Man, it’s been too long. Now that Sparkler Monthly #1 is launched, I’m determined to do some blogging here! I missed it.
Hey, I had written this a long time ago but it was offline so I never posted it. Some news from last month! And this month’s will be up this week as well, though first I am finishing the O*G*A post which I started long ago and never finished.
It’s the weekend!!! This has been a long week, so to help relax I found some videos of upcoming otome games. These are my favourite type of posts (and the fastest to write!).
Tiny x Machine Gun coming out May 30! Set in NYC and with a voiced heroine who’s a young police officer with Vaneast (which always makes me think of Vancouver), Tiny Mc(Mac?)Daniel (CV: Tamura Yukari). It was a long time in development but I can’t wait to play it. The website is also very cool for a Flash site.
Yeah, it’s out already, I’ve finished it, but I loved it, so here it is! The music is great and I loved the characters.
Toki no Kizuna Hanayui Tsuzuri comes out July 25, and like the original looks to have gorgeous art. I didn’t think the romance was done that well, but it’s very dramatic and the characters themselves were pretty good (I’ve only done two routes so far.)
Coming out very soon, May 23, there’s lots of excitement about this one! The overarching plot is still mysterious (to me anyways), I hope the story is good. Norn9 also has three voiced heroines!
Kind of horror, kind of supernatural? The heroine is taken to an overnight ‘kimodameshi’ at a remote shrine by the guys, planning on telling ghost stories until the sun rises. But they find something really old and terrible through a hidden door to the underground, and though they leave, it leaves a mark on the heroine, bringing the guys back, pulled by their ‘destinies’. Interesting to see something where the atmosphere is this creepy; the only other otoge I can remember trying this psychological horror is Kurayami de Kimi o Matsu (which btw, I think would be right up Aksys’ alley if they wanted another game to adapt.) I think I’ll play this one during the daytime only.
Finally a totally new Hakuoki! New characters, new heroine (YAYYYYY!), new artstyle. Comes out May 30; that reminds me, I need to order it!
This is the first new game from Takuyo in almost a year, the art is really interesting. I got the game (actually I mistakenly ordered two copies…anyone interested in buying it from me?) but haven’t played it yet.
I think this one is fairly straightforward; a game to enjoy the purity and innocence of your first boyfriend (or what you nostalgically remember as purity and innocence perhaps, lol)
I’ve been anticipating this one since October when I finished 24ji. I like all the sisters, and Elise seems to have hidden depths. I’m having a hard time deciding who to go for first though – would Halloween ruin me for other routes?? Would Ralph be too straightforward? I might do Elmer or Astin just to see what the game is like, then enjoy my two favourites at leisure These games are fairly short so I don’t think I’ll have a problem finishing them.
Yes, it was pushed back to June 28, but just look at how cute those character designs are! I am going to play this ALL THE TIME as soon as I get it. There’s a demo available for download now, just click the pink button!
Mostly a situation CD series with a little game added on (I’m not sure how it will be sold), it’s about old-school RPG characters that ‘went wrong’ after you played the game – from being neglected or just from falling in love, I’m not sure. I hope the game is at least medium-sized, the idea is just awesome. It would be amazing to play an old-school-type Final Fantasy where the characters interact with you between fights and while you wander and stuff (but still using the 8-bit world map etc.!)
Some new games announced for May!
Anything you want more info on? I’m working on an O*G*A post since that’s coming out soon, but there’s also:
Also, a new English release from Aksys! They’re adapting the 3DS version of Hakuoki. Thanks to @Ayreesa for the news! Don’t forget, they also picked up Bakudan Handan (Sweet Fuse in English) and it’s coming out this summer!
I’ve finished all of Princess Arthur! Not the bad ends though, I might do those when I have extra time sometime, but I don’t like doing them too close to the true ends.
Anyways, I really liked it. It takes a while to get going, and I enjoyed the playthroughs better when I could skip all the common stuff, but that’s pretty standard. I played Gawain’s route first (Taniyama Kishou, who could resist?), but if I played it again, I think I’d go something like: Mordred, Galahad, Tristan, Lancelot, Gawain, and Merlin.
The game starts with Aru, who’s the daughter of a retired knight, practicing swordsmanship with someone – her father teaches people how to swordfight. Something is mentioned about her brother Kei, who’s a Knight of the Round Table, who hasn’t been around much lately. Aru feels bad because he’s been acting weird ever since he fought with her once and lost. At the castle there’s an event going on to decide the next king, since the last one, Uther, died a month (or so) ago. Aru goes up to the castle to watch.
Of course she gets lost, and ends up 1) being hit on by some weird dude in a purple robe open to his bellybutton (Merlin) and directed to the right place by a handsome knight (Lancelot.) When she finally reaches the courtyard, she sees Kei trying to pull the holy sword out of a big stone and failing in front of a big crowd. However, he won’t give up, and Aru gets upset and tries to convince him to stop. Somehow Aru’s hands end up on his, and he’s able to pull the sword out. Kei holds the sword up triumphantly and announces that he’s the king, but someone (Merlin IIRC) asks him to do it again. Once again he can’t do it until Aru helps him. Then Aru pulls the sword out all by herself, and amid the crowd’s astonishment, Merlin announces that the new king has been found, and it’s Aru. Kei leaves in a huff, and Aru’s father saw what happened as well, and though Aru tries to deny it, he accepts her fate and leaves her to Merlin’s care.
It takes Aru a while to accept that she is the next king, and that she has to work hard to be accepted by her subjects and by other countries. There’s also at least one person trying to intimidate and/or assassinate her, as she finds a poisonous snake in her bed one evening. Some people, such as Uther’s sister Morgos, are openly scornful of her, and soon there’s war brewing as other kingdoms don’t accept her as king. ONe of the most important points of the intro is when Aru has to decide whether she’s going to war with the knights – if you say you’ll wait for them, you get a bad end. If you go, you win the battle but Aru kills someone, her best friend’s fiance dies, and Aru has to learn how to deal with the emotional weight of war.
Once she’s recovered from that, there’s a ball held to celebrate. Depending on which character you have the highest affection with, around here (choosing who will escort you to the ball) will decide on the route you go into and change the rest of the plot.
Mordred (CV: Hosoya Yoshimasa): His story has little to do with the overarching plot of being accepted as king, but clears up a couple of incidents. I love his voice actor (any Tenipuri Shitenhouji fans out there?), and he’s not in many games. Hopefully this will change soon! His story was pretty bittersweet and I think his character is one of the most realistic and complex – he’s flawed and knows it, but can’t get past the problems his upbringing left him with until the very end. I also think his art, the CGs and tachie, are the most consistent, and his design is one of the most attractive.
Galahad(CV: Okamoto Nobuhiko): I thought in the intro that I wouldn’t like him much,but he was SUCH a classic tsundere and you don’t see them often anymore (now they’re all Do-S jerks), that I really enjoyed his route. He has a lot of really cute moments. And his story is pretty touching as well, he’s not used to feeling much so he’s awful at expressing how he feels. When he can’t hold it in anymore, it’s pretty intense and awesome. He’s also the youngest of the knights (younger than Aru even) so he’s a bit immature and that’s written well, including a bit of a complex about being young (and short).
Tristan’s (CV: Koyasu Takehito) route annoyed me, as Aru had to be not only naive and trusting, but also throw away her developing friendships with the other knights before Tristan even showed any romantic interest in her. To get his happy end Aru has to lie to all the knights, flat out deny their help, and pretty much become an outcast of her court by the end. And though I enjoyed all the scenes with Percival and Merlin to make up for Tristan being absent for 75% of the story, it didn’t really make for a good romance. They actually had to add vignettes into each chapter to go through his backstory etc. because it’s not explained in the story until the very end. I also really didn’t like Aru in this route. Tristan calls her actions stupid and she often agrees with him, but she just cant seem to help herself. And to top everything off, at one point Aru wears a disguise that’s even worse than the ‘ball gown’ worn before. This time its for a good reason, but the cg of it looks…like its from a galge. Did they really have to show it from a crotch up angle? And that’s obviously the point at which Tristan becomes interested in Aru as a woman, which makes me think of him as an old lech. But I had to get through it to get to Merlin’s route, so I used auto a lot and surfed the net.
Lancelot( CV: Ono Yuuki): Probably the most typical ‘shoujo’ route. I put him near the middle because while I really liked him, and there wasn’t as much Guinevere drama as I was afraid of, his route is not that sweet. He’s always polite and pretty much the ‘parfit gentil knight’, in addition to being the strongest of all the KotRT. Most of the emotional angst comes from Aru not knowing if he actually cares for her or whether he’s just doing his duty. Normally I would be annoyed by this, but he has a really really good reason to hide any romantic feelings. It was possibly the most dramatic at the very end, in a Sailor Moon kind of way. I don’t want to put spoilers in so you can judge for yourself if you agree, but I thought his was the best story in terms of integrating the character’s plot with Aru’s plot.
And I would put Gawain (CV: Taniyama Kishou (for some reason I mixed up his name with Tachibana Shinnosuke, why am I doing that??) last before Merlin, because his route is just really sweet – he’s already past the tsun stage by the time the intro’s over. But because he’s a not a ladykiller type (I affectionately call him a meathead), he’s awkwardly endearing most of the time as he unsubtly tries to spend time with Aru and impress her. The romance gets resolved before the climax, so there’s not as much tension, but after Tristan who has almost no romance, I think it works. Now if I could just figure out what thing he wears on his head is…
And last is Merlin (CV: Okiayu Ryoutarou) – you have to get an ending with each character before his route opens up. This is where you see the resolution of all the storylines (though it kind of contradicts a couple other plotlines, but oh well). Merlin is a total lech, flirting with Aru and making suggestive remarks, until she starts to take him seriously.
Then he backs off and starts treating her like a child (since he’s actually much older than he looks, I don’t think this is much of a spoiler).
This route is fun in that it’s a reversal of the usual pattern, with Arthur pursuing Merlin and him trying to brush her off lightly, and then trying to find other ways of discouraging her like treating her as a child and trying to scare her off. He goes back and forth between acting like he doesn’t care and showing that he does, but it’s obvious enough that I enjoyed it rather than was frustrated with it. Also, the Lady of the Lake, Nimue, plays a big role in this route and is pretty awesome. She sees right away that Aru loves Merlin and advises Aru, and she explains Merlin’s inconsistency as it happens as well. The climax leaves a little to be desired, as you don’t really get Merlin to admit how he feels until it’s all over, and in my biased opinion his confession could use some more passion, but looking at the route as a whole there are quite a few romantic moments.
So I really liked Princess Arthur, and I’m glad I got the limited edition. I’d say the story and characters were really good, but the climax of the plot wasn’t as dramatic as it could be in most cases. There was a lot going on (in addition to each of the knights’ problems), like Aru’s brother Kei’s subplot, Morgos and Medorauto, rebellions, a shadowy mercenary force, and a couple other things. The character routes weren’t always integrated well with the larger ‘being accepted as king’ plot, though they did try – nothing felt tacked on at the end, there was foreshadowing all the time, it just seemed weird that several of the same enemy characters would have completely different schemes, alliances and sometimes motives depending on which character route you were on. On the other hand, if they didn’t change things up, the same plotline would have to be recycled every time, just dropping a different hero into a blank slot.
Other stuff – I wasn’t sure about the art at first, as it’s not as ‘pretty’ as a lot of otome games, but in some ways I liked it even better – the characters look like real people, and the guys definitely look like they could be real knights (i.e. they have muscles! they wear armour!). Though there were some odd costume designs, I liked most of them barring Aru’s ‘trying too hard to look sexy’ ball’gown’. Of course the voices were great
The music is really good, especially the opening theme – it really amps up the suspense and feeling of epicness during the ‘king’ scenes.
I feel like there’s a lot that could be done with the other characters that were only in subplots or only had minor roles – Kei, Aru’s friend Elaine, Medorauto, Bowls (Bolls?), and Percival. I’d love to see bigger storylines of theirs in a fandisk. I really hope Princess Arthur does get a fandisk, as I’m not sure how well it did for sales.
The biggest news is Quinrose’s new title, Romeo vs Juliet. It’s set in Verona, where Juliet wants to become a vampire hunter because her parents were killed by vampires when she was small. Romeo and his friend Mercutio are vampires, but they keep saving Juliet from vampire attacks (from the description, she doesn’t seem that great at vampire hunting…). You can choose between the vampire route with Romeo and Mercutio, or the hunter route, with your mentor Lawrence Groves and your fiance Paris Verona. There’s also the duke of Verona Eskaras Verona, a ‘good’ vampire, Benvolio Montague, a doctor William Shakespeare, and Tybold Capulet, Juliet’s stepbrother.
I don’t know how many people know this, but I’ve been working on something big, and it was finally announced a few weeks ago – some friends and I are starting up an online magazine, Sparkler, and our company name is Chromatic Press. This has been in the works for a long time, and I’m really excited we can finally talk about it. Sparkler’s first issue will be this summer, and I’m really busy with making sure it goes well and we have a great lineup of stories to publish, so I haven’t been updating as much as I’d like to. I’ll still be around here though, posting otome game news and some reviews and previews.
Sparkler (twitterid:@sparklermonthly) will include illustrated prose stories, comics, and audio dramas, all serialized and targeted to young women. Our first official ‘appearance’ will be at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival in May, and if you’re around, please come visit, it’s free!
The first series we can confirm is the continuation and completion of the original English-language manga, Off*Beat, by Jen Lee Quick. This series was originally published by Tokyopop, but only two out of three volumes were published before Tokyopop closed its English-language publishing arm. We really wanted this story to be completed, and happily we were able to get the rights for the first two volumes, and are going to serialize the last volume in Sparkler!
More announcements to come!
I didn’t get B’s Log till today, so this is probably late, but hey, better late than yada yada.
In magazine news, B’s Log is starting a bimonthly special edition called B’s Log Primo in April, with all original content such as special illustrations, short stories, and interviews – of course all relating to otome games.
And in cell phone news, I got a Nexus 4 and gee, there seem to be a lot more otome-ish apps available, even if they’re still in Japanese. I was able to download all the Soine Kareshi (in English it’s Sleepy-Time Boyfriend), as well as Seifuku no Oji-sama, which at first launch seems really nice! I’m thinking of doing a cell phone game roundup, since there are now a bunch of apps/games that I think otoge fans would be interested in, and even some with English translations.
And I scanned some pics of Arcana Famiglia 2 from Girl’s Style, they’re not great but they show the difference in chara designs.
Dante! (avec cheveux)
And finally, Nova. (Now I remember why I didn’t post these, I took them with a camera and they’re ENORMOUS.)
Next post will be about Chromatic Press!
First, the big news that I totally missed because I only read Japanese magazines – Aksys is translating Bakudan Handan!! Yes, the story about the crazy pig terrorist taking hostages in an amusement park. It was fun.
Now from Cool-B and Girl’s Style:
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.
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…