Rewrite – final impressions

I recently finished the latest Key visual novel Rewrite, so thought I’d do a post of my impressions of the game, like I did with Little Busters. This is not a review, but a general collection of thoughts I had while playing through it, something which will hopefully make sense. I will also try to refrain from posting serious spoilers or how the game ends. Also, like last time, this is likely to turn into quite a big post!

Rewrite_logo

So, Rewrite! The title alone gives great opportunities for jokes, should one feel like it. It would be so easy… but I shall try and avoid it.

Continue reading ‘Rewrite – final impressions’

Blue Rose is Greenlit!!

Erin_fall2

Thanks to everyone’s support, Blue Rose is now greenlit and ready to join the rising number of visual novels on Steam! Give eachother a good pat on the back, and throw some confetti around!

Of course being greenlit is not the end – it only mean that the game is now allowed to be posted in their store, but the final release is not quite ready yet. I want Blue Rose to be presented the best way it can be when it arrives on the store. Most of the things I want to do with it have been mentioned before both here and on twitter, but here is what you can expect from the Blue Rose Steam release:

  • Improved script – I got myself a very promising editor, and am confident that the upcoming script patch will greatly improve the text of the game, getting rid of the typos that are still there and generally give it an extra polish.
  • Trading Cards – I am planning to add trading cards, especially as this is something that some people seem to have looked forward to.
  • Achievements – of course!
  • Soundtrack DLC

I really want to provide steam keys to people who have supported the game until now by buying it, and will look into the possibility of doing so! News on this front will follow after the release.

So when will it happen?

I can’t promise any specific date as of yet, mostly because of the script improvements. It has taken some time to find a reliable editor, and it might still take a couple of months at worst. Blue Rose’s 1 year anniversary is coming up next month though, so I am hoping to be able to do something close to that time, if all goes well!

Steampunk, Otomes and Dreaming Stars

"Get behind me. The games, they are flooding in!!"

“Get behind me. The games, they are flooding in!!”

Some great news came up on the visual novel front at AX14, with some nice big story-focused titles announced to come out from the different VN companies here in the west. I’m excited about quite a few of them, more than I have been for VN releases in a while. I’ll touch briefly on some of them here, and will likely return to take a closer look at all of them as time goes by.

To start with, there is the big player, MangaGamer. With two of their titles, MangaGamer confirmed their expansion into Otome and BL territory with the games OzMafia!! and No, Thank you!!! (what is with all those exclamation marks!?!?)

More than that, they also gave a bit of news on their long awaited Steam release of Higurashi. In an earlier post I mentioned the concern for how Higurashi would be received by non-fans on Steam due to its very basic graphics, something that is now being resolved in an interesting way: The Steam release will get its own graphical makeover, with new character art by artist Kurosaki. A teaser of the new art was shown on MangaGamers blog:

Higurashi_002-450x337As the matter of rights would likely get in the way of using the Playstation version of the art, this is an interesting solution I had not seen coming. Along with how some of the translations of 07th Expansion’s works have been handled, this shows some really nice and close cooperation between the two parties in bringing these titles overseas. I look forward to seeing if this makeover only goes as far as character sprites, or if we get new backgrounds or even event CGs as well. Maybe the latter is too much to hope for?

The last big thing from MangaGamer was their new partnership with Liar-Soft, a company that I have been interested in for quite a while though I have not managed to try any of their games yet. The title MangaGamer is bringing from them first is Gahkthun of the Golden Lightning, a steampunk visual novel.

I’m really excited for this one – Liar-Soft appears to make interesting stories, and the art is very beautiful. (This opening doesn’t beat the one for Shikkoku no Sharnoth though, still one my favourite videos and songs.)

According to this tweet from Moogy, the game also seems to consist in very large part of a female PoV. I wonder how it all comes together, and it is definitely something that intrigues me. Different viewpoints like this in visual novels can be interesting.

Sekai Project is also proving a force to be reckoned with. After their work with World End Economica, and the promising Fault coming up, they have now announced releasing the first of the Grisaia games in english. This is a game that has had an english fan translation for a while, and even before then I remember often hearing this title come up when people were asked to mention great VN titles. So far it seems like another title I will be looking very much forward to, and I’m pleased to see such solid and big VNs being released commercially in english.

grisaia

And last but not least! Sekai Project have also come together with VisualArts, securing a release of Planetarian for Steam.

For many people who got into visual novels around the same time as me, Planetarian holds a dear place in their hearts. It is a choiceless novel, or ‘Kinetic Novel’, with only two characters – only one of them actually shown on screen. It is a great example of what stories can be told in the medium, without taking hours to slog through like some of the titles mentioned above, and I will be sure to pick it up again when it comes out. Especially since I believe the digital download I once bought is now defunct. Or at least it was, for quite a while.

41649

I hear Planetarian has been out on iOS for quite a while before this, but Steam should be a good platform for raising much more awareness of the title. As well as one other important factor: this means VisualArts/Key could finally be inclined to release more titles here in the west. I really hope this will help convince them that bringing over more games is a viable option.

From all this I definitely think Gahkthun, Grisaia and Planetarian were the most exciting announcements for me. OzMafia and No, Thank you! are also very interesting, if only for the fact that they mean that the western companies are finally giving those genres some more attention. I don’t know much about the two titles personally, but will be keeping an eye out for them now after these news. Of the two I am most likely only going to be interested in OzMafia, a game that will hopefully prove to be a good representative of the genre, and convince them to go further with games for the female market.

In the works: Fox Squad

logo_s

It’s finally time to put a name to the second project I’ve been working on: Fox Squad!

As mentioned earlier, this is a different kind of game than Blue Rose was and Angelic Orbs will be. Fox Squad is a turn-based tactical game, focusing on (cute) warfare and the storyline of a group of critters trying to create a home for themselves. It is something I have been dabbling in for quite a while to see if it was feasible as a second project or not, and I believe it is now ready to be announced, even if a release date is still very far off.

Untitled-1

Early screenshot with filler graphics. Everything is still subject to change, but it should give a basic idea of the style of game that is being worked on.

Compared to White Cat’s two other titles, this will be the first more gameplay-focused release. The core of the game was originally inspired by the old but awesome game Warlords III, but will most likely end up playing quite differently in some aspects.

However, while this is a much more “gamey” game, it doesn’t mean that the storytelling part will be neglected – the biggest part of it will consist of a story mode, which will take you through the world of this team of foxes and their turmoils, and hopefully these will be characters that the players will find it in them to root for, in spite of their very non-human origins.

I look forward to expanding on this game and telling you all much more about it as development progresses! And that there, somewhere out there among all you visual novel fans, will be someone who is also up for a little bit of cute but deadly combat.

Angelic Orbs: Fallen Star

Tia

Time to talk a little about what was introduced earlier – White Cat’s next visual novel, Angelic Orbs: Fallen Star.

Angelic Orbs is the story about Tia, an angel who is unable to return home, and the three people she meets who feel just as lost in the world as she does. Together this unlikley group begins a journey to correct the wrongs she has done, and learn the truths of the world they live in.

AO is planned to take part over three or so ‘episodes’ or ‘chapters’. Fallen Star is the first, and will contain a story that hopefully works well on its own, but also leads into the greater scheme of things that follow in the next chapters. This is done because AO in general is a much bigger story than Blue Rose was, and because I plan to try out a number of new things in the way the story is told and the visuals are presented. Splitting the story into well-sized chapters will make the completion of each of them easier to accomplish, and let me get a game out there earlier to see if this kind of projects works well with its audience. And for the things that do not work, I should be able to improve that so much more for the following chapters.

sketches1

Angelic Orbs is not BxG or GxB – the player is not a narrator but an observer, and the ways you can interact with the story are shaped, maybe limited, around that. There will be times where you can change the point of view on the story that unfolds, and a few occassions where you can interfere with the with the circumstances that the group finds themselves in.

At the time of writing another kind of interactivity is also planned. Whenever the group finds themselves in a situation where they have no choice but to fight, you will be able to control these battles in a turnbased rpg-like manner.

sketches2

At this point however, the game is still very early in its production. It is currently in the writing phase, with the first draft of the first four parts of the chapter written so far. Many of the concepts about player mechanics and even art presentation are therefore still up in the air, and many things can yet change before the final game sees completion in the distant future. I will most likely return with several different blog posts about this, while also trying to gauge people’s thoughts on different ways of handling these topics.

sketches3

The sad part about this point of the production is that there is so little to show! Therefore we will have to make do with these little concept sketches for now. If I can set some time aside for it, then hopefully I will have some more visual things to present at some point, and maybe do a more indepth presentation of the world and the characters that this vn will be about.

So see you next time!

Perceived Quality

It’s time to go on a bit of a tangent!

So this should be the year where we get to see the original Higurashi digital novel released on Steam! There is still no date, but apparently the game is going through a re-translation before its final release to the mainstream masses.

I’m currently going through the second half of Higurashi myself, and a little shine on the script probably wouldn’t hurt, putting aside the faults that were probably in the original to begin with.

This is great (even if old) news to the vn crowd though. Lately, especially with the Greenlight program, visual novels have seen a small surge in places like Steam and the general gaming media. From the start with Analogue to japanese titles like World End Economica.

And that’s not all. Recently a wave of crowd-funded visual novels have appeared on Kickstarter, most of them very successful. And many of them very ambitious, such as the returned SunRider and Exogenesis, two of my favourites at the moment.

For me at least, it raises an interesting question though. Looking at the last two projects, and then back at Higurashi, there is a steep difference between the two when counting first impressions and glossy surfaces.

"I just want to be a real girl!"

“I just want to be a real girl!”

This is going to be a hard sell to people who don’t already know of the novel or the popular anime based on it. (There are un-official patches on the internet that replaces the original art with the art from the polished console ports, but because of copyright issues I wonder if these will be able to make it to the Steam Workshop?)

Looking past the visual impression, Higurashi also lacks another thing that visual novels have become known for – interaction. There are no choices or branching storylines in this novel. Past each chapter the game likes to tease you with “good or bad endings” and “difficulty” depending on what you as a reader has deducted on your own so far, but that is all. It is simply a linear textbook with added sound and pictures. (For those wondering, without patches the game also has no voice acting. It’s a true barebones doujin game).

For those who know and love Higurashi however, this doesn’t stop them. After all, to my knowledge it didn’t take much for this title to be greenlit in the first place. There are plenty of people who already got this from MangaGamer (me included), and more that want to make their first buy on Steam. For these people the shoddy art and simple UI doesn’t deter from what the game is really about. Some are willing to look past it, and for others this simple style is part of the story’s charm.

How much leeway does this give other non-japanese indie games? Will people be just as willing to look past the simplicities of the surface of similar games that are not from Japan, and find similar hidden gems?

It’s a difficult subject. With the increased focus on this part of the market, both “good” and even more “bad” are flooding through, and no one has the time or patience to look through it all. Without Higurashi’s reputation, something of similar looks and simplicity will probably find it difficult to find proper footing in the market. But the question of what people find “acceptable” in terms of art and presentation still intrigues me every time titles like these manage to make it through, when they have competition like this.

0851e2c96856157634ffaca199440b89_large

What are your thoughts on the subject?

(And speaking of Steam Greenlight, have you voted for Blue Rose yet?)

Valentines sale!

Valentine_2014

To celebrate Valentines Day, Blue Rose is 30% off until February 16th! Go get it now for your friends or dear ones, or take this chance to get it cheap if you were holding out!

For the full version of the Valentines artwork, go here.


my Twitter feed:

Current Projects:


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.