Humor in video games often feels hit or miss. Like most fiction, humor shows up at least occasionally in all kinds of games. For example, the Uncharted games try and fail at humor by thinking that having each of their characters quip back and forth (or even to themselves) is funny and endearing. Possibly worse is when you have games, like the otherwise enjoyable Guacamelee!, where a lot of its humor was using super dated (even at the time) internet reaction memes. There are parody games, but parody can only go so far. Honestly, outside of Okage: Shadow King and its humor centered on how goofy a lot of JRPGs plots are, the only other true comedy game I can think of is the visual novel Pizza Game.
Developed mostly by writer and programmer Plasterbrain, with help by her brother JelloApocalypse who designed the characters and directed the voice acting, Pizza Game is described by Plasterbrain as “a shit-post game, but a fully sustainable shit-post game”. Basically, what if someone made a full-length nonsensical otome visual novel, with none of the nonsense of games like the hour-long KFC dating sim? Pizza Game prides itself on its intentionally misspelled sentences and its parade of pretty unpleasant smoochable men. From the top, there is passive aggressive coffee shop owner with a dark past named Chris, rude tech billionaire who is almost definitely a serial killer named Mr. Arimnaes, an ironic and twisted skater named Warped Lamp, a bland but otherwise harmless pizza shop owner named Keenarnor, and whatever the hell Sensei is.
This entire exchange is magical.
Since we at Oddity Game Seekers are always looking to promote cool, unusual, and noteworthy games, I decided it was up to me to once again spearhead the visual novel and eroge genres (as I’ve written before, they are two different things with lots of overlap.). I originally decided to review the visual novel Dengeki Stryker ,but I change my mind after hearing that the people at MangaGamer were putting out the expanded re-release called Cho Dengeki Stryker (essentially, Super Dengeki Stryker). I felt sticking that sticking with the original Dengeki Stryker would have left my review obsolete in the wake of this expansion. Today, I bring to your attention this thrilling tale of heroism.
The original Dengeki Stryker was a visual novel developed and published by Overdrive in 2011 with Cho coming in slightly over a year later in 2012. Overdrive has also produced the game Deardrops, as well as Go! Go! Nippon! ~My First Trip to Japan~ (which I have heard is selling well on Steam). Both of which are available in English courtesy of MangaGamer. Dengeki Stryker (meaning electric striker minus stylized “y”) is the story of Yuuki Yamato, an ordinary elementary school boy who is a big fan of a certain manga bearing the same title. Yuuki wants nothing more than to become a hero of justice like his idol, the Imperial All-Terrain Strike Support Ranger Codename: Stryker Zero. A cyborg with a variety of electricity-themed powers, Stryker Zero’s mission is to protect the lands of the Japanese empire from the evil Balbora Empire. Yuuki has one big problem though when it comes to becoming like his hero Stryker Zero. Much like every other elementary school-aged kid, Yamato is a wimp. But hey, he’s got his cute childhood friend Haruna to cheer him on and odds-are-eventually-marry, right? Except Haruna is moving out the day after the story begins.
Orson is here to kickass and chew bubblegum, but mainly chew bubblegum.
Let’s say you like an anime, and feel like looking it up. What’s this? It was originally a visual novel? Whatever could that be? And what are these “eroge”? Forgive me if I am insulting anyone’s intelligence; rather, I am trying to empathize with the lowest common denominator, which is a tall order for me. I shall try my best to explain what visual novels are and what is their relationship to eroge and dating sims.
Whether Visual Novels are real video games or not is a debate I am not going to get into here. But for the most part, Visual Novels are text scrolling games that tell a narrative while paper cutouts of characters talk and interact with the main character or other characters, usually with accompanying voice acting. A common approach is to have you, the player, look at things from the eyes of the protagonist in an attempt to have you become the protagonist. This sometimes extends to leaving the protagonist’s face blank on images they show up in. The faceless protagonist is so pervasive in visual novels that it often becomes a good thing to check whether the protagonist even has a face or voice acting. It shows the protagonist is important enough to the narrative to warrant the efforts of fleshing them out as actual characters. Outside of the faceless protagonist constancy, visual novels are too busy trying different character archetypes, plot twists, art styles, etc. so the only constant in visual novels is that you will be doing a lot of clicking and reading.
Maybe Japanese women like their men faceless…?
I like to test different game genres whenever I can, with the only caveat being most of the genre’s not part of my mainstays: RPGs, Action, FPSs, and Adventure, tend to thrive on ramped up player challenges. For example, dungeon crawlers and especially their masochist off-shoot brother (little sister?) roguelikes; are difficult because of features like permanent death and random enemy wave spikes that; intimidate me far more than the looking at any monster at the end of a cave hallway. Hell, the recent Etrian Odyssey 4 with its rocking soundtrack had a casual mild mode specifically made for people like me. I am also dreadful at strategy games; owning almost every post GBA Advance Wars game but have yet to beat even one. Visual Novels on the other hand, specifically the young women-targeted otome games, focus less on the skill and execution. How about I start with the most recently popular one, 2008’s Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom?
Hakuoki, developed by Idea Factory and released in the U.S. by Aksys Games, is a huge franchise in Japan branching into both manga and anime adaptions from its original Play Station 2 release. Like a big fish in a small pond, Hakuoki’s has a swath of ports, Play Station 3, PSP, DS, 3DS, to its various amounts of cell-phone charms and wall scroll merchandise, painting the series as a samurai-filled media juggernaut. Fitting I guess, since Hakuoki is marketed as the first big example of an American release of an otome game.
As a fan of visual novels, I have a pretty big list of titles that I want to read, but lack a necessary English translation Among them are three in particular that I really, really want to read: Kanojo wa Sora ni Inoranai -quantum girlfriend-, Ore no Tsure wa Hito de nashi, and Dra+Koi. They have all been on my list for at least two years or more, with Dra+Koi acting as the oldest. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that a translation patch had been released for Dra+Koi (okay, I admit I did know about the project, but the whole thing just sort of died for a long time, as it often happens with these translation projects). Now, finally able to scratch a name off my list of visual novels, I have decided to write about the experience.
It really says something about a setting when imminent, lethal danger is sent to you as a casual text.
Dra+Koi is a visual novel made by the studio Nitroplus that came in a fandisk (like a videogame developer equivalent of a music EP) of their’s called Sabbat-Nabe (something along those lines as the name is fairly difficult to Romanize). It was written by Hagenaya Jin, the main writer for Deus Machina Demonbane, which is actually readily available at J-list or directly through JastUSA.