Amaterasu Blog

18Jul/1211

Fandisc Reviews

All of the fandiscs I've read are reviewed in this post, since I prefer to give fandiscs even shorter reviews than I usually write. For VNs like Altered Fable which some consider a fandisc and others consider a sequel, I'll decide what I think it is (or equivalently: how long a review it deserves) after reading it myself.

Before you ask, I will definitely read Sharin no Kuni, Yuukyuu no Shounenshoujo and Rui wa Tomo wo Yobu Fan Disc -Asu no Mukou ni Mieru Kaze- at some point. I will also probably read the rest of Sumairu Cubic! someday, and the Liarsoft fandiscs (Round a Go! Go! and Hotch Potch) after I've read more from Liarsoft.

The "scores" I give to fandiscs are:

・Must-Read - Adds something significant enough (and good enough) to the story that it would be fair to say you "missed out" if you didn't read it.
・Good - If you qualify as a "fan" of the original work, you will enjoy it, though you wouldn't be "missing out" if you chose not to read it.
・Okay - Even if you qualify as a "fan" of the original work, you may or may not enjoy it.
・Bad - Even if you qualify as a "fan" of the original work, you will not enjoy it.

I don't bother with polarization scores for fandiscs. Also, since fandiscs often consist of separate chunks you can pick and choose from, either the rating will refer only to the best chunks, or I'll give different chunks different ratings.

Fandisc(s) for Muv-Luv Alternative (Muv-Luv Alternative review)

Altered Fable
This fandisc has four parts: Kagayaku Toki ga Kienu ma ni, Akatsuki Haruka Nari, Muv-Luv Radio, and a trial for Muv-Luv Alternative Total Eclipse
・Kagayaku Toki ga Kienu ma ni is essentially Muv-Luv Extra all over again (it's even the same length), though the production values are even better and almost nothing is straight-up repeated, so if you enjoyed MLE you should have no trouble enjoying this. I read six out of the ten "routes" (as with MLE and MLU, they're more like endings), and imo Kasumi's was the most interesting.
・Akatsuki Haruka Nari is an infamously difficult hex-based strategy game where you control a group of TSFs fighting the BETA. Personally, the complete lack of a tutorial (plus glitchy invincible Lux) kinda killed my enthusiasm for it.
・Muv-Luv Radio is a series of three MLA radio dramas, which were decently amusing.
Score: Okay

・The trial for Total Eclipse, though obviously quite short, felt like exactly what you'd want from an MLA spinoff and was easily enough to get me excited for reading the full version at some point.
Score: Good

Ayu Mayu Alternative
To confuse the hell out of everyone, this fandisc has two parts: "Ayu Mayu Alternative" and "Muv-Luv Alternative Chronicles". The latter contains two stories: "~Atonement~" and "~Succession~".
Ayu Mayu Alternative is supposedly inspired by the animated comedy shorts called Ayu Mayu Gekijou, but instead it puts Saint Seiya-style superheroes in the MLA world, changes Ayu and Mayu's personalities and takes itself completely seriously. Although age put a lot of effort into it, it's still mediocre at best. This thing simply has no right to exist.
Score: Bad

As for the Chronicles, ~Atonement~ is about Marimo's time in the army before becoming an instructor, and ~Succession~ is about Isumi's sisters after the Sadogashima operation. Both stories are very short, but very well done in all the same ways MLA itself was, and add quite a bit to those characters.
Score: Good

Fandisc(s) for Rewrite (Rewrite review)

Rewrite Harvest festa!
Kotori and Chihaya's after stories are nice and sweet. Lucia's after story adds a new character and a surprisingly interesting conflict, making it the best part in my opinion. Shizuru, Akane and Kagari's AU stories are quite silly, even random at times, but also pretty funny. Finally, there's a fun RPG minigame called Rewrite Quest, which doesn't take itself seriously at all. All seven parts are fleshed out nicely and clearly had a lot of effort put into them (especially Rewrite Quest). The fandisc also comes with wallpapers and system voices.
Score: Good

Fandisc(s) for Souten no Celenaria (Souten no Celenaria ~What a beautiful world~ review)

Souten no Celenaria Fan Disc
A mildly entertaining side story involving (loli) Mary Shelley visiting the continent. Pretty much everything I said about Celenaria itself applies to this as well.
Score: Okay

Fandisc(s) for Umineko (Umineko no Naku Koro ni review, Umineko no Naku Koro ni Chiru review)

Umineko no Naku Koro ni Tsubasa
15 miscellaneous bonus stories plus a postscript. The serious ones are legitimately interesting (if you like minor character backstories and witches being cryptic), and the more numerous comedy ones are hilarious, albeit shamelessly cliche. Story 13 being boring is the sole exception.
Score: Good

Umineko no Naku Koro ni Hane
2 more bonus stories plus postscript. For some reason they're just not as interesting as Tsubasa's were, though I got some laughs out of the 4th wall breaking in the second one.
Score: Okay

Our Confession (booklet that came with Hane)
A rough outline of a potential Umineko episode that Beatrice planned out but never actually used. Includes explicit mention of all the accomplices and most of the tricks she would have used to construct the mysteries. Though it says nothing about the eight episodes we know, it's an invaluable collection of massive hints.
Score: Must-read

14Jul/123

Umineko no Naku Koro ni Chiru Review

As the second half of an incredibly complex and epic murder mystery story, there's one thing that literally everyone will be looking for in Chiru: answers. Chiru does provide answers to all of the little questions, but skips over quite a few of the big ones. Instead, it goes to extreme lengths to provide enough hints that any actively thinking reader could easily figure out most of the answers, while any non-thinking reader will merely end up confused (some in-game characters even explicitly state that this is the goal). The very fact that it attempts such a thing is extremely intriguing, as are the ways in which it succeeds and fails in executing it.

First, the major successes. The name of the culprit and the specific tricks behind (most of) the murders are never stated explicitly, and yet there are definitely enough hints (and explicit answers to smaller questions) that anyone should be able to work out the most important questions by the end of episode 7, if not much sooner, with a reasonable amount of pondering. Inevitably there will probably be a handful of little details nagging at you, but they should be minute in comparison to what you can figure out, so it feels perfectly reasonable. Also, the insane variety between episodes is even stronger in Chiru, to the point where you may sometimes wonder whether a certain new subplot or character could possibly have any logical connection to the main plot, and later on feel like an idiot for even thinking that.

Most surprisingly, the omission of an epic climactic reveal about who did it and how neither prevents Chiru from having a strong sense of closure, nor prevents it from having powerful and exciting climaxes. Instead, Chiru relies on its subplots to generate all the dramatic tension and climactic moments (sneaking in hints for the main mysteries in the process), and spends the final episode tying all of their loose ends together into what eventually forms an impressive and even tearjerking conclusion. Making sense out of the web of subplots eventually becomes almost as Herculean a task as solving the main mystery itself, but just as satisfying and achievable.

However, there are some major flaws. Once again, quite a few parts of Chiru drag on longer than they should. More importantly, even though it's obvious it won't tell you who did it, it often feels like Chiru is right on the verge of giving you a massive hint that will make some large part of the mystery instantly make sense, and then proceeds to casually change the subject before doing anything of the sort. Rationally, I always knew it was going to do this, but emotionally I couldn't help but feel it like it was going out of its way to raise my hopes only to cruelly dash them. Thankfully, this problem is completely absent from the final episode, since Chiru has no qualms about giving explicit answers to all of the subplots.

Score: 9/10

Polarization: (+1/-3.5)

Some will disagree as to how much of Chiru needs trimming. Some will find certain subplots to be a waste of time. Some will find the large fraction of time spent on subplots rather than hinting at the main mystery to be extremely frustrating. And finally, some of the major answers may feel like bullshit to some people.

Routes/Endings Played: Linear for episodes 5 through 7, both endings for episode 8.

See this post for my opinions of the official fandiscs.

14Jul/129

Umineko no Naku Koro ni Review

This review is only for the first four episodes. See my Umineko no Naku Koro ni Chiru review for my opinion of the last four episodes.

So eighteen people gather on a remote island for a family reunion (and to argue over inheritance), only for every single one of them to be killed within forty-eight hours under truly bizarre circumstances, many of which are seemingly impossible for a human to construct. Instead of trying to figure out who did it, like any ordinary novel might do, dozens of hours are spent arguing in bright red and blue text over whether it's even logically possible for any ordinary human to commit the murders in question (as opposed to a "witch" who could've done it with magic). It's also far awesomer than any ordinary novel.

The main reason it works as amazingly well as it does is this: the mysteries are not easy, they demand the reader be actively paying attention and trying to work things out, and you are frequently rewarded for this effort in the form of new hints (some explicitly pointed out, others left for the lazy reader to miss). Much of this is thanks to the characters being smart enough to address any "obvious" solution sooner or later. And the difficulty of individual puzzles within the mystery is quite varied, so no matter how familiar or unfamiliar you are with solving fictional murder mysteries (or how much better you get as you read this one), there will be a conundrum at just the right level to drive you nuts because you know you should be able to solve it.

But it takes a long time in order to put together a mystery that difficult and complicated, so normally you'd expect some severe pacing problems. Umineko almost completely avoids this, because it presents the mystery through four entirely different plot structures--one per episode. In fact, each of the four episodes has at least one new character, new method of argument, new backstory, new subplot, new theme, new form of magic (allegedly), and new order/causes/locations/times of death. Usually more than one for most of those categories. Practically the only thing all episodes have in common is that a lot of people die every time.

Throw in the godly soundtrack and excellent direction on top of that, and the result is unbelievably addictive and immersive. If you put any effort into reading this VN carefully, you will be spending hours obsessively trying to figure out how to solve it, and the characters' own arguments will get progressively more epic until you're craving every last letter of red text.

My only real complaint is that every episode had a slower start than it should've.

Score: 9.5/10

Polarization: (+0.5/-2)

Significant portions of each episode are spent on characterization and world-building that doesn't always directly contribute to the core mystery, so some people might find that infuriating. And of course, if you aren't the type who enjoys thinking very hard about a story as you read it, you're going to miss out on a massive part of what makes this VN exceptional.

Routes/Endings Played: Linear

P.S.: Beatrice's trollface is the best sprite in any VN ever. Period.

See this post for my opinions of the official fandiscs.