Thursday, February 21, 2008

Yaruge Girl Triona - Synopsis

Warning: This synopsis contains adult content

Story: My name is Craig Shirakawa, and I got me a Waifu. With Waifu, I can do all sorts of fun things. Life is good.

Relationship Type: BxG

Positives: Extremely customizable ‘waifu’, creative actions in the sex scenes, limited animation for some actions, highly effective use of Ren’Py functions to minimise game size.

Unusual features: Integration of plot and sex, no overall goal in the sex scenes, solo project, non-standard aspect ratio

Playtime – 40 minutes

Sexual Content: Mainly breast related, including lactation. Only the male organ (or dildo) is depicted in penetration scenes.

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Yaruge Girl Triona - Review

Warning: This review contains adult content

In the world of OELVN’s, Yaruge Girl Triona is only the second H-game available from the Ren’Ai Archives (although there have been several commercial English H-games released with playable demos). DaFool’s previous H-game, The Nettestadt Troll is a plot-driven game with visually depicted H-scenes only being present at the end of each path. In contrast, Yaruge Girl Triona is primarily sex driven, with the plot establishing a context for each scene. Before discussing the various innovations and unusual features of this game, I will briefly touch on the basic elements of the game. Triona herself is well drawn and coloured in all of her scenes. Notably, her breasts are much more natural and realistic in shape than those seen in most other H-games. The five original pieces composed for this game all convey a strong underlying mood, whilst not dominating over the other in-game elements. Yaruge Girl Triona uses a non-standard aspect ratio, and consequently the game might not be able to be played full-screen at some resolutions.

Triona is extensively customisable, in appearance, with two to five options being available for her skin, body type, clothes, and eyes. There is also an option to give her glasses and another which can customise her and Craig’s interests (anime, cars or religion). Many of these customisation features involve changing the shadings on one layer of an image, allowing a variant of the image to be presented without requiring the image to be redrawn.

The sexual content, if you’ll excuse the pun, is rather top heavy, with Triona’s breasts being the prominent features of each scene. They are positioned roughly at the centre of the screen, and are thus emphasised compared to the penetration scenes, where only Craig’s penis is shown. In each scene, a number of actions can be selected from a menu, including one ‘special’ for each scene. Although some actions need to be performed in a certain order to allow other actions, there is no overall goal in the sex and the scene can continue for as long as the player likes. This comes with an unfortunate downside, as it is impossible to make Triona orgasm. It should also be mentioned that all in each scene, Craig performs all of the ‘actions’, while Triona remains as a passive partner, providing supporting dialogue. When considered in this way, YGT is perhaps the most male-oriented OELVN so far.

Within each scene, one or more of the actions are animated. These are mainly used to emphasise the upper body, although a few are used purely comically, and make references or pay tribute to various influences on the game.

Quite unusually, the sexual content of the game, which sits firmly in the yaruge (‘doing it’) and fetish genres, is integrated as part of an overall plot, with each scene describing the growth of Craig and Triona’s relationship. Although many of the dialogues and discussions might have been more overtly successful in a different VN genre, they do create a context for each scene, and personalities for each character, which also emerge in the actions available during sex.

One slightly annoying downside, perhaps caused by the complexity of the coding, are the several seconds of loading time between scene changes. These recur between scene changes, and interrupt the game’s flow. However, this is a minor flaw in what is otherwise a very innovative and enjoyable game.

Overall, whether or not you will enjoy Yaruge Girl Triona depends on your own feelings towards yaruge and male-oriented ero. What it does, it does very well, but the concept may not appeal to some gamers. However, even if you feel that the genre or game design isn’t particularly to your taste, it is still worth playing to see a very effective use of Ren’Py in action.

Review by Ignosco

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Idol/TYPE - Synopsis

‘I am a different person when I write. More open, saying things I would never say’.

Story: You and your idol, the lesser-known supporting actress Hirae Erishima write letters to each other. At first they were just fan letters. But now, is there something more?

Relationship Type: BxG

Length: Between 15-30 minutes on the longest paths (depends on typing speed).

Positives: Very unusual and effective game-play, well written story supported with good art and music.

Unusual Features: Timer for each letter shown by the disappearing picture, the whole game is a ‘mini-game’.

Download Idol/TYPE here

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Idol/TYPE - Review

Warning: This review contains some spoilers.

Idol/TYPE is an amalgamation of two different ‘genres’ – the ‘typing’ game, and the epistolary novel. Based upon an earlier game (Mr. Typer) by, the gameplay of Idol/TYPE involves typing out a number of short letters that Reijiro writes to Hirae before a time limit (indicated by disappearing pictures of Hirae). Although the time-limit requires the player to be a reasonably proficient typist, accuracy is much more important than speed, as the time penalty for errors is quite heavy. It is also easy to accidentally forget a letter or a space, and end up with a number of errors caused by being out of ‘time’ from the original.

The usual positive features of mikey’s stories are present, including his writing style built from short, emotional sentences, and a surprising and very effective plot twist. Unusually though, this twist is only hinted at in the ‘good’ ending, whilst being fully revealed in the ‘new’ ending. This story also contains the clearest examination of the ‘idol’ or ‘dreamgirl’ themes that permeate several of the other ATP games. As the characters never interact directly with each other, they only understand each other through the images they present in the letters. Consequently, the resulting dialogues perhaps do not portray the true personalities of the characters, but rather the images they aim to present to each other.

The art and music are both integrated into the game very well. The art consists of a number of CGs (no character sprites) that appear as the ‘timer’ for each letter, as well as other pictures that show up at the game over scenes or the endings. Ending 3 (arguable the ‘true’ ending of Idol/TYPE) contains most of the bonus pictures. The music for Idol/TYPE is also very effective – it has a somewhat hypnotic feel, but always remains in the background enough so as not to distract from the typing.

Sadly, there are a few potential downsides to Idol/TYPE. The primary one is the typing-speed issue described above. There has recently been a patch released, which allows for the game to be played with the timer off, although this eliminates the sense of pressure created by the time limit. Consequently, the gameplay component almost becomes redundant, and the game essentially becomes a very short VN. To quote from a PM mikey sent me:

Indeed the point was to maybe even fail once or twice, so that the player absorbs the contents of the letters more and so that there is some meaning behind them - in a normal VN, the text would be 5 minutes of reading, of course. But typing them gives more thought to the words, since typically people think or often rewrite their formulations - this was the intention.

There is no save function (although there is a continue function, which resumes from the dialogue after the last letter typed), so for the player to understand the full story, they are forced to replay the game. Personally though, I found the need to re-read (or ‘re-type’) helped me to understand the content of the earlier letters, in light of the plot twist.

Overall, Idol/TYPE is a very unusual and well made game. Although the format and concept might not appeal to everyone, the themes explored in this game are very important in most of the other ATP projects VNs as well.

Review by Ignosco

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Wednesday, October 3, 2007

River Trap - Synopsis

Short evaluation:
Story: Shigeko live with Akemi, the love of his life, and Shizuka his sister and close friend. But soon their relationships will change forever. Very original and well told story. Almost no branching until end, despite the eight possible different endings.
Presentation: Interesting scenarios. The whole game has a blue filter, something that enhances the mood of the story. Good art and presentation. Excellent music, despite being rather short.
Strongest points: Original and deep plot. Many endings. The game has many strong elements and they all combine well to form a meaningful whole.

Download River Trap here

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River Trap - Review

Ah, is it time for another of my long, nonsensical reviews already? Well, yes… And no… Because this review is special to me, in a certain way. River Trap is one of my favorite games ever, and my number one favorite of ATP projects. Period.
Reviewing games can be very rewarding, since it’s a privilege to share your thoughts and ideas of English VNs here, and keep them recorded in bits and pixels long after you’ve forgotten about them. But when you get to a personal favorite, there is a very difficult, and yet exciting task ahead of you. You must explain your thoughts and opinions carefully, without too much bias or personal rambling (like what I am doing right now) and your writing has to live up to the great work that inspired you to write the review in the first place. It is hard, but also incredibly rewarding. I can only hope this will actually accomplish what I meant it to be.
River Trap is a complex game, with a story that is difficult to label and a superb atmosphere that is ATP’s specialty. It is the second game of ATP projects and took more less 6 months to finish, being unsurpassed in length and production values for some time in the early Lemmasoft forums.
The story of the game initially seems to be that of a love triangle with a twist, that being the fact that two of the characters are actually brother and sister, and maybe something more… The beginning already sets the tension that will continue through the rest of the story, and leaves the player imagining what is the nature of Shizuka’s relationship with her brother, the main character Shigeko. The ambiguity of the situation remains for the first half of the game, and helps create the atmosphere. Akemi is also a very complex character, and her many sides add interest and make her more than a mere rival. In fact the plot spins almost as much around her as around any of the other characters and we learn to care for each one of them. That makes the whole situation all the more dramatic when things unfold as we expect (or fear). But in the middle there is a plot twist that gives the whole game a different meaning, relying on the player’s expectations they built from the first part and surprising them with a development that is unexpected and original, forcing you to revise the first part of the game and realize the clues and references that you missed.
AKEMI’s revelation (I spell the name in the same way as mikey did, to separate her from Akemi) also gives the game a different theme, that is too complex and deep to be properly explained, and yet links perfectly with the first theme. If the first half was about a love triangle, incest and the relationships between the characters, the second is about identity and validity of love. AKEMI is, in my personal opinion, the most complex character to ever grace and ATP game, a biased and very personal statement, but that has a very good reason to exist. AKEMI personifies the dilemma of seeing yourself without being yourself, realizing how you really are without the charitable perspective of your own eyes, and how one can change by the circumstances around them and what people believe they are. AKEMI is Akemi, and yet she is different. Her experiences changed her and now she fights against her other self for the man both love. Although the writer himself appointed his favorite character as Akemi, the true heroine of the game is AKEMI, that is certain. Maybe a tragic heroine but, nevertheless, the game would not be truly “River Trap” without her. Her ending is also quite difficult to obtain, and considering the fairly large quantity of endings (eight in total, more than any other ATP game, except for Ori, Ochi, Onoe) the odds are more in favor of an unhappy ending to AKEMI, rather than a happy one, although there is not truly happy or unhappy ending. That is another strong feature of the game, which ties with its themes and general atmosphere… In the end one must get hurt.
But if the great story carries the game, the execution is no less effective, with the blue tinge and the interesting backgrounds helping immersion in the rich mood of the game. In the “author’s notes” mikey mentioned that the game would be a lot about bridges and rivers, and there are many parallels between that choice of scenario and the plot. Rivers are strong symbols of the passage of time, the water always flowing and yet the river remaining constant and steady. Maybe it’s no coincidence that the main change of the game is caused by a river. The second visual theme, bridges, is deeply connected to the first. If rivers represent time and the inescapable changes that follow it then bridges are the ties that bind people together, especially love, and that can resist even the passage of time. The characters of the game are tied together, for good or for worse, and in the end one bridge must be severed. AKEMI, in the climax of the story, tries to kill herself by jumping from a bridge. The tragic irony of killing yourself in a place that is supposed to connect people together is perhaps a metaphor on how love, the strongest of all connections, can cause so much pain. Of course I may be reading sings where none exist. Mikey, in an answer to my review, revealed that he had no intention of drawing such parallels in the first place. I guess that if sometimes a game looses some of the author’s intentions along the way, other times it can mean more than what the creator himself thought, creating a deep, personal meaning for just the right player. The character images are thoughtfully designed, and the close-ups and different poses enhance the general effect.
The music also does its job remarkably well, even though all tracks are fairly short (the whole track doesn’t even reach 5 minutes) the emotion they convey is perfect for the game, especially the “walks” and the “think” tracks. I believe that this is the one and only project in which the musician Xenorakis worked, and he has a style that helps the mood of the game on both the thoughtful and tense situations. It is one of these occasions where it just clicks right and everything works well together, creating one unified and atmospheric game that has an original development and manages to touch and impress as few stories ever can.
As I’ve rambled on about this wonderful game, I have also realized something else: the importance of reviewing games, especially the ones you liked/preferred. It makes you analyze the components and think “Well, what made this game become what it is? Why is it so meaningful to me?” It’s a great pause to think about VNs in general and that game in particular, and makes me reflect on the separate parts that make the whole so powerful. This review also made me play River Trap again, and that just by itself was already worth it.
Now I only wish that you, patient reader that has stuck with this long, long text until the very end, have also gained as much benefit from reading my review as I have from writing it.

Review written by Mr. E, founder and sole member of the AKEMI fan-club.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Jitteh Dawn - Synopsis

‘Lord Koji Ippongi’
‘Yes, Your Excellency’
‘It has come to my attention that you have married a half-demon.’

Story: You are Hogi Hasekura, an eager student who wants to find out a secret about the once-glorious Ippongi family.

Relationship type: Non-romantic

Length: 40-60 minutes (all endings)

Positives: Very intriguing mystery presented, effective use of character art.

Unusual Features: Impulsive young protagonist, very strong Japanese influence (for an OELVN), solo project.

Download Jitteh Dawn here

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