Tag Archives: gaming

Expand Your Gaming Horizons and Try Out a Visual Novel

4 Jul

This weekend I’m going to an anime convention, so I won’t be doing an update this Saturday. I’ll be on schedule next week, though.

If all goes as planned, I’ll be installing an otome game onto Kyle’s computer. I’ll do a tutorial on the right way to install and how to link text hookers and English translators and such to a Japanese visual novel. At least, I’ll try, because that stuff can get crazy and varies between games. I am no master of all this technical stuff. But I get things to work, and that’s good enough for me!

For those unfamiliar, visual novels are basically like a “choose your own adventure” book. There are character sprites and static backgrounds and music and voice acting and CG graphics at key events, and you usually go through the game in first person. You spend a lot of time reading, since, you know, it’s a visual novel. It’s common for them to have branching storylines, and depending on the game, several characters eligible to date. Here, I have a screenshot sitting around here somewhere…

Akazukin to Mayoi no Mori, the game I shall be putting on Kyle’s computer. Fair warning if you want to look it up: it isn’t quite SFW.

There are a lot of different types of visual novels. Phoenix Wright (DS) and Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (DS) both fall into this category. So does Katawa Shoujo (PC) and Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom (PSP). Both Hakuoki and Akazukin (screenshot above) are otome games. Otome games are created with ladies in mind, have a female protagonist, and several characters (usually male) to fall in love with along the course of the adventure.

The manliest men play otome games, you know, because they’re comfortable with their sexuality and like some romance in their lives. ;D …but I think Kyle’s mostly playing Akazukin because the girl’s cute and there are some nice sex scenes. It’s like sexy Red Riding Hood! Hey, we’re adults, and we’ll play R-18 games if we want. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

For the non-adults or for those who don’t want the occasional raunchy scene, there are plenty of otome games that aren’t R-18. Hakuoki isn’t, for instance. And that one’s in English, one of the only ones ever localized!

Alice in the Country of Hearts (Heart no Kuni no Alice) doesn’t have anything explicit, either. The manga series has gotten pretty popular over here in the States, so you may have heard of it. It’s based on QuinRose’s game series.

If you’re interested, get yourself a game, and I’ll show you the basics next week!

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Digimon World Re:Digitize and Why Namco Bandai Won’t Let You Have It

30 Jun

I am in physical pain whenever I see updates on Digimon World Re:Digitize. It’s scheduled for release on PSP on July 19th in Japan. In Japan. Nowhere else. And not to be a Negative Nancy, but it probably won’t be seen outside of it. The North American and European branches of Namco Bandai appear depressingly uninterested in Digimon. Since Digimon World Re:Digitize is celebrating the series’ 15th anniversary and has very strong ties to the first Digimon World on PS1, this breaks my little monster-loving heart.

My childhood was speckled with virtual pet key chains. I never had a Tamagotchi, but I had a whole bunch of gadgets in the same family. There was the Dinkie Dino and that weird egg-shaped one that my mom wrote my name on (and then I got mad and rubbed nail polish remover on it until the permanent marker was eaten off), and the crappy blue one that came from a home goods store.

The blue one was the worst. You selected a typical pet to “raise”, but all you did was play minigames. They never grew into new forms, but did age and die after a while. The dog stayed a dog, the rabbit stayed a rabbit. Even my child-self was put off by the false claims that were printed on the packaging. That’s not what it’s all about, Home Goods Store! It’s about feeding, caring, raising, and watching as they evolve.

*does not actually produce explosions

The Digimon virtual pet* was my absolute favorite. You took care of a monster (that could grow into one of many cool, stronger monsters) that fought other people’s monsters! Ingenious. My sister had one too, and we’d battle each other all the time. I didn’t know it then, but Digimon was created as a “boy’s” Tamagotchi; that was the birth of it all. The Digimon anime, games, and cards were all born from the blooping virtual pet. So when I got the first Digimon World on the PlayStation as a reward for good grades, I was totally ecstatic.

It was exactly what I’d expected after spending so much time with the Digimon virtual pet. The special thing about Digimon World was the way you raised your monster. The game was created before the anime, so it took its inspiration from the Tamagotchi. Your Digimon aged, died, and was reborn as a baby. You had to feed him, let him sleep, and make sure he had bathroom breaks. He could get overworked, sick, or injured. Some people thought it was a pain in the butt, I’m sure, but I loved keeping an eye on my little buddy and watching him grow.

Digimon World was focused on caring for your companion, paired with RPG elements that fleshed out the game. You explored the world, rebuilt a city by recruiting Digimon, and battled your way to the top. And I loved that. Digimon World filled a very particular niche. For someone who liked monster raising games a whole lot (and thought Tamagotchis were the bomb), it was perfect.

Then there was Digimon World Re:Digitize on the PSP. They said they were listening to the fans. They said that they were going back to the playstyle of the very first game.  And, my god. They did. They really, really did.

holy crap holy crap holy crap

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Making fun with Atelier’s alchemical formula

30 Apr

When I picked up Kyle’s birthday gift a few weeks ago, I saw a new copy of Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland sitting on the shelf. Thirty bucks for the limited edition sounded fair to me, and I’d been meaning to give it a try, so I picked it up. I’m also a sucker for art books. Especially hardcover ones. And this game has some really nice art.

Atelier Rorona

And a well-dressed, handsome redhead. That always helps.

Rorona is the first of Gust’s Atelier series to make it to the PS3. The third, Atelier Meruru, will be out on May 22nd. While Rorona isn’t a new game, Atelier Totori and Atelier Meruru are direct sequels. I’d feel incomplete if I played those games without starting from the beginning.

The last Gust game I played was Ar tonelico Qoga (otherwise known as Ar tonelico III), and it was painful. The music-based technology and lore of the world had me enchanted during the first two adventures on the PS2, but this one… It was a disappointing end to a trilogy and the only thing that kept me going was a desire to experience the story myself. Games like that are why people don’t like JRPGs anymore.

Rorona was actually the first Gust game released on the PS3, several months before Ar tonelico III. Will the issues present in Ar tonelico be found in this game, or will Rorona have a strong case of beginner’s luck?

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The Rising Sun grows dimmer as games continue to grow up

29 Apr

Video games were just better when I was young. I thought it was nostalgia, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that they really were better. I grew up with a PlayStation, and then graduated to the PlayStation 2; both consoles were rich with games that shaped who I was. Particularly role playing games. The earlier Squaresoft games inspired me, challenged me, twisted my emotions around. I loved the vibrant worlds they took me to, the characters I met, the stories, and the feelings they all left me with.

I felt my pulse pound in my ears as Nibelheim went up in flames.

I wanted to follow Squall Leonhart to the end of time.

I could run to the edges of the world with the melody of Crossing Those Hills thrumming through me.

I winced and bawled when Yuna fell through the fading body of her love, desperate to embrace him.

More than anything else, I ached for Sora, Kairi, and Riku, the best of friends, to all be together again.

Maybe I was a wimpy kid, but I was reduced to tears, happy and sad, innumerable times. And not just by Square, mind you. That happens to me less often now. Is that because I grew up, or because fewer games have the power to tug at heartstrings? I think it’s a combination of the two.

(I love this track, seriously.)

I don’t know exactly when the shift happened. Through high school, little things marked its progression. Squaresoft vanished, and then there was Square Enix. Microsoft decided to make a console. Halo got popular. I didn’t realize how much games were changing. I didn’t think the culture could change so drastically.

Jamin Warren, founder of Kill Screen, came to Columbia College Chicago as a visiting artist. When I listened to his presentation, he said one thing in particular that really stuck out. People no longer ask if you’re a gamer. They ask you what kinds of games you play.

It makes me equal parts happy and sad to see gaming embraced by mainstream culture. Actually, no. I lied. It mostly makes me sad. I could go on for pages about this, but here’s the point I want to address: Japanese role playing games, which used to be the crown jewel of gaming, have fallen to niche status because of this. They don’t rack up the sales numbers that Mario, Call of Duty, and Elder Scrolls do, for example. No current-gen console boasts an extensive JRPG library like the PS2’s. Games like that no longer appeal to the largest gaming demographic, and there is little done to bring them into the spotlight.

We do have our Western RPGs from Bethesda and Bioware, and they are absolutely fantastic. But Japanese games have a certain flavor, color, quirk, and charm, and I miss having a surplus of good ones around. There aren’t many these days, so there’s not much to bring into the spotlight in the first place. This isn’t just an observation from outside the country. Keiji Inafune, one of Mega Man’s parents, discussed this issue at Game Developer’s Conference (accompanied by several doodles).

Japanese games are "a blast from the past"

“‘The Beatles were great… but the four Beatles will never get together and make another album,’ said Inafune when he was talking about how Japanese games were considered by some to be a blast from the past. ‘We stick to our memories.'”

Granted, I feel like a similar issue is present in Western culture. Call of Duty and Battlefield make my nose wrinkle. What’s important is having lots of guns, shooting up people in online sessions, and increasing your rank. That’s why people buy those games. It’s never for the offline experience. The quick single player campaigns have little story or purpose. You put on your headset, you get online, and you do this. These games make insane amounts of money, even though players are basically buying the same thing again and again.

It frustrates me when those types of players complain about the games coming out of Japan. “OMG, ANOTHER Zelda?” “Why would you buy Pokemon? It’s just the same thing over and over again.” “JRPGs all have the same outdated formulas and character tropes.” Stuff like that. I hear it a lot. Guys, really? Come on. Look at gaming as a whole, and you’ll see that there is an abuse of formula everywhere. (Although, I’d argue that Nintendo’s reuse of their titles is way more fresh and innovative than any of these shoot-all-the-things-forever games.) Formulas and older models of gaming can be nice, though, and definitely make use of nostalgia. Maybe I just have Japanese tastes.

But I digress. The video game industry is changing, and Japan is struggling to keep up. Regardless of that, there’s some really cool, quality stuff coming out of there. Xenoblade Chronicles was released in North American territories at the beginning of this month. The Last Story will be released in NA in June.

These games completely destroy the typical complaints about JRPGs. They’ve breathed life back into the genre and have been met with critical acclaim. The unfortunate thing is that we almost didn’t GET these two great games outside of Japan. Without the efforts of Operation Rainfall, one of the first fan campaigns to actually succeed, we probably wouldn’t have. Even the pedigree of these titles (Xenoblade by Monolith Soft, The Last Story by Mistwalker) wasn’t enough to ensure their release. They’re dangerously niche.

All we can do is try our best to let developers and publishers know what we want. We can’t control the industry, but if we’re loud enough we can help guide it in the right direction.