Saturday, December 28, 2013

ONCE UPON THE END

Once upon the end, a young boy known as Eric attempted to win the heart of his childhood crush. However, as mysterious masked person attacked the town, he began to experience an inconsistency of memories. Vowing to protect his town and discover the truth behind his doubts, he set out on a journey to isolate the attacker and defeat him without involving any more innocent citizens. In the midst of his journey, the boy noticed that he wasn't the only one who was suffering. A decision to either continue on his adventure for the sake of himself, or for the sake of the world, must be made.
There are three ending routes: Bad, Good, and Secret.
Should he choose to let people handle their problems themselves, it earns him the Bad Ending
But if he accepts that there are things greater than himself that are worth protecting, he gets the Good Ending
The boy might even destroy the five hidden evils, in which the truth is revealed through the Secret Ending
No matter the path, the boy will discover that his life wasn't as small as he originally believed, and that, in his life, there's no such thing as a coincidence.
[Description from voiceactiongalliance.com]

Developers(s): Kaza2929
Rating: (Not Rated)

~*~Click Here For Download~*~

{I, the reviewer, give Once Upon The End, 8 out of 10!)

COMMENTS

Once Upon the End is a fully-voiced JRPG-style game made with RPG Maker VX Ace. Funny thing, during development at Voice Acting Alliance, I was planning to audition for it myself but ended up missing the deadline. Oh well, but at least I can deliver a nice, unbiased review for you guys!

First of all, let me say that this game is HILARIOUS and VERY INTERACTIVE! The dialogue had me rolling more than once, and the best part is that when you go into houses, you can use your Action (spacebar) button on a lot of things to get random dialogue from Eric, and you MIGHT even find something, so be sure to spacebar as much as possible, or you might miss something! All the characters are quite loveable and have mostly excellent voice work. Everyone matches their characters perfectly, in voice believeable from their faces to personality. While some places can be stiff (mostly Yoko's dialogue), the voice acting often feels professional. Almost ALL the NPC and traders ARE VOICED, aside from ONE MERCHANT but his/her dialogue makes for a good joke about that, too!

Okay, now to the meat of the review; story.
You play a guy named Eric. He likes a girl named Yoko, though unfortunately is going out with Kazuo, so obviously Eric dislikes Kazuo A LOT. The beginning of the game you'll find yourself exploring random houses like a lot of JRPGs do, only there is a lot of interactions with items, which will get very fun dialogue from Eric and maybe a few items. Finally though, you go to your intended place and find Yoko there, too. Eric feels a bit depressed that Yoko, the old her he knew, may never exist again. The one who was nice to him. But then....SURGING HEADACHE! This is where the story begins.

After Eric returns home, he still gets more surging headaches, which begin to cause an inconsistency of memories. Soon chaos starts to errupt! Outside are zombies, ghosts, and ghouls, and what's worse, Eric's brother Ryan according to your sister Olice isn't back home yet! Venturing outside is for this purpose, and so you slay out zombies and form your party with Yoko, Rina, Kazuo, and new neighbor Chiyo! Still, even though you can easily shred through the threats, you and your party meet your match when a mystery masked dude shows up wanting Eric and Chiyo! This is when Eric decides to leave town, in order to lure the masked man away to protect home. With your friends accompanying you, you get tangled up in other engagements as you get further and further away from home to keep it safe.

One thing that I really liked about this game is we don't have a boring main. Eric isn't flat and he's just as entertaining as all the others, in fact, since he does have the most dialogue, he'll probably entertain you the most. I really enjoyed playing him, and his party members were excellent to bring along. I really like a good company, and it was a fun mix! There's Yoko, or magician, who seems pretty serious and can be a bit hard on Eric for no reason. There's Rina, our gunslinger, personally my favorite for her epic explosion skills. A curse was put upon her that may have brought the bad luck to town. There's also Kazuo; arrogant, jerkish, smooth, likes being with the ladies. And then the mysterious, adorable Chiyo where there's a lot more than meets the eye. Your party's classes are very cool with a lot of useful things, and honestly Rina was my favorite to play because of all her shooting and explosive skills, like her Nuclear Bomb. Very useful to end a battle fast!

The gameplay is typical for what you would have in handheld JRPGs, only this was built for the PC. It sort of makes me wish there was a way to stuff this in a GBA cartridge so I can play it anywhere with my GameBoy Advanced. The music, while borrowed, was perfectly chosen and made it fun! The "final" boss battle music made the battle REALLY enjoyable and I didn't mind how long it took, since the song was epic! Plus the optional "Bad@ss" bosses were always fun to face against, and trust me, IS worth taking them on~!

While a lot of times this game is lots of fun, with its breaking of the fourth wall and other video game references, the story holds its own. Some elements of the story may even be borrowed from other games, yet Once Upon the End makes it its own, and it's a pretty engaging story. There will be other feelings besides laughter. There is intense drama, inspiration, crying, and anticipation. I was shocked by the amount of feels this game delivered, and that I could shed tears over a game like this, but it did! The game has a total of 3 endings, though the Secret Ending is a very long extension to the "Good" ending, so you'll definitely want to get that one. The "Bad" ending was amazing in its own right, and delivered that dread and doom, showing a more intense side of Eric. While some questions still go unanswered, A LOT is brought to life and satisfied with the Secret Ending. Also, it appears there's a sequel in the works, which hopefully will tie up any loose ends left in this game.

Now this wouldn't be fair without negatives. Okay, sooo....
Some of the volume for voices were inconsistent. Also, mic quality would vary a lot. While no one's recording was terrible terrible quality, there were some peaks and breath puffs to be found. Of course, some voice acting felt a bit stiff. Cronos' wife sounded more like a valleygirl-ish teenager, though it did strangely work in an odd way though a bit out of place. Her acting in the Bad Ending though was really amazing! Also Yoko, while her voice was perfect and she often matched her personality, there were many parts I felt she was very stiff, but she does improve the further it went along. Same can be said for a few NPCs, but most of the acting was excellent, and even the under-performed had their moments that show off their potential to become amazing actors! Some of the perverted humor I could of done without, mostly the blatent stuff, and personally I am not a fan of hearing the "f" word audible at times. These were mostly my major gripes with the game.

Overall, if you've been looking for a fun, action-packed, with some feels mixed in, free JRPG style video game WITH VOICE ACTING, Once Upon The End is not only your best bet, but you will not regret it. Some parts of the game, though no animated cutscenes, felt like an anime scene as the characters were acted out so well! Admittedly, some of the blatent perverted humor and slightly excessive swearing did lower my rating just a bit, but I enjoyed it nonetheless (and I won't lie some of those jokes still got me to laugh >//<). I madly am anticipating its sequel, which I believe is going to be called Twice Upon The End.

RECOMMENDED?
YES, WITH FEELING! Not only did it deliver a lot of feels and laughter and action, but the voice acting just makes it an automatic winner. So even if the gameplay may be a bit repetitive at times, it is worth it just for the story and hearing it being voice-acted out!


PLAYER'S COMFORT

[MUSIC]:
Most of the time, the music fit the situation. Some tracks were really good. Some of the random boss battles had hilarious songs. There were a few times when a song felt out of place, but mostly good. Some of the tough boss battles were not a chore anymore with a good track blastin' as you fight!

[GRAPHICS]:
This game was made with RPG Maker VX Ace, so your standard RPG Maker style graphics. Old school JRPG with adorable little sprites, as well as well drawn character portraits and enemies. The sprites and portraits are all materials that come with the program, but this doesn't at all take away and if you've never played an RPGMaker VX Ace game before, you'll forever see them as these characters anyway~

[DIFFICULTY]:
Fairly easy, but sometimes boss battles can be pretty tough, especially when you have to take a boss down by yourself without your party. But nothing is impossible, and luckily what makes the bosses tough most of the time is their invisible high amount of HP, not their damage per hit.

[LEVELS]:
This is an RPG, so it doesn't actually have levels, but on the world map, there are a total of 6 areas; two towns, a creepy forest, a tower, a peaceful forest, and the castle where the king lives. While the map designs aren't anything spectacular, they work for the world and it's nice to not having something overly complex.

[GAMEPLAY]:
This is a JRPG style game made with RPG Maker VX Ace. It has the standard, built-in gameplay of walking around, entering houses, finding random things when you hit your action button (spacebar). You have encounters of enemies, but the battle system is not the standard system it comes with. You not only see the enemy portrait, you get to see all your party's sprites, and see them move forward as they use an attack which was nice. I also love how cute they look when they're victorious with their little jump spin! There are also a few instances where you can make choices that will effect your ending. While simple gameplay you're used to in handheld console style JRPGs, it's still fun.

[CONTENT CARD]

[LANGUAGE]
There's quite a bit of language. Your usual "d", "h", both "b" words, OMG, etc.! Some uses of "s" word is sprinkled here and there, and several instances of the "f" word, but luckily it's not every 2 seconds and feels more like it's here and there, but definitely way more than 10 times.

[TABACCO/ALCOHOL/DRUG USE]
In many buildings, you'll see wine bottles. Usually Eric says comments of refusal to drink it. Also, in one town there is a tavern where there are some drunk NPCs and you can buy beer (which amazingly restores HP and MP, though at the cost of coma a couple turns).

[SEXUAL CONTENT/NUDITY]
There are sprinkles of perverted humor, such as mentions of underwear, the word for a male's private said once, Kazuo saying how they got a "pretty good harem" (due to the amount of girls in your party), and things of that nature. When you defeat a random boss, she says how "no one's ever thrusted a sword into me like that before". A random NPC talks about when she remembers...having that thing that makes you a virgin. There's another boss where this guy wants you to beat his ero game (an "ero game" is basically a porn game) however the picture when fighting is just of a girl still in clothes and the dialogue is in Japanese (what is on that monitor screenie is unknown unless you can read Japanese). Later in the game, Eric realizes how when all the characters are partied up, they just sort of "disappear into me" though that is referring when partied it's not coded where you see their sprites follow you around. There's one market lady who says "you turn me on". Most of the stuff isn't too explicit, aside from a few blatent remarks. Most of it is just innuendo.

[VIOLENCE/BLOOD AND GORE]
Some characters have scars, there might be some blood but it's hard to tell. In battle, you just see a picture of your enemy and effects as you use different skills, no blood.
There is death and mention of death, but nothing graphic.

[RELIGIOUS MATERIAL]
There is magic use by some characters in your party.
(SPOILERS!!!!!!! There is some things about alternate dimensions and time travel, and trying to bring someone back from the dead with the method of extracting memories.)

DEADLY ATTACHMENT

It's been 4 years since Samantha last saw her stepbrother Daniel. Suddenly he comes back home for her eighteenth birhtday with his new girlfriend Jess. Sam can't be any happier - she always adored Dan and missed him terribly. But their reunion is ruined with the news of Jess' death. Police considers it to be a robbery but Sam sensising something fishy decides to start her own investigation.
[Description from LemmaSoft forums]

Developers(s): Dotama Studio
Rating: (not rated)

~*~Click Here For Download~*~

{I, the reviewer, give Deadly Attachment, 7 out of 10!)

COMMENTS

Deadly Attachment is a Kinetic murder mystery novel, the first completed project for new indie developers Dotama Studio. The story follows our main character, Samantha, on the day of her 18th birthday. Her stepbrother whom she loves and fangirls over, Daniel, comes home for the first time in 4 years. She's quite ecstatic, though jealousy soon takes over when he introduces his red-headed girlfriend, Jessica. Thankfully though, her jealousy doesn't feel too strong and she still enjoys her birthday party with her friends, though she was disappointed to see them leave early. However, upon the next day waking up from a hangover, grieve news comes out of the mouth of their parents - Jessica has been murdered! Now Samantha is out to find the truth, and the evidence she is uncovering is suspiciously leading to a place she wishes not to go.

At first glance of playing the game, it seems pretty mediocre. The main character's inner thoughts and dialogue felt flat at times, and to be honest the beginning feels pretty much uninteresting. Even after hearing about the murder occuring, it didn't really give that feeling of excitement of something sinister going on. However, once Samantha starts investigating for the truth on her own, THAT'S when it gets interesting. The writing suddenly gets a lot better, as well as the music, drawing you in and wanting to stick with it to see how this'll end.

To be honest, from the beginning I had sort of figured the story out, but even so the way it was executed was brilliantly and there were even some things part of the big reveal that were a surprise to me! I only properly guessed one major thing, but there was more to it that caught me a bit by surprise and I have to say that the ending is what makes this novel something you should at least play once!

The art is pretty good, while not jaw-dropping, they were well done and feel real. The music, though some of the beginning tracks are nothing memorable, intensifies and sounds pretty good and perfect for the game's finale. I'm not disappointed at all with its ending, as a few details caught me by surprise and it was brilliantly executed and well written. Even Samantha's dialogue and inner thoughts immediately became engaging. I also liked the picture for the end credits, that pretty much sums the story right there!

One thing that really bothered me though, which is probably a common complaint, is you still see Samantha's side sprite for her inner thoughts, which I feel take away a bit. Sometimes this can be done right, and usually the dialogue if the sprite is there too should be in parenthesis so you can tell the difference between her speaking and thoughts. Sometimes the expressions of the sprites didn't change much when they should have, leaving characters feeling a bit stiff. However, this is also remedied in the game's climax.

Overall, while maybe not the best murder mystery visual novel out there, it's worth a play through just for that ending. Let's see if you see that one coming, and this shows a lot of promise and potential from Dotama, and I look forward to future productions from them!

RECOMMENDED?
If you really like murder mysteries, this one is worth playing for the ending! Seriously, that ending was brilliantly done and unexpected even if you figured it out! Plus it's short, so you can get to the meat really quickly and yet the pacing is executed fairly well.

I certify this *VISUAL NOVEL NEWCOMER WORTHY* because it's short and simple, yet packs a good punch at the end. No need to know anything about anime cliche or anything since there are no Japanese names or references.

PLAYER'S COMFORT

[MUSIC]:
While the music wasn't anything spectacular, it fit the story. Actually, once the self-investigation of the murder and intense scenes come up, the music actually starts to get really good!

[ARTWORK]:
Pretty good. In fact, the artwork sort of attracted me in the first place. While usually not my cup of tea, the sprites are very well drawn and a nice use of colors. I really liked the few CGs that were present the most probably!

[INTERACTION]:
Being a Kinetic visual novel, there is zero interaction.
[CONTENT CARD]

[LANGUAGE]
Two or three uses of the "s" word, one use of both "b" words, and the harsher form of "ticked".

[TABACCO/ALCOHOL/DRUG USE]
There is mentioning of drinking and that Samantha has a hangover, but it isn't shown.

[SEXUAL CONTENT/NUDITY]
There really isn't. Samantha has romantic feelings toward her stepbrother Daniel, but you can't really call it incest since they aren't blood-related. Also there is a mention of having an affair, but it is only briefly mentioned and not shown.

[VIOLENCE/BLOOD AND GORE]
Being a murder mystery, someone is murdered. There are some depictions of blood, but nothing entirely gruesome, except for one CG showing the murdered victim pale and empty-eyes.

[RELIGIOUS MATERIAL]
None.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Belated Merry Christmas! (4 years of reviews)

I hope your Christmas was very, very merry!

Can you believe it? Yesterday marked the 4th year of when I officially launched this review blog! I apologize that 2013 was a lack of reviews, but I am sure you noticed the trend of visual novel reviewing and trust me, there is more where that came from!

Also today I just received a package containing volume 1 of "Z Forever" a new Christian shounen manga which has been pretty cool so far. Volume 2 is almost ready as well, so be on the look-out for my review of that!

I will also begin reviewing a lot of RPG Maker games. The one which I shall review first will be a game called "Once Upon The End" which is full of comedy, drama, and FULL VOICE ACTING! Yeah, you heard me, even random NPC dialogue is voiced!!!

I'm also going to try and review more video games (mostly indie) aside from just visual novels, and a few newer games. Also I finally got my hands on a GameBoy Advance and will review some GBA games for ya as well~

Have a cool new year and hopefully they'll be a few more reviews posted before the year is up. See ya later~!