Archive for January, 2013

Solomon’s Ring – An early lock for Worst Otoge of 2013?

January 26th, 2013

As you can guess by the title, I’m not impressed by Solomon’s Ring. When it first showed up in the magazines, I was surprised because the release date was only about 3 months away. I thought for sure that it would get delayed. Now, delays are annoying when you’re looking forward to games (ahem, Ozmafia!) but I don’t mind them so much, because if they don’t push things off, they might end up with products like this. To be frank, Solmomon’s Ring has a really shallow story and characters, poor art design, and only functional gameplay.

The heroine, Lily, works in a library that she inherited from her grandfather (her parents died when she was young). I thought this was interesting (although I also thought it was historical but apparently it’s not), but it has no bearing on the plot so it doesn’t matter much. We open on the scene of her grandfather dying. On his deathbed, literally with his last words, he gives a ring to her and tells her she’s the descendant of the magician king Solomon, and that she has to protect the world from demons using the ring. Then he dies (I guess he knew exactly how much energy he needed to tell her and then waited until the last possible second because of some unknown reason).

Lily puts away the ring for a year, then one day feels like wearing it for some reason (she doesn’t mention the Solomon stuff, I guess she thought her grandfather was senile or something). She goes to work at the library, and three new visitors are hanging around – all young handsome men. They all approach her and start talking to her, calling her ‘Solomon’s daughter’. She mostly ignores them.

That night she has a dream (this is where you choose what route to go into) of being attacked by monsters, and saved by one of the men. The next day this actually happens, and she finds out that all three men are actually demons, and they want her power/the ring’s power, for various reasons. The one she picks stays with her and they encounter some monsters, and as they beat them down (the ring can seal them and absorb their power once they’re beaten), they grow closer. Then near the end they eventually have to face the king of demons, Lucifer, who wants to take the powered-up ring as well as the heroine’s powered-up soul.

Many otome games can be summarized in roughly similar terms. The issue is that it feels like the whole script for the game isn’t much longer than this blog post. Almost all the plot and relationship development happens offscreen (like, they talk about battles after showing you a couple blows, and they mention that the hero and heroine had long in-depth conversations without actually showing them). There are almost no scenes where you learn more about the characters, they’re incredibly cardboard. Sometimes I complain about scenes that are too wordy or long (*cough*QuinroseorHakuouki*cough*), but this is ridiculous. It’s like someone had an outline for an otome game, and instead of getting someone to then write a script from that outline, they added a couple lines of dialogue for each planned scene, and then put a few summarizing paragraphs in between.

Also, the art is barely acceptable. I’m pretty forgiving on art, I like to see different styles and try not to let pretty art distract me from gameplay. But in this game, though the tachi-e(the regular dialogue scene pictures) are ok, the CGs are actually worse than the tachi-e. And though some of the tachi-e are good, some are weird. Like. there’s one pose that Asmodeus (a waste of Konishi Katsuyuki’s voice IMO) does, where he spreads his arms out really wide, almost at shoulder-height. They use this pose for way too much and it doesn’t work, the only time it works is when he’s actually blocking something. It’s distracting. Plus, there are very few CGs, I’d estimate around 5 per route. To be fair, if it was fanart I’d think it was pretty good. But for professional work it doesn’t pass muster.
Solomon's Ring - Asmodeus
This CG is not good. And it’s used multiple times.

The music is decent I suppose, I didn’t notice it much to be honest.

Most things I can forgive, but the multiple writing problems – the extreme bare bones scenes, the lack of character development, the very paint-by-numbers feel of the plot – made me notice the other problems like the art more, and really, even though the game is cheap, it’s still not really worth it. By the end of it I cared about none of the characters, I actually was more interested in Lily’s friend Alisha’s romance than I was in the main plot – and this is a romance that is mentioned in about three lines total.

It really really feels like a mobile game that was meant to be released in chapters. And even though I also dissed Koisentai(which actually was originally a mobile game), and this game is full voice whereas one of Koisentai’s major issues was that it wasn’t, I would still rather play Koisentai anytime, and I think it’s more worth your money than this.

As I said, it’s too bad because the voice actors are good, and the premise is interesting at least.

I am going to play the other two routes (may as well, it’s one of the shortest games I’ve played), but unless Asmodeus’ route was a total anomaly, I feel safe in emphatically NOT recommending Solomon’s Ring. I’m not buying the other games, even though there are three more coming out, Wind, Water, and Earth. It actually makes me doubt how good Double Score is going to be, because they’re both from the production company Asgard. But at least that game seems to have better art…

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Jan/Feb News!

January 23rd, 2013

VitaminR – pics of the characters!
Kazuma - VitaminR
Fujishige Kazuma
The totally uncooperative leader of the problem kids in Class R who’s also a violin prodigy. Kazuma doesn’t think there’s anyone better than him as well, but because of an event in his past, he was dropped from the elite class. Because of his extremely aggressive playing style, he’s also called the Demon Prince.

VitaminR - Reo
Mochizuki Reo
Second in command of the W6, he and Kazuma are rivals and go a long way back. He doesn’t care about anything other than playing his cello, skips everything except music practice, and coldly ignores his teacher.

VitaminR - Akagiri Eita
Akagiri Eita
He’s talented at playing the piano, but does things like play with his feet and break stuff – he’s kind of brutal. He’s even more combative with people, and sometimes bites them. He’s the most violent of the W6. In spite of all that, he has a perfect sense of pitch and can play a piece after hearing it once.

VitaminR - Jan
Jan Felix Vallaud
He mixes French into his conversation, says he can see and talk to famous people who are dead, and is generally beyond the comprehension of normal people. He’s also the only member of the W6 who’s rich. Though he doesn’t seem to be a troublemaker, the way he carries out the teacher’s orders makes him unpredictable.

VitaminR - Kaoru
Haibane Kaoru – Said to be the best soprano in the school’s history, Kaoru is also temperamental and it’s tough to actually get him to sing. Because of his prince-like looks, he has fans all over town, but beneath his angelic face lies a black personality.

VitaminR - Tsukasa
Asahina Tsukasa
He handles the violin as if it was part of him, and plays with such fervour that he’s called the Fiery Violinist. He and Eita are natural enemies. He’s actually from a village of ninja, and skips class often to fulfill his ninja duties.

And the rest of the news!

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Weekend Videos!

January 11th, 2013

Videos for the weekend! But first some news: O*G*A, Onigokko Royale, (Onigokko is the Japanese version of tag) the drama CD series(?) is being turned into a game from Otomate.

And now, look! Video otome game reviews! I’d love to do video reviews! Anyone know how to connect your PSP to a PC and record stuff? These are in German but I’m pretty sure there are some German readers here. Whoever this girl is, she rocks! Also, Villainqueen is a great name.

She also has a blog, I think I’ll put a link on my blogroll.

Tokimemo Restoran!
Go here and you can watch a bunch of stuff, ‘interviews’ with each guy, vote for your favourite, and the following:

Short ‘music video’ from 3 Majesty:

Short ‘music video’ from XIP:

XIP discusses their first interviews:

Eikoku Tantei Mysteria is coming out in March from Karin Entertainment (Grimm, Princess Nightmare) – lots of detectives + Jack the Ripper! I’m thinking of getting the limited edition for this one.

VitaminZ fandisk coming out on the 31st! I hope they manage to make a story about the week before graduation good (I like the OP song anyways):

For all you Amnesia lovers out there, here’s the PV of the anime series (you can watch it on Crunchyroll for free!):

I read the summary for Crowd, and it seems each story is from two perspectives, about one day when the heroine gets separated from her boyfriend, and they each try to find each other. Could be fun. If I could just find the time to play the original… (>ω<;)ふぅ・・・

Princess Arthur! I’m totally getting this.

I did have lots of fun playing Glass Heart Princess:

And of course Desert Kingdom:

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Cheap Harutoki games!

January 10th, 2013

I’m not sure why, but Koei is releasing ‘best edition’ (read: cheap) versions of two of the most popular Harutoki games this month for the PSP.

The first is Harukanaru Toki no Naka de 3 with Izayoiki Aizo Ban (best edition), one of the most enduringly popular otome games as rated by fans. I’m thinking of getting this, as I only have it on PS2, and as Izayoiki was a fandisk that you had to swap in and out with the original game to play, is a right pain, especially since my Japanese PS2 went kaput. In this version Izayoiki is one the same PSP cartridge as the original game, so NO swapping is needed! Yay! Plus, at only Y2800 this is pretty cheap. It’s an RPG (nothing too hardcore), so you get quite a few hours of playtime. And Shirogane was before his time as the sexy psycho who ends up being more popular than the main characters (I love him too, I can’t help it).

The other is the sequel/2nd fandisk for Harutoki 3, Harukanaru Toki no Naka de 3Unmei no Labyrinth Aizo Ban (best edition). It’s also new to the PSP and Y2800. It’s set after the ‘normal’, happy but not romantic, ending of #3, and is in the heroine’s world. The plot is totally unrelated to history in this one.

So if you’ve never played a Harutoki, and/or you’re interested in otome RPGs, I’d recommend getting the first game.

They’re also releasing Harutoki, the original game Hachiyousho (OK the original was on PS1, but Hachiyousho is the PS2 adaptation) for the PSP, but for some reason it’s more expensive. I don’t think it’s really worth it. Plus i just like #3 much better.

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Hana Awase Play report/review

January 8th, 2013

I finally got through the introduction, which admittedly wasn’t that long compared to games like Hakuouki. But that creepy teacher really annoyed me. Apparently Mizuchi can only have one minamo (what? I thought they all had lots??) so Mikoto has to have a hanafuda battle with his current one, who is a total asshole (of course) and totally fixated on him (of course).
At first Mikoto doesn’t want to, but the teacher goads her into trying.

I’m trying out the teacher because he suggested I train. Of course, I save before choosing.

He gives some more detailed info on stats and tournaments. I reload and go to Momose to see what she has to say instead. She mentions that the fifth Light, Utsutsu, disappeared right after he became a light, which is interesting, though I knew that from the magazines. I’m looking forward to his route the most, actually, he seems the least likely to annoy me.
Then I ask about minamo, and here’s where my blood pressure goes up. Minamo have to be virgins; as soon as you lose your virginity you lose your power as a minamo. However, apparently as long as ‘it’s’ still in place it’s ok. Huh??? I guess women who didn’t have one to begin with, or who broke theirs through non-sex methods don’t exist? Or somehow your power knows when you’ve had sex? But apparently it just cares about the hymen (Momose says ‘some girls’ do other stuff but are still minamo), so…anal sex then? Whatever. I give that particular aspect a pass and try to forget about it. Only to be reminded that though sex is bad for minamo, the closer in romantic terms you are with your Light the more powerful you become as a support. So, like, you need to get close, but not too close? (Cause then you’re a no-good ho-bag, amirite??)
ANYWAYS. Let’s move on. She confirms that each Light only has one minamo, except for Kurenai because he hasn’t decided on one yet. She also says that after graduating, the best students in the game go on to work for the emperor, and most end up in government jobs. This makes me wonder, do they still have their minamo there? Are their minamo doomed to be virgins forever if they need their power? Hopefully I’ll know some of the answers by the end of this post.

I finish talking to her and encounter Aoi(meangirl) in the hallway. The teacher comes after and reminds me that if I win, she’ll have to leave the school. Which annoys me again because, if Aoi is a powerful minamo, why wouldn’t another guy want her? Or is she ‘used goods’ and thus not deserving of a spot at this school anymore?

I’m not using a guide, so I kind of jumped randomly around after this. I visited Mizuchi in the 2nd-year hallway but he told me to basically GTFO because 1st and 2nd years aren’t allowed to hang out together at school (odd rule but ok), and he is all about following the rules.

Then I go to the greenhouse where Mizuchi is watering plants (with his power I think) and I fall down and he very reluctantly carries me to the doctor, worrying all the while that he’s ‘dirtying’ me by touching me. Yup.

After I recover from his screaming fangirls, I decide it’s time to level up, so I head over to the teacher’s room and proceed to kick my way through several opponents. This is the fun part – the game is based on an actual game that I’ve only played a korean version of (maybe after this I’ll get better at it?) where there’s a special deck with various pictures on them, that make up various sets. Depending on which sets you end up with in your hand and play, the point value is different. In this game, it affects the attack value. Of course, the special oni card that chose you makes your attacks stronger than others at the same level, so it’s not too hard. The interface looks confusing at first but it’s quite helpful, showing you what potential hands you have and making the decision-making fairly easy. There are lots of practice battles you can do, and once in a while someone challenges you, and if you win you add a card to your deck.

Hana Awase Card Game Screen
I spent a couple hours doing that (what can I say, I’m an RPG-er at heart), and then continued on. There was an event with Aoi where she’s a jerk to you in front of Mizuchi and he scolds her, which was a bit satisfying. Until he leaves and she says it’s your fault and slaps you as hard as possible, which has a painful-looking CG. Of course the heroine doesn’t do anything, just looks like she’s going to cry, all the other girls blame you, and I turn off the game for the night.

…Actually no, I did manage to get through that scene, which had some redemption at the end. Aoi is obviously the ‘psycho girlfriend’ stereotype that we all know and love, I can’t wait to see how she attacks the heroine.

…(10 minutes later): I was right, she does attack the heroine but she’s possessed by a monster while doing so (encouraged by her weak spirit of course).

So for the first chunk of playtime, I’m not sold on this at all yet, although the card game is a lot of fun. Mizuchi is fine, I hope the heroine gets to know him much better in the next chunk of playtime I do.

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January News!

January 4th, 2013

News from Girl’s Style:

I’m tired, but I’ll do B’s Log soon.

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Glass Heart Princess Review

January 2nd, 2013

Glass Heart Princess Regular Edition / Game
I finally finished a game, yay! I was looking forward to Glass Heart Princess a lot for some reason, I think part of it is that it’s one of the few totally new titles in my recent history. And when I realized that there was gameplay other than visual novel style, I was determined to pick it up as soon as possible.

I was able to find a guide for it at love voice, the only one I saw. I really needed it too, especially for Shinnosuke (the butler).

The premise is that you’re an accomplished, lovely, rich student in your last year at an exclusive high school. Everyone loves you, your father dotes on you, you have an otaku maid who’s sarcastic and awesome, and a devoted butler who is willing to go to ANY lengths to protect you.

One summer’s day you’re being served tea in your vast gardens, as you do, when you have a sudden heart palpitation and pass out. You wake up in the hospital and are told that you have a rare disease called Glass Heart Syndrome. If you can’t strengthen your heart against tokimeki, you won’t live out the year.

Luckily, you’ve never been in love, so you have a (relatively) easy way of toughening up your heart – fall in love, go on dates, and train to up your ‘heartbeat limit’ all the while.

The first thing you have to do is pick your partner. The first draft pick is the school bad boy, Karasuma Yuikito (CV: Suzuki Tatsuhisa), who’s secretly a famous cat burglar. The second is the well-liked teacher, Asahina Tenma (CV: Hatano Wataru), who’s secretly a vampire mafia boss (yup). Your ‘last’ chance, if you miss these two, is Hoshino Kanata (CV: Miyata Kouki), an android from outer space visiting earth to gather data on it. And finally, if you miss all three, you have a chance at the true end, your devoted butler with a gun fetish and mercenary history, Masaki Shinnosuke (CV: KENN). There’s also a hidden character, a much younger ‘betrothed’ – I got his happy end but there didn’t seem to be much to it.

Once you ‘choose’ someone by having Cupid shoot his arrow at you during one of these encounters, you ask them out in various ways and can then choose a date every week. Leading up to the date is your training time, where you can train physically to up your max heartbeats, train in love to increase your love-intelligence (by studying shoujo manga and romance), and rest. At first you have only one activity for each of these categories and the training goes slowly, but you learn more training methods as you go. The only route I didn’t follow a guide for was Hoshino, where I just did one of each activity a week, and that seemed to work fine.

Once you get to the new year, if you’re still alive you then go into the route of the person you have a high enough score with (each date has a score e.g. Excellent is the best, then Sweet, Good, and Not Bad). There aren’t many choices here, but it’s the longest continuous story part.

I enjoyed it, but honestly the routes felt pretty short except for Shinnosuke’s, who I totally think is the true end. His is also the ‘hardest’ to get, since if you date him from the beginning, you don’t get some of his events.

I think the dates, though they’re fun, were very short, especially the beginning ones. There are also random events during the week where you walk home with your guy and discuss things with him, but it was very random – sometimes it only happened once a route. You can choose to visit your tea party friends during the week to get conversation topics, but it feels like a waste if you don’t get to use them (but at least it doesn’t take up a training slot).

Overall Shinnosuke was my favourite. Though they were all fun, his route was the longest and the relationship felt the most real – they even had a lot of backstory between him and the heroine. Even in his route though, it felt a little rushed. I would have enjoyed a longer in-between stage, where he isn’t sure of his feelings, or even after he realizes, before the external drama comes up and moves the conflict outside of the relationship.

I did really enjoy the lightheartedness of the story, and one thing that’s great is the small touches that (really) mostly add to Shinnosuke as a character – he’s had all this special training, and when you get to a certain level sometimes ‘guest’ trainers come on – and they’re all characters from past Otomate games. You don’t see them but they’re fun references. They also show up in the end of his route with their voices, and that’s great – I was wondering why Sugita Tomokazu was playing a bit part as the doctor, lol, I guess they had them fill in some small roles as well.

Also, in each route, you have a special New Year’s dream. In Japan it’s said that the first dream you have in the New Year is lucky or unlucky depending on what it is. Well, in this game, you dream of your guy, but in the setting of an Otomate game – though they don’t say the titles it’s very obvious which ones they are. And then you wake up and see that you were playing a game before you fell asleep :D

Overall I think this game is fun, but I don’t know if I’d recommend it 100%. There are other games I’d rate higher, but this is quite fun, and the art is great as well.

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