Amaterasu Blog

23May/152

Natsuyume Nagisa Review

A moege with a surprisingly decent story. It's always nice when that happens.

The first several routes are mostly slice-of-life with a reasonably cute girl, with some fantasy/magic thing eventually showing up to either cause or solve a problem. Although the routes aren't particularly deep or complex, none of them overstay their welcome. Even the bad ending for not getting a route is worthwhile. Protag is rarely hetare or donkan (despite having amnesia!), and I found all of the heroines and other characters were entertaining or at least likeable. The comedy also worked well enough that I laughed regularly.

The fantasy elements seem arbitrary and disconnected for a long while (which may cause plausibility issues at first), and it's not even clear that there is a serious plot until the true route or Maki's ending, but once it gets going it's quite good. Many reveals you'll vaguely know the gist of in advance, but the details are always a legitimate surprise. By the end of it everything makes perfect sense, and the conclusion is bittersweet but satisfying. Overall, nothing really blew my mind, but there were a lot of things I liked and nothing I disliked.

Score: 8/10

Polarization: Low (-1)

Opinions on this one will probably sit comfortably between "it's just a moege" and "it's a good moege".

Routes/Endings Played: All.

1Jan/155

Killer Queen Review

The premise is essentially Battle Royale: A bunch of ordinary people get kidnapped, wake up with explosive collars around their necks, and the evil kidnappers make them play a game that requires killing each other if they want to survive.

Thankfully, unlike Battle Royale, Killer Queen has good enough execution to be taken seriously, which was a welcome surprise for me. The rules are more complex but thoroughly explained, so there's a lot of interesting strategy and mind games. None of the characters ever do something stupid for no good reason. And there's quite a few unexpected twists beyond the obligatory "X killed Y in some clever way". For much of the story there's a genuine sense of tension because there really could be a trap or an ambush around any corner, and it's usually not at all obvious who's going to die next (if anyone). It also benefits from being short: There's basically no padding, and it wraps everything up before it runs out of ideas.

Unsurprisingly, the biggest issue with KQ is that it's following an obvious formula, so there's some inevitable predictably and plot armor involved (eg, we know the main antagonist can't die at the beginning). The relationship in the second route also felt unnatural and even a bit creepy to me at times, so I'd say the first route was better.

Score: 7.5/10

Polarization: (+1/-0.5)

Largely depends on how interested you are in this particular kind of story.

Routes/Endings Played: Both routes, none of the omake stuff.

14Oct/136

Kitto Sumiwataru Asairo Yori Mo Review

Supposedly this is Shumon Yuu's masterpiece. We begin with a typical donkan protag reuniting with his osananajimis at an elite high school for budding artists sequestered away in some picturesque mountains with nice background music.

And for chapter 1 that's all we ever get. The slice of life is consistently dull and cliche, the comedy falls flat most of the time, and all the things that seem potentially interesting at first (eg, actual plot threads) stubbornly refuse to go anywhere. Pretty much everyone seems to agree this chapter is a total dud.

Then there's chapter 2―the lion's share of the VN. Sadly, a huge chunk of it is just the same mediocre slice of life and comedy from chapter 1 all over again. Fortunately, there's also a series of flashbacks that tell various backstories which are actually quite engaging and detailed, sometimes even moving. Then there's the main story, which had an irritating habit of using a very arbitrary/forced plot twist or utterly nonsensical character decision every time I was on the verge of liking it. Overall the chapter feels like a big waste of potential.

The good news is chapters 3 and 4 lack almost all of those problems. They have a coherent, focused narrative with legitimate momentum that builds to a surprisingly satisfying finale, especially considering the mess they had to work with. Since this is the shortest part of the VN by a big margin (chapter 4 is basically an epilogue), it's hard to say it really "makes up" for chapters 1 and 2, but at least it partially redeems them.

Score: 7/10

Polarization: Mild (-1.5)

Your tolerance for mediocre slice-of-life/comedy/school life/etc is going to be a big factor, as well as your ability to soldier through the early boring parts of a VN to get to the good stuff later on.

Routes/Endings Played: Linear, and I think I got all the bad ends.

P.S.: For the record, having the other heroines constantly mock protag for being the most donkan character in the history of anything does not make his idiocy any less infuriating.

30Jun/1314

Aiyoku no Eustia Review

This is how you do low fantasy.

The setting is fairly original and well-thought out, with several large and interesting parts of it getting explored. The plot does an excellent job of producing plausible, detailed conflicts and investing you in the outcome, and quite a few of the twists are genuinely shocking. The writing is thankfully devoid of unnecessary text, and although the pacing isn't very fast you quickly realize that the time it's spending developing the world and the people in it is completely worth it. Even things that appear overly convenient at first always seem to get a good explanation later.

In fact, the characters are probably the best part. Some of my favorite scenes in this VN were when two characters who strongly disagreed on something tried to explain themselves to each other. The result is lots of meaningful, believable development for most of the major characters. When combined with the good story and setting, that was more than enough to get me excited at every fight, happy at every triumph and sad at every loss. Once I even shed a tear for the death of spriteless minor character. The ending in particular is just about perfect, giving a completely satisfying resolution to everything that had built up to it.

My only serious complaints are that some of the major twists in the first half were pretty easy to predict, and in many chapters there's often a nagging sense that you're just waiting for lots of little things to finally add up to a certain big event you know has to happen eventually.

Score: 9/10

Polarization: (+0.5/-1)

Not a lot to dislike here honestly. I think the biggest problem you might have is feeling that some of the character development happens implausibly fast.

Routes/Endings Played: All, including the omake stories.

P.S. The non-true endings and omakes are all very short, typically five minutes of fluff and an h-scene, so at first I'd recommend ignoring them all and focusing on the main story. It is good fluff though, so don't hesitate to read some or all of them afterward.

3Jun/133

Tenshi no Hane wo Fumanaide Review

The ojou-sama of the family is off to study at a stunningly gorgeous all-girls academy, so as her servant and close friend you decide to dress like a girl so you can be of assistance to her there. Also, this academy is special because every year God chooses a single girl--referred to as μ--from among the student body and grants her one wish.

Much like its premise, this VN's quality is a mixed bag for the first couple routes. At its worst it's using lazy cliches to cram in fanservice/sex/rape scenes. At its best it's giving the interesting characters opportunity to develop in a fairly engaging way. Often it's somewhere in between, since the plot develops at a nice pace and the setting is cool, but it's a bit too forced or predictable to have any real tension and leaves a few too many nagging questions to be thoroughly satisfying.

The two true routes are a step above, since they lack the lazy cliches, actually succeed at creating dramatic tension, and have significantly more character development. In addition to that, the final route's revelations answer some of the nagging questions from earlier and provide a very intriguing take on the theological implications of a μ (and God in general), making the VN briefly verge on awesomeness. Even these routes leave some annoying questions, but overall they're far more satisfying.

Score: 7.5/10

Polarization: (+/-0.5)

There's no denying this VN has a mix of good and bad parts, so it'll probably depend on how good you are at ignoring the bad and focusing on enjoying the good. Also, the optional Ikoi route is the worst by far (it ends up being little more than a jumble of events from Hanene's route and some new things that never go anywhere) so skipping that should help.

Routes/Endings Played: All of them, including the YODAngel/むしろもっと踏んでっ bonus patch (that's also worth skipping imo).

27May/130

Shinjisougeki Carnival Review

This story revolves around several girls on Rokushiki Island, all from families teaching them martial arts, and the vast majority of the emphasis is on the fights that take place between them as the centerpiece of the island's traditional ceremonies.

The main appeal of this VN is the gratuitously badass action, since the very good fight scenes make up at least half of the total text. They all have a steady flow from initial face-off to final blow, plenty of cool CGs, several unrealistic but cool techniques, and badass music that doesn't get old. Plus every fight feels completely different from the others.

The story and setting are pretty cool and entirely coherent, but often predictable and not terribly complicated. The slice of life and comedy are mediocre, but thankfully they're also extremely brief. The exposition and protagonists' thoughts are good enough to set the stage for all the fights though not much more. Most of the characters are also fairly simple, though they fill their roles well, especially the protagonists. For me the final Tomoe/Kaina battle was a notable exception, since I found their conflict compelling enough that the fight was epic instead of just cool.

Overall, this is a perfect example of focusing on exactly one thing, doing it very well, and thereby producing a short, simple and highly enjoyable (though not amazing) experience.

Score: 7.5/10

Polarization: (+0.5/-0.5)

The girls all seem to enjoy beating each other to a pulp more than we might consider healthy, which I found weird in a cool way, but others may find it weird in a bad way. Other than that, if you like lots of badass fights, you should enjoy this.

Routes/Endings Played: Linear

P.S. I read the iOS version of this during a recent plane flight. After talking to someone who read the PC version, it seems safe to assume they're the same.

27May/137

Itsuka, Todoku, Ano Sora Ni Review

At first this is a typical slice-of-life game set in a rather old-fashioned town, then it turns into a fantasy/action story once the routes begin and the powerful family's secrets are revealed.

The slice of life and comedy in the common route has some fairly silly heroines, a quirky yet nuanced writing style, plus a calm yet mystical atmosphere from both the town and the nice fluffy story to occupy time until the genre shift. Somehow it manages to be a highly immersive and relaxing experience that makes you eager to learn more about the town's secrets after the plot kicks in.

Then, sadly and bizarrely, the actual routes are just plain badly written. More often than not twenty pages will say what could easily fit into five sentences. Some fairly lengthy scenes have no discernible purpose, and several that should have one somehow fail to add the slightest detail to what we already knew. Partly as a result, the story varies between being needlessly nebulous (for most or all of each route you have no idea what the conflict is even about), poorly explained (in one dramatic finale a bunch of named characters died and I still don't understand why), inconsistent (the most powerful person in one route is reduced to a red shirt with a totally different power in another), and weird in a bad way (a couple of the twists would've been appropriate for a Doctor Who episode).

Score: 6/10

Polarization: (+2/-2)

Depends how much the common route's quality means to you when the routes are a complete waste of time.

Routes/Endings Played: All three.

P.S. Strangely, the elaborate and unique kanji multi-meanings underlying several of the names are the one part of the story that is coherent and properly explained.

29Mar/1315

I/O Review

A very long, complex, and deeply satisfying cyberpunk epic.

Between the highly non-linear plot structure, the intriguing treatment of virtual reality (and people who prefer it to reality), the way the multiple timelines interact and protagonists are connected, and the large ensemble cast, I/O is bursting at the seams with clever ideas that inexplicably manage to all fit themselves into a perfectly coherent narrative.

One of the biggest reasons it works so well is that every last character has well-thought out backstories, personalities, goals, secrets and relationships, making it far easier to not only remember but also care about what's going on. The VN also does a very good job of consistently explaining all of the above clearly and concisely, as well as building tension and momentum before and during major events, and somehow never feeling predictable or forced.

It also has an impressive tendency of making you think you understand everything by the end of one story, only for an earth-shattering twist or reveal in the next arc to force you to rethink everything yet again.

My main nitpick is that by far the biggest and most amazing climax (yes, there are several) happens around the 3/4 mark, and the actual finale can't really compare to it. Other than that, the art kinda bugged me at first, and there's a little too much talking as a free action.

Score: 9.5

Polarization: (-1.5)

You may find the plot to be a bit too convoluted or confusing, especially when it veers into mindscrew territory.
The ending not being one of the stronger parts of the story may also irritate a lot of people.

Routes/Endings Complete: 100% on literally everything.

22Feb/1310

Ourai no Gahkthun -What a shining braves- Review

Time for yet another dive into Sakurai's world of fantasy, steampunk and alternative history. And guess what? The series is still awesome.

Everything you love about the past WABs is here. Creative and original setting, very different from previous WAB settings but clearly part of the same WABverse. Distinctive artwork, different from previous styles but still quite memorable and appropriate for the series. Arguably it's less distinctive or less interesting than previous ones, but on the flip side there's no shortage of sprites, CGs or animations. The writing style is also exactly as you remember it, with plenty of fresh arc words to tease you with. Plus, for once copypasta is only a small part of the battle scenes (about damn time), so the fights are even cooler than usual.

The general format of the story is also familiar. Most chapters are still separate episodes about issues surrounding specific characters, with no more than hints for the main plot. The main plot still consists largely of driving questions about the setting up until the very end, when they suddenly get very thoroughly answered by a perfect storm of revelations. Sadly, there are a handful of scenes that overstay their welcome or verge on implausibility, and talking is all too often a free action. But other than that, Gahkthun is amazing.

Score: 9/10

Polarization: (+0.5/-1.5)

If you have any interest in Gahkthun, you've probably read at least one WAB before, so I don't need to tell you what's polarizing about it.

Routes/Endings Played: Linear

P.S. The encyclopedia also makes a return in this installment, and this time it has quite a bit of information that isn't mentioned anywhere else.

7Feb/1312

Tsukihime Review

A flawed classic.

Overall, Tsukihime is quite solid. The story is complex enough to be interesting. There are loads of twists, most of which are not easy to predict. The characters have enough depth that they rarely feel like plot devices. Everyone's actions make perfect sense given their characters. The endings have proper closure, both logically and emotionally. Though the slice-of-life isn't great, it's nicely kept to a minimum. I found myself consistently curious as to what would happen next and constantly thinking about details of the backstory.

But there are significant problems. First, several scenes are almost literally copy-pasted between multiple routes. Second, many differences between routes are totally unexplained, making them feel disconnected. Third, all the routes are so end-loaded that I often felt like I was waiting for the plot to start, even when the plot was already moving. Fourth, I didn't find myself caring deeply about the characters, especially in Near Side. I was always curious what would happen to them, but only mildly concerned for their well-being.

Fortunately, none of these flaws are fatal, and I had no trouble enjoying all of Tsukihime despite them.

Score: 8/10

Polarization: (+/-1)

Since a lot of my criticism is about how the routes interact with each other, how important that is to you may be significant.

Routes/Endings: All