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Found 13 results

  1. barrel

    Review: Clannad

    Developer: Key Publisher: Sekai Project Platform: PC Release Date: November 23, 2015 ESRB: N/A (Teen recommended) Clannad is something of a classic amongst visual novels. This presides even outside of Japan with the help of the well-received anime adaptation of Key's original 2004 PC game under the same name. With its memorable characters, incredibly poignant themes, and forever changing one's outlook on a certain Japanese food with the song "Dango Daikazoku," it has certainly earned its passionate fanbase across the world. However, publisher Sekai Project decided to put such fandom to the test for English speakers by proposing an official localization of the PC visual novel through the use of Kickstarter in early 2015. Thankfully for all those involved, the Kickstarter was more than successful and was followed up with a finalized release at the very end of that same year. Was the official translation of this classic visual novel worth the wait or does it not quite get the passing grade? Starting the visual novel of Clannad after being many years removed from my first exposure with the anime adaptation was quite surreal. Verbatim quotes, characters I thought I had long forgot, and plenty more all came back hitting my memory in quick succession. The anime was so faithful, in fact, that it almost made me feel like the early goings of the visual novel were sorta redundant. Which, well, it is more of my fault for having watched watched the anime than anything else, but something that bears mentioning if you have that frame of reference. Still, Clannad is a massive visual novel and it is telling that nearly fifty episodes of the anime primarily only covered one narrative route within it (albeit, easily the biggest one.). The starting story will likely not seem particularly special with its high school setting and the lead who feels pretty detached from his school life. It also certainly has some crazy high school antics that one can easily shrug off as "Oh, anime." But, what makes Clannad special is how it carries its characters and interactions between them, going from genuinely humorous one moment to downright blindsiding players with its very heavy-hitting emotional themes in other instances. One intriguing aspect is that despite giving you the ability to name the faceless, and voiceless, male lead (named by default "Tomoya"), he is very much his own individual. He's a delinquent, very mischievous (to his "best friend" Sunohara specifically), and has plenty of his own internal baggage that he doesn't make apparent (uncovered more so within certain narrative routes). That said, he grows and matures a lot in very different ways despite not being entirely respectable at times. Even as a grown adult I was surprised at how much I could relate Tomoya. Not because of his high school life but because Tomoya's character very much looks beyond it into adulthood, which is especially apparent in the "After Story" arc. However, a good chunk of the narrative, and most character routes, takes place during Tomoya's high school life. As a visual novel, its story branches based on the decisions you make from seemingly mundane actions early in. Whether you ditch class or not, pay heed to random events, or even simply listen to what people have to say all help shape Tomoya as a character. These choices can also lead to potential romances with the various heroines (and a couple that also don't) or delve into entire subplots that are surprisingly not covered in the anime adaptation at all (granted, for one of them I could see why... considering it is not great). Like most visual novels, there will certainly be a division which fans deem to be the best ones. Generally speaking, it becomes clear that the longer routes (and those that lead to romances) tend be easily be the most thoughtfully written of the 10+ routes. Outside of what is essentially the poster child heroine of Clannad, Nagisa, whom easily has the most substantial story arc for a multitude of reasons, my personal favorite routes were those of the heroines Kotomi and "Tomoyo" (not a typo, her name is actually that similar to the default lead "Tomoya"). Tomoyo being very assertive and strong(physically as well)-willed woman and is a sharp contrast to the apathetic lead, while Kotomi is a bit more air-headed with the comedic timing of a sloth, despite being something of a genius. Regardless of their apparent anime-styled quirks they both very much have their own human moments. Though all routes are fairly different (except for maybe a certain set of twins), they each generally play on the game's central theme in various ways, which is "family". While that may cause one to falsely believe Clannad is focused on warm-fuzzy feelings , despite how light-hearted and humorous it may be at times, the narrative is more than willing to hit players with very poignant narrative gut-punches in many forms. Probably the reason why Clannad's storytelling works as well as it does is because it is quite good at balancing comedic situations and deeply serious, relatable character moments. It is clear to me that Clannad is known as a classic for a reason, regardless of how much certain aspects of it have aged. Admittedly, there are parts to the visual novel that are quite disjointed and do not work quite as well. Some of that is simply age, like the rigid interface or the occasionally awkward presentation (What is with everyone's faces and eyes?!), but the more important are with its inherent design. Clannad hides its most substantial extended story route, Nagisa's "After Story", behind various prerequisites that are obtained by fully completing most routes. Though there is an in-universe justification for it, it just comes off as rather clumsy (because the supernatural parts are usually the weakest parts of the narrative), in addition to making it take significantly much longer to complete for an already huge visual novel. It also brings to light that certain routes are easily worth less of your time compared to others. The other issue is with its localization. Perhaps I have been spoiled by other game localizations lately, but a lot of the actual in-game text reads more unnatural than it should in Clannad. It does not ruin the game by any means, but for a visual novel with such personality and distinct characters it reads more flat than it should at times. It may be more than ten years detached from its original Japanese debut, but Clannad remains memorable among many visual novels for a reason. Be it the great characters within it, or the narrative that easily bounces between entertaining to surprisingly poignant, Clannad becomes a roller coaster of emotions for those who can sit through it. Still, it is a huge visual novel, and in some ways to its own detriment with its necessity towards very thorough play and inconsistent quality for the lesser narrative routes. However, in its best moments Clannad more than upholds its classic reputation and becomes a must-play for many visual novel fans. Pros: + Heavy-hitting storytelling themes for its better routes that very much hold up even now * Great, and surprisingly relatable characters + Genuinely funny moments + Massive visual novel with a couple of interesting routes that are not covered by the anime adaptation at all Cons: - Noticeable gap in quality for some story elements and character paths - Rigid interface and unnecessarily prolonged requirements to unlock the "After Story" route -So-so localization Overall Score: 8 (out of 10) Great For as much as it may have aged, and bears some fairly apparent shortcomings, Clannad still manages to stand above most visual novels with its powerful storytelling and character moments alone Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PC code provided by the publisher.
  2. barrel

    Clannad 4

    From the album: Clannad

  3. barrel

    Clannad 3

    From the album: Clannad

  4. barrel

    Clannad 2

    From the album: Clannad

  5. barrel

    Clannad 1

    From the album: Clannad

  6. Marcus Estrada

    Review: WORLD END ECONOMiCA episode.01

    Developer: Spicy Tails Publisher: Sekai Project Platform: PC (Steam) ESRB: Not rated (T suggested) Release Date: May 6, 2014 It seems that the acceptance of visual novels has grown a ton over the past few years. Before more game-like titles such as Phoenix Wright and 999 hit the scene, most Western players were either unaware of their existence or put off by the genre“s reputation. Now, Steam Greenlight regularly accepts visual novels such as WORLD END ECONOMiCA episode.01 to their storefront. How does this game stand out and is it the kind that newbies to the genre will want to pick up? Well, that all depends on what you expect out of visual novels. First, let“s go over what kind of visual novel this game is. It is a 100% story driven experience without any sort of gameplay elements wedged in. This is very typical of visual novels although most of the titles released here tend to have various puzzles or other features to make them more appealing to the audience. Unlike others in the genre, it also has no moments for the player to make a decision. Most of the time there is at least one choice to be made over the course of WORLD END ECONOMiCA but that“s not the case here. As such, you“re fully beholden to the story to provide an interesting experience. So what“s the story about? The focus is on a young man who has been living on his own for a few months after running away from home. Although it might not sound that unusual, the backstory helps enhance the storyline. You see, this all takes place on the moon after it has been colonized. People back on Earth immigrate to the moon for a new start just as it had once been the case for the United States. Still developing, the moon has areas of great prosperity but also areas where people struggle to make ends meet. Apparently, living on the moon is not a solution to humanity“s dependence on currency. However, our young runaway has been making money via stock trading, completely ignoring school or any other responsibilities in the process. Soon enough he finds himself in a bind and is saved by a woman named Lisa who takes him into her care. Because he doesn“t want to be sent home, he is christened with a new name—Hal. His hope is that staying with Lisa will be just a temporary stumble on his route to the lavish city. Things don“t turn out as expected, though, when Hal finds himself faced with Lisa“s other tenant Hagana. Hagana is about the same age, but the two are so opposed that arguments constantly flare up. Although Hagana could be at fault sometimes, it seems that most of the blame lies with Hal. For whatever reason, Hal is a truly unlikeable guy. As we play from his perspective, players are often subjected to his completely off-the-wall notions about women. It does eventually subside, but is fairly surprising to see such an unlikeable character at the helm. Yes, Hal has reasons for his constant temper and his uncontrollable greed. Yes, he also manages to do things that prove himself to have a tad bit of decency but he“s still a tough character to process. In a way that“s a bold move for any visual novel because it gambles on players being able to stick with it despite a despicable, unrelatable character at the forefront of WORLD END ECONOMiCA. Regardless of how you feel about the lead“s attitude problems, the storyline itself proves engaging. Hal“s determination to make millions off stock trading sounds like a flight of fancy for a teenager but it“s a neat ride all the same. Things get more interesting once he must enlist the aid of the person he“d hate to work with most. Of course, this is Hagana as she has a hidden talent that can aid him tremendously. From there, things really take off story-wise, although a tenuous romantic thread introduced later seems forced. The storyline is not steeped in economic theory (despite the name) but it does definitely have its fair share of investing “shop talk” which might bore some readers. It also paints an ethically ambiguous plot point as a really great thing which seems quite odd. Eventually Hal stops being as detestable as he was at the start, but it is a shame he couldn“t have shown a modicum of decency to begin with. In some ways, Lisa and Hagana prove the main reason to play ahead in the story because they“re much easier to take interest in. Provided you have an interest in stock trading (and maybe even mathematical theories) then WORLD END ECONOMiCA will prove an interesting, if sometimes difficult, read. Anyone who tuned out during economics class might not find it worth playing though. The hardest reasons to recommend the experience are simply because the main character is so unlikable and that it is purely a digital story with no player input. Still, there“s something interesting about being forced to deal with a character who is antithetical of typical visual novel leads. Hopefully those who purchase will find themselves wrapped up over the course of WORLD END ECONOMiCA“s 8 to 12 hour storyline. Pros: + Unique storyline compared to the average visual novel + Cool world and artwork Cons: - Contemptible lead character - Zero choices to be made by the player Overall Score: 6 (out of 10) Decent WORLD END ECONOMiCA is a visual novel with a very unique story to tell for those who can bear the lead character.
  7. Leah

    Review: School Days HQ

    Developer: 0verflow, Sekai Project Publisher: JAST USA Platform: Windows Release Date: June 28, 2012 (out now) ESRB: N/A (18+ recommended) School Days was considered pretty revolutionary at its time, and still could be considered so. It even went on to spawn other media releases like an anime and manga series. One of the reasons that the visual novel became so popular is that the whole game is completely animated. How often do you see that? That fact may lure many into checking the visual novel out, but you might still be skeptical about the other elements of School Days HQ. Does its story, characters, and so-forth meld together with its animation to make a worthwhile game? School Days HQ is another one of those slice-of-life visual novels. Our protagonist is a second-year high school student named Makoto Ito, and his life gets incredibly dramatic when pinned between two girls. While Makoto has already had his eyes on one of the girls, Kotonoha Katsura, you can make the choice to go after the other girl, Sekai Saionji. At first, it might sound like a typical high school story, but School Days HQ has a bunch of paths and endings that will make your head spin with how crazy they are. There are over twenty endings for School Days HQ. While some of them are tame, the ones that you“re really going to want to go after are the tragic and bad endings. They“re bloody, dark, intense, and well-worth going for. For those looking for the adult scenes, I“m happy to tell you there“s a boatload of them and they“re mostly unique for each path. The massive amount of endings and adult scenes that School Days HQ has will have you pouring in hours upon hours of gameplay time. The girls, Kotonoha and Sekai, are great and believable characters. You“ll almost feel bad for going against and hurting either of them, depending on what decisions you make. Makoto, on the other hand, puts himself out as a dull and wishy-washy guy. Oftentimes, I would mentally yell at him for doing certain stupid things. It“s not that big of a deal, though. The voice-acting for all of the characters is also done pretty well. Especially for Kotonoha and Sekai, as their voice actresses do an impeccable job to capture the emotion of the moment. However, with Makoto again, he is constantly mumbly and that doesn“t help his already boring demeanor. The music for School Days HQ is nothing too special, but I particularly enjoyed the songs that played during the endings for each chapter. Now, School Days HQ feels more like an interactive movie than a visual novel, but that doesn“t mean it has minimal dialogue options. The game will give you choices very often, which will throw you down a bevy of different branching paths. When dialogue options do pop up, you have a time limit (that isn“t shown) to make a choice. You are not able to pause during this time. Even remaining silent and not choosing an option can sometimes count as making a specific choice. While it might be annoying for those who like to take the time to figure out what they want to do, it really makes you feel like you're in the moment and adds to the drama. In any case, you still have the ability to go backwards to the beginning of current part in case you mess up on a dialogue option. There are also different fast forwarding speeds and an auto-skip to go to the end of the current part that you“re on. What about the animation that makes School Days HQ so unique? It definitely is something neat and different that enhances the experience and makes it feel like you“re actually watching an anime. However, the animation isn“t as high-quality as I“d personally like it to be. There are many still shots, close-ups of people“s faces, and repeated animations. So you“re mostly going to just be seeing people“s mouths moving. Good news to those buying the game for the adult scenes, however – they have an amped-up quality versus the rest of the game, at least (and they“re uncensored in this release of the game!). School Days HQ is a pretty solid and worthwhile visual novel. The full animation and huge amount of paths and endings it offers will make for an entertaining experience with massive replayability to the seasoned visual novel enthusiast. Definitely pick it up if you can, then sit back and watch the fur fly with our dramatic little love triangle. Pros: + Over 20 endings and different adult scenes to get means a high amount of replayability + The game being fully animated makes for a unique experience as a visual novel + Incredibly dramatic story, and some of the endings are dark and bloody Cons: - While the game being fully animated is nice, it“s not really high-quality and there is much repetition of shots - Protagonist is a bit dull and might be unlikable to many Overall: 8.5 (out of 10) Great School Days HQ is an excellent visual novel experience with its many endings and full animation. Definitely a title those interested in the genre should check out.
  8. Leah

    School Days HQ - 3

    From the album: Leah's Review Images

    © JAST USA

  9. Leah

    School Days HQ - 2

    From the album: Leah's Review Images

    © JAST USA

  10. Leah

    School Days HQ - 1

    From the album: Leah's Review Images

    © JAST USA