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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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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Odd RPG Attacks: When Swinging A Sword Is Just Not Enough

A month or so ago, I was looking through eBay to see if I could find some cheap import games. As it turns out, I found Exstetra for the PS Vita at American retail pricing, around 40 dollars (to put this is in perspective, most games sell for at least 60 bucks in Japan). I remember sending the link to Franklin to have him take a look at it. Franklin thought that the aspect of having the main character Ryoma power up his allies by kissing them on the lips was kind of cool. Ryoma’s kissing powers got Franklin and I talking about how some RPGs have attacks that are just downright bizarre. So I decided to put together a list of games, mostly RPGs really, that feature attacks that are odd, bizarre, or have some kind of strange effect that will make you say “what?”.

Yes, Ryoma can kiss guys too. And no neither side is particularly pleased about it.

Suikoden Tierkreis has your allies attacking as groups, including one group that blinds the enemies with their bare scalps.

I’m not terribly acquainted with the Suikoden series but I had a jolly old-time playing Tierkreis on my DS. One of my favorite features were the Unite Attacks, in which characters linked together in some thematic or story-based reason perform powerful attacks.

The attacks themselves ranged anywhere from absolutely badass to just plain goofy. Here’s a link to the majority of them, but highlights include a love-dovey couple fighting together (and pissing off everyone else), a mother training his son and embarrassing him in the process, dandy young men destroying opponents with their bishonen good looks, combining robots, and, perhaps craziest of all, a trio consisting of an assassin, a blacksmith and an ethereal cosmic entity blinding their enemies with their bare scalps.

I wonder is she polishes her head...?

I wonder is she polishes her head…?

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Gaming With Family: A Link Between Our Pasts

Videogames have been a huge part of my life ever since my earliest memories and I owe them for getting me through some tough times.

Even before learning to read, I wanted to play the same games my older siblings played. That meant clicking randomly in PC games like Super Solvers: Gizmos & Gadgets!, Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?, and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. In that little kid fashion, I felt like I was at least doing something. Yet, something inside me yearned to play for real.

Fight me jerk!

The time and quality I had playing videogames were directly connected to my living situation. Both my older brother and I were still in school, but even though he was 7 years older than I, we both had infinite free time, even more so during the summer breaks. This gave us LOTS of time to rent and buy numerous videogames. Our plan of attack consisted of recycling the games we’d beaten to fund the new ones. We lived together in the same house hold for the majority of my life and, because of that, I garnered a special situation with him.

Now that he is married and raising a family of his own, and we live our own separate lives, we still try to find time to reconnect with new games. During the recent Steam summer sale I bought my brother Double Dragon Neon and Sid Meier’s Civilization V with the complete expansions for us to play together. In this day and age though, we cannot return to that nice infinite free time we once had. A place lost in time and space, only accessible now through memories.

Super 90’s as hell!

I was lucky enough to grow up in a house hold where both of my parents were a bit nerdier than most adults (and attributing to who I am today). My father liked to play computer games and I vividly remember him, my brother, and I all huddle around the monitor playing/trying to solve King’s Quest: Mask of Eternity. By the time I had gotten my Nintendo 64, I already had a stack of Game Boy cartridges lying around. Even with all those I was still just wading into the world of gaming. The introduction of my new and specifically first console opened up a whole new world of interaction with my father and brother. We could now play multiplayer games against each other. Before it was all working as one unit (mostly me watching) or us taking turns, but now we were shooting each other and having fun facing off in GoldenEye 007. My parents would soon divorce and the trio became a duo as my brother and I lived with our mother, leaving us the only gamers in the house. With every dark patch there is a bit of light as he and I grew closer and bonded over the Nintendo 64.

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Interior decorating in video games never looked so compulsive.

I want to start this article by doing something out of the ordinary for me, which is discussing current video game news. When news of the 3DS remake of the 3rd Generation Pokemon games Ruby and Sapphire dropped, the first thing my friends and I got excited about was what the secret bases would look like running off  Pokemon X and Y’s visuals. A refresher for those of you reading who skipped those Hoenn adventures of which I feel are the second weakest of the Pokemon Gens (after Gen Four if we are only counting non-remakes, because Heart Gold and Soul Silver were fantastic). Hoenn’s secret bases were located in trees, bushes, and sides of mountains where a player with a Pokémon who knew the move Secret Power could access large hidden rooms.

The only real draw the secret bases had were that they could be decorated with various furnishing like cushions and desks made of leaves to trinkets like Pokémon plush and ornaments like breakable doors, tents, and slides. This has me thinking about how, in general, getting a house or base to interior decorate is one of my favorite added parts in video games (up there with character customization like outfits and hair styles).

You can tell that this is a fan mod image because it was impossible to walk across those ditches. Let alone transport all that plush.

Some games make the player’s base or house an integral part of game progression and the Lost In Blue games on the DS are the first to come to mind.

The Lost In Blue games were spiritual successors to the Game Boy Color series Survival Kids, where the player controls a young kid who ends up as a castaway on a deserted tropical island. The first Lost In Blue was an early DS game for me back around 2006, a bygone time where you could actually find a reasonable copy of Trace Memory. While the original first Survival Kids fostered you with late 90’s card-battle anime protagonists Ken and Mery and their mascot ready pet monkey, the first Lost In Blue assigns you the serious young man Keith and the near-sighted quiet young woman Skye. The goal, learn to live off the land and build a way off the island. Every day has you controlling Keith in finding food and water for the pair, as Skye stays in the cave and preps food.

The cave base as a core concept is great, as building new beds and better fireplaces not only spiffs up the joint, but also either makes the daily progress easier or helps restore Keith and Skye’s stamina and overall well-being. You even get to decorate the place with a nifty barrel so that you can keep water inside so these two young youth don’t die of thirst.

I know I rap poetic about Harvest Moon a little too much on this site (less than the average super fans of the series, but more than the average sane person), but no Harvest Moon game ties game progression as heavily to how big your farm house is as much as Harvest Moon: Back to Nature on the Play Station.

Ah the life of a bachelor. A time where you don't care about the random liquor bottles by the entrance or if you have enough shelves for your miscellaneous boxes.

Ah the life of a bachelor. A time where you don’t care about the random liquor bottles by the entrance or if you have enough shelves for your miscellaneous boxes.

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