2016 ended up being a pretty weird year for me so rather than doing a simple ranking of whatever I liked released this year a brief non-exhaustive retrospective of everything I enjoyed in a somehow chronological felt more appropriate
My first (and not the last) surprise of the year was a game I expected at best to find mediocre but ended up enjoying quite a lot, enough to consider it one of the best eroge of the year in fact.
Tokyo Necro was a long standing project by Nitro+ with a seemingly bumpy development process, the main writer switching from Fukami (a LN and recently anime writer who love nothing more than Guns and Lesbians, you get both of these in spade in Tokyo Necro) to Shimokura being the last nail for me so I welcomed its release with a pretty apprehensive mind to say the least.
But what I got was a project only a fully committed team working in the best condition could make.To cut things short TN has a fully realized plot and setting filled with actions scenes often shown in full 3D movies all really well choregraphied and a cast filled with likable characters. There is a lot more I could say but this isn’t a review but I’ll just say that this game did the impossible since I almost found Shimokura’s clumsy and raw writing endearing and fitting the game by the end.
The number one game I want to see getting a translation project and honestly it has the potential to be even better in english.
Unlike Tokyo Necro that was a nice surprise but that I knew in advance, Seabed was a complete shot in the dark, something that came from nowhere and that became one of the thing that had the biggest impact on me, no matter the media, in a long time.
My experience with Seabed started in a Saga thread in 2chan that I randomly lurked in since I was interested in the remake of Romancing Saga 2 at the time. The discussion eventually led to Saga Frontier and one character in particular, Asellus. Now for those who aren’t familiar with Saga Frontier Asellus is considered, though it’s all subtext in the game itself, as one of the few lesbian heroine in a mainstream JRPG.
Long story short one person felt the need to prove the wonderfulness of yuri and started to recommend several titles, manga/LNs and yes Seabed too. Seabed at the time had something like 30 sales and pretty much no coverage anywhere so it was a pretty lucky encounter.
Thank you Yuri Saga fan.
But of course Seabed is far more than a simple yuri VN, it’s also one of the most ambitious VN that I read. The strong intent of the creators is shown in an extremely throughout way, down to the peculiar way Seabed is writing with a style that may only be categorized as “distant first person” and its refusal to go for easy catharsis
Now again this isn’t supposed to be a review so I’ll let Kastel review say the rest
But I’ll just say that after some consideration I consider it as the best VN of the year.
THE MARCH RUSH
March was a month I awaited with some fervor, I mean a new DI and a new Romeo at the same time? How could I not be hyped? And the final result?
Akeiro Kaikitan, sequel/spin-off of Nanairo Reincarnation an eroge in 2014 by Sylky Plus. Akeiro is mostly about the protagonist Yashiro and his unfortunate “ability” to be haunted easily and the curse of a ghost that put his life at risk. To survive he has no choice but to work with some spiritual detectives, a classmate and a pair of twin loli gods.
Now Akeiro tries to pass itself as a horror/investigation game but the reason to play it come from Kazuki Fumi, the writer, innate ability to write snappy and funny dialogues. Except for Velvet route and some parts here and there the game never goes beyond that but that sort of fun non-overbearing experience is good once in a while.
Maitetsu is a game that has everything to be at least pretty damn good: production values, lots of work and background check behind it, writing that is surprisingly informed and good and a nice cast.
But I ended up dropping it after a route, why? Because like Akeiro it tries to go for a non-overbearing experience but unlike Akeiro that thrives thank to the fast back and forth and snappy dialogues Maitetsu just goes on and on endlessly about a setting that isn’t used in any ways and a plot that may start at any moment but never does.A real shame… but hey, it has TRAINS.
Shoujo-tachi wa Kouya wo Mezasu aka Kouya. The Romeo game of the year and this time with Matsuryuu as artist for the first time since Cross Channel.
Obviously I was hyped as hell.
Well no surprise here, especially since Kouya has a horrible anime hated by the entire world, but my hype wasn’t satisfied and my disappointment at the time was pretty big.
I’ll just say that looking back at it, it was actually a fun game. Sure the drama events (that all last 5 minutes at most) are some of the worst things, looking at you Sayuri, but Kouya actually made me laugh quite a bit and at least put a smile on my face most of the time. Compared to some of the other disappointment this year this one is still cute.
Dies irae ~Interview with Kaziklu Bey~.
A DI spin-off with Bey as protagonist, obviously I was hyped too and to put it briefly I got exactly what I hoped to get. There is nothing more to say, this is a very good addition to the franchise and Claudia ended up being the best heroine Masada wrote since Paradise Lost. Good game
And yet another game I was hyped for.
Island is a game produced by Frontwing and written by G.O. who is more known for writing the doujin game Himawari.
I’ve been a fan of G.O since I read Himawari back in 2008 so obviously my hype was off the chart, Island is his first real commercial release after all.
Now I’ll just say that my hype didn’t really feel justified. G.O definitely grew as a writer and it shows, I really had a lot of fun with it overall but unfortunately part of me couldn’t get into it as much as I hoped due to several factors, the most important one being the overuse of curve balls, theory crafting that go nowhere, clues that say one thing but actually say another thing but actually say another thing, etc…
I get that this is usual for the genre and I usually enjoy that but in Island’s case most of it just felt irrelevant, simply padding to get to the next twist. But again it was fun to read so…
I’ll also say that the “Winter” part of Island was very good and definitely made my playthrough worth it.
I had problems with it but good game
And another one for the hype pile. Baldr Heart aka the new Baldr by Hiei since Baldr Sky, obviously it was one of the game I was hyped for the most in 2016.
I was overall satisfied by the game, gameplay-wise it’s an actual evolution of Sky in every ways and extremely fun to play. Story and setting wise it’s in several way a natural evolution of Sky’s ideas and show a real sample of the “after”.
In term of structure Heart is closer to Force with the routes that go crescendo in intensity both story-wise and gameplay-wise and a final route that take everything shown precedentedly for a big final, it’s no exxageration to say that the true Baldr Heart begin when the final route starts.
Now Heart never reaches the level of Sky and doesn’t have the few very strong individual scenes of Force but it does its job pretty well. The fact that it only does that may be a bit disappointing but not everything need to be a homerun.
Chuusotsu, a doujin game by Studio Beast written by Hiruou who also wrote J.Q.V (look it up!)
And yes the hype was real for this one too but this time my hype was easily surpassed. Chuusotsu takes place in a world where everyone is assigned a “seal” that shows their current, and mostly impossible to change, job and give them the stats needed to do it well (nanomachines son).
Arue is a chuusotsu meaning she graduated from middle school without receiving a seal, a NEET basically. But she still hopes taking a new exam and getting a seal of her own and to do so take part of a program. This program is simple, she can stay for free in a mansion with 2 other Chuusotsu and aim for the exam but in return she has to monitor a SF like item called Soul Link Device. And part of the monitoring include answering a philosophy question “What makes a wonderful life?” Along with her roommates full denpa Arara and the pure but surprisingly strong Koiro they have to find that answer in a week. But unfortunatelly the no seal chuusotsu have less intelligence and strength than a grade-schooler and only eyes for fun things like eating cakes, reading manga or playing games all days.
Chuusotsu is the first in a 4 games series but tell a somehow self-contained story so no worry about being stuck in a cliffhanger. It’s not a long game but still manage to cover a surprising amount of ground and some very actual themes. The writing of Hiruou that was already beyond the level of a doujin or most commercial writers in JQV got even better, to the point where I consider him technically in the top 3 active writer in the medium.
I only have love for this game and was considered as my favorite of the year but decided against it in favor for Seabed to reserve my full hype for the full release.
Can’t wait for Suicide Fence, save 2017 too Hiruou!
Amatsutsumi an eroge written by Mikage of Ef fame, about Makoto, the protagonist who live in an archaic hidden village full of people who like him can control other people using the power of words, decides to run away to see the real world.
Picked up by a mother and daughter he uses his power to pass as the son of the family and try to experience a normal life in this new town but one of the girl he meets isn’t affected by his power.
Amatsutsumi has a structure similar to Eustia meaning a long “common” route made of several chapters and each of these chapters can branch into a small route about the heroine that chapter focused in but they are mostly short and irrelevant.
Tha game is overall solid, the chapter focusing on Kyouko felt a bit boring but it was nothing horrible, but the true appeal of the game come from the main heroine, Hotaru.
It’s no exaggeration to say she is the main reason to read the game, she enhances every scenes she appears in and her personal story, that end up being the final of the game is one of the best thing Mikage has written.
Another way to say it is that if you don’t feel the Hotaru love passed the first hour you should probably drop the game.
Sen no Hatou, Tsukisome no Kouki aka Senmomo.
Unfortunately I don’t have much to say about it, I was pretty busy at the time I read it so its presentation and the fact that the text flows in such a way it barely felt like I was “reading” it was nice at the time but that also mean I forgot it existed a few days after finishing it. Senmomo gaves me hope it could go for some interesting things during the first half but end up going for your traditional good vs evil later on, not that it was badly done but I ended up feeling like I watched a passable movie.
Elsa had a cute butt though.
Steins;Gate 0. Again nothing much to say about it, in a way it reckinkled my love for the original Steins:Gate and I really liked what it did with some of the cast, Maho as a new character is really good too but the overall plotting felt very clumsy. I’m sure a lot has been said in other places so I’ll leave that to professionals.
Akiyume Kukuru aka Akikuru.
I said a lot about it on twitter but to put it shortly, it starts as a romcom, lives as a romcom and dies as a romcom, you’ll see some cool SF concepts in some routes, especially Yuzuki and Kiss but the romcom is there to stay so better appreciate it.
Well actually if I had to say something it would be that it’s a bit hard to appreciate the “rom”part of romcom when 75% of the script is made of shimoneta, which is a bit bad since “love” is one if not the main theme of the game.
But well, it was entertaining.
And I am currently playing Shinsou Noise and enjoying it quite a bit, I’ll refrain from saying more but it’s cool, the game is made of 6(?) chapters all focusing on a individual case and goes fully for the investigation angle unlike Akeiro. I won’t recommend it yet but the writing is nice, the cast is likable, the pacing is fast, good game so far.
Next post will be about other media in 2016 including video games, quite an interesting year on that side