Friday, September 13, 2013

VN Choice advice for those new to playing in Japanese

First, don't even consider playing a VN in Japanese if you don't have the grammar down.  If you have the grammar and a moderately large vocabulary, kanji weakness can be got around by utilizing the Translation Aggregator/Jparser combo I mentioned in the previous post. 

Second, pick the level of game you want to challenge.  Moege (games that focus on cuteness and simple stories) tend to be easy to read, with short lines in simple Japanese.  If you prefer action VNs, you will be in a bit of trouble, as the language used in such games tends to be more complex. 

Third, pick your strategy.  If you choose high-difficulty games from the very beginning, you will improve your skills that much faster.  However, in exchange, you probably won't get everything on your first playthrough.  For action/fantasy VNs this actually makes it fun to come back later and enjoy the game a second time.  Also, if you pick a high difficulty game early on and switch to an easier one after, you'll find that the comparatively easy language makes your playthroughs that much more smooth.  If you pick a low-difficulty game, you'll probably be able to muddle your way through it with crappy Japanese skills, but at the same time, your skills won't improve that much playing them, if that is one of your goals.

As an example of first choices, I picked Jingai Makyou and Dies Irae for my first two games, simply because they were in my favorite genre.  While I already had a good grasp of Japanese, these were two enormously difficult games to play.  When I picked Draculius and Tayutama for my next two games, the difference in the linguistic levels made for an easy playthrough.  I plowed through better than a dozen high-level games in the months after that, and I eventually got to the point where I could play most VNs with a speed approaching two thirds of that of my English reading speed. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Playing VNs with Translation Aggregator and ITH for those who know Japanese but not Kanji

I'm going to be blunt... if you don't know some Japanese, you are screwed when trying to play an untranslated VN.  Relying on Atlas or any other machine translation to feed your addiction is like drinking homemade grain alcohol because you got bored of the microbrewed stuff you get from your friend next door... it's a recipe for pain and general confusion.

However, for those of you that have a basic knowledge of Japanese but don't know enough kanji (the massive non-phonetic symbol alphabet used in Japan and China) to be useful, Translation Aggregator with Jparser and the Interactive Text Hooker are your salvation. 

Here is how it works.

1- Download both ITH and Translation Aggregator

2- First set up Translation Aggregator (starting it as Administrator in Vista or Windows 7), making sure you have the JParser plug-in and the edict dictionary for it  (edict is the best one I've come across so far for this use)

3-Eliminate all the windows on Translation Aggregator except JParser and use the wrench-like icon to configure it.  Set the furigana to your preference (personally recommend romaji at first for how easy it is)

4-Start ITH as Administrator (to make this easy, just go into properties and set it so that you always start it as Administrator).  Make sure you set the options so that it copies text to the clipboard

5- Start the game you want to play

6- Press the process button, find the game application, and attach ITH to it, setting up a profile if you want it to attach automatically when you start the game later.

7- When the game displays its first text after attaching ITH, search through the threads for one whose content contains the entirety of the line

        7 (cont)- At times, a game will split its lines into several threads.  When this happens you use the thread function at the top of the ITH window after finding a thread that contains the missing text and look for a small icon on the menu saying 'link to'.  Once you've found this, press it and it will display the numbers of the existing threads other than the one you are currently on.  You then choose the main thread and press 'set' and 'ok'.  As a result, all input from this thread will go into the main one. With some games this can be a rather annoying process, repeated multiple times.  Unfortunately, there is little you can do about this.

      7 (cont2)- If you find that no hook shows up, download the ITH updater and update your version, and if that doesn't work, go looking for an agth code and input it to create a new hook for the game.  In ITH 3, you cannot record this in your profiles for games, though in ITH 2.3 you can.  For this reason, I recommend having both on your computer so you can use either or as necessary.  If you need to switch between versions of ITH, be certain to close down the game you are playing first, as the program will frequently not allow you to start the other version while a game you attached the other version to is on.

8-  A caution to those using Jparser.  Usages of romanization in JParser can be odd, and they are often wrong for the word in question.  However, context will serve you well in changing the romanization in your head to something you will recognize.  In particular the 'understand/minute', 'head', and 'sound' kanji are ones that will frequently pop up incorrectly used (though there are a lot of others).  The 'understand' kanji as it is said in 'wakaru' is also the same kanji for 'minute' or 'bun'.  Watch out for confusing kanji like that and eventually you will start automatically converting them in your head.  Until you can do that, I suggest sticking to chara-ge as much as possible, for their ease of comprehension and translation.  I started with Jingai Makyou as my first game, and I still remember how much 'fun' I had trying to convert all those odd kanji usages into comprehensible Japanese. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Review: Irotoridori no Sekai

Yuma is a rather forgetful young man who has lived with the constant companionship of Shinku, the young girl that only he can see, that grants him the power to heal people's wounds in exchange for his memories being consumed at random. He works as a 'nigashiya', helping to free people from the situations that plague them, binding them in place, under his teacher, Suzu and the manager of the school dorm, Shigure. Gradually, he comes to know the girls that have been gathered at that dorm, and in the process he becomes fond of them...

Characters: I know, it is unusual for me to introduce the characters, but I felt a need to change the way I do things... in the rush to avoid spoiling the story, I have a bad habit of not giving people any real details on the games.


The protagonist of the story, he is a man who is driven instinctively to help others, when asked. He is rather free with his healing power, despite the cost to him in memories, and it is only because of Shinku's constant reminder to write in the special 'diary' that he is able to retain memories from day to day. He frequently dreams of a blue sky from which white feathers rain and a voice that calls to him 'Please... please save us.' He is a strong believer in the necessity of free will, especially when it comes to his 'work' as a 'nigashiya'.


The 'Magician' whom only Yuma can see. She is very much the serious, intellectual type, but at the same time a passionately caring individual. She has an aversion to 'ecchi' things as well as an endless hunger for pancakes. She continually reminds Yuma to write in his diary in order to retain his memories from day to day, and whenever he uses his power, she reminds him of its cost, desperately wanting him to care for himself as well as those he heals.


Yuma's childhood friend, she is a mild tsundere with a tendency to try to force a 'clean and proper lifestyle' on Yuma whenever possible, bribing him with her homemade lunches in order to get him to come to school. While Yuma seems to think she might dislike him, it is obvious to anyone else that the reverse is actually the case.


A young girl whom Yuma saves when she falls from the lighthouse. Bright and cheerful, she claims to have known Yuma from long ago, when he made a promise to her that she refuses to tell him about. She frequently proclaims that she is his bride, attempting to hug him and the like. For some reason, her cooking is utterly poisonous in taste, even though it looks normal, even delicious. She openly says that her name is fake, and refuses to tell Yuma why she does not use her real name.


A cheerful girl who works hard to make money for a reason she refuses to explain. She has a habit of apologizing for the least of things, and her gratitude when given something (such as food) is far out of proportion with what the gift is actually worth. Oddly, despite her need for money, she refuses to borrow money from Yuma or anyone else, saying that 'there is no meaning if I don't earn it on my own'.


The hikikomori resident of one of the dorm's rooms, she is a devoted otaku who frequently speaks in anime/eroge/manga slang and seems to be incapable of fully separating reality from her hobbies. She mistakes Yuma initially for her older brother, and even when she realizes that he isn't, she continues to call him onii-chan, for obscure reasons of her own.



The manager of the dorm, who works at searching for lost items and people on request, using his 'Shiki', glowing butterflies that answer to his commands. He is a kind man who can't refuse to help people in need. He has a bad habit of collecting all sorts of mystical junk he finds on his travels to other worlds through the basement of the dorm.


Yuma's 'master' in their profession as a nigashiya and in life in general. A lazy bibliophile who never met a book she didn't like and lives in a room so messy it would make a chimpanzee die of shock, she is unbelievably strong in combat and unhesitatingly does her best to help those who ask for her help.


A mysterious transfer student who appears on the same day Kana starts going to school with Yuma and also moves into the dorm at the same time. His halting way of speaking and his habit of observing people carefully before choosing to make contact only make him seem more mysterious.


A kitsune living in the 'Merchant's Town' one of the 'other worlds' to which Yuma and the other travel regularly. She is a fortune teller who is good at predicting the weather.


Haku's adorable daughter, who has a bad habit of getting herself lost. She is extremely shy with people she hasn't met before, though she is quite fond of Yuma.

Plot 8.5/10: Generally speaking, I don't choose to review this type of game, but I felt that the experience I got out of this was worthy of note. The general setting of the story, with the travel from world to world and the mysterious vanishings caused by the supposed will of 'God', are rather fascinating. In addition, each of the regular heroines has a decent story (with Mio's and Kana's standing out strongly from the other two) and an excellent 'true' ending that wraps up the loose ends quite nicely with Shinku and the world in general. This game's dramatic moments tend to be quite emotional, and I was frequently driven to tears by certain developments... especially Shinku's path. In addition, there were some points where I seriously blew water out of my nose with laughter, especially in the common route and Kyou's path.

Visual 8/10: Mmm... from a visual perspective, I suspect some people would have complaints, but that is more due to the style rather than any lack of quality, from what I could tell. Personally, I adore the color choices in this game, as they add to the mysterious feeling that a good deal of the story gives off, and I loved the design of the dorm. (From a purely visual perspective, I would have loved to have had Haku as a heroine... but oh well)

Sound 8/10: This game has a strong affinity for mysterious background music, and as a result, it does a good job of using said music. I had no real complaints about the voices, and I do think they did a real good job with characters like Ayumu, whose voice was done in a manner that was quite consistent with his background and Shigure, whose gentleness is his strongest defining trait.

Overall 8/10: Generally speaking, I'll end up recommending this story to anyone who likes nakige and games that manage to distinguish themselves by making proper use of the surrealism that is Japanese games' and anime's greatest plague as well as its greatest attraction. This game is a good choice for anyone looking for an eroge with a strong touch of the supernatural without a need to beat you over the head with the corpses of townspeople or frame the entire or even half the story within the confines of a high school.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Review:Tsubasa wo Kudasai

Seitenshou Gakuen is famous in Shizoaki since there is a legend that angels were created there. Mitsuto is a student there who doesn’t like the monotony of everyday life: waking up at the same time, going to school and coming back home after classes. He cleans the old and unused three-story Building B by himself. One day as he was sweeping the floors, he ended up on the seemingly nonexistent 4th floor and finds a girl reading a book alone. Her name is Hinako, and soon after he can start seeing things and people that normal people cannot see. The secret of the angels is starting to become unraveled.

~Summary taken from VNDB

Plot 8/10: To be honest, at first, the story of this game goes a bit slowly and my personal tastes don't really go in the direction of mysteries... even magical mysteries. However, as time went on I became rather fond of the characters and found that the game was very well-written. The one problem I have with the writing in general - and this is just a complaint that I also had of Cross Channel and other games that utilize the 'time loop' concept - is the repetition of entire scenes with only minor alterations like the perspective of the protagonist. The progression of the game itself follows a set heroine order with a final true ending on the last playthrough, with all the endings before the 'true' ending serving only to feed into the next round. This structure makes it easy to make a well-layered story, but it has the downside of being a bit tedious at points. Nonetheless, as the plot itself is intellectually interesting and the characters memorable it is definitely worth playing from a plot perspective.

Visuals 7/10: I found the visuals in this game to be pleasing on a personal level, but there are many points that show a disparity in quality that is jarring... in particular, if you compare CGs like the one above with certain other ones, it is easy to see the difference in quality. As such, I ended up removing points despite being personally fond of the aesthetic style of the game.

Sound 8/10: While the music in this game is almost completely generic, the tone fits the theme of the game very well, as such I've given the game a decent score when it comes to the sound. There are no tracks that stand out in my mind really, but in exchange, I never felt a jarring difference between the tone of the BGM and the mood of the scene, which means that the music definitely did its job.

Overall 7.5/10: Generally speaking, this is a decent eroge that is well-suited for those with an interest in 'traditional' occult themes (traditional being the concepts of the occult from Christian mythology and Western 'magic'). I can't suggest this for those looking for a humorous addition to their library as the humor is really only a bit of additional flavor added onto the story, despite the seeming size of the portions of the game devoted to slice of life scenes. This game's story progression is reasonably fast, in that you aren't left enduring scene after scene of meaningless drivel without being too fast to gain a comprehension of events, so it is well-made on that front as well. Also, despite utilizing Christian themes heavily in the basic story of the game, it doesn't have that overbearing sensation that a lot of games with heavy Christian symbolism and story elements tend to form, so it is pleasant on that front as well.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Fantasy/sci-fi Author, book, and series recommendations

I decided to recommend some books to anyone who has a hobby of reading anything besides manga or gaming magazines...

Epic Fantasy Authors

Michelle Sagara West
Stephen Erikson
Anne Bishop
Holly Lisle
Jane Lindskold
Stephen Brust

Epic Fantasy Books/series
Malazan Book of the Fallen series, by Stephen Erikson
The Sun Sword Series by Michelle West
The Chronicles of Elantra by Michelle Sagara
The Firekeeper series by Jane Lindskold
The Matrin Novels by Holly Lisle
The Vlad Taltos books by Stephen Brust
The Black Jewels series by Anne Bishop

Urban Fantasy Authors
Jim Butcher
Jennifer Estep
Sergei Lukyanenko
F Paul wilson
CE Murphy

Urban Fantasy series
Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
The Elemental Assassin series by Jennifer Estep
The Night Watch series by Sergei Lukyanenko
The Repairman Jack series by F Paul Wilson
The Urban Shaman series by CE Murphy
The Negotiator series by CE Murphy

Sci-fi Authors
CJ Cherryh

Sci-fi series
The Foreigner series by CJ Cherryh

Special recommendations: I in particular recommend anything by CJ Cherryh and the Malazan Book of the Fallen, for those who want food for thought. Cherryh's gift for creating stories of interaction between races and her thoughts on the formation of language and the effect sentient beings have on it and vice-versa are really fascinating. With Stephen Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen, you have a series that shows all the best and worst of what people are capable of, inspiring you and throwing you down in the mud at various points, while reminding you constantly that the characters are in the end, flawed beings, no matter how powerful they might happen to be. Think of Glen Cook's dark military fantasy born from the tales of Vietnam vets combined with Eddings-style humor (at times) and Martin's tendency toward creating a world that is utterly merciless to even the most important characters in the story and you'll have a shadow of an idea of the complexity in those books...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Review: Coμ - Kuroi Ryuu to Yasashii Oukoku

Synopsis: This story centers around Mizuwa Akihito and his Comyu, a group of five people, a chibi-gangster, a wannabe defender of justice, a perverted maid, and a loli otaku. Together, they control the black dragon Babylon and are thrown into the confused situation of Takakura city's supernatural underground, where young people of all types have been given control of similar monsters by the mysterious Shoujo A but are given no accompanying purpose or direction for the use of the power they have been given. Further, the discovery that the destruction of an Avatar results in the deaths of all those connected to it, regardless of whether they are present when it is summoned or not, forces the rather rag-tag group into a closer association than would have been possible otherwise. Add to this Akihito's acid-tongued childhood friend, the 'black witch' Hinaori Kagome, and you have a recipe for a truly fascinating story.

Plot 10/10: The setting of this story is really well-done, and the themes, such as what happens when someone is given immense power without any purpose to use it or the maturity to not use it, are fascinating in and of itself. In addition, the psychology of the protagonist, Akihito, and his personal philosophy add even more flavor to an already interesting plot with powerful characters that leave a strong impression upon the player/reader. Kagome's and Hisoka's paths in particular leave a strong impression, with Kagome's being the climax of the entire game. The pacing for each of the paths is very well-done, with the plot-twists and developments feeling quite natural and the final (Kagome's) ending leaving the player with a definite sense of satisfaction.

Visual 9/10: As can be seen in the picture above, the character designs and cgs in this game are striking. The expressions for the character models also vary in a pleasant way from the generic types that usually end up pasted on character faces... in particular Kagome's sneer and Benio's deredere face are well-worth remembering. In addition, the designs of the avatars, especially ones like Babylon, Sting, and El-Elaila are quite detailed works of art.

Sound 9/10: The music in this game... to say that it is easy on the ears is an understatement. Shoujo A's/Sting's theme in particular stands out as reminding me heavily of Lilium from Elfen Lied for the choral refrain and the general atmosphere. The character voices are each well-suited to their characters, with Itsuki and Kagome standing out from the crowd to burn themselves into the player's memory.

Overall 9.5/10: Easily one of the best VNs I've ever played and a personal favorite, it holds true to the best of Akatsuki Works games, with an underlying philosophy of moral relativism and a rather harsh, cynical outlook on the world in general. With the addition of its rather brutally blunt portrayal of the extremes of human nature when it comes to the use of power beyond an individual's capacity added in, I don't think I'll ever forget just how much of an impact this had on me. The visual and audio aspects of the game serve to enhance the story greatly, living up the quality I've come to expect from this company, and I really am glad I went back and played this a second time.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Review: Draculius

(Because VNDB's description is pure bullshit, I guess I'll have to make one this time... mendokusai)

Ogishima Jun is a beautiful (as beautiful as any woman) young high school student, going to school every day with his childhood friends, a politician's son with a sunny smile and a black personality, and a cross-dressing boy with a tanuki's face. While he doesn't particularly enjoy living alone, Jun is more or less used to it, so when a blonde loli with red-tinted violet eyes in maid's clothing comes knocking on his door, telling him that his long-lost father was a vampire prince and that he too will eventually awaken as one... and that she is to be his maid, he is understandably disturbed. This experience eventually leads to his headlong dive into the world of vampires, where darkness rules and vampires seem to be around every corner...

For the first time, I'm going to go ahead and introduce the characters, simply because this game left such a strong impression on me that I went back and played it through again after having completed it once, back in July.

This is Belche (Welshalant D Annoyance), this story's resident loli, and perhaps the second most unique character I've ever encountered in a vn. To Jun, she serves in a lot of different roles, though her basic role is as his mother/mentor in the vampire world, advisor, and the trump card that, if he pulls it out, will be able to solve any problem or resolve any catastrophe. Absolutely devoted to family and utterly ruthless with anyone who threatens it, she is the ultimate maid, as well as Jun's first kenzoku (servant vampire). Her unique Moon Ties ability is 'Dead Copy' which allows her to make an imperfect copy of any matter whose molecular structure she has memorized from any matter available. (turning a microwave into pasta, transforming sports drinks into replacement skin for a wound... and more)

This is Rika Pembleton, the trigger-happy vampire hunter who is sent to observe Jun for signs he might be dangerous to humans. To be blunt, she's a straight out tsundere, with an emphasis on both the 'tsun' and the 'dere'. Nonetheless, once you've seen Jun tease her into a rage a few times, you'll find yourself liking her, despite her archetypical personality.

This is Rian, who is sent as a potential fiance for Jun by one of the branch families of Jun's own vampiric bloodline. A bit of an airhead, with an arrogance and callousness towards humans that is a bit startling in comparison with her bright and sunny exterior. Despite lacking common sense and being a bit of a fool at times, she really is intelligent, which saves her from being just another annoying airhead with pale hair. Her Moon Ties power allows her to control the minds of others, as well as erasing their memories and other such convenient mental fiddling, and she has no qualms whatsoever about using it.

This is Zeno Jailburn, Rian's kenzoku and a member of the Jailburn clan of Lycans. Absolute loyalty is her strongest characteristic, thus being the first thing that comes to mind when I think of her. However, the way she fiddles with Rian, tricking her into acting like a tsundere and making fun of her while at the same time seeming perfectly servile is absolutely hilarious, and makes almost as much of an impact as the pic above. Her unique Moon Ties ability allows her to liquefy and take on the forms of other people at will.

Some notes...

This VN, unlike most, does not have unique paths for the various heroines, but rather a true path (that also happens to be a sort of harem path) and a sort of joke path centering around Rian and Zeno, where nothing really gets resolved when it comes to revealing mysteries and getting to know the characters.

Now, to the review...

Plot 9/10: This game's plot really is superbly written. The characters each leave a strong impression, with their wacky antics contrasting strongly with their reactions during times of crisis (with the exception of Misao, who is always a hyperactive idiot). Jun's personal journey, as his experiences send him deeper into the darkness of the vampire's world, is powerful, giving you a strong attachment to both him and the characters that accompany him along the way. In addition, the pacing is virtually perfect, never rushing you but never allowing you to grow bored with pointless lulls in the action either. There are few scenes that might be considered wasted if you head straight down the true path. The only reason I didn't give it a ten out of ten is because of the joke Zeno/Rian path they tacked on in such a halfhearted manner.

Visuals 8/10: As you can see above, the CG's in this game leave a strong impression, in particular the bloody ones... I am in particularly fond of all the CG's involving Belche or Zeno, as I inevitably end up staring at them for some time, pausing my progress through the story. As an example of what I really love about the character designs, I would mention the way they did Belche and Xeno's eyes... that faintly inhuman appearance to them (even aside from the color) that inevitably reminds you that they are 'alien' on some level, even during the most everyday of scenes, is striking.

Sound 9/10: I absolutely adore the music in this VN... The choral/guitar bgm they use for the sad scenes I ended up downloading and listening to while I write, and the humorous bgm they use at the title screen makes me laugh every time I hear it come up. As for the characters' voices... They all really are excellent, the performances and intonations for the characters suiting their personalities perfectly. In particular, I found Zeno's voice and speech patterns remaining in my memory, because of all the hilarious scenes associated with it. In addition, the contrast between Rika's 'tsun' and 'dere' speech patterns is so striking I actually break down and laugh just thinking about it sometimes.

Overall 9/10: Overall, this is one of the best VNs I've ever played and one of the few that I regularly get an urge to replay. Just about every aspect of this game is near-perfect, with only the pointless Rian/Zeno path serving to stain the experience. I really recommend this to guys who are interested in vampires and tired of the cheesy crap that ends up in American TV and books... I can also recommend this to fans of dark vns and vns with heavy philosophical undertones, as well as ones where the characters change significantly as part of the story's progression.