The Miskatonic Review

It’s almost the new year, and I’m back with a new review on a new website. My sincerest thanks to anyone who followed me here during the tumblr exodus. Today, I’ll be taking about a short horror-comedy from first-time developers Rapscallion Games. The Miskatonic (VNDB|Steam) draws heavily on the works of H.P. Lovecraft to create a semi-apocalyptic future where the world is full of mystifying mutants and crazy cults. Amidst all of this chaos, an optimistic young witch named Charlotte manages to land a job as a security guard at the center of occult knowledge in America. With the help of friends like a cannibal who openly wants to eat her and a young girl with such a horrifying face that the human brain automatically replaces it with a dark void, Charlotte gradually uncovers the true goals of the Miskatonic University. While technical issues might put a damper on this one for some readers, I found that other positive qualities outweighed them and made for a fun and gruesome experience. This review will be spoiler-free.

Charlotte’s boss is another one of the many odd creatures you’ll encounter in The Miskatonic.

In my opinion, the biggest strengths of The Miskatonic are its art and atmosphere. Charlotte spends a lot of her time patrolling the halls of the university seeking out any useful information, and during those segments you control her movement in point-and-click fashion, selecting the bizarre characters you pass in order to overhear snippets of their conversations. The many options and details in these parts, such as a discussion with a beautiful sea creature about the tourism industry in Innsmouth, really made me feel immersed in the world of the game. And each of the students and faculty members you can speak with has a completely unique character design, ranging from the strange but cute to the outright monstrous. Many of the main characters even have multiple poses, such as sitting on couches or hanging down from the ceiling, which make the sprites even more varied and entertaining to look at.

A typical conversation between friends at Miskatonic University.

However, I’m not sure how much of my favourite part of The Miskatonic is really the culmination of the developers’ creative vision. When doing some research on the background of the game, I counted 79 kickstarter backers whose choice of tier allowed them to design a character who would appear in the game. While this is a common reward in video game crowdfunding campaigns, it’s usually much more limited—one campaign I supported, for instance, gave only 8 backers that opportunity. With such a large number of people contributing their own characters, I don’t know if I can really credit Rapscallion Games for the character design I liked so much. And I also can’t help but wonder whether the intriguing investigation segments were really something the developers wanted from the beginning, or whether they were simply a necessary way to deal with the influx of characters they needed to include. This isn’t a criticism of The Miskatonic itself, as whatever happened behind the scenes clearly worked out to produce an enjoyable game, but it does make me slightly unsure of whether I can expect to see more of the elements I liked here in the developers’ future projects or not.

Two of the Miskatonic’s students discuss the pros and cons of their choice of university.

The Miskatonic also suffers from a lot of the same kind of technical issues that I’ve seen in many other VNs by inexperienced developers. For one thing, it lacks a function for skipping dialogue you’ve already read, which is something I always find irritating. Fortunately, the game’s story is linear, so this oversight isn’t as much of a problem as it would be in a multiple route VN, but it’s still a hassle if you accidentally click on a character you’ve already talked to and need to button mash through the repeated dialogue. You’ll also have to do that button mashing with your mouse rather than anything else that tends to advance text in other VNs, such as enter (which toggles fullscreen instead) and space (which does nothing). There’s no way to adjust the speed at which the text appears on screen either. While I enjoyed the story of The Miskatonic enough to put up with this collection of minor grievances, I can see it really turning off some readers who are used to a smoother and more customizable visual novel experience.

I was also a bit distracted by this weird inconsistency in Charlotte’s sprite positioning, which
made it seem like her height changed.

Still, I would urge anyone who’s interested in the narrative and aesthetic of The Miskatonic to give it a try. Its main characters are just as wonderfully absurd in personality as in looks, and I had a really good time getting to know them as they went up against the forces of otherworldly gods, mystical cults, and—worst of all—academics. The story also ends with a fun sequel hook that I would love to see the developers expand on in the future—albeit hopefully with an experienced programmer on their payroll. Overall, The Miskatonic is rough around the edges, but I would still recommend it to readers who enjoy dark comedy and eldritch horrors.

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Upcoming Visual Novel: The Light at the End of the Ocean

I’ve been hard at work for a long time on this project, and I’m really excited to have some of the art done now so that I can finally show off some progress! Introducing the upcoming visual novel The Light at the End of the Ocean.

A young woman wakes up in a lighthouse with a head injury and no memory of the shipwreck that brought her there—or anything else, for that matter. A stone-faced, stoic Lighthouse Keeper assures her that help will arrive soon, but seems unwilling or unable to help her figure out whom or where she is. Help the Lighthouse Keeper’s Guest uncover the mysteries of the island and its inhabitants in this point-and-click visual novel about unlikely friendship and loss of identity.

Staff So Far

Writing and programming by Jane Titor (that’s me!)

Character art by Dahlia Wilder

Background art by Pia Alit

Item art by Red Chan

GUI by Namastaii, with modifications by me and BunnyAdvocate

Main Characters

In-Progress Screenshots

The backgrounds aren’t done yet and will be in full colour in the final release. Other things might change too! 

Since this blog is more focused on my reviews of other VNs, I’ll probably be posting most updates on twitter rather than here, so please follow me there if you’re interested. I also have a work in progress thread on LemmaSoft, and I’ll eventually be publishing on itch.io. Thanks for reading!

Nowhere Girl Review

Today, I’m really excited to bring you a review of Trainwreck Studios’ new supernatural romance visual novel Nowhere Girl! Way back when I was first getting started with this blog, I wrote a review of Trainwreck’s first VN, Animal Lover, an otome about rescuing cute boys from a curse that turns them into animals. Nowhere Girl has an equally bizarre premise, with a female love interest this time—one who’s magically chained to you until you fall in love with her, and who’s also a ghost. And in case that’s not awesome enough, Nowhere Girl pulls you in with a beautiful opening animation, followed by an
encounter with a narrator who has a personality and wants to read you poetry.
After those first five minutes, I was totally hooked. But if you’re not as sure
as I was about whether Nowhere Girl is your thing, the rest of this review will go into some more detail about why I liked it, as well as some minor things I didn’t like as much, while avoiding spoilers as much as possible.

Nowhere Girl really shines with its characterization of Pseudo, the ghostly main heroine. I especially appreciated her character design. I find that pretty often in media, if the reader is supposed to sympathize with a ghost character, the ghost will just look like an attractive human who’s slightly translucent. But while Pseudo is still cute, she has bright blue skin, and the whole lower half of her body is just a big ghostly tail. It makes her look a lot more interesting, distinctive, and not-quite-human than most other supernatural love interests I’ve seen in VNs. She also has several varying poses, making scenes of dialogue with her especially dynamic and fun to read. If the goal of Nowhere Girl is to make you fall in love with Pseudo alongside the protagonist, I think it will work on a lot of readers.

However, as much as I enjoyed Nowhere Girl, it is a little rough around the edges. For one thing, I suspect that letting players choose the protagonist’s gender might have been an afterthought, as they tend to read as male even if you select the female option. One example that stood out to me is that the main set-up for the plot involves getting extremely drunk with a random dude you just met in a bar. I don’t know many women who would even consider taking that kind of risk, no matter how bad a day they’re having.
There were also a few other points in the story when I felt like some more
variation based on protagonist gender would have helped—nothing huge, but once the idea got into my head, I just kept noticing little things that could have done with a bit of a change. But of course, for those of you who prefer to
choose a male protagonist, none of that will be an issue at all.

There were a couple other aspects of the story that I didn’t like at first, but as I
read on, I started to appreciate them more. At the beginning of the narrative,
the protagonist is harbouring a secret crush on their friend and co-worker
Holly, and their internal conflict about their feelings for her is one of the
major problems that stands in the way of attempting a relationship with Pseudo—aside from the whole ghost thing, of course. And at first, I felt like the writing could have done more to really establish what’s so special about Holly and why the protagonist likes her so much, since I didn’t think that she was particularly interesting or that they even seemed to have much in common. But I eventually started to understand that the protagonist’s connection with Holly really was supposed to be as strained and artificial as I thought it was. They were clinging onto the fantasy of what a relationship with her would be like, when they really needed to step back and realize how far removed their ideas were from reality in order to move on. There were also some early scenes in which I found Pseudo really annoying, such as when she’s forced to follow the protagonist to work, and keeps distracting them and making them seem crazy to onlookers by making comments only they can hear. But while reading those scenes was really frustrating, it also effectively made me empathize with how the protagonist was feeling. So while some aspects of the writing of Nowhere Girl might not appeal to all readers at first, they’re successful in achieving what I imagine the writer intended, and they just might grow on you.

Finally, I won’t say too much because I want people to be able to read this review without spoilers, but I was pleasantly surprised with the direction Nowhere Girl took towards the end. There was some deeper worldbuilding in it than I expected, and I would love to see Trainwreck Studios explore this setting again in another project. If you’d like to check it out, Nowhere Girl is currently available at a discount or in a bundle with Animal Lover on itch.io, and it will also be released on steam soon. Thanks for reading!

(Update: the aforementioned sale is now over, but you can still buy Nowhere Girl on itch.io or steam.)

Short Reviews of Short Visual Novels: Halloween Edition!

With less than two weeks left until Halloween, I’m sure I’m not the only who’s in the mood to curl up with a pumpkin latte and something scary to read.
Fortunately for everyone else who feels that way, I’ve been in that mood for
several weeks already, so I’ve already read several spooky—or at least
supernatural-themed—visual novels I can recommend! This special Halloween edition of my short reviews of short visual novels series features ghosts, vampires, werewolves, and pretty much any other creepy creature you can imagine.

Vicarwissen [VNDB|itch.io]

This entry in 2016’s Yuri Game Jam tells the story of two paranormal investigators who find themselves trapped in a creepy museum on the night that legends say the werewolf-like Vicarwissen creatures meet for a horrific banquet. I knew I would like Vicarwissen as soon as I launched it and saw the main menu, which perfectly sets the tone for the story with the image of a cellphone displaying a silly snapchat of the heroines next to a textbook about the Vicarwissen myth. The game maintains a fun balance of cute and creepy throughout, and its point-and-click elements add a lot of flavour. I would have liked a little more detail about the backstory that various objects hint at, but maybe that’s something the creators could expand on in a prequel instead! I had a lot of fun with this one, so I’d certainly love to read anything else they come up with.

First Kiss at a Spooky Soirée [VNDB|itch.io]

If you want something Halloween-themed but aren’t actually into horror, look no further than First Kiss at a Spooky Soirée, from the consistently cute catalogue of NomNomNami. In this one, you play as an adorable witch named Marzipan who’s determined to get her first kiss at a party full of other magical creatures—some of whom are pretty different from what you might expect. I was especially impressed with this game’s unique CG gallery that appears like polaroids on the main menu screen. I just wish that the routes had been a little bit longer so that I could spend more time with this cast of supernatural sweethearts! Also, this was an entry in the same yuri jam as Vicarwissen, and so was one of my all-time favourite short VNs, Once on a Windswept Night—2016 was clearly good year for supernatural lesbian VNs.

Bishoujo Mangekyou: A Girl’s Cursed Legend [VNDB|fan translation patch]

This Japanese VN’s fan translation patch came out just in time for the Halloween season! In the first entry of the Bishoujo Mangekyou series, a creepy teacher attempts to prey on a high school student, only for their roles to be reversed when it turns out she’s a vampire who wants to use him for a constant supply of blood. Sexual content is definitely the main focus of this one, but it has some really fun and unique h-scenes unlike anything I’ve seen in other VNs—one of my personal favourites involves the protagonist playing Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” on piano in spite of an increasing amount of distraction. And there’s still an interesting story that explores power dynamics in relationships tying it all together, plus some absolutely gorgeous art and a bit of animation. The patch does have the occasional awkward phrase or minor technical issue, but I think Euphemic Translation still did a competent job for their first release, and I’m looking forward to seeing their future efforts.

Speed Dating for Ghosts [VNDB|itch.io|Steam]

Speed Dating for Ghosts is exactly what it sounds like: a game in which you play a ghost who attends a speed dating event in hopes of meeting another ghost to go out with. Its strange, surreal world is populated with a variety of unique characters—I found all of them so intriguing that it was hard to pick which one I wanted to date first. Unfortunately, Speed Dating suffers from a lack of standard features that I’ve come to expect from other visual novels. Partway into my first playthrough I wanted to save the game, only to discover that hitting escape immediately quits to the main menu, and that there was no skip function to help me get back to where I was. But if you don’t mind those little problems, there are nine bizarre and wonderful ghosts waiting for you, each ready to take you on the date of a lifetime . . . so to speak.

Carmilla [VNDB|itch.io]

Finally, my last spooky VN recommendation involves more vampires, in a digital edition of one of the earliest vampire stories in English literature. The visual novel version of Carmilla adds an informative in-game encyclopedia, expressive sprites in anachronistic outfits, and a bit of metatextual commentary to the text of Le Fanu’s classic novella, making for a fun combination of past and present storytelling techniques. It also includes some well-done effects that accentuate the impact of the story’s creepier parts. Since developers Visual Gothic adapted the story with only minor changes, it’s
a lot heavier on narration than the majority of visual novels, and I wonder if
it could have improved it a bit to cut down on that a little more and take full
advantage of the medium by letting the visuals speak for themselves. But of
course, the original story is a classic for a reason, and I would recommend
this adaptation to anyone who enjoys their horror with a bit of a slower pace.

Finally, I can’t write a real review of it because of how biased I am, but if your taste is skewed more towards silly monsters than the scary variant, you might also enjoy the demo of DemiDato! I’m one of the co-writers for this project and I can’t wait to give you the chance to meet its full cast of zany characters sometime soon. And whether you try that or another one of the VNs on this list, I hope you have a happy Halloween!

BP&J Discuss: Nurse Love Addiction

Jane: Today I’m trying out a new review format. My friend Bishounen-P—whom you may know as the developer of Strawberry Daiquiri—and I both read Nurse Love Addiction recently, and we found that it gave us a lot to discuss. So we’ll be presenting both of our thoughts about it to you in this collaborative review.

Nurse Love Addiction tells the story of Asuka, a slacker who ends up going to nursing school in lieu of any other life goals after finding a note she wrote as a child saying she wanted to be a nurse when she grew up. Her sister, Nao, enrolls in the same program, and Asuka soon finds herself torn between feelings for Nao, their teacher, and two mysterious students in their class.

Bishounen-P: Before we get into the details of it, I’d like to just say that I absolutely adore the art in this game. It’s definitely the first thing that drew me into the game, so I’ll be adding a lot of screenshots from it as well.

If you’re interested in playing NLA, I’d personally recommend going Kaede -> Sakuya -> Itsuki -> Nao, but you can also switch the last two and still be OK. It’s up to you.

J: It’s unfortunately difficult to talk much about NLA without spoilers, but we both enjoyed reading it, and you might like it too if you’re a fan of Kogado Studio’s other VNs like Symphonic Rain.

BP: It’s definitely one of the most unique yuri VNs I’ve ever played, and had a unique twist on the typical incest route. If you’re looking for more interesting yuri VNs, I’d personally recommend Fatal Twelve. For a classic but beautiful incest story (that isn’t yuri) I’d recommend Kana ~Imouto~.

Before we get into the spoilers, however, I’ll go ahead and say right off that bat that I absolutely recommend NLA. It’s a fun ride, and also scratches that yuri sweetness itch when you want it to.

Beyond this point, there will be major spoilers for all of Nurse Love Addiction.

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Interview with d Marie Licea

Recently, I had a chance to talk with d Marie Licea, developer of Us Lovely Corpses, about the creative process behind this fascinating “surreal-horror-romance” visual novel. Us Lovely Corpses is a VN I considered reviewing for this blog when I read it, but I struggled to write a review that would be interesting and accessible—explaining the parts that most impressed and resonated with me would mean spoiling it completely. But I encourage anyone who can handle some disturbing content in service of a great story and heartfelt message to try it out. This interview will start with some more general questions, and it includes a warning farther down before any spoilers for Us Lovely Corpses appear.

Question: Did you always plan for the story of Us Lovely Corpses to be a visual novel, or did you consider other mediums as well?

Answer: In its earliest stages, Us Lovely Corpses was actually planned as a comic! I came up with the original idea somewhere around 2014-2015—it was going to be about 10 pages, and would just cover the scene that ended up being the game’s finale. Alex and Marisol (who weren’t named yet) were very different—they were much younger, Alex wasn’t really “a witch,” and Marisol was originally a boy!

I sat on the idea a while, and the longer I did so the more I wanted to explore the history of these characters, which made for a longer and more unwieldy comic. Then in 2015, when I started learning about visual novels, it hit me that the concept could work really well in that format, especially when the “exploration” element came in.

Q: Were there any particular visual novels that influenced you?

A: Yes! The reason why I started getting into visual novels specifically in 2015 was that because that was the year We Know The Devil came out!

We Know The Devil totally shifted my viewpoint as to what a visual novel could be—no diss to dating sims, but before WKTD, I, like most people, just saw VNs as dating sims and occasionally something like the When They Cry series.

WKTD totally changed that for me—a short, incredibly contained story that also managed to be about so, so much, in a surreal, horror-inspired atmosphere . . . it really blew me away! Not only was it the game that got me into visual novels, but you can definitely see a lot of its influence on Us Lovely Corpses.

Besides WKTD, there was also Her Tears Were My Light, a fairly minimalist love story that used the “rewind” function in Ren’Py as part of the story. Utilizing mechanics as part of the narrative was a really cool idea to me that also ended up in ULC. (side note: I met and hired Alex Huang to do the music for Us Lovely Corpses because I loved the soundtrack for HTWML so much!)

Finally, I was really into the original Gyakuten Saiban (Ace Attorney) trilogy when I was younger, and the evidence gathering segments were a big part of
those games. I originally envisioned the “rose clipping” segments of ULC like those parts, where you’d have to select each rose before cutting it, but sadly that was a little too complex for me at the time, and I eventually decided to go for something more simple in order to complete the game. But that initial idea was a big part of what made me try Us Lovely Corpses as a game, so it ended up still being a big influence in the end!

Q: Besides technical things like those mechanics and the exploration element, do you find that you have a different style of writing in visual novels as opposed to the stories you’ve done in other formats, like twine and comics?

A: I’m not sure if this is always the case for visual novels, but I find I have to
format my writing differently when writing for VNs—specifically, in length of
sentences and paragraphs. I’ve found my writing worked a lot better in Us Lovely Corpses the more I broke everything up into smaller fragments—larger ones or paragraphs didn’t work as well, which can be a problem for me because my writing can tend to get a bit wordy!

This has to do a lot with the pacing of visual novels and how the player/reader is a big part of that. Control over pacing is a big part of why visual novels appeal to me, but you also have to think differently to get the best result.

Technical stuff aside, I found that, at least for ULC, my actual writing style remained pretty much the same. I think this has the benefit of making the writing in Us Lovely Corpses seem unique, but has the disadvantage of posing a problem for a certain something I didn’t see coming at all: Let’s Players!

A few people have made videos of their playthroughs of Us Lovely Corpses, which is incredibly exciting, but when I watch them, I can’t help but feel bad for them because they always read everything out loud . . . which means, with my somewhat wordy style, they have to do a LOT of talking!

I haven’t actually gotten complaints about this or anything, but I still hope people who make videos of their playthroughs of ULC keep some water nearby!

Note: the next part of the interview contains spoilers for Us Lovely Corpses, as well as discussion of mental illness.

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Lake of Voices Review

“If someone gets pulled into the lake, they’ll instinctively reach for anything to hold onto. Do not let that be you.”

I had been looking forward to reading Lake of Voices ever since I first heard about it. Its character-focused supernatural horror sounded exactly like the kind of thing I like. And I definitely wasn’t disappointed when it was finally released on Steam and itch.io last week. With full voice acting and beautiful art, Lake of Voices is especially high quality for a free release, and I would recommend it to any fans of visual novels who can appreciate a bit of the grotesque and uncanny.

This is the third VN by developer GB Patch Games that I’ve read, and each time I’ve been impressed with their ability to come up with unique story ideas. A Foretold Affair casts the player as a mysterious masked seer who has had a vision of their future spouse, and tasks them with convincing their soulmate of their destiny without creeping them out too much while also on the run from bounty hunters. And while I thought GB Patch’s 2017 NaNoRenO entry, My Magical Divorce Bureau, suffered a bit from trying to fit too much into too short a story, it’s still worth checking out for the hilarious concept of a divorce lawyer working in a world where various supernatural creatures are trying to force each other into marriage all the time. Lake of Voices keeps up this trend with its setting of a massive lake only traversable by a sprawling maze of magically shifting bridges, with the help of a nameless guide who won’t spare a thought for letting one of his charges die if it means the others survive. It’s a really fun and spooky setting that I was excited to learn more about as I played.

The one element of Lake of Voices that wasn’t quite to my taste was the structure. The VN contains a multitude of choices, many of which are timed, leading to several different possible outcomes for your trip across the lake. While this does add a sense of uncertainty and urgency that works really well for the story, I find that I usually prefer fewer choices. Having a lot of freedom to control the protagonist’s actions and change the story can be fun at first, but when I read VNs, I like to make sure that I’ve seen all the branches and haven’t missed anything before I call them finished. Too much branching can make me frustrated and overwhelmed on my quest for 100% completion. But fortunately for people like me, one Steam user created a helpful walkthrough for all the achievements—which is much more helpful in navigating the lake than the story’s own curmudgeonly Guide.

And despite his incompetence at his job, the Guide was probably my favourite character in the VN. His standoffish and mysterious nature intrigued me, and it was exciting when I finally found a path that led me to learning more about him. But it’s hard to pick just one favourite character when each of the travelers seeking a way across the lake also has their own goals and secrets to discover. I enjoyed every route of Lake of Voices, and I hope that anyone else who tries it out does too.

Short Reviews of Short Visual Novels

My latest recommendations for visual novels that take a few hours or less to read. This installment features an eclectic mix of stories that fall on different parts of the spectrums from realism to surrealism and serious to wonderfully silly.

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One Night, Hot Springs [VNDB|itch.io|Steam]

One Night, Hot Springs is a really sweet and heartfelt little project that I’d recommend to pretty much everyone. Its art style is adorable, and it tells the story of a young transgender woman named Haru who’s nervous about joining her best friend on a hot springs vacation. While the VN takes a serious approach to depicting some of the issues transgender people face in society, it also has an overall positive message about things gradually getting better. Make sure you get all the different endings to fully experience some of what makes Haru’s life difficult, as well as the ways she works to overcome those difficulties with a little help from her friends.

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You Left Me [VNDB|itch.io]

Made in 48 hours for the game jam Ludum Dare, You Left Me tells a surreal story about trying—or failing—to survive after the death of a loved one. Developer Angela He’s unique art style makes all the environments and characters you encounter equal parts beautiful and disturbing, and I have no idea how she managed to do it all within the time limit. The only minor issue is that I wish the game had been structured in a way that forces you to spend more time investigating its strange world, since it’s possible to stumble across some of the endings without doing much, thereby missing a lot of detail. I
definitely recommend taking your time to explore everything this one has to
offer.

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Mermaid Splash: Passion Festival [VNDB|itch.io]

Mermaid Splash: Passion Festival has to be one of the cutest visual novels I’ve ever read. Its sweet and simple plot about a young mermaid trying to decide which skill to show off at an upcoming festival introduces you to a wide variety of interesting characters and locations, all rendered in a bright and pastel-coloured style that reminded me of cotton candy. A little bit of drama in the various routes keeps the story from being too uniformly happy all the time, but dedication to communicating with your partner and pursuing your
passion will always lead to a positive ending. I read this one while recovering
from dental surgery, and it was perfect for cheering me up and distracting me
from the pain I was in, so I especially recommend it to anyone else in a
similar situation!

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Dr. Frank’s Build-a-Boyfriend [VNDB|itch.io]

This game grabbed my attention with its wacky premise of a mad scientist reanimating a corpse so he can date it, and held my attention with a storyline that was, in a way, surprisingly down-to-earth. Grave-robbing aside, Dr. Frank is just a guy who feels sad and inadequate, and who’s desperate to prove to himself and the world that he’s smart and cool and totally over his ex-boyfriend. I really enjoyed getting to know him as I explored his spooky mansion in point-and-click segments, looking for clothes that would fit the monstrosity I chose to build with “tragic anime boy” coloured hair. Check this one out if you’re interested in a good mix of offbeat, morbid comedy and genuine emotion.

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Moonlight Crossing [VNDB|itch.io]

Finally, the most recent short VN I read was a 2017 NaNoRenO entry about a faerie trying to repair a crashed spacecraft so she can visit a friend on the moon. Some of its extremely energetic dialogue came off a little too childish for my taste, but I might very well be an old curmudgeon, so I’m sure some other readers would find it cute. And while some of the characters’ outfits are scanty enough that I wouldn’t recommend reading this one in public, they do have some lovely design; I especially liked the protagonist’s long purple hair. If you want to watch some pretty magic girls run around and get up to silly shenanigans in a world that combines fantasy and sci-fi elements, Moonlight Crossing is for you.

As always, I hope my short reviews can inspire some people to pick up a short VN or two they hadn’t heard of before! And if you do, enjoy!

Hadaka Shitsuji Review

This review contains some minor spoilers for Hadaka Shitsuji, but I’ve tried to avoid anything major. It also contains a lot of discussion of sexual assault.

Years ago, when I was first getting interested in visual novels, I started reading a strange story—one about a young man named Tomoaki who becomes the master of a mysterious mansion, where sexy butlers wait on him hand and foot. It wasn’t long before one of my choices led to the unexpected outcome of Tomoaki sexually assaulting one of the butlers. Then, in the bad ending to end all bad endings, I watched helplessly as Tomoaki downed a mysterious drug that caused his penis to engorge to a massive size and subsequently explode. Confused and unsettled by these bizarre events, I didn’t read any further at the time. But there was always something in the back of my mind that drew me to this weird VN called Hadaka Shitsuji. I just had to know what in the world it was all about. Recently, I finally un-stalled this first VN I ever stalled, and what a wild ride it was.

I’m glad my stalling meant the official translation was out by the time I got back into it, so I could appreciate great lines like this one.

Before you read any further, if you’re looking for a portrayal of good, healthy BDSM with safe words and aftercare, you’re not going to find it in Hadaka Shitsuji. Hadaka Shitsuji is entirely about rape and sexual torture—but in this case, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I know I’ve criticized some other VNs for including graphic rape scenes in my previous reviews, but my issues with those were mostly that I felt the creators were blind-siding the readers with unnecessarily disturbing content. Hadaka Shitsuji, on the other hand, makes no claim to be anything but extremely fucked up porn, and my views on porn are generally pretty liberal. People can’t help it if they have weird fantasies, and as long as everyone involved in the production of porn that caters to those fantasies is a consenting adult, and any potential consumers of that porn are clear on what they’re getting into, then I’m glad it exists so that people who are into some weird stuff can enjoy it.

Even weird stuff like “bukkake udon.”

And I’m also glad Hadaka Shitsuji exists, because in a way, it’s absolutely fascinating. According to VNDB, it was essentially a solo project by developer Togo Mito, with the only major contribution by other people being the voice acting. That means one guy sat down and wrote, programmed, and illustrated this extremely long, extremely weird, and sometimes extremely complex magnus opus of butler rape. This VN has five main routes, a short true route and side story, and a couple short side routes, as well as a bunch of alternate scenes and endings that take a lot of experimentation to unlock—so much so that the most comprehensive guide I could find wasn’t even always right. There’s one CG that has fifty variations, because you have multiple choices about the order in which to undress your chosen butler (although some of those variations lead to inconsistencies in the following scene, which is kind of funny). There’s another scene where you have six or seven choices about which vegetables from the kitchen you’d like to shove up another butler’s ass. All of this was lovingly rendered by one passionate madman, and experiencing it is like getting a rare glimpse into the mind of someone who must love sadistic rape fantasies more than life itself.

And I read all of it. All of it.

And honestly, overall, I enjoyed it. While I would likely have found a lot of the content in it very disturbing under other circumstances, the characters and
situations are all so silly that it very rarely feels at all real. People with darker tastes than mine may consider that a flaw, but I appreciate it, as it allowed
me to find many of the h-scenes funny, genuinely enjoyable, or at least not that bad. The only exception to that was the route for the youngest butler,
Arisato. His character flaws and emotional reactions to Tomoaki’s abuse made him come across as a little more realistic than the others—or at least a little
more evocative of sympathy—making many of his scenes uncomfortable or just sad. But if you find this journey through the mind of Togo Mito as interesting as I do, Arisato’s route is worth suffering through just for the final scene, which speeds straight past highly disturbing into so completely absurd that I couldn’t help finding it hilarious. I won’t spoil it—it’s something that truly has to be experienced.

Arisato even briefly becomes a literal punching bag as well as a metaphorical one.

Those fantastically ridiculous parts of Hadaka Shitsuji really made it all worth it for me. I was always happy I had stuck with it through the boring, frustrating, or disturbing bits when I got to moments like that bizarre Arisato scene. Another great part is the true ending. While the “twist” is easily predictable, its obviousness kind of struck me as part of the campy charm of the whole VN, and the particular way the reveal happens is still unexpected and entertaining. Hadaka Shitsuji may be another VN I wouldn’t exactly recommend to that many people—who else would want to spend hours upon hours struggling to make the right choices to unlock another weird rape scene?—but I still had a great time reading it. So thanks for giving me that experience, Togo Mito, you wonderfully crazy bastard.

Some Thoughts On Subarashiki Hibi/Wonderful Everday

NSFW Warning: this post contains a (censored) pornographic screenshot.

Subarashiki Hibi—officially translated as Wonderful Everyday and often shortened to Subahibi by fans—is a very strange visual novel. There were some parts of it I really enjoyed, and others that only left me confused and irritated, and I’m not sure which outweighed the other. So I guess it’s time for another long mixed feelings review in which I try to sort out whether I even really liked this VN. Heavy spoilers will begin almost immediately, so turn back now if you intend to read Subahibi someday.

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The Spoiler Police are ready to leap into action at a moment’s notice.

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