Author Archives: zakamutt

Mortal VN Engine Annoyances: Part One

I think I’ve whined about this quite a few times: VN engines suck. Hard. In this series, I will be providing some demands. They are NOT optional. If your VN engine does not implement ALL of these, it sucks, and you should be ashamed of yourself if a single VN is made with it. Please apologize to every VN reader in the world, then carefully consider ritual suicide as a way to regain what little honor you have left.

Yes, this means that I wish death upon pretty much every VN engine programmer alive. I make no excuses.

Without further ado, here is my first area of annoyance!

Saving

Main Complaint: Limited save slots

Each and every visual novel on the PC, or on any console younger than the PS2 generation, should have no limit to the amount of saves you can create.
I have seen reviewers say that a VN has “plenty of save slots” and think this is good enough. But really – why the hell do we even need to limit ourselves to an arbitrary amount of save-state pages, holding an equally arbitraty amount of saves? The only reason you should ever limit save slots is if there is a physical limit – and let’s be honest here, most recent visual novels are in the multi-gigabyte range.

Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, I was playing Mass Effect 2. As you might know, ME2 was released on the xbox 360 simultaneously as it was released for the PC. PR claims there were separate teams working on both, but frankly, ME2 shows signs of severe consolitis at times. That is probably why it has a hilariously retarded limit on saves. I ran out, and I raged.

There is a mod that can help with this – and I installed it – but why couldn’t developers just have flipped off the variable that limited the number of saves? This should take around three minutes or less for any programmer more proficient than an ape, and most of that time would be used to find the appropriate piece of code to change.

Of course, quite a few of the worst-offender VNs were not console-first or even console-simultaneous releases. And at that point… Well, I may or may not be assembling intel for a kill list right now, and planning a trip to Japan.

Worst offenders:

Tsukihime – Tsukihime has many choices, many bad ends, and 20 save slots that have no memo slot or picture, only a timestamp. I cannot overstate just how hilariously terrible this was. Well, I suppose you can’t expect much more from an NScripter game. Jesus, thank god NScripter seems to be dead by now.

Ever17 – Ever17 is slightly better than Tsukihime at 50-something save slots. Slightly. If you save at every choice… Yeah, you’re going to run out. And lord knows, Ever17 has a few.

999: Nine Hours Nine Persons Nine Doors – 999 has only one save slot.

ONLY ONE SAVE SLOT.

ONLY. ONE.

Alright, there are, technically, some minor metafictional reasons for this. But honestly… at this point, just suspend our goddamn disbelief already.

Analogue: A Hate Story – I swear, Christine Love deliberately set out to piss me off here. Not only are the saves limited (in Ren’py, an engine that can support unlimited saves with tinkering…) but they are limited to like, four pages of four saves! This is insane!  There wasn’t a space problem in the UI or anything, she could easily have added more folders. Analogue has a multitude of choices and paths, and I’d have liked to explore my options better – especially picking if you are male or female and seeing the differences in AI behavior is interesting. But no. Christine Love shat all over me in that regard.

Meh, I pirated it anyway.

Almost there:

Aoishiro – Aoishiro had a pretty good save system, I thought. Those nine different categories let you do plenty of organizing, and the vertical columns in each could potentially scroll downwards infinitely.

A screenshot of Aoishiro's save screen

It looks so promising, doesn’t it?

And then you see that there is a Save Limit of 99.

WHYMVJIFRMWJU09RJYF84UICDKEWPCKDI9C8R9W0JCU8EWJCUIDEMCDIJOENCEDWnchudenhcudonjicdiocnx!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

OH YES:

Katawa Shoujo – Katawa Shoujo is the only VN I’ve read so far that has unlimited saves. There are many more technological things to praise: the movies play smoothly on my faptop, the scrollback is pretty innovative, there’s the unique Scene Select (note: that’s not H-scene select)…

A picture showing Katawa Shoujo's save screen.

Yet another reason Katawa Shoujo rocks!

Unfortunately, even Katawa Shoujo isn’t quite perfect. For one, it doesn’t have a categorizing system like Aoishiro above, or the ability to set memos. Hmm, let’s just formalize the rest of my REQUIREMENTS:

Other things your engine MUST have:

*Each save element should have a picture of the scene it occurs in; a screenshot is probably the best choice.

*Each save element should have a memo field where you can freely enter text.

*Each save element should have a timestamp.

*Each save element should have a small, changeable icon with around 5 pictures to choose from.

*The save screen should have some kind of organizing system; probably a folder-based one would be the best. Look at Aoishiro up there for a decentish implementation, though a scrollable F/SN style multi-column and row one would probably be the best.

Fate/Stay Night does not have unlimited saves, but it does practically everything above perfectly…  So, it’s too bad that F/SN has hilariously many choices and 50 bad ends in total, so you will use up all save slots if you are remotely like me. I was really hoping I could shorten my kill list a bit, but no.

Extra credits:

These are not required to escape my wrath, but I would appreciate them:

*Memo space  autopopulated with relevant info.

*Indicator of whether the save is at a choice point or not.

*Feature to autosave at every choice.

Oh, and while we’re at it, stop saving in goddamn my documents or appdata. Do that shit in the game folder in /SAVES or something. It’s worked for ages, and doesn’t have problems when users play with different privileges and can’t save to the right folders and stuff.

—-

This isn’t the end of my list of Mortal Annoyances (of course not…) For more advice on not being killed by me, check out next week’s article when it comes out.

VN OST commentary and appreciation, second edition (Possibly Anime OSTs Too ~ Based shcboomer)

Hi and welcome to the second installment of our sunday OST thingy. I have no idea where boomer went, maybe off into RL land or something – maybe he was just still tired from subbing LB refrain :s. I hope he’ll come back here to edit this post with some more tracks and comments. I myself am going to be trying to sleep and/or read Little Busters as soon as I post this…

Well, without further ado:


While I can concede that Katawa Shoujo has inconsistent CGs, meh prose, sometimes meh pacing, and isn’t really the best VN out there (though still good, and worthy of an 8 in my opinion,) anyone ripping on NicolAmarfi’s hauntingly beautiful tracks may find themselves being ripped to pieces.

By me.

At its best the Katawa Shoujo soundtrack is just as good as tracks from some of the best VN OSTs I’ve heard; G-Senjou comes to mind here. Actually, I prefer Katawa Shoujo’s OST compared to G-Senjou’s when it comes to listening to their tracks outside of their respective VNs.

To be honest, I wanted to just tell you listen to the whole effing Katawa Shoujo soundtrack here (and then admit that there are some weak tracks…)

Well, I guess I can. Yup, all the music in KS, for free.


I can’t help but feel that this track’s name is written with quite a bit of sarcasm in mind. Maybe it’s just me having imprinted on the scenes where I remember it being played in Rewrite, but… I feel like it describes someone who is living out a hollow life, “satisfied” but longing for something more, depression waiting just under the surface. Someone desperately trying to convince themself everything is alright.

But maybe I’m projecting, here.


Aah, this vn… It deserves so much more attention. The lyrics to its songs are all full of foreshadowing and meaning in their own way, beside the songs being pretty beautiful musically. The rhythm minigame did make batman rage, though. Incidentally, I reckon Fuwanovel has by far the best torrent for SR, due to the rather complicated procedure needed to install it from scratch (I’ve done it. I know.) Oh, and an actual nonshit bat file! Yay!

Full disclosure: I may or may not have been heavily involved in the making of that torrent.

Sorry about the low quality video. The actual VN is 640×480, and I couldn’t be bothered to letterbox or upscale it. I mean, this is recorded with OBS while raging at the lack of other sufficiently lyriced videos.

My favorite track from SR is actually Melody, but the lyrics are a bit too spoilery for my taste – it’s Fal’s ED, more or less. Damn, Fal was such an interesting character too.

———————————————————–

Guess I’ll have to take it from here, this is shcboomer reporting in. Sorry I’m late to the party, but real life struggles (mostly exams) have gotten the best of me lately. On top of having to sub for Refrain Subs, I also had a few other PR things to handle this week. It’s been pretty hectic, but I’m here now.

Let’s start off with a VN OST that I’ve been listening to quite a bit while studying. It’s yet another OST from G-Senjou no Maou which happens to also be on my playlist. It’s sung by Rekka Katakiri and written by kanoko. The music is composed and arranged by Junpei Fujita.

Next we have an OST from the Little Busters! ~Refrain~ anime, although this song is fairly old. It was released by Key back in back in 2003 on the album Spica/Hanabi/Moon. Hanabi is used in the anime as an ED for Rin2. The  music and lyrics are composed by Jun Maeda and arranged by Yuu Hagiwara. Lia is the vocalist for all three songs found on the album which includes Hanabi.

The last pick for me this week is 届かない恋 ’13 or Todokanai Koi ’13 from the anime adaptation of White Album 2. It is an updated version of 届かない恋 or Todokanai Koi from the White Album 2 ~Introductory Chapter~ OST. The song is composed by Shinya Ishikawa, arranged by Shuntaro Kobayashi, and the lyrics are written by Naoko Sutani. Rena Uehara is the vocalist for this song.

If you like VNs, you might enjoy these games

Personally, my main reason for reading visual novels are the engaging stories they tell. There are people who go more for the pretty-girl dating aspects; I still love this as well (and I just thought of Isuzu’s dere in Hoshimemo and hnnged,) but not to the point of excluding less character-oriented games with no sexual activity present.

What I’m going to list here are not necessarily visual novels; some kind of gameplay is present in most of them. However, they are text-heavy story-oriented games, and all good: if you’re anything like me, you should give them a go.

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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.

Hoshizora no Memoria – vaguely coherent Common + Asuho’s route commentary

Hi, I’m Zakamutt. I’m a NEET and a guy who will do guest posts (primarily about Visual Novels) here  (also, holy batman the batman is prolific. I’m not gonna post that often). I’ll probably have an exhaustive, expressive, and exhilarating bio up on a separate page soon enough, for my ego demands its dues.

As you can see, I enjoy sesquipedalianism to a great extent. Should my verbiage bedazzle you, you may wish to consult a dictionary, or optionally just holler in the comment section.

…Sorry. Time to get to the actual content now, I guess. What content? Well, peruse the title of this post, and your inquiry will be at least partially satisfied.

This night, I finished Asuho’s route in Hoshizora no Memoria – along with Sono Hanabira ni Kuchizuke o 4, part of my go-to series for fap material. — “This night” is, of course, getting increasingly inaccurate as I spend more time on this draft. Oh well.

Kaede and Sara from sonohana 4 in bridal dresses.

I was going to put a hoshizora no memoria picture here, but then yuri happened.

Hoshimemo, as it’s usually shortened, is a romantic visual novel in a high school setting. It’s mostly a pure love story, but has some supernatural stuff thrown in as well (since this is my first completed route, I don’t know how much of a factor it will be in the other routes). As one might expect, this has already been done before, with some frequency. With that said, Making a good title in the genre depends more heavily on storyline quality and execution than having an interesting setting. Does Hoshizora no Memoria have what it takes to break out of the mediocrity of the moe-game trench? We shall see.

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