Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Circus Reviews - A Kiss for the Petals - Remembering How We Met

A Kiss for the Petals, or Sono Hanabira, is apparently a relatively famous series of yuri visual novels, but I admit I'd never heard of them until MangaGamer announced their licensing and translation of this latest entry in the series, Remembering How We Met. Apparently this is also one of the few all-ages' titles of the series, the rest being a bit too risque for Steam (though not at all too risque for MangaGamer in general if you've ever taken a good look at their catalog). It seems like they're trying to use this game as a sort of gateway for bringing over more yuri titles, which I am 100% on board with. Also, it didn't cost very much, which I am also 100% on board with.

Remembering How We Met follows the relationship of Risa Azumi and Miya Ayase, two girls who couldn't be more different. Risa is a kind-hearted class representative who goes out of her way to help everyone and studies rigorously to maintain her good grades, while Miya is more aloof and less social but doesn't have to put much effort into studying due to her high intelligence. When Miya starts skipping class to pursue her own interests, Risa takes it upon herself to get to the bottom of it, and from there, sugary pink love follows, and no one was surprised in any way.

The only characters that are given any depth are the main couple, and they're nice enough, if a bit stock. I'm more drawn to Risa; she's so compassionate and well-meaning, and also a constantly blushing dork, and it's very appealing. I don't completely get the in-game appeal of Miya, but her characterization improves as the game goes on and she starts to show more of herself to Risa. The other girls in class are literally just named Girl A, Girl B, etc. and so I can't really come up with much to say about them, other than noting how refreshing it is to see high school girls bestowing popularity on someone who actually deserves it.

The art is quite enjoyable, but it's a shame that it wasn't optimized for PC. The resolution the game gives is 800x600, which makes trying to fullscreen the game a futile exercise. As I understand, the art was originally optimized for tablets and phones, so it's disappointing but not surprising. The sprites sometimes don't change with the dialogue as often as I'd like, but are artistically sound. Background music is pleasant, but nothing really stands out.

On paper, we have a very average experience. As mentioned previously, there aren't any real surprises with the characters or the story. You can guess just by reading the synopsis what's going to happen. And the ending, while nice, is not only obvious but ridiculously abrupt, seeming to come right in the middle of everything. So, there's nothing really new here, and if you're looking for massive hidden depths or sudden plot twists, this is not the place to look at all.

But while there isn't anything world changing here, there's nothing inherently bad about the game either. It's a cute and fluffy story, and I had fun reading it. It is a kinetic novel, meaning no choices, but I'm not sure where else the story would go other than where it already went, and I don't think I want to see a bad end for these characters. There isn't groundbreaking substance here, but if you're a fan of lighthearted romance or of yuri in general, I think you'll find some fun here.

A Kiss for the Petals - Remembering How We Met is available in English on Steam or on MangaGamer's website. Purchasing from MangaGamer will also provide you with a Steam key.

Final verdict: There's nothing really new or unexpected here, but Remembering How We Met is at least fluffy and sweet enough to provide some measure of enjoyment, and I hope its localization leads to further licensing of yuri games.

A Kiss for the Petals - Remembering How We Met is developed by St. Michael's Girls School and published in English by MangaGamer. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this review.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

General Development Update, the sixth?

I recently realized that numbering these wasn't so appealing to me. But eh, who knows.

Yumi-chan's Wonderful Cake Shop

Development is going to be at about this stage for a while...I'm waiting for the artwork to come in, and in the meantime I'm having several people read through the script. Feedback so far has been positive, which is nice.

The Prince and the Wolf

Well, the artist hasn't contacted me in over two months, so I'm going to have to assume they've vanished into the ether or otherwise decided they hate me. I can't really afford to commission more than one artist at a time, so this game will likely have to be put on the backburner for now. In the meantime, I'll try to get the last bits of the script done and just focus on making the writing better, and once my funds are a bit more free (or I have more of them), I can start searching for another artist.

Mystery Commercial Title

In other news, I've begun doing some writing for what I hope will be my first commercial title! It's in the very early stages and I'd prefer to avoid giving details until I have more work done. All I will say is...lesbians.

Other Writings

I want to write more reviews and things, but I haven't really had time to play any new games lately; day job and all that. I thought about doing a top five visual novels list, but can't really decide on any besides The Royal Trap by Hanako Games.

Lack of Interesting News

I feel like I haven't had much to say lately, and I apologize for that. If you're interested in more constant yet also somewhat more inane content, follow me on Tumblr and Twitter, both of which I am pretty active on. The Facebook page is a bit more business-related, but likes there are appreciated too. And of course, if you want to show support, have a look at my Patreon page.

Thank you to the new followers, as well as the old ones. I will keep striving to bring you more and better things.

Good day!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Yumi-chan's Wonderful Cake Shop website page now up!

Here is the shiny thing I alluded to recently...

The logo for Yumi-chan's Wonderful Cake Shop!

I have also created a website page for the game, which you can view here.

Thanks for your support!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Withdrawing from IFComp

I don't want to go on about it or make excuses. So I'll just cut to the chase: I am withdrawing from IFComp. I've had a lot of personal life issues going on lately, and those combined with feeling pressure to finish Yumi-chan's Wonderful Cake Shop caused me to not pay as much attention to two girls at the end of the world as I should have done. I don't want to rush and put out a game that I feel is not up to standards.

two girls at the end of the world will be completed at some point, if not right away. For now, I'm putting it aside for a little bit.

I apologize for this. I feel like I've failed in some way. But I think entering a bad game in a contest would be a bigger failure.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Circus Reviews - Always Remember Me

I'd heard of Winter Wolves before now and seen their games around, but until Always Remember Me, I had yet to play one. But they recently had a back-to-school 50% off sale, and one of my life rules is there's no better time to try something than when it's on sale, so I ended up choosing the game that I'd heard the most of.

Always Remember Me follows Amy (real name Amarantha, because why not), a girl whose life goes drastically wrong after she and her long-time boyfriend, Aaron, are hit by a drunk driver. Aaron develops amnesia from the accident and as a result no longer remembers the last few years of his life, including Amy. To make matters worse, Aaron's manipulative ex-girlfriend Abigail has managed to convince him that she's his girlfriend, and Aaron's father Osher encourages the deception, as he blames Amy for the accident and has never approved of her as a girlfriend for his son. But Amy has other options besides trying to make Aaron remember her, as there are lots of activities to serve as distractions and plenty of eligible bachelors in town...

The largest portion of the game is the life simulation part. Each day you can choose from several activities to perform, and outside of a part-time job five mornings a week and some scripted events here and there you pretty much have the freedom to choose whatever you want. Most activities affect morale and energy, and being low on those can make you more likely to fail at activities or have to take a break. Activities can also raise stats, and each stat is linked to one of the four guys you can romance: Aaron, Lawrence, Eddy, and Hugh. I really enjoy freedom of choice in games, and this one certainly has a lot of it, but since each guy only has one stat and you need that stat up to 99 to get his ending, the only way to complete the game is to grind certain activities for each guy. It can get repetitive after a while.

And since the biggest portion of the game is life simulation, the visual novel part feels a bit underused at times. Amy herself is well-developed, but the potential love interests in the game really only get characterization if you reach their scripted events, which requires the above-mentioned stat-raising in most cases. Aaron ends up with the most by virtue of being the guy you were dating in the backstory; the other three feel very unfamiliar. Without having seen most of those events, I don't have much to say about their characters simply because not much has been given to me, and I'm a bit hard pressed on why I'd want to go for another guy without knowing a bit more about them.

I admit, at first glance it sounded a bit callous to have so much focus on the multiple romance options you have in a game where your long-term boyfriend is in the hospital, but it's actually treated very realistically. Aaron's lack of memory is very hard on Amy, and with Abigail hindering her efforts to rekindle their relationship, it doesn't seem unreasonable that she would consider doing other things with her time. (On a side note, I do find it a bit confusing and irritating that Amy is explicitly told not to tell Aaron that she's his girlfriend, but Abigail does it and somehow it's completely okay. It seems unethical to me for a doctor to be knowingly participating in a lie like that, even if he thinks it would help the patient.) If you progress down an interest's path far enough, you're eventually made to make a decision between that interest and Aaron, and if you choose the new guy you're unable to interact with Aaron at all. There's also an ending where Amy doesn't get with any of the guys, but simply decides that one day she'll find the right person for her. It's sad, but it makes sense that Amy might eventually try to move on with her life.

The romance endings themselves aren't too bad, although they come very abruptly and with pretty much no transition. You do get the option, once you fulfill the normal ending requirements for a guy, to either stop there or continue for the special ending, which is convenient since it means you don't have to play through a guy's whole route again just for the extra ending. Again, though, transitions are nice. It's a bit jarring to go to sleep one night and then wake up pregnant and married, and I'd really like to see some more connectivity between the endings and the game.

I like the game as a whole pretty well, even if the characters feel so underdeveloped. I like being able to choose what to do with my day and how to raise my stats, even if completing a route means a lot of stat grinding. I wouldn't mind seeing a better balance of life sim and visual novel, as well as some more interesting characters, and supposedly the game will soon have a sequel, so maybe there will be improvement in these areas. What it already does well are the number of choices it gives to the player and the realistic treatment of a situation in which one member of a couple can't remember the other. All in all, I'm glad I picked this game up on the sale.

Also, gotta love broken heart icons.

Always Remember Me is available on Steam, the App Store, Google Play, or directly from the developer. Purchasing from the developer will also provide you with a Steam key.

Final verdict: The characters need more development, the grinding needs reduction, and the endings need more connection to the main story, but Always Remember Me still manages to impress with its colorful art, large amount of choices, and realistic portrayal of dealing with a lover's amnesia.

Always Remember Me is developed by Winter Wolves. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this review.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Circus Reviews - Because We’re Here ~ Mohnblume und Blauerose (Demo)

This is a review of an incomplete game, and thus the final product may differ greatly from what I describe.
While this review was done per request from the developer, I am not taking review requests at this time.

I didn't ever expect to get people requesting that I'd review games, since I'm really not a game reviewer, at least not foremost. I mostly review games so that I'm producing some kind of content, because the development stage of a visual novel is a long process and I don't always a lot of in-progress stuff to show. Also, I like to write and I like to recommend things. But this review was requested of me by the developer, and I'm nothing if not sporting, so let's have a look.

Because We're Here (is a shorter title than the full one and thus what I'll be referring to the game as) follows Elfriede Rauss in an alternate version of the first World War. Elfriede wakes up alone and confused in a bunker, and proceeds to wander outside straight into battle. After the beginning, Elfriede begins to tell the backstory of the war, and how she got there.

I tend to talk characters first when reviewing a game, but here I am forced to talk about something else because it was the first thing that jumped out at me, and not in a good way. During the narration, as you click through, the GUI will randomly disappear and reappear. I assume it's meant to invoke the protagonist's confusion, but it really hampers the immersion. I felt like I was constantly being pulled out of the story.

The story itself is intriguing, if familiar, and as it went along, I found myself more interested in knowing where things were going. Most of the gameplay is straight visual novel, but there's also a sort of battle system involving Wit Points, wherein you attempt to defuse awkward situations through your dialogue choices. It's an interesting gameplay tidbit, and I'd like to see it used more.

For the most part, none of the characters really jump out at me with the exception of Elfriede herself. She seems to be a bit more opinionated than would be expected of a woman in her time, which is always refreshing, and I like her a lot as a narrator. Although for some reason, her sprite in the GUI grows lighter when she's talking to herself and darker when she's talking out loud, and I can't discern why that bothers me. There is also another character later on, a young man who hasn't enlisted in the war and is met with contempt by pretty much everyone, and I liked seeing him as well; I'm interested in seeing where his storyline goes.

Overall, I can't rank my experience with this demo as bad, just...average. Potential exists, but there's a lot of room for improvement. But that's the point of a demo, and I feel like I can't judge things as harshly as I would a full game, since there will more than likely be changes to the final product.

Will I be playing the full game? Haven't decided yet, but very possibly. At the least, I hope to see the developers improve on what they have, and I think they have the potential to put out a wonderful game.

Because We're Here is not completed at time of writing, but you can download the demo here.

Final verdict: Because We're Here has some design and artistic flaws that get in the way of enjoyment, but shows potential with an engaging protagonist and an interesting story.

Because We're Here is developed by Studio Elfriede. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was asked to do this review by the developer. I was not compensated in any way for this review.