Friday, January 2, 2015

Belated Happy New Year! (5 years of reviews!)

On Christmas Day marked the 5th year of this blog's running. I apologize for not being able to write very many reviews, 2014 was a very rough year for me, but I promise I have not forgotten about this blog! I really love to write reviews. I have come a long way since I wrote reviews, my old entries are kinda embarrassing to be honest, but hey, you learn! I do intend to post some more visual novel and indie game reviews. I will also be starting to review UTAU voicebanks as well, and hopefully, Vocaloid (there are two voicebanks I am saving up for, wish me luck!!) And of course, I hope to review some more anime, such as Hamatora: The Animation, Yamishibai season 2, The Devil is a Part-Timer, etc.! I also plan to review some fanfiction once again, as I had only done that once.

Friday, June 13, 2014

YAMISHIBAI: JAPANESE GHOST STORIES

Yamishibai is a picture-story style of animation whose motif is surrounded and based off the rumors, and urban legends throughout the history of Japan.
[Crunchyroll description]

Original Japanese Title: Yamishibai (Dark Play)
Dubbed by: There is no dub, you can watch it subbed on Crunchyroll.
Animation: ILCA
Manga adaption?: No, but the stories are based on Japanese urban legends.
Rating: (not rated)

{I, the reviewer, give Yamishibai, 9 out of 10!}

COMMENTS

Now, this is sure one unique anime, if you can even call it anime. Yamishibai is not exactly animated, but is told in the style of Japanese kamishibai storytelling (paper theater). The artwork in the series is very good and unique, sometimes the style is better in other episodes, but in general it gets the job done and creates for a unique atmosphere.

Each episode is about almost 5 minutes each, so you can easily marathon it. While some might not like the "animation" and style-choice, stick around a few episodes and you'll be pleasantly surprised. The introduction with an old man telling children the ghost stories and the way it is conducted seems like it is also geared toward children, so the family can enjoy this series if you like ghost stories and are interested in Japanese urban legends. That doesn't mean you'll not get scared, by any means, many of the stories are creepy and smack you in the face sometimes with a jump-scare! This proves that excessive gore and blood aren't needed to freak you out; Yamishibai does what a lot of horror lacks, that is, providing a creepy atmosphere and then really scaring you by the story's revelation or ending. So it was nice not having to worry about blood rivers and entrails being pulled out (the worst the series gets is a strange, fleshy creature in episode 6).

Be sure to pay attention to what characters are moving; there were some points where I was confused as to who was talking (mainly in episode 10), other than that, that's really my only complaint since they have no lip flaps.

While some stories are obviously better executed than others, the series as a whole managed to at least creep me out, but often times my eyes would widen and I did sometimes jump. It builds tension as things start winding down to the end, which is exactly what I like in a scary story! Plus the fact that these are based on Japanese urban legends makes it really interesting. I highly look forward and anticipate season 2 of the summer season!

Recommend?
YES! If you like ghost stories, and are interested in learning about Japanese urban legends, you'll enjoy this! Especially if you're looking for something fresh in terms of animations.

I certify this *ANIME NEWCOMER WORTHY* as well, it's not the traditional anime-style, it's an animated form of the paper theater storytelling method and the art-style for it is nice. It's also safe enough where kids who are old enough can watch, so it can be enjoyed by the whole family.

[VIEWING PLEASURE]

[MUSIC]
The music fit the atmosphere quite well. While I can't say the pieces were memorable, a lot of horror scores aren't but they do their job. However, the ending song appears to be sung by Vocaloud Hatsune Miku, which was interesting.

[SUB VS. DUB]
There is no dub, but you can watch it subbed on Cruncyroll. The voice acting is pretty good. There were only a few times it felt stiff, but most of the time it was done pretty well.

[MOVIES/MANGA]
None.

[RELATED TITLES]
None.

[DVD EXTRAS]
I watched this on Crunchyroll.

[CONTENT CARD]

[LANGUAGE]
In the sixth episode, there are some uses of "d" and "h", but that's about it.

[TOBACCO/ALCOHOL/DRUG USE]
None.

[SEXUAL CONTENT/NUDITY]
None.

[VIOLENCE/BLOOD AND GORE]
Some episodes have a little bit of blood, but that's usually it. If someone is attacked or about to die, it usually ends before you see it occur. The worst case would be in episode 6 when (*SPOILER* You see this disgusting fleshy thing on the train, with misplaced eyeballs and it wraps around the man).

[RELIGIOUS MATERIAL]
Some episodes have ghosts and monsters in them, one episode has a ritual where you have to laugh all night 'lest a creature appears, and another episode involved a priestess trying to cure a girl from the wrath of their ancestors.

*EPISODE LIST*
1. The Talisman Woman
2. Zanbai
3. The Family Rule
4. Hair
5. The Next Floor
6. The Overhead Rack
7. Contradiction
8. The Umbrella Goddess
9. Cursed
10. The Moon
11. Video
12. Tomonari-kun
13. Tormentor

Thursday, May 29, 2014

LITTLE MUSHROOM'S STORY

It was fun to spend my days surrounded by my dear friends. But time and people change everything...
[Smackjeeves description]

Manga-Ka: Hetiru
Distributor: Online exclusive
Format: Left-to-right
Rating: PG

~*~Click Here To Read~*~

{I, the reviewer, give Little Mushroom's Story, 5 out of 10!}

COMMENTS

This was....an interesting story to say the least. It is about a girl, but to be more specific, she is a mushroom. I can't really say much without ruining the story, but all the dialogue is the mushroom girl narrating her life and a tragedy occurs near the end.

While I find the concept very interesting, the story lacked the depth and intrigue it could of had. The art in this story is AMAZING; I love the outfit designs and the detail and screentone. The story concept itself may be weird, but unique and catches your eye. The storytelling and shortness, however, is this manga's downfall. At only 12-page, it is pretty short and doesn't deliver much or leave much of an impact like it should have by the way the mangaka set it up. The writing seems a bit odd, but I can give a pass on this since it was not written by a native English speaker.

Overall, the art is cute, and the concept is very interesting, and while the idea seems full of potential, the actual execution could use some work next time, with more fleshing out.

RECOMMENDED?
It's worth a look for the interesting idea and pretty art.

[CONTENT CARD]

[LANGUAGE]
None.

[TABACCO/ALCOHOL/DRUG USE]
None.

[SEXUAL CONTENT/NUDITY]
None.

[VIOLENCE/BLOOD AND GORE]
Not really.

[RELIGIOUS MATERIAL]
Nothing, other than the fact the mushrooms are alive I guess?

JUNIPER'S KNOT

A short kinetic novel crafted in a month by Dischan, Juniper’s Knot is a story told from dual perspectives: that of a demon and a boy. It begins on an autumn morning in a silent town.
[Description from official site]

Developers(s): dischan
Rating: 13+

~*~Click Here For Download~*~

{I, the reviewer, give Juniper's Knot, 8 out of 10!}

COMMENTS

Back in 2012 I think it was, the visual novel team dischan, the same dischan that was working on a title called Cradle Song (now seems to become non-existent now, so I am guessing is cancelled) released this title for the annual NaNoRenO. For those unaware of what NaNoRenO is, it's a game jam where you make a Ren'Py visual novel in the month of March. And let me tell ya, this is a top tier free visual novel, and is sometimes hard to believe it was done in a month!

It is a story of a demon and a boy, who both remain nameless throughout the entire story. The demon has been imprisoned for so long, even she does not remember, until one day she hears a sound stir in her dwelling place. A boy who has lost his way finds himself before the demon, and he's automatically knows she's a fiend, as they call them. The two begin to engage in conversation, the boy untrusting, and the demon somewhat playful and toying. However, as they talk and spend their time, being with the boy stirs something inside her, what is it? Is it hatred? Is it not wanting to be alone? As for the boy, he knows he cannot trust a fiend, but seeing her like this... does he feel sorrow for her?

To be honest, I can't believe I have skipped out on this story for so long! Being from dischan, you'd think I'd jump at the chance to download this as soon as it came out since I enjoyed the Cradle Song preview, and in fact, dischan is how I discovered Ren'Py in the first place. What actually got me to download it now was I started a "VN Club" on an anime message board, and someone suggested we play Juniper's Knot next, and I decided to make that our Week 2 reading. And I am happy with it. Sure, it is not perfect, by all means, but amazing for a month's work!

I was impressed with the number of CGs this had. Usually NaNoRenO novels have little to no CGs, but this is one of the rare few that has more than one would expect. The dialogue is excellent and intriguing to read, though some sentences do flow oddly at times and there may have been a mistake or two, but being under time constraints, they got it to as professional and polished as humanly possible. Even the menu interface is customized, instead of the default version. But what really amazed me was...THE MUSIC! It appears to be all original, tailored for Juniper's Knot, which is quite a feat and really unique and rare to find in NaNoRenO projects. If you didn't know this was a NaNoRenO entry, you wouldn't have guessed.

Overall, I was impressed and enjoyed it more than I thought. Not just the art and music, but the story and the two characters. You get to see through both their POVs, but you see through the demon's probably the most. Their interaction with each other were very interesting, especially when the demon started to devulge more details about herself. My only disappointment, however, would be that one detail was never revealed, but that probably wasn't the point of the story anyway, though I'm still curious about it. All in all, this was an excellent read I wouldn't mind reading over, and I hope to see more from dischan!

RECOMMENDED?
It's Kinetic, not too long, and free, why not give it a go? It's a top-tier free novel on top of that, and you won't believe it was made in a month~

PLAYER'S COMFORT

[MUSIC]:
Superb! It's all original music for this novel alone, and works quite well. I especially loved the music used for intense, emotional parts. My favorite track is probably "Bleeding".

[ARTWORK]:
Excellent! The most distinctive part of the art that makes it dischan is probably the way of the coloring, that's what really feels eye-catching to me how smooth and blended it looks, almost as if it is traditionally colored.

[INTERACTION]:
None, this is a Kinetic novel.

[CONTENT CARD]

[LANGUAGE]
"h" is used most, some "d" but often times in the actual useage of the word. During's the demon's lament, she uses some harsh, more foul words like a certain "c" word, and both "b". I think there was a couple name taken in vain, too.

[TABACCO/ALCOHOL/DRUG USE]
None.

[SEXUAL CONTENT/NUDITY]
The demon tells of a story of a girl she seemed to fancy and loved, the "press close when no one would see" seems to hint a romantic kinda love, and even the boy mentions thinking she "fancied her", but other than that it isn't quite confirmed and might not be in that way, who knows. It is also briefly mentioned this girl was raped by some men. The demon's outfit shows a cleavage line, but is more tasteful than alluring.

[VIOLENCE/BLOOD AND GORE]
*SPOILERS!!!* More descriptive than anything, when the demon tells the boy of her killing spree, she describes quite in detail how she wiped out an entire town. And trust me, it was gruesome, with the mentions of pulling out guts and all that. The only shown violence is in a CG where she demonstrates how she cannot leave the circle she is bound to, and how it burns her hand, which mostly just looks red and engulfed in flames.

[RELIGIOUS MATERIAL]
This is a story about a fiend girl, in other words, a demon, bound to a circle in a lonely, desolate place. If she tries to leave, she will burn. *SPOILER* The only way out is if she switches with another life, and the boy finds a way around that by planting a tree.

SEPIA TEARS

Sepia Tears is a love story.

There are no robots or vampires, for better or worse. It's about a high schooler named Mark, an ordinary protagonist with a memory that he tries very hard to forget. It's also about a girl named Myra who knows more about him than any stranger should, and who reminds him uncannily of his past.

Together, they search for a storybook romance and realize that love doesn't always bloom as neatly as it ought to.
[Description from official website]

Developers(s): Team NEET
Rating: All Ages

~*~Click Here For Download~*~

{I, the reviewer, give Sepia Tears, 9 out of 10!}

COMMENTS

Yet again, another large file sized visual novel, this time a slice of life by Team NEET. This appears to be their first work, and I sure hope it isn't their last, because I highly enjoyed this novel and have played through it TWICE already, and plan to go on a third run.

We begin with a narration about winter and nostolgia, then a dream with a girl who introduces herself as "the girl you wish you never met". You take the role of Mark, who has otaku for a little sister (Rin) and best friend (Mark), and another friend (Lillian) who tries to get him to study more. However, the most interesting character is a mysterious girl named Myra who he doesn't remember, but she sure seems to know a lot about him. There is something vaguely familiar, but you can't figure it out, and Myra promises to stay with you until you "regains your lost memories".

Despite what it may seem, this really is a slice-of-life, but the way it is written feels like there is something more mystical about it. The vagueness of some scenes are well played, with the first dream and the first meeting with Myra being the best written sequences in the story. Aside from the main plot, the antics and fun otaku-ness of Rin and Lukas are entertaining and make for the best comic relief. Sometimes even Myra has crazy antics, and her knowledge about Mark makes you want to find out exactly who she is and why she can appear and disapepar so easily without a trace. All the vagueness comes to a conclusion that is most likely impossible to guess. I loved how the story played out, the conclusion, the characters, and especially how the dialogue was written. There was such a feeling of more for such a simple story. The art and music was befitting for its mystical simplicity, and I found myself entranced, wanting to finish the novel to the end. Another thing I enjoyed was how clean this story was. Even with some of the innuendo, nothing was ever blatent and some of this stuff was just references to the cliches in the VN world.

Now, anything bad I can point out? Not with the game itself, but a couple of problems. One bonus CG never unlocks and I am sure I have played this game with every possibility in choice (I saved at all choice spots and have played them all). Also, if you don't want to get spoiled, DO NOT open the "games" folder within this game's main folder; they have appeared to have forgotten to archieve their assets.

Anyway, I was pretty enchanted by this story. While the adjectives "masterpiece" and "breath-taking" is not what you would use for this story, "beautiful" and "strangely mystical" I think would fit here. It's simple, but with an air of mystery to it, but it is as the description says; there are no robots or vampires, for better or for worse. And I say for better in this case! I look forward to see more from Team NEET in the future. This game proves, at a whopping but worth it file size of 600MB, again how free visual novels can be just as good as some of the commercial ones. I wouldn't mind playing a sequel even~

RECOMMENDED?
Yes, highly! You can't go wrong with a free story, and this was a pleasant surprise.

PLAYER'S COMFORT

[MUSIC]:
The music was really relaxing and pretty, perfect for the game's atmosphere. I really enojyed it, actually.

[ARTWORK]:
Very nice. I like how it still had a bit of rough, slightly amatuerish style to it, but it was still up to par and I guess would be considered "semi-professional". The character designs were nice, chibi scenes were adorable, and the CGs were lovely~

[INTERACTION]:
This is more of what they call a Linear Novel; while there are occasional choices, you will still arrive at the same ending. There are a couple of "bad ends" which ends the game in a black screen and don't really count much for endings.

[CONTENT CARD]

[LANGUAGE]
A few "d" and "h", but that's about it.

[TABACCO/ALCOHOL/DRUG USE]
None.

[SEXUAL CONTENT/NUDITY]
Minor innuendo. Mark's friend Lukas loves to play visual novels, and one time tells Mark "it's art, not porn!" (referring to H-Games). Mark's little sister, Rin, sometimes acts in a way referencing to Imouto routes (in some bishoujo games, the little sister is obtainable) but only because she is an otaku and Mark doesn't care nor remotely ever has those kinda feelings toward her. When Rin meets Myra, she thinks she is his secret girlfriend and wants him to devulge all the (non-existent) dirty details.

[VIOLENCE/BLOOD AND GORE]
Other than Rin practicing one of her "martial arts" moves on Mark in a chibi CG, none.

[RELIGIOUS MATERIAL]
*SPOILER SPOILER* While the ending has a logical conclusion, on one possible path to the ending, one of the choices you make throws you back a little earlier in the story to try again, so it almost feels like you time-traveled, but if you keep making the same choice you'll just loop until you make the other one or choose the choice that leads you to a dead end. *END SPOILER*

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

COFFEE RUSH

The Smokestack Coffee Company is polluting the town with bad coffee. Open your own coffee shop and take back the town. Swap coffee beans, milk, sugar and other tasty ingredients to prepare a menu full of tasty blends. Hold on tight for a fully wired rollercoaster ride through seven neighborhoods, each with its own unique cast of 12 characters and 50 challenges. Upgrade your shop, recipes, treats and bonuses. Need a jolt? Load up with caffeine and bolt around with three skill levels.
[Description from Wildtangent Games]

Platform: PC
Developer(s): Anarchy Games
Rating: E

{I, the reviewer, give Coffee Rush, 9 out of 10!}

COMMENTS

I never really liked coffee, even when I was able to drink it. It's bitter and gross unless you douse it with sugar, which only makes it the more dangerous. But enough about that, let's talk about this fun little casual game called Coffee Rush. As you can guess by the title, obviously it is about coffee. And let me tell you, it is FUN!

Even a simple game needs a plot, right? Well, this one has it! A man is runninf a terrible coffee shop called Smokestack, where he makes the lowest quality coffee and gains maximum profit. He's already taken over the map, running his competition into the ground (not sure how, if his coffee sucks). That's where you come in, opening a new coffee shop that is quality, and the goal is to run Smokestack out of the city. You begin with a small, humble coffee shop that sells a typical cup of joe, and your usual customers start out as cops and nurses (stereotypes, yes, but come on, it's true!)

Now, this is a game within the Match 3 genre, but of course with its own unique twist. Your "match 3" parts are ingredients for the customer's coffee recipie. You earn tokens while playing, which is used to buy things such as treats to keep your customers patient, and more coffee recipies to make more money. The game gets harder by the day with bigger goals and more kinds of coffee to serve, and you will attract more and more different kinds of customers. You begin with everyday people, like the soccer mom, drill sargent, hippie, body builder, etc.! but then soon attract the rich and famous like a disco legend, gorgeous movie star, an heiress, and even a mobster!

For such a simple game, it is ADDICTING! If you can't get addicted to the real stuff (like me), you'll get addicted to this game, trust me. It's one of the most fun match 3 games I have ever played, and is a nice change from my usual battle gaming. What makes this game so enjoyable is probably the customer's patience meter. When the meter gets lower and lower, they begin to get MAD! Perfect for a game about coffee, right? The voice acting in this game is HILARIOUS! Everyone matches their characters, and although it's not good for your scores, you'll find yourself laughing and smiling throughout the game since it is pretty funny when a customer gets mad, or worse, storms out since they can't stand waiting any longer!

The graphics in this game isn't spectacular, but the art style and simplicity works for what it is. The characters are flatly animated chibi that are often pretty cute in their own way. Gameplay is simple, matching up 3 ingredients that are used for a character's order. It can get pretty intense when you have A LOT of customers rolling in, though. It has enough levels to keep you entertained and challenged the further you go, and three different "expresso" modes (difficulty). The game sadly has a lack of music, so the soundtrack is repetitive, but strangely doesn't get annoying like you think it would. The game seems pretty stable, I haven't run into any errors really thus far, except one time where you literally COULD NOT match 3, you hear a weird sound and then you just see your scores (luckily I made the Today's Goal, so I didn't lose). This only happened to me ONCE and I've played this game a lot, usually the program always makes sure you can match 3.

Overall, the game is fun, with a simple plot, fun characters, and fairly challenging and relaxed gameplay that is good for your mind in a way. It's good to get your brain working a little bit, as well as speed~

RECOMMENDED?
YESSS!!! If you love Match 3s, this is one of the best! If not, give it a try anyway. Trust me, you'll have fun!

PLAYER'S COMFORT

[MUSIC]:
Repetitive, yet it works. With only a one song for each different part of the game (the cutscene, the map, the shopping, and the actual gameplay), it surprisingly doesn't get annoying.

[GRAPHICS]:
Cartoony, with cheesy-looking chibi characters, but it's cute and works for the game.

[DIFFICULTY]:
This comes with three different "Expresso" modes. I've already begun on Double Expresso and there is a noticeable difference in difficulty. But even on just the easy Expresso mode, it can get pretty challenging when a customer loses patience, you have nothing left to increase it back, and the match 3s of ingredients you need for their order are not appearing for you. So as you go on, the game does get harder with more complex coffee recipies, longer store hours, and bigger money goals.

[LEVELS]:
Each day is a level, and there's about 50 of them. You have about five or more locations, such as the suburbs, tech city, etc.! until you get to downtown. The locations just have the shop background look different, and you unlock new characters along the way.

[GAMEPLAY]:
Very simple gameplay. This is just anothet twist in the Match 3 genre of games. Instead of simply matching 3 gems, instead you match 3 ingredients which are used for different kinds of coffee, suchs as ice cubs, thunderbolts (caffeine), cream, milk, sugar, and coffee beans. You earn tokens you can buy more recipies with, as well as treats to keep your customers calm. The game is very simple and easy, but man, it's addicting!

[CONTENT CARD]

[LANGUAGE]
None.

[TABACCO/ALCOHOL/DRUG USE]
The owner of Smokestack is seen with a cigar in his mouth, and I think the mobster customer has a cigar in his hand sometimes (but isn't seen smoking it).

[SEXUAL CONTENT/NUDITY]
The Heiress has a short dress, and the movie star has I guess an old-school sexy dress (she's like a knock-off of Mariyln Monroe). The body-builder doesn't have a shirt on.

[VIOLENCE/BLOOD AND GORE]
None. When customers get mad and storm out, some make physical threats, but it's in a comical way. The alien is seen with a laser gun.

[RELIGIOUS MATERIAL]
None.

Monday, May 26, 2014

PHASE SHIFT

Boy meets girl. Boy is a cynic. Girl is just a tad bit strange and not what she seems on the surface... A friendship is born and perhaps a new phase in their lives will begin to move. But this is just a small story within a bigger picture.

Developers(s): MaiMai
Rating: All Ages

~*~Click Here To Download~*~

{I, the reviewer, give Phase Shift, 7 out of 10!)

COMMENTS

A music box that caused the shedding of tears for no reason. That seemed to be an important object in the story. While the prologue belonged to the girl in the story, Ai Thao, we see through the eyes of Kawamura Kazuhiko, or just Kazuhiko as he prefers. Kazuhiko is a guy who has gone through a lot in life, and now has taken up a "I could care less" attitude. One day, while deciding to skip school, he mets a girl sitting on the stairs of an apartment place. They begin to converse, and more and more he finds the girl pretty interesting (despite never admitting to such), but something about her vagueness about herself is bothersome and he can't understand why.

Phase Shift is an interesting story to say the least. Kazuhiko's narrative was an interesting one, a bit negative, but a lot more interesting than most male protagonists commonly found in visual novels. His character reminded me of a harsher version of Koda from Ripples. But trust me, this story is nothing like Ripples, as the girl, Ai Thao, is very strange and vague, with a background that is just as much as a mystery as herself. The writer said the story was vague on purpose, and promises a sequal which has yet to surface, considering how many years have passed since this game's initial release.

The game is not perfect. I could tell there probably wasn't much proofreading, as some parts were awkward with what felt like missing words, though most of the time you could figure out what was being said, but it can be bothersome at times. There isn't much artwork, just some filtered backgrounds, a couple sprites with a few expressions, and not a single CG. Despite this, though, the story and writing style was interesting enough to have me finish it and hope for its sequal. I've always liked vaguely written stories, as it adds a sense of mystery and intrigue to a story. If A Minute To Midnight, this game's sequal ever gets released, I can fairly say I am interested enough to see what happens and learn more about Ai Thao and see everything come to light.


RECOMMENDED?
Sure! If you don't mind its vagueness, it's a pretty interesting, quick read.

PLAYER'S COMFORT

[MUSIC]:
Simple, but befitting to the story. It feels just right~

[ARTWORK]:
It's not the best art in the world, but it's nothing that'll burn your eyes. Cute and on the childish side.

[INTERACTION]:
None, it's Kinetic.

[CONTENT CARD]

[LANGUAGE]

[TABACCO/ALCOHOL/DRUG USE]
Brief mention of the main character's mother taking up drinking.

[SEXUAL CONTENT/NUDITY]
None.

[VIOLENCE/BLOOD AND GORE]
Brief mention of main character's father having his arm blown off.

[RELIGIOUS MATERIAL]
*SPOILER SPOILER* It is very vague, but in brief mention of Thao's background, she appears to have the ability to read people and know things. At the end of the story, it appears she has Kazuhiko forget they ever met.