side (despite his protesting) and the game said that the scene was censored for the reader’s protection.  

    Even with the censoring Harvest December is not suitable for a younger audience and it definitely earns the Mature rating it was given.  If you don’t mind cussing and awkward sexual humor, Harvest December will entertain you for roughly twenty-one hours.

     

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Hoshizora no Memoria - Wish upon a Shooting Star
    Developed by: Favorite
    Published by: Sekai Project
    Release date: December 18, 2017
    Available on: Windows
    Genre: Visual novel
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $19.99

    Thank you Sekai Project for sending us this game to review!

    Hoshizora no Memoria - Wish upon a Shooting Star has an interesting story about a teenager named Kogasaka You who moves back to his childhood home after the sudden death of his mother. Now that he’s back in town, he sets off to reunite with his childhood girlfriend whom he kissed and promised to marry as a young boy. All he knows about this girl is her first name, but he quickly forgets it after running into a female grim reaper who reaps nightmares/memories. Ironically, this grim reaper who goes by “Mare” looks a lot like the friend he’s after, though You isn’t convinced that it’s really her.

    In school Kogasaka You quickly makes new friends who have ulterior motives to have him join their various clubs (astronomy, occult, and school council). The town of Hibarigasaki is known for its beautiful starry sky that You is fascinated with so joining the Astronomy Club is a given no matter what storyline/route he takes. One of the story arcs has him juggling between the Astronomy Club and the Student Council.

    There are only a handful of choices to make in this game and depending on the ones you make, you’ll wind up dating one of the seven girls and the first choice doesn’t appear until you’re a couple hours into the game. In order to date Mare, you’ll need to complete all of the other story sequences first. While I really wanted to see Mare’s route, the sexual content in this game has made me reconsider pursuing that option since it requires starting an incestuous relationship with You’s younger and barely adolescent sister beforehand.

    Hoshizora no Memoria - Wish upon a Shooting Star
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Good story and character development; multiple endings/routes/romances
    Weak Points: Experienced several game crashes; no Steam integration/hours tracked; typos
    Moral Warnings: Every curse word and blaspheme is used; the main character has pre-marital sex with his girlfriends and the option is there for him to have an incestuous relationship with his barely adolescent half-sister; many references to deities and tarot cards; frontal nudity and an 18+ DLC patch is available for purchase; blood and violence

    Not that I’m excusing the adultery/premarital sex with the different females in the other routes, but Biblically pursuing a sexual relationship with a half-sister is wrong on two counts (Exodus 20:14 and Leviticus 18:8-10). To make matters worse, the sister is only a freshman in high school and barely developed as the naked chest artwork reveals. Other than various breast shots, there are plenty of bikinis and underwear shots, leaving little left to the imagination when it comes to female anatomy. 18+ DLC is available from the developers for an additional fee. I’ve seen enough with the vanilla Steam version though.

    It’s a shame really since the characters are really well developed (story wise), especially with some of the side stories of the different females You can date (and quickly consummate in a matter of days). Chinami, his sister, is extremely happy, loud, and annoying as most younger siblings are. The sibling roughhousing is rather humorous with the noogies, neck chops, forehead flicks, and eye pokes she gets in the beginning of the game. I liked the maid café girl that I wound up dating during my first play through. Not only is she cute, but she’s got a good personality and back story. I didn’t care too much for the next door neighbor girl who kept telling me to hurry up and die every other time I talked to her. There is a reason for her attitude and I found her story was engaging. There are also attractive twin sisters who are shrine maidens. They have an interesting past and one of the twins is quite feisty while the other seems to be attracted to her sister sexually, or at least she seems to fondle and tease her inappropriately often.

    Other than the fan service moments, I did enjoy the artwork. I like how expressive the characters are and many of them are associated with animals. Some of the love interests are described as a dog, hamster, and a horse. Asuho the waitress pouts and gets excited like a dog and she is sometimes drawn with puppy ears and a wagging tail. The starry sky the students are drawn to looks beautiful and I would love to see that many stars in the sky by me, but there’s too much light pollution for that to ever happen.

    Hoshizora no Memoria - Wish upon a Shooting Star
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 80%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 22%
    Violence - 5.5/10
    Language - 0/10
    Sexual Content - 0/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 1/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 4.5/10

    The Japanese voice acting is well done and I appreciate the subtitles since I can barely understand it. Sometimes the characters do curse in English though. Every cuss word and blaspheme imaginable is used in this game. There’s a ton of text in this game and apparently a few typos did slip through the quality testing. The background music and sound effects are well done though.

    Other moral issues to note are the use of Tarot cards by one of the girls and there are references to various deities. There is a lot of silly sibling violence, but there are some scenes with blood and death. While the sex acts are not shown, the fact that they happen are pretty clear and there are some suggestive and barely clothed scenes shown.

    Though the game ran fine for me most of the time, I did experience several crashes that required switching to and from windowed mode to get the game running again. Steam integration doesn’t appear to be functioning as of this review. I wish I knew how much time I put into this game as I know I put in way more than the two minutes Steam shows for me.

    Despite the many moral issues, I did enjoy the first half of the game which can be fast forwarded for future playthroughs to save time. The fact that they cannot be skipped outright is annoying, but I do like how it will slow down and make you read scenes you have not seen before. If you don’t mind excessive foul language, blaspheming and sexual content, there is some good storytelling. Sadly, the bad outweighs the good in this title for me though.

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    It's You: A Breakup Story
    Developed By: Brwarner Studios
    Published By: Brawrner Studios
    Released: August 1, 2018
    Available On: macOS, Windows, Linux
    Genre: Visual Novel, Simulation
    ESRB Rating: Not Rated
    Number of Players: 1 player
    Price: $4.99

    Thank you Brwarner Studios for the review code.

    Life is ever-changing, with the huge leaps in technology. It has become easier to communicate with each other than it was hundreds of years prior, but with daily tasks becoming easier, relationships seem to be harder to maintain.

    It’s You: A Breakup Story is what the title states: A narrative-driven game where the player takes the point of view of Carlee. Carlee is a nurse at a hospital who comes home after a long and exhausting shift. Her boyfriend, Josh, typically calls her at midnight to discuss their day and to relieve some stress. Again, as the title states, this is a breakup story. There is only one ending to this event, and that is to break up, but as the player, you decide how Carlee breaks up with Josh. This relationship is already on thin ice and there is no saving it. It’s a rather nice statement on life in general. Even if there is no stopping what is coming, people can make the best of a terrible situation.

    Only the screen of Carlee’s monitor lights up her room. What is displayed is typically what a person has on their desk: scattered pins, a calendar, a cup to drink from, a phone, a stapler, some notes, and her ID badge. The silence of the night takes over as she attempts to unwind after a day of hardship. Everything, except for what is displayed on the screen, looks like something that was drawn in a sketchbook. A nice, simple color pallet to complement the life of another human being. Soon after, Josh will make his call, and the two of you will start the conversation that will lead to the end.

    It's You: A Breakup Story
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: The game gives the player a lot of choice in how the inevitable breakup happens; solid voice acting from the antagonist.
    Weak Points: Grammatical errors throughout; ending sequence is disproportionately low in volume.
    Moral Warnings: Strong uses of language; some blasphemy; the story is about a dysfunctional and emotionally abusive relationship. 

    As you take part in this conversation, you will notice that displayed on the screen are five tabs. One tab is a Twitter knockoff called Tweeter. The second tab displays a surprisingly addicting tic-tac-toe game called Tractor Dad: Civil War. The third and fourth tab each respectively show a messaging app and a music app called WhatsDown and Toon-ify. The last tab is of Carlee’s email, and interestingly enough is the tab this game begins on. Each tab is a glance into Carlee’s life and gives us insight on who Carlee is, and quite possibly what she wants to be.

    Choice is the definitive factor of this journey. Even though It’s You will always end the same (as in a breakup), you have the power to give Carlee a chance on how she will leave this relationship, and I applaud that concept. As Josh and Carlee make conversation, you can distract yourself with the various tabs on display. You can choose to be sympathetic to Josh, or even hostile. You can even “nod off” in mid conversation, or blatantly hang up on him. Sometimes I would even let the phone ring and just play Tractor Dad and listen to the playlist of classical, rock, electronic and bossa nova music. There can be a reason to break up with him or no reason at all. Of course, for the narrative, it is in your best interest to talk with Josh as long as possible. As the conversation deepens, you really start to see just how dysfunctional their relationship is and that it was never meant to last.

    Josh’s voice actor, Jacob Burgess, does a solid job as our antagonist. He pours in all of these nuances into his performance that make Josh feel like an actual living person. Josh is a flawed individual, which you can clearly see within the first five minutes, but only until you look deeper do you truly see just how bad Josh really is. Burgess in his performance at times really made me feel and think multiple times that Josh is such a… jerk, to put it kindly. Carlee is not a perfect person either, but she is nowhere near what Josh is. Interestingly enough, Josh is not all to blame on how this relationship turned out the way it did. Of course he is the biggest contributor to this sinking ship, but I did step into the situation expecting Josh would be a lazy straw man to support a skewed point of view that the developers hold. I was plenty surprised that was not the case.

    It's You: A Breakup Story
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 82%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 87%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 3/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7.5/10

    +3: The story in this game delivers a good moral lesson

    A narrative driven game is not going to have many mechanical issues, but I did notice quite a few grammatical issues. In their Resources option, the number 3 was listed twice as for pieces that influenced this game. There are also misspellings scattered throughout the work, such as “my” instead of “by” in certain parts. Some written dialogue doesn’t match the dialogue spoken either. Most importantly, the sound for the ending speeches is way lower than the general sound for the game, such as when Josh speaks or when music plays. I had to turn my speakers all the way up just to hear what the ending speeches were saying. Nothing detrimental to the work, and it will most likely be fixed in an upcoming patch, but it is still something that needed to be pointed out. 

    As It’s You: A Breakup Story is based on multiple resources, both real and fictional, it will have morality issues that come with it. The characters in their discussion will use mild and strong language, such as F-bombs, some S’s, some not-so-river dams, and instances of blasphemy. The use of colorful language does make the troubling relationship feel more organic, at least in my viewpoint. The game and the developers also make it no secret that the relationship at hand is also an emotionally abusive one—which can be uncomfortable for some to experience. I did also notice one instance of sexually suggestive dialogue.

    It’s You: A Breakup Story isn’t more so a game than it is an experience, and I'm glad I took part of it. I couldn't exactly review it like I could my reviews in the past because it cannot compare to any of them. It peers into why some relationships just don’t work out. It also looks into the ugliness of humanity and how some people will try to hurt and control others, just because they were hurt or controlled at some point themselves. Sometimes, people may think that there is no way out of a situation, or that a bad situation is a better choice than that feeling of crippling loneliness; but life is what you make it. No matter what, you have control of your own life and no one or no thing can say or tell you otherwise.

    Even though It’s You is from the perspective of a female, I think men should also give the story a shot as well. Maybe it can give insight on what went wrong in a relationship and what can be taken from it to make the next one right. Situations like these aren’t just exclusive to women after all. The entire story is relatable, whether it can be applied to a relationship, a job, a friendship or anything else. I feel this game is important to experience, especially to people who feel that the main topic is an uncomfortable one to observe, as it can teach people that there is always a way out and to seize control of your life.

    -Cinque Pierre

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Japanese School Life
    Developed by: code:jp
    Published by: Sekai Project
    Release date: November 22, 2016
    Available on: Windows
    Genre: Visual Novel
    Number of players: Single-player
    Price: $9.99

     

    Thank you Sekai Project for sending us this game to review!

    As a fan of anime, I’m intrigued by Japanese culture and would love to visit Japan someday.  Through the various high school themed animes I’ve learned about many of Japan’s pastimes. I’ve realized that there’s much more to learn after playing Japanese School Life.  

    Japenese School Life is a 2D visual novel that gives you a glimpse into the life of typical high school kids.  You’ll learn about etiquette and various customs that take place throughout the year.  This three-and-a-half-hour visual novel features multiple endings and a nekomimi mode if you want everyone to wear cat ears.

    The main character is Brian, a self-proclaimed otaku (obsessed fan) that becomes a foreign exchange student.  He is permitted to stay in Japan for one school year which is broken up into three trimesters.  Brian wants to absorb as much of Japan’s culture as possible and desires to visit several locations that are on his “bucket list.” 

    Japanese School Life
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: An interesting way to learn about Japanese culture
    Weak Points: Not many choices to make in this three and a half hour game
    Moral Warnings: Minor language (d*mmit, hell); bikinis are shown in the summer time; references to gods and Buddhism; fortune telling 

    On his first day he meets and exchanges cell phone numbers with two girls who are polar opposites, personality wise.  Chiyoko is the studious class representative who is soft spoken and very courteous.   Arisa is very outspoken and competitive when it comes to sports.  Both Brian and Arisa freak out when it comes to test taking and get together with Chiyoko for study sessions.

    There’s more than studying as the students enjoy singing karaoke and going to arcades to play crane games.  In the summertime the girls wear revealing bikinis and take part in suikawari which involves swatting a watermelon with a stick piñata style until it cracks.  

    Since Brain loves anime and manga, he visits Akihabara which is a mecca for those hobbies along with gaming.  He also attends Comic Market, or Comiket for short, and he discovers a secret about one of the girls there.  There is a school trip that takes place in the more traditional Kyoto and much is revealed about Japan’s history there.

    Japanese School Life
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 80%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 81%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 7/10
    Sexual Content - 6.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Depending on the choices made throughout the game Brian can fall in love with Chiyoko or Arisa.  There are six Steam achievements and two of them are for each of the endings.  Another achievement can be unlocked for playing the game in Japanese.  While the voice acting is in Japanese you can have English subtitles.  Unfortunately, there are a few instances of minor cussing with the word d*mmit appearing a few times and hell used a couple of times.  The voice acting was well done, but I wish there was more variety in the background music.

    Visually there’s a fair amount of variety in Japanese School Life.  Throughout the year the girl’s uniforms will change along with the climate.  For example, in the wintertime they’ll be bundled up in coats.  There are a few holiday parties where the girls wear Halloween costumes or Santa outfits.  Some of the cutscenes switch visual styles to a cute chibi cartoon mode as opposed to the anime appearance.

    Though the premise and characters are cute, I wasn’t as drawn into this visual novel in comparison to others I have played. It certainly is educational and more fun than some “edutainment” style games though.  The price is a reasonable $9.99 and there’s a free demo to check it out before purchasing it.

     

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    KARAKARA
    Developed by: calme
    Published by: Sekai Project
    Release date: June 27, 2016
    Available on: Windows
    Genre: Visual novel
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $9.99

    Thank you Sekai Project for sending us this visual novel to review!

    A great calamity wiped away three quarters of the human population and the ones that remained experienced reproductive difficulties.  By merging traits with cats, dogs, and even vampires, humans began to thrive again on the hot and dry earth.  Persecution took place among the various forms of humans, but in some areas like the village of Sagami Francisco they all manage to live peacefully.

    Sagami Francisco has a population of two thousand and on a lonely desert road is a café run by Leon and his live-in employee Lucia.  Leon and Lucia are close like family though they are not related.  Since Leon’s parents passed away they have been running the café and have been desperately seeking more help to ease their workloads a bit.

    karakara
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great artwork and expressive (Japanese) voice acting
    Weak Points: Game is only two hours long
    Moral Warnings: While there are no sex scenes in the Steam version, an 18+ patch is available; some sexual situations; minor language (d*mn)

    On a drive to the city, Leon and Lucia encounter Aisia on the side of the road and offer her a ride to their café. They take pity on her and offer her a job and a place to live.  At first Aisia is klutzy, but she learns quickly and becomes quite helpful.  

    Cullen, the resident police officer (who wears a skimpy uniform) often reminds Leon that bigamy is permitted in their state.  Though Leon and Lucia were not romantically involved, their relationship changes once Aisia comes into their lives.  Lucia takes on a maternal role and guides her while Leon fears that she will become jealous of Aisia.  

    Since this game is only two hours long I won’t divulge too much information about the story.  There is a demo available and I’m curious how much of the story is revealed in that.  I enjoyed playing this visual novel and liked the characters and their silly banter.  

    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 74%
    Gameplay - 12/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 81%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 7/10
    Sexual Content - 6.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Unfortunately, some of the events in this game are sexual in nature, but nothing too sensuous takes place.  There is some fan service with bust shots as the two main female characters debate on who is more endowed and ask Leon to be the judge and settle the matter.  There is also a scene where Aisia inadvertently shows off her rear end and skimpy underwear while hunched over and cleaning the floor.  Both Lucia and Leon take notice and Leon gets called out for doing so. Last but not least is a scene where the girls get to see Leon’s guy parts.  Fortunately, this scene is described, but not shown.  There is an adult patch for this game and I have no idea what it adds visually or story wise as I was not interested in it.

    In the end, KARAKARA is a short and entertaining visual novel.  Because of its length I would not recommend paying full price for it.  It may be worth picking up on sale as long as the fan service and mild language doesn’t bother you.  Be sure to browse through the Steam screenshots before purchasing this title.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    KARAKARA 2
    Developed by: calme
    Published by: Sekai Project
    Release date: November 10, 2017
    Available on: Windows
    Genre: Visual novel
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $9.99

    Thank you Sekai Project for sending us this game to review!

    KARAKARA 2 takes place after the first game and I highly recommend playing that one first before diving into the sequel. The same characters carry over including Leon, a rare human with only two ears and no tail. Most of the residents including his live-in female friends, Lucia and Aisia, have dog or cat traits as a result of a great calamity that wiped out ¾ of the population.

    There are two episodes in this sequel and the third one begins with the resident female cop, Cullen, bringing Leon his monthly marriage proposal letters. Leon doesn’t consider himself ready to marry yet and turns down each lucrative offer. Declining in writing is substantially easier than doing so in person. Leon learns this the hard way when an attractive girl named Rebecca shows up at his doorstep unannounced.

    KARAKARA 2
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Funny characters/story; nice artwork and Japanese voice acting
    Weak Points: Ended on a cliffhanger; two hours long
    Moral Warnings: Skimpy outfits and well endowed females; some sexual humor; undead characters; language (d*mn, *ss)

    Rebecca does not accept "No" for an answer and gets Leon to agree to a one week trial period where she can prove her worth as a potential wife. Rebecca definitely possess many great homemaking skills like cooking, sewing, and gardening. Lucia and Aisia take notice as well and devise a plan to find a weakness to keep Leon to themselves. Rebecca does indeed have a secret which I will not spoil, but it does provide some shock and comedy later on in the game.

    Cullen seems to take notice that Leon’s harem grows every time she takes leave and this is no exception in the fourth episode. The café requires the services of a guardian ninja to keep everyone safe from a dangerous duo wishing to kidnap and sell Leon. Mari’s source of Ninjitsu training is a bit peculiar, but she is very agile and defends herself well.

    The fourth episode goes into Mari’s past and the rest of the girls take a liking to her right away. Unlike the previous episode, they try to fan the flames of passion between her and Leon. While there is a kissing scene with a female in the third episode, any sexual encounters are not made too obvious. Many opportunities are presented but Leon seems to be a gentleman and turns them down outright.

    KARAKARA 2
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 76%
    Gameplay - 13/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 74%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 6.5/10
    Sexual Content - 3.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    All of the females in Leon’s life are well endowed and there are conversations between the girls comparing their physiques. There is also some crude discussions and some language (d*mn, *ss). Mari’s outfit is very skimpy, but it does not hinder her movement at all.

    I was able to complete this visual novel in two hours and enjoyed it. Since it ended on a cliffhanger, I can’t wait for the sequel. If Leon’s harem continues to grow, I’m going to wonder where everyone will wind up sleeping. Things are starting to get pretty cramped with the sofa being used as a bed now.

    If you enjoyed the story, characters, art, and voice acting from the original game then you won’t be disappointed here. The sequel sells for $9.99 and, as far as I can tell, does not have an 18+ patch like the original did.

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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