Amaterasu Blog

31Oct/105

Planetarian ~Chiisana Hoshi no Yume~ Review

A short nakige from Key. For many of you, that's already more than enough to decide whether or not to read this.

The story is really short, really simple, and it can be really sad. The two characters (yes, only two) aren't that complicated, but they are perfectly believable and interesting, which is all you really need for something this short. The setting/atmosphere is kinda familiar but also very well-presented.

The main problem, aside from the inherent limitations of being short and simple, is predictability. However, this is exactly the sort of story in which some people won't mind that at all, while others will find it largely unengaging. This is all the more true because the game tries very hard to make you cry at the end. I feel it did this quite well, and that if you let yourself feel sad for the characters at all, it's virtually impossible not to cry a little. Still, if you never felt much of anything for them to begin with, it could be rather heavy-handed.

Score: 8/10

Polarization: High (-2)

Pretty much gave the reason already, but I say "high" because I can't really imagine anyone falling in the middle of this range. Either you feel nothing, or you feel like bawling. One or the other.

Routes/Endings Played: Linear

30Oct/102

Ludesia Spidering with Scraping Review

The most gratuitous shonen action I've read in a long time. And guess what? That's a very good thing.

The fight scenes are consistently enjoyable, with cleverly justified and moderately original superpowers for everyone, good variety in adversaries and the heroes' tactics, no unnecessary elongation, several instances of general badassery, and of course good use of music/sounds/event cgs/directing. Obviously, this is what you'll be reading Ludesia for. At the same time, many common shonen tropes are used shamelessly, so it fails to be much more than a well-made guilty pleasure. Not that you'll mind or anything.

As for plot and character and all that other stuff, it's all perfectly respectable, but the quality has a huge kink in it. Basically: the prologue is pure win, but right after the main plot starts suddenly everything is mediocre, but then all of it very steadily improves until by the end of the game it's even better than when it started. Everything seems to follow this pattern: the plot is at first generic and predictable, but by the end things have gotten quite complicated and there've been several clever twists; the brief comedy asides are irritating at first but eventually succeed in making me laugh out loud every so often; and finally the side characters feel completely pointless when introduced but sooner or later they all do something cool if not directly influence the plot.

Everything else worth saying is quite minor and something I ceased caring about at all around the halfway point. This includes some pluses like the writing style being clever, and some minuses like plot holes.

Score: 8/10

Polarization: Low (+1/-1.5)

Mostly depends on how much you personally like shonen.

Routes/Endings Played: Linear

20Oct/1017

Kusarihime ~euthanasia~ Review

Kusarihime is surprisingly difficult to describe in any meaningful way, but let's try this: A boy moves back to his old hometown to try and regain his memories, but ends up caught in a mystifying horror/fantasy story. Then, after several rounds of giving the reader things to scratch their heads about, the most critical questions are answered in perhaps the most otherworldly manner conceivable, culminating in an inexplicably fascinating ending of bittersweet tragedy and/or bizarre tranquility.

Most of the pros are probably already obvious, but I can add more: The mysteries remain engaging from start to finish, as there is plenty of variety in the random (yet directly or indirectly plot-relevant) slice-of-life events and a steady supply of far more occult happenings. Best of all, every time you think you have something, anything figured out, the game manages to throw a massive curveball at you. And as implied above, the endings do in fact explain what happened and are quite satisfying. The unique way the game handles sprites (the monochrome ones at least) is also really cool.

There is an irritatingly long list of flaws though. First, some things I really wanted explanations of never got more than a few hints, though the author successfully made me expect this (and only one of them was still relevant by the ending) so I wasn't that disappointed. Second, there are way too many sex scenes. Sure, most of them were justified, but it still felt like something less graphic and time-consuming could have easily filled a lot of the same roles. Third, a handful of the sprites are badly drawn to the point of being distracting, and on rare occasions I got confused because one of them was outright misplaced. Fourth, the side characters are entirely uninteresting in and of themselves, though they serve their purposes very well.

The end result: I was absolutely fascinated by what I saw here, but it failed to amaze me or make me care on a deep emotional level.

Score: 8.5/10

Polarization: High (+1/-3)

All of the aforementioned problems may bother you much more than they did me. In particular, (if the pothole to Gainax Ending didn't tip you off) I'm sure the game saying "fuck your expectations, I'm gonna do this instead" will sit really badly with some people. On the other hand, you may absolutely adore the surreal nature of it all.

Endings/Routes Played: All three major endings, plus some of the bad ones.

10Oct/107

Hikari no Valusia ~What a Beautiful Hopes~ Review

Yet another land of fantasies to explore.
Yet another tangled web of cold machines and shining wishes.
Yet another cast of heroes, villains, lovers and warriors.
Have the stories ended yet? No, not by a long shot.

Like the other WABs, we have a wonderfully crafted original fantasy setting which compliments the previous games well while allowing for a brand new cast of colorful (I mean that one very literally) and interesting characters. And of course the art and music are as great and appropriate as ever (this one even has more cgs than usual, on top of full voicing!). But unlike the previous WABs, there is no episodic plot, or at least not the same kind as before.

Instead of a simple sequence of independent side stories, Valusia has several intertwining subplots which last the entire game and are told in little chunks focusing on one or two characters at a time. This is a very welcome change, though it has its ups and downs.

On the one hand, every significant character is now irreplaceable in terms of plot relevance, and when all the threads come together at the end the climax is truly stunning. On the other hand, this is mostly the case at the end of the game. Until then the story can't help but feel somewhat arbitrary, and a couple of the subplots do indeed end up lost and forgotten.

There are also some scenes which are a bit too long, or too repetitive, or too cheesy, but all tolled these are at most a nuisance. Where it really counts, Valusia does everything right. All the major questions are answered this time around (though it still expects you to be working stuff out yourself), and all the characters you really care about get important roles and satisfying resolutions. If you're patient and paying attention, you will be amazed.

Score: 9/10

Polarization: Mild (-2)

In the worst case scenario, the final chapters will be too little too late to be mind-blowing. Hopefully most readers will be nervous but remain cautiously optimistic like I did. You may also feel that the stuff which did not get resolved or explained is actually rather important, and thus constitutes a bigger problem.

Routes/Endings Played: Linear

PS: The last few chapters of Valusia definitely expect the reader to have read and been paying attention during Inganock and Sharnoth. Expect to miss a few important details if you haven't read those first (Sharnoth especially). Celenaria's quite optional though, despite the shout out.