Category Archives: Games

Other lovely games.

Heart’s Content

Apparently there is another cute visual novel being developed in Seattle. It’s called Heart’s Content, and I stumbled across their developers’ diary when their post about The Science of Moe Drawing fell into my Technorati feed about Ar Tonelico.

Who are these guys? Is this town big enough for two such projects? I have subscribed to their blog and I will keep an eye on them for us all. That is all.

Suppoteil: Sofuran

One more reason to love GUST: Ar tonelico has been out for over half a year now, and they are still coming out with brain-sublimatingly cool promotions and fan interactions. What you see on the sidebar is our new Suppoteil, a mini version of Ar tonelico’s song-weaving magic-users, the Reiva Teil (or however they end up spelling it in English).

I’ve named her Sofuran. For me, she’s a web-based mini game with persistent stats, inventory, and costumes. For you, she’s a friendly companion on the site. She’ll even sing tracks from upcoming soundtrack CDs!

I get more and more confident that GUST is my favorite game company of all time. :D

sofuran.png

Strange..

Weird Worlds.

I’ve been playing.. a fair bit of this recently. It’s an indie game in all the right ways. Like many other indie games that have become successful enough to become sold this game has many wonderful qualities. It’s not a big game, the longest a single play of this game can possibly take you is maybe 30 minutes.. which is just perfect. It’s something like a cross between a board game, Master of Orion and Star Control. It incoporates many of the wonderful features of large, complicated space exploration games and dilutes them down into fun item-collecting, world exploring action. It still has the diversity of a lot of space exploration games (be peaceful and diplomatic, be an explorer — or just destroy everyone and rule the galaxy), as well as that quirky charm that is so often present in indie games that would just seem out of place in a larger, commercial production. If you have a PC and are looking for a great game that you don’t really need to invest a lot of time in to have a heck of a lot of fun, I think you should really try this. Very polished, excellent art and presentation, very big fun.

Demo is available on the site!

Ar-Three

I had a nasty scare today. Ar Tonelico seemed to be wrapping up, after only 20 hours and not nearly enough fun. Just when I was afraid the final credits were about to roll, I saw PHASE 1 COMPLETE. It started me on Phase 2, which suggests that I’m not more than halfway through the game yet. That’s joyous news, because before this, I can’t remember the last time I wanted to play a game more than I had time for.

I enjoy games, but often I find myself playing them not to *enjoy* them, but to *finish* them. I just want to get my money’s worth, check the game off my list, and move on to the next game to see if that one might contain the fun I’ve been looking for since finishing Xenogears. It’s still too early to say whether this could be that game, but it sure is promising.

– Gorgeous character designs

– A variety of legendary-seeming characters

– Mysterious cities in the sky

– Mysterious, powerful masked characters

– Big clunky robot enemies

– Sleek alien robot enemies

– Hundreds of illustrated items to collect

– Extensive crafting system

– Visual-novel-esque conversation system

– **Cute girls who weave magic by singing**

– **Costume system for aforementioned cute girls**

– Isometric pixel art

– Entities whose circumstances go back to way before you met them

I could go on and on and on. Every time I try to itemize all of the things about this game that please me, I get lost in the volume of them. Each one is important, and yet none of them is as meaningful as the overall sensation of *honest fun* the game offers, in its own geeky and fringey way.

I ordered the USA version of *Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana*, Gust’s other recent game, just because I want to tell them “thanks for making this kind of thing”, and I want to tell NIS America “thanks for bringing this kind of thing to my homeland”.

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Ar-two

Ar-tonelico continues to pile on the smiles. The combat is based on maintaining harmony with your Revetail, the singer who accompanies you into battle, as something of a mage-bard. That’s cool, but get this: when you craft a new item using the game’s cute little alchemy system, your current Reveteil suggests a cute name for it. Each Reveteil has her own preferences about item names, and her own way of convincing you to use her item names. You can agree with her suggestion or stick with your own name for the item. This means craftable items have several different possible names: one for each Revetail who might suggest a name, in addition to the standard name. As far as I can tell, this has no effect on the gameplay; it’s just the kind of touch that makes a solid game into an enthralling one.

Ar-to 3

Ar-to 2

Ar-to 1

Ar-Tonelico

A friend mentioned some new CRPG whose soundtrack he’d been listening to, just at the moment I was in the mood to spend some money and get into some new geeky series. I checked the site, saw the character designs, discovered that it includes a costume system, and ran out to get a copy. The first time I went, Pink Godzilla had but one copy, and it was on order for someone else. Dejectedly, I ordered a copy of my own and commenced obsessing. A week later, I dropped in to see if my copy had arrived; it hadn’t, but the existing copy was still unclaimed, and the fine Pinky-G staff judged that I deserved it more than the guy who was so late in picking it up.

So, I’m only three hours into it, but being three whole hours into a game after owning it for one night means a lot for me. I usually have to push myself to keep playing, but for once I’m back in the state of having to weigh getting enough sleep versus continuing to the next save point.

I’ve already discovered the battle system, including a harmonics system based on cute girls singing, the crafting/alchemy system which involves recipe trading cards, the Materia-like equipment-enhancement system, and the conversation system in which you try to develop a close spiritual bond with the aforementioned cute girls. There are still plenty of things in the menus that I haven’t been formally introduced to yet, like the costume system and the various other kinds of collectible cards. This is going to be fun.

I’ve found a pile of parallels to Xenogears, which is about the best endorsement I can give a game so early after meeting it. Xenogears meets Nippon-Ichi meets Sakura Taisen? Could this be for real? What’s the world coming to!?

CCScripter

The guys at insani are hosting al|together, a visual novel translation festival. They’re savvy enough to have provided Mac OS X versions of these originally Windows-only games; that got me more interested in NScripter and its free conterparts, ONScripter and CCScripter. As it turns out, with a little bit of effort one can play the original Japanese versions on Mac OS X as well, even ones that come packaged as Windows executables. Once again I’m stunned at the lovely things people give away on the internet. Playing Tsukihime or Yukihana on a Mac was an impossibility, but now thanks to someone’s hard work, it’s quite easy.

This reminds me that it’s confounding how anyone could be content to release a homemade game on Windows only, when it’s not that much effort anymore to make things available on multiple platforms. That’s especially true for things like visual novels, for which cross-platform systems (ONScripter, Java, Flash, Python, SDL, OpenGL) are available, and for which the utmost resolution and framerate isn’t necessary. Creative, quirky, nerdy people, with sophisticated aesthetic senses, use Macs. That’s your target audience, guys.

Elysion

Yesterday I started playing Elysion: Eien no Sanctuary, on the Dreamcast. It’s surprisingly enjoyable. Yokota Mamoru’s art is so distinctive that it was hard for me to separate this game from Kaen Seibo in my mind, even though they were made by completely different companies. So far Elysion feels a lot more pleasant than Kaen Seibo, with a pace that’s slow enough to be relaxing, but fast enough to be entertaining. Of course, the character designs were the primary attraction.

Expect more about this game as I get further into it.

Thing

Sakura Taisen V is over, and it was a worthy addition to the series. I had a lot of skepticism, but for the most part, Red pulled it together and gave us what we’ve come to expect.

I just popped in a couple of games I had around from my last trip to Akihabara, to see what they are like: Dousoukai 2 Again & Refrain, and Elysion. I bought both games because I like the character designers (especially Yokota Mamoru); I didn’t really know much about the games themselves. I realized that while gal-games/visual-novels are (metaphorically, but certainly not literally) a dime a dozen, the kind I really appreciate, the ones with some je-ne-sais-quoi, are quite rare. The only common themes that I can find in the ones I’ve truly enjoyed are some sense of honesty and purity.

Many games might as well say on the box, “If you’ve never had a romantic relationship and you need to simulate one, try this.” I actually don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. But that’s not a game for me. I like a game in which there happens to be a love story, and you get some control over how it unfolds. This is how I try to explain gal-games in general to people: If when you play a game, you can guide the main character’s combat, movement, and pursuit of quests to save the world, why shouldn’t you be able to guide the love story as well?

Whatever it is that makes these games so pleasant to play, I hope we can trap it in Soft Landing.

Jinsei wa Entertainment!

Jules has a new job, and it’s been consuming much of his time. We’ve just started to get back into the project last week or so, but we still haven’t had good time-chunks to work with. Meanwhile I’ve been deeply engrossed in research: I’ve reached the fifth chapter in Sakura Taisen V.

The game that most influences my own hopes for Soft Landing is certainly Sakura Taisen. Indeed, without it this project wouldn’t exist at all. I’ve tried to explain my feelings about the game before, but it’s hard to get people to understand what’s so special about these games, probably because I don’t fully understand it myself.

Jules and I had a conversation about visual novels. With a tiny bit of preparation, you can create stories that nail people right in the emotional plexus, at least as strongly as a traditional story. I suppose a visual novel, with illustrations, music, voice, and the occasional diverging story path, is not as pure as a novella made only of words in a linear stream. But that still doesn’t seem to account for why visual novels aren’t more popular than they are.

Now that Jules has discovered Tsukihime—which is theoretically playable on Mac OS X, by the way—the gal-game/visual-novel side of Soft Landing is going to get a lot more attention. Now both of us have interest in and understanding of both sides of the project. I have enjoyed and researched many gal-games and visual novels, and I have a fairly good understanding and appreciation of shooting games; Jules brings years of experience playing dozens (maybe hundreds) of shooting games, and now he has become absorbed into a few fine visual novels.

Until I have some more materials from Jules for developing the gal side, I’ve been flailing around in Garage Band, trying to come up with some music. It’s astounding how difficult it can be just to put together a simple original tune that sounds nice.