An Intermediate Guide to Visual Novels

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When you get past the entry point of visual novels through one way or another (such as using Francisco’s helpful guide here), it’s easy to get a little overwhelmed by many of the available games now legally available for English-readers. Nonetheless if you prefer a “pure” visual novel experience or want to try out something different, this guide covers a variety of titles to help you branch out into some fresh titles.

(Note: This article summarizes many of the visual novels featured in our Not ALL H-Games! panel. This article will also be amended in the future as we add and remove different games to our panel line-up.)

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Final Fantasy VIII: The Bizarrely Effective Adolescent Narrative Nobody Expected

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Final Fantasy VIII is a strange and somewhat frustrating game for me to discuss in nearly any context because the game inexplicably embodies elements that I adore and despise in many Final Fantasy titles, as well as video games as a whole. In VIII‘s case, the otherwise interesting sci-fi elements and world building are unfortunately undercut by the game’s messy story, bizarre plot reveals and hilariously unbalanced stat modifying system. Nonetheless, I feel that Final Fantasy VIII manages to succeed at telling a story about adolescent conflict present within a specific setting, and the reasonable problems that arise as a result. Furthermore, I also think this interpretation of an adolescent-focused story has the potential to be utilized in plenty of other stories. Please note this article will spoil major story elements in Final Fantasy VIII.

A major element present within Final Fantasy VIII‘s world building is the military academies known as Gardens, which train young individuals to become members of SeeD, an elite mercenary group. While the SeeD members are usually hired to provide military support or perform covert missions, it is revealed later in the story that the SeeD’s primary purpose is to defeat evil Sorceresses, human women who possess powerful magic capabilities. For the most part, the Gardens and the SeeDs commandeer a specific level of respect within VIII‘s setting (though appropriately, certain NPC’s express annoyance at the overt military presence in certain cities), but as a result nobody seems to question the fact that SeeD members are explicitly required to apply between the ages of 15 and 19.While most games focused on a “teens in the military” type of story would probably not care to explore the obvious issues of having adolescents in this setting, Final Fantasy VIII does the opposite; VIII highlights some of the issues that would logically come from using teenage soldiers in such a world, but does so in an indirect way.

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IA/VT Colorful review: Black and White and Pink All Over

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Riding off the tailcoats of Francisco’s recent article, one of the more import-friendly genres for curious gaijin is rhythm games. There are the occasional titles that do require knowledge of Japanese, like Uta Kumi 575, but most can be played easily enough after you’ve learned to fumble through menus. On this note, I decided to take my first plunge into import gaming with IA/VT Colorful.

IA/VT Colorful was released in 2015 for the PS Vita after experiencing delays for nearly a year. The game was directed by Kenichiro Takaki, best known for directing the Senran Kagura titles, and published by Marvelous. As the title suggests, the game’s songs were composed using 1st Place Co.’s Vocaloid IA, whose voicebank is provided by Japanese singer Lia.

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SeleP could make a song about a yandere knitting club & I’d probably still love it.

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A Child Killer and Soccer Tournaments

I’m re-purposing this long post I put on Tumblr years ago, as the only thing anyone reads on Tumblr longer than three paragraphs involves a combination of “fan” and “fiction” and “not putting the rest of the mountain of text behind a ‘read further’ button”.

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This is a picture of Gilles de Rais, a 15th century French knight that fought along side Joan of Arc, but became truly infamous after he was executed after being convicted of murdering hundreds of children. Gilles de Rais was also almost certainly a child rapist, which makes this next fact all the more crazy.

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This is another picture of Gilles de Rais, but as he is portrayed in the soccer anime and DS and 3DS games, Inazuma Eleven. Rais is a playable character found in Inazuma Eleven GO 2: Chrono Stone.

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Giles is somehow present because for some random plot reason, Inazuma Eleven’s protagonist Tenma gets sent back via time-machine to what I guess Japan thinks qualifies as medieval France.

Before discovering this, I only recognized Inazuma Eleven as that kid’s hand held soccer RPG video game series that instills the “kid” part by pulling that stunt where two completely different versions are released, like with Megaman Battle Network, Pokemon, and Yokai Watch.

Case in point:

Neppuu Version

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Raimei Version

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Now I can only recognize Inazuma Eleven as that hand held soccer RPG where you can play as a 15th century child killer who not only competes against kids at inter-mural sports, but as a level 99 midfielder that uses the element of Earth.

Honestly, I couldn’t imagine anything more amazing if I tried.

A Quick Guide To Import Gaming: Telling You What Little I Know From Experience

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Having previously written about 7th Dragon 2020-II, I decided I should probably write a little about importing  games from other countries. I will be mostly going over the ins and outs of importing, as well as giving out a few tips that I have accrued in my time.

Most of my overseas shopping comes from four sites J-List, Play-Asia, Amiami, and CdJapan, as well as the occasional gem I may find on Amazon and eBay.

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Contact review: Ground Control to Major Terry

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My personal experience with RPGs isn’t a particularly complicated history. It started when I played Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets for the Game Boy Color in elementary school. At the time, I was pretty clueless about how exactly the game worked, which unintentionally made the game harder as a result, but I wasn’t deterred away from the genre. I’ve indulged in many different RPG titles since then and I’ve found it interesting how certain games manage to keep their mechanics distinctive. For example, both Dragon Quest VI and Final Fantasy VI have the core of turn-based RPGs, but manage to play out in completely different ways. Final Fantasy VI emphasizes using magic and characters’ special abilities in fights while Dragon Quest VI encourages players to keep a balanced party with the usage of job classes. On this topic of game mechanics, I took a look at Contact, a lesser-known RPG awash in its own variety of mechanics.

Contact was developed by Grasshopper Manufactures, best known for their action titles such as No More Heroes, Shadows of the Damned and Killer is Dead, for the Nintendo DS in 2006.  However, Contact was not directed by Grasshopper Manufacture’s iconic CEO Goichi Suda (aka Suda51) but instead directed by Akira Ueda, who had previously worked on games such as Secret of Mana and Shining Soul.

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Not like you’re gonna give me another choice…

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Fate/Extra review: Absolute Destiny Apocalypse

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Fate/stay night and its associated franchise seem to be pretty iconic among anime and Japanese video game fans. I’ve known about the series for quite some time, but didn’t engage with it until late 2011, when I watched the godawful 2006 anime adaptation. My interest in Fate waned for some time after until I watched the Fate/Zero anime adaptation, which rekindled my attention to the series. A year later, I noticed that fellow writer Franklin Raines had gotten his hands on a copy of the PSP game Fate/Extra; he expressed little interest in playing it at the time, but allowed me to borrow it in his stead. I was intrigued by this ditty of a PSP game, but how did it unfold in the end? We’ll see.

Fate/Extra was developed by Type-Moon and Imageepoch, and was originally released in North America in late 2011. Type-Moon is known for the visual novels and games they produce, including Tsukihime and Melty Blood. Imageepoch developed several RPG series since 2005, such as Luminous Arc and 7th Dragon, before filing for bankruptcy earlier this year.

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…isn’t that what I’ve already been doing, though?

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