Monthly Archives: November 2013

Dysfunctional Systems Episode 1: Learning to Manage Chaos Review

Dischan_Media_-_Dysfunctional_Systems_Ep1

If you had the opportunity to prevent illness and end chaos, would you do it? Even if the methods for doing so went against your morals? Welcome to Dysfunctional Systems Episode 1: Learning to Manage Chaos. Written and developed by Dischan, it is the first in what is to become a series of visual novels. Dischan has already built a solid reputation with the release of their free VN, Juniper’s Knot (which I urge everyone to read), so I went into Dysfunctional Systems with high hopes for a fun read. I was not disappointed.

In Dysfunctional Systems, you assume the role of Winter Harrison, a 14-year-old girl who lives on a Utopian Earth. She one day, learns of other worlds, and is chosen to become a mediator, a person who travels to these other worlds to resolve chaotic situations. Before she can become a full fledged mediator, she must first undergo training. Dysfunctional Systems Episode 1 follows her second mission, to the world of Sule, in the small nation of Brighton. Her mentor for this mission is Cyrus, a notorious mediator known for his philosophy of “the ends justify the means.” Together, Winter and Cyrus must learn about Sule, Brighton, and the reason behind the chaos on the planet.

Winter and Cyrus

From the get-go, the reader gets a good gauge on Winter’s personality. She still has trouble believing that other worlds exist, and is also surprised by their variety. Sule mirrors her Earth in certain ways, yet the existence of poverty is in stark contrast with the utopian society in which she was raised. This makes her uncomfortable and unsure in certain situations. Her relationship with Cyrus is something of a test for Winter as well. As I said earlier, Cyrus will take the easiest route to ending the chaos of his mission, regardless of the morality of the method. Winter on the other hand has a very strong set of morals (even arguing with Cyrus over drinking beer). The two stand in opposite of each other, frustrating Winter, who is supposed to be learning from Cyrus.

The dynamic between Winter and Cyrus is very well done, as is the dynamic between Winter and the world of Sule. Sadly, not many other characters are in this particular chapter of the VN for them to interact with. Winter’s roommate at the school gets some screen time towards the end, but her appearance and actions act more as an introduction to her character more than anything. This leads into one of the flaws for Dysfunctional Systems.

It’s short. Very very short. In total, it’s maybe 2 hours long (longer if you go for all the Steam Achievements), but completing all the endings only takes about 2 hours’ time. Then again, for $5, I felt it was worth it. It will, however, leave you wanting for more in a good way. Hopefully Episode 2 is longer and filled with more detail about this universe and the reason chaos affects Earth.

If you’ve ever read a Dischan novel, you know that the art in their novels is great. Doomfest heads up the art, and it is very pleasing to the eye. All of the character designs and backgrounds have their own unique feel, avoiding a mistake found in many English-developed visual novels. Rather than trying to imitate Japan, Doomfest uses his own style to benefit the feel and atmosphere of the novel. The music, from CombatPlayer also works to perfection with well composed mood-setting pieces.

The story of Dysfunctional Systems is decently written. Winter and Cyrus travel to a small nation on the world of Sule called Brighton. Brighton has recently gained its independence from the large, powerful nation of Gabrea. While still a colony of Gabrea, Brighton was the subject of many wars between Gabrea and the nation of Fehrdia. Gabrea still maintains a strong grip over Brighton and its people causing the people of Brighton to think of themselves as little worker ants. When Winter and Cyrus visit, the President of Brighton is working hard to establish more freedoms for his country, and is growing increasingly frustrated with Gabrea.

Economics

I loved the setting of this story for the same reason I loved novels and games like Analogue: A Hate Story and Bioshock Infinite. It’s historical fiction meshed with sci-fi elements. You learn of the history of Sule through various futuristic technologies. I felt like a student all over again, learning the culture and ways of a newly discovered nation, just like what Winter has to go through. That said, there isn’t much mystery, or detective work, in Dysfunctional Systems Episode 1, as the developments of the novel are kind of thrown into your lap. But then again, that is not the focus of the novel. How Winter and Cyrus react differently to situations seems to be the novel’s main subject. Again, this is something I look forward to seeing more of in Episode 2, especially since your choices this episode change the way Winter will see Cyrus in Episode 2.

Dysfunctional Systems Episode 1 is a very good visual novel. The character interactions are very well written, the story engaging & well paced, and the audio/visual aspect is top notch. If you don’t want to pay $5 for such a short visual novel, then wait for the full set of episodes to be released (no word on when that will be). Dysfunctional systems Episode 1 is a great read, and I highly recommend it.

Overall: 8/10

True Remembrance review

Well hello there. The return of Zakamutt is here! …You were waiting anxiously, right?

True Remembrance is a 2003 (re-released with OP and ED movies and improved graphics in 2006) freeware visual novel by Shiba Satomi. You can get it here, or, if you prefer Fuwanovel, here. I personally recommend the Insani download.

Sometime in the future AD, the psychiatric community has come to a realization: there’s an affliction called the Dolor, and it’s only curable by erasing the painful memories that cause it. Thankfully this world’s setting is magical realism, so there are people who can help with that: Mnemocides. The Dolor is, more or less, a kind of depression/PTSD mix as far as I can tell. The effect on society, suicides apparently being fairly common is so large that a specific government organization has been set up to train people with Mnemocide potential. Unfortunately said people appear to suffer from Power Incontinence, so the government has also decided to keep them in a town which only houses Mnemocides and their patients, known as Guests. Said town, for the benefit of its patients, has none of the usual technology of the age — radios, TVs, even telephones are scarce or even banned. Rather convenient for the writer, as he doesn’t have to go into sci-fi territory much.

The story starts with our protagonist Blackiris taking a walk through town, and a bit of an infodump about the setting. The text describing Blackiris’ walk was a little hard to read: the prose felt just a bit too purple, and reading it took a bit too much mental effort for my tastes. This ends quickly however, and the novel keeps a good balance after that.

It’s winter, and you can feel it.

After said walk ends, Blacky meets La, a cute girl (who, in proud manga-style tradition, looks quite a bit younger than her stated age of 17). La is set to be Blackiris’ Guest, which basically makes him a somewhat odd mix of a butler, and also responsible for eventually erasing her bad memories. This makes Blackiris a Guide: the title of a fully trained Mnemocide. As he quickly notes, La has a very serious case of the Dolor: this means he’ll have to live with her for quite a while until he can get La to open up about her bad memories, allowing him to work his Dolor-curing magic.

After this, the story focuses on La and Blackiris living together, often mixed up by adding one or two supporting characters with their own problems. The viewpoint character changes between La and Blackiris for different chapters. It feels a bit disjointed and episodic here; with that said, I still found myself captivated, and the slow trickle of foreshadowing and tidbits about the setting kept me interested, apart from the highly interesting characters themselves. There’s surprising variety and depth in this, though, and eventually some pretty random (and somewhat actiony) stuff you wouldn’t expect happens.

Eventually, the novel heads into its climax: at first, this might feel like a sudden mind screw — I was certainly WTFing quite a bit. This is the meat of the story, and probably the best part. After tying a lot of foreshadowing, chekhov’s guns, and other story details together, the novel ends — with a fairly profound message, in my opinion. I cried a little, and, well, it’s just beautiful in general.

The prose is pretty good: you can feel that the translator and/or editor did a quality job (I am more or less a Seung Park fanboy by now, given his work on translating other novels like May Sky and LEAVEs). I wish more translations, and perhaps visual novels in general, were like this; I feel I only really see this kind of writing style in doujin translations. Well, part of Grisaia no Kajitsu qualifies as well, I guess. Major props to the guys that worked on that.

The music fits well; it reminds me of the Kanon soundtrack in a good way — it gives off that winter vibe. However, I feel there could have been a few more tracks and/or track variations thrown in — one piece in particular was repeated a bit too much.

A picture demonstrating the sprite art in True Remembrance

From left to right: Rook, La, Blackiris.

The sprite art in True Remembrance is beautiful. It’s not exactly conventional beauty, though — in many ways, you can tell it’s a doujin: facial expressions are a bit quirky in general, for one. Personally, I find this more of a plus than anything else, as it helps break the mold, compared to what you see in commercial games today. There’s something about the artstyle — the sprites kind of feel like they were done in watercolor. A kind of washed-out, transparent, cold feel. It really fits the game’s winter atmosphere. The backgrounds are filtered photographs; I think they work quite well.

I do have one small gripe: the font used is kind of hard to read. It’s small, for one; I’m not sure if there’s anything else wrong with it, though. Can’t put my finger on it.

All in all, True Remembrance has my strongest recommendations in a long while. Pretty much everything about it is good, and it’s not a super-long read either (I think it took me around five hours total, but I multitasked on twitter and irc and all while reading, so take this with a decently-sized pinch of salt. Other people claim they finished in three hours.).

9/10. I hope Sekai Project (kind of a spiritual successor to Insani) eventually brings over more doujin VNs after they finish with Narcissu; all the ones Insani translated have been interesting.

Bioshock Infinite: Burial at Sea Episode 1 Review

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I loved Bioshock Infinite. The rich atmosphere, deep story, and solid game play all worked in unison to deliver a strong contender for  Game of the Year. Naturally, when Irrational Games announced the “Burial at Sea” DLC would return the game to Rapture, the locale of the first two games, I was very excited. I loved the setting of Rapture in the first Bioshock game, and the thought of seeing the city in all of its glory before the fall was a major reason I bought up this DLC. How well did it live up to the Bioshock Infinite name?

Read the rest of this entry

Review Schedule

The inside look into my procrastination!

11/14/2013: Dysfunctional Systems Ep.1 Review

11/21/2013: Saints Row IV Review

11/28/2013: Papers, Please Review

12/??/2013: Swan Song VN Review

12/??/2013: Junipers Knot Review

 

So there you have it. The short list of my upcoming review I plan to put together. Will I actually get these things out on time? What’s the line in Vegas on that?

Adventures with Crappy Games I

Listen children and gather round, for I, solidbatman, have a story to tell. You see, I was once a big Call of Duty fan. The first 3 PS2 titles were fun and usually tougher than Medal of Honor, which was also a lot of fun for me. However, one fateful day, I bought Call of Duty World at War: Final Fronts. I was excited. I was pumped. I was ready to torch some poor enemy soldier’s face off with a flamethrower.

Sadly, it was not to be. I admit it, I made a mistake in buying a game. I know all of you thought me all knowing and powerful; I still am, but my pride was wounded by this game. You see, the flamethrower was a major let down because I ended up not killing anyone with it. It was basically useless.

Now that wouldn’t have been a huge issue had a certain bug not happened. That bug is technically called, “my squad mate thought he was a god and tried to walk through a tree but instead got stuck in said tree for eternity”. I suppose in that case he is a tree god of some sorts. I did what any solider not played by Tom Hanks would do, I left him in his new found tree (I think a tree elf baking cookies joke should be inserted but no, I wont). I continued the level laying waste to my enemies and then IT happened.

A door needed to be opened. Not a problem, for I am solidbatman, a super solider that can open doo… oh wait. A squad member needs to do it? Ok, ummmm, wait. Isn’t he stuck in a tree at the beginning of the level? Oh crap… I should go get him. Well, I walked all the way back to the beginning of the level to my squad mate’s tree. Sure enough, the poor guy was still stuck in the tree, and not even all 3 of my grenades could get him unstuck. Maybe he was a tree god. Well, that was a fun hour I wasted. I took the game out of the disc tray in anger, placed it back in it’s sleeve in my Big Book of Games, and to this day, have not touched it. The moral of the story kids? Friends don’t let friends mess with trees.

-Yours truly, solidbatman

PS- This series is going to be fun. My stress levels will love it.