Friday, April 29, 2016

The Great File Excavation

For something a little different:

I recently recovered my old hard drive from a laptop that died a couple of years ago, and transplanted it onto a laptop that works, if not always fantastically. Once I move I'll have room for a desktop, but until then, I have what I have.

In digging through all the schmutz that was on that hard drive, I found some...interesting things, let's say.


A list of terrible fanfictions.

- The girls from Madoka are a lesbian brothel. Sucker Punch-esque. The fuck.
- House, AU starting after Chase x Cameron breakup in Season Three because Chase is dumb. Cameron gets in an abusive relationship and House gets her help and Cameron resents them. Probably they would have ended up together because House x Cameron is boss. But it ended 16 pages in halfway through a phone call.
- The first couple pages of some kind of Harvest Moon mob murder thing
- Surprisingly way less Full Moon fanfiction than I expected. I used to write tons of it. It remains my favorite manga. But the few that were left on my computer were kind of crap.

Who would have thought, the only fanfiction I was proud of was some of the Harvest Moon stuff. There was this one piece from DS Cute...I put a lot of work into it. I decided to get a beta reader. Said beta reader warned me they were pretty harsh and would pull no punches. I said cool, sent it along. Next day, I just get a message that says "Post it. Now." I'm still really proud of that. There was also one involving a love triangle and a miscarriage that I remember liking a lot back in the day...It held up all right.

Original Fiction

A list of terrible not-at-all fanfiction.

- Three or four beginnings to novels that had yandere teenagers as protagonists. Can you still be yandere in America? And why did I have such a thing for this?
- Something literally named "Awkwardsauce murder suicide story" that I'm kind of afraid to open.
- A decent number of stories about teenage lesbians.
- Several other novels with enlightening names like "Stuff" or "Yet another beginning" because apparently I suck at titles
- A piece from a creative writing course that I failed because depression.
- At some point I seem to have started the same novel about psychic siblings twice.

Nothing really worth saving here.


- A fuckton of poetry. Most of it not as good as I remembered. Plenty of salvageable things, though.
- THANK FUCK, the poetry collection known as "fractured starlight" that will be getting published one day.


So yeah. What a bunch of weird shit I used to write.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Starlight Vega and Strawberry Vinegar - A Comparison

I've reviewed a decent number of OLEVNs on my blog since beginning. Most recently, it was Starlight Vega, what I expect to be the most popular yuri OLEVN of the year. But you may also recall that earlier in the year, I did a review of ebi-hime's Strawberry Vinegar, a yuri-ish title with a ton of sexy food pics.

Call me crazy, but as I was playing through Starlight Vega, I kept having moments that made me stop and think, "Hey, this reminds me of another game..." Now, none of this is meant to demonize either game, nor am I implying that anyone ripped anyone else off. Truth be told, it's me taking all my random whim thoughts and putting them in an essay-shaped object, just for the hell of it.

And so, I present to you today, an analysis of the similarities I found between Starlight Vega and Strawberry Vinegar.

1. SV and SP

The simplest reasons are the easiest to start with.

Starlight Vega = SV. Strawberry Vinegar = SV.

Pretty sure I recall the devs talking about this on Twitter, too.

Also, both visual novels were published by Sekai Project, which is SP.

2. Similar stories and characters

You wouldn't think at first that the two games have much in common storywise, and I agree that they deviate quite heavily in the later halves of each game. But you start out from very similar points when playing either game: a demon girl love interest has appeared unexpectedly, she's very attached to the protagonist, and she has a habit of quietly casting spells to keep everyone else in the dark. I feel like little Licia could have one day grown up into Lyria (who have similar names, even!) without too much character differentiation. Rie and Aria I don't see as having nearly as much in common, but I feel like when it comes to the finer points of romance they're both a bit...well, slow, and that plays into their respective romantic arcs a lot. Also, Licia and Lyria both have sisters that take an obvious authority role and maintain that they know best for their sibling.

3. Similar randomness of bad endings

I love both games, but one issue I did have with each was the way the bad endings tended to work. They were a bit random, a bit out of nowhere, and a bit abrupt, and a number of them on each side involve a demon removing the protagonist's memories. If I recall, in one Strawberry Vinegar ending Rie even lampshades what a stupid way this is for her story to end. It's not enough to majorly detract from either game, but it is noticeable.

4. Both have piles of sweetness hiding in the back

Okay, it's rather more apparent that Strawberry Vinegar is going to be a very sweet game just by looking at the title screen. But Starlight Vega has a similar vein of happy sweetness in its character routes, one that might not be so obvious at first. I'll just come right out and say that the harem ending is full of this (no I will not spoil it for you).


So what's my point here?

I acknowledge that these are two very different games. One has a singular love interest and one has multiple; Strawberry Vinegar consistently keeps the focus on Rie and Licia while Starlight Vega gives greater focus to the demon world itself; the actual substance of the good endings is pretty different. But there are similarities enough for one to take notice, and I have to wonder if there's a reason behind it. There's a pretty big following for yuri visual novels right now, and more and more OLEVN titles are coming out with female casts and female relationships. As all of us visual novel writers continue to work in this culture, picking up influences here and there, it's probably inevitable that some of us end up on similar wavelengths.

And there's nothing wrong with similarities in works! It happens in every medium. Look at the case of Repo! The Genetic Opera vs. Repo Men. Look at the year that two movies about friends with benefits falling in love came out with almost identical plots. Nothing's taken away from either party, really; sometimes, it just happens.

I personally think quite highly of both Starlight Vega and Strawberry Vinegar, and I don't mean anything weird by drawing attention to all these things the two games have in common. I feel like, in the end, I may not even have much of a point...It was all just a completely random whim.

I'm sure good at endings.

Starlight Vega is available on Steam and Strawberry Vinegar is also available on Steam and


The opinions expressed in this article are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this article. The "Wrong End" image comes from Corpse Party.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Circus Reviews - Starlight Vega

I think it'd be a safe bet to say that this was one of the more anticipated OELVN releases of late 2015, even after getting pushed back to 2016. I mean, multi-route yuri game with a successful Kickstarter? Pretty good, pretty good. As one of those Kickstarter backers, I too have been eagerly awaiting the game's release.

Starlight Vega centers around Aria Reid, a high school girl who moves into an old house of her grandfather's along with her mother. She and her best friend, Melody, immediately start finding strange things around the house, like a study that didn't seem to be there earlier and an old book filled with runes. One of these things, a purple gem, turns out to be more than it appears, though...When Aria touches it, a demon named Lyria is set free after fifty years, and the stone links the two of them together, meaning they can't be far apart without feeling pain. Melody begins attempting to translate the old book they've found in hopes that it contains a spell to undo the stone's link, while Aria tries to adjust to the sudden appearance of magic and demons in her formerly quiet life.

The characters are a really strong point here, although (I hope this isn't offensive to say) I think I like the demons a bit more than the humans. Aria is a likable enough protagonist, although she is extremely slow to realize that she's being manipulated by outside parties and it makes her dialogue frustrating to read at times. At the same time, though, her relative ordinariness makes her a great contrast to Melody, an intelligent and kindhearted bookworm who does most of the translation work on the book and has had long unnoticed feelings for Aria that soon come to the forefront. Lyria is flirty and fun, and her familiar Sid starts off prejudiced against humans but soon develops a touching friendship with Melody, the first person human or otherwise to treat him with genuine kindness. Scherza, the demon queen, might be my favorite...She comes off as a cold and distant ruler at first, but her romance path develops her more fully into a leader under phenomenal pressure to somehow save her people while ignoring her own loneliness.

Melody, Lyria, and Scherza have the main routes, with a few bad endings and a harem route unlocked after you do all the other routes. The harem route is very well written and far more than the typical harem fanservice junk, but reading through it after seeing all the game's other content will leave you with a bittersweet feeling. Without wishing to spoil, the harem ending has an outcome that is only made possible by the characters working together, rather than becoming somewhat divided as they do in other routes, and it nearly breaks my heart to think that all the routes could have been so much happier had the characters put their differences aside.

The art style feels a bit reminiscent of a sketchbook, and while I like it a lot...Some of the CGs looked rather unpolished, like they weren't complete yet, and I'm not sure if it's the art style contributing to that or if something just went wrong with those particular CGs somehow. There are also spots where a character describes wearing one thing but their sprite clearly shows them wearing another. It's probably a budget-saving move and it might not bug me as much, except there's an earlier point where a character is described as wearing something different and there was actually a CG for it.

Music is all pretty and polished, and the GUI I find particularly attractive. It's all starry and pretty and fits well with the game's theme. But you probably don't care about all that boring stuff...You're wondering about those H-scenes, right? Yeah, figures. They're tastefully done and as someone who also likes the ladies I enjoyed them, but if they're not your thing you can turn them off without missing any plot.

At time of writing there is a glitch involving a couple of CGs not showing up in the gallery, and I suspect a couple CGs are misnamed as well. It kind of ties in to that unpolished...ness I mentioned above in regards to the art style. Still, these are easily fixed and not a giant detriment to anything.

Everyone's always clamoring for new yuri visual novels, it seems, and I'm happy to report that Starlight Vega is a great addition to the category. It's well-written, it has nice characters, and both the individual and harem romance routes have satisfying conclusions. I'm glad to have backed it, and I'm quite interested to see what Razz ends up putting out in the future.

Starlight Vega is available on Steam and

Final verdict: While it could have benefited from tightening up in a few spots, Starlight Vega overall presents a well-written story carried by strong and enjoyable characters.

Starlight Vega is developed by Razzart Visual. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this review. I was a Kickstarter backer for this game and received a copy of this game on launch day as part of my reward tier.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Circus Reviews - HunieCam Studio

Ah, nostalgia. HuniePop was, of course, the first game I ever reviewed. And now here we are, over a year later, reviewing the spin-off game. I remember the hate HuniePop got, and it seems to have been multiplied several times over for this release for various reasons. Do I share in that hatred, or will my previous unexpected liking for the first game repeat itself for its little sibling? Let's take a look.

HunieCam Studio is a spin-off of Hunie Pop in which Kyu (who may or not be a fairy in this version, it's never explicitly addressed) hires you to manage a cam studio. After walking you through the basics (unless you select "Skip All Tutorials"), she gives you three weeks to prove that you have what it takes to run this kind of operation.

Gameplay is part management simulator and part clicker. There are a variety of activities you can assign your girls: cam shows for cash, photo shoots for fans, pole dancing and shopping for talent and style respectively, recruiting other girls at a modeling agency, relaxing at a spa to relieve stress, escorting at a sleazy motel, or buying cigarettes, booze, and adult products for their benefits. The management part of the game is very well executed, but the clicker part can get painful...and by that I mean physically painful. You have to click on a building rapidly to gain the money/fans/other resources from it, and you can also speed up the girls' tasks by rapidly clicking on the buildings they're in. The speed at which you're required to do this if you want to do well gets to ridiculous levels. There are upgrades you can purchase to have the buildings automatically collect resources every so often, but you still have to do the bulk of the work.

If you thought HuniePop didn't have a story, you'll want to stop right here and have a good laugh, because the story in this game is nonexistent. The girls don't even get last names, and the only way you'll ever learn anything about any of them is by playing HuniePop. That said, I don't feel like a deep story is necessary or would do well in this type of game.

The art style was heavily criticized when it was unveiled, but the developer chose to stick to the newer one, and I have to admire him for sticking to his guns in the face of so much ire. I don't have any strong feelings about the art style one way or another; it fits with the game well enough, and mostly I'm just glad they didn't try to do actual porn with it.

Replayability? Sort of. At the end of the three-week period Kyu gives you, you get a trophy based on how many fans you have, and you get a few wardrobe tokens, which you can use from the main menu to unlock new hairstyles and outfits for the girls...that you really only see on their profile page in-game. You could theoretically keep replaying to unlock all the achievements and wardrobe items; I suppose that depends on the kind of person you are.

I'm mostly put in mind of Bejeweled. The game is little more than a time sink; it's Cookie Clicker but with particularly sleazy management sim aspects added in. However, it serves its purpose extremely well, and the large amounts of self-aware humor throughout help lighten the darker aspects that aren't as apparent at first glance. In a continuity nod that I was particularly impressed by, Audrey from HuniePop is a cam girl because she developed an expensive coke habit after finding out that her previous boyfriend was sleeping around on her with every eligible girl in town. Yeah, that's right, it's all your fault. HuniePop had a startling lack of consequences for the womanizing protagonist, and it's nice to see some realistic fallout applied here. Also, Kyu, the only character you really ever interact with on a dialogue level, retains the seedy sarcasm that made her so enjoyable in the first game.

So how do I feel about HunieCam Studio, then? I seem to be going back and forth. Well, I don't think it's a fantastic game. I wouldn't mind an easy mode, maybe. I wouldn't mind some more development from these characters, even if it would be out of place in this particular title. But I'm not judging it as anything other than a Bejeweled-style time waster, and as that, it executes very well. Will I be playing it some more? soon as my fingers stop hurting.

HunieCam Studio is available on Steam and the Humble Store.

Final verdict: A deep, complex game this is not, but HunieCam Studio succeeds at being a competent time-killing simulator helped along by poking fun at itself every couple minutes.

HunieCam Studio is developed by HuniePot. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this review.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

NaNoReNo 2016 Post-Mortem

Well, here we are. My first NaNoReNo! The first visual novel to be released with my name somewhere on it! Oh em gosh.

A few scrambled thoughts on the experience:

- I'd never worked with a team before...It was fun, and it felt beneficial to have other people to bounce ideas off of. I felt a little bit of the fangirl-ish awe, since I admired the work my team members had done previously, and I also felt like they were way more experienced than me...But I'd definitely do it again, and perhaps they won't mind working together again next year?

- I learned from my fellow writer kaleidofish that working off an outline is so much easier than just winging it. Must adopt.

- As a co-writer, I was a bit worried about clashing styles, but I don't think it clashed much...There was editing, of course, but overall it seemed like it went together well. Although I have an occasional overuse of ellipses.

- For unrelated reasons, I was really depressed throughout the month of March, and it did hurt my productivity at first, but slowly I bounced back. Joining a writing group helped as well. Since joining one, my productivity has skyrocketed.

- I found out that I have a habit of tilting my head to the left while writing.

I definitely want to try doing it again next year! I feel like I've learned some things, and next year's experience will be even better!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

NaNoReNo 2016 release: Palette Swap, available now

I bet you guys thought I forgot, didn't you?


The entry that I helped work on for this year's NaNoReNo is called Palette Swap, and it has been released!


Lead Writer & Director: kaleidofish -
Co-Writer: Some Strange Circus - (surely you guys know this person)
Editor & Concept Development: kaenSe4 -
Sprite & Background Artist: Rachel Noto -
Letters Programmer & GUI Artist: Duskylli
Quality Assurance: Thestral
Special Thanks to BobotheParrot, from kaenSe4

For more information and to download the game, visit my website below:!palette-swap/cvqu

Thanks for your support!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Circus Reviews - Lucky Me, Lucky You

After spending the month of March being rather busy with NaNoReNo and a big resurgence into poetry, I realized that it had been quite some time since I'd reviewed a game, and also that some devs I really like did stuff for NaNoReNo too and I wouldn't mind playing those!

Lucky Me, Lucky You centers around Nanami Okada, who is depressed following an unexpected breakup. Her best friend, Ryo, attempts to cheer her up with some questionable porn tapes stolen from a flatmate, and within them Nanami spots her first crush, idol Misae Morishita. Nanami impulsively decides to track down Misae and confess her long-ago feelings, dragging an unwilling Ryo along with her.

There are a few characters, but mostly we follow the pair of Nanami and Ryo. Nanami is exactly the kind of snarky, verbose heroine I like to read about, although I'm sure if I met her in reality I'd want to strangle her. She's shallow, self-centered, and, well...It should be obvious to the reader why her last girlfriend dumped her, even if Nanami can't quite figure it out. She is not a flat character, however, and does end up learning and growing throughout the story. Ryo is likeable enough...and male, which you probably can't tell from the photo. I couldn't either, and had no clue until I read the game description. Ryo is a guy who just likes to dress up as a girl sometimes for no real reason. This part of his character doesn't really lead to anything plot-wise; it's just kind of...there. I don't particularly mind; I'm a fan of living your life regardless of other people's opinions as long as you aren't hurting anyone.

The backgrounds are all filtered photographs, which makes the game's character sprites stand out, Nanami especially. It's not really a bad effect, but it kind of gives the impression that the game is going to be much darker than it turns out to be. These photographs all feel like pictures of a crapsack world, not quite like the actual setting.

I like the GUI and it matches well with the background art. Sometimes I would have liked to have had the character's name above the text when they're speaking; in places it gets a bit confusing as to whether it's Nanami or Ryo who's talking, although usually it's not too hard to figure out and that's more of a personal preference anyway.

The story doesn't have any surprises plot-wise, but there were a couple of things about it I found particularly refreshing. It treats Nanami's quest and the way it ends with complete realism. Also, Nanami and Ryo do not end up getting together in the end. (I don't consider that a spoiler because it's established very early on that Nanami and Ryo are both gay, and since they're not the same gender, well, them together wouldn't work.) Having two people who have been best friends forever suddenly fall in love is a common and often irritating trope, and it was so nice not to see it here.

All in all, a respectable NaNoReNo entry that I found quite enjoyable to read. Perhaps it doesn't have any big surprises, but it makes for a nice tale about friendship, facing your problems, and thinking things through.

Lucky Me, Lucky You is available on

Final verdict: The game looks bleaker than it is and the story contains no real surprises, but Lucky Me, Lucky You is carried through by an entertaining main character and refreshingly realistic treatment of its subject matter.

Lucky Me, Lucky You is developed by ebi-hime. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this review.