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By Inactive or EX ROG Staffer On 30 Dec, 2014 At 08:51 PM | Categorized As Featured, Indie Spotlight, PC Games, Reviews | With 0 Comments

No GravatarIsabel Heyninck

I love the first Cherry Tree High game. A lot. It set itself apart from most visual novels I’d played because unlike most visual novels it was highly interactive. Usually you just get the dialogue and a few choices, playing more like a pick your own adventure novel. It is a medium with endless possibilities and lends itself to some splendid storytelling. The medium however is only widely used in Japan, with most western VNs being subpar cash ins for anime fan money. Cherry Tree High was a visual novel and a strategic video game at the same time. You can read all about why Cherry Tree High Comedy Club was so good in my previous review.

Cherry Tree High I! My! Girls! is the follow up I never expected to actually happen. When I saw it in the Steam store I could barely contain my excitement, and from the first episode with the subtle humor I’ve come to expect from the series out in full force I was greatly looking forward to some fun time with Miley and all her friends.

cthcc8

Wait what’s going on? Why are all the names Japanese?” was the sentiment that followed. When I first played the game it was westernized, with the setting in America along with appropriate name and reference changes. This was really alienating after playing through the westernized game. I couldn’t help but wonder if they made an original version of the first game so new players can seamlessly go from the first game to the follow up. Turns out they had.

original or localized

I’ve learned about some wonderful things in Japan by replaying the original version.

Now as to why they’ve deviated from localizing this particular game unlike the previous one can be attributed to an entirely Japanese phenomena. Idols.

idol cherry tree high

As to what idols are; you could equate them to pop stars but the culture surrounding them is so much more different than that of the west, it’s a difficult topic to explain. Unlike the first Cherry Tree High game where the plot involves happenings that can occur almost anywhere, the emergence of an idol in the story now makes it impossible for I! My! Girls! to take place anywhere but Japan.

The events of I! My! Girls! take place where the original game left off with the comedy club’s founding and all potential club members recruited. This new chapter in the Cherry Tree High series involves an idol, real name Ai Fujino, who finds out about the comedy club’s revival and decides to attend Cherry Tree High to pursue her dream of being a comedian. This of course is something that poses a problem since she is an idol.

comedian

The story, while primarily focused on this new character and Mairu the main character, also gives time to tell the stories of the other club members while introducing new characters.

Unlike the previous game, this one is purely visual novel. There are no choices, the story is told and slowly revealed. The game is broken up into “episodes” each with a chapter of some sort.

episode select screen

To me this actually felt more like reading a manga than playing a game since there are no choices. Did I like it? Yes I enjoyed the game for what it was. But do I think someone who knows nothing of Cherry Tree High Comedy Club should buy this game? No, this isn’t a story one would enjoy unless they are already acquainted with the characters and setting. It is knowing the character and seeing them carry on with the promise of the previous game that make I! My! Girls! satisfying.

Mairu faces challenges to her comedy club from rivals, you learn more about the adult characters from the previous game, about the Cherry Tree High Comedy Club’s history, you see character bond with each other, and so on and so forth.

I don’t want to describe the plot further since I wouldn’t want to spoil it but any CTHCC fan would like it. You get the atmosphere of the previous game and the same easygoing slice of life dialogue while being told a new story. The game ends on definite note of  more to come, and as much as I enjoyed this, I hope the next installment is as interactive as the first game. It’s a good companion to CTHCC, but as a standalone game it lacks footing.

What is it that I find most disappointing about I! My! Girls! is the fact that this is not a game I could show to my non-otaku friends as an example of how visual novels can be for anybody, that it is not an obscure medium, and they can tell wonderful stories anyone can enjoy. Unlike Cherry Tree High Comedy Club it doesn’t lend itself to wide appeal outside of Japan.

The creator can’t be blamed. This game was made with a Japanese audience in mind, foreigners are the last thing doujin circles try to cater to. In a Japanese market obsessed with Love Live! School Idol Project and used to simple VNs like these there is no obligation to be innovative. I’m not saying the creator wrote to pander, it’s obvious through his writing he enjoys what he does, but the fact I! My! Girls! was so different from CTHCC disappoints me a bit.

Conclusion, play Cherry Tree High Comedy Club and then Cherry Tree High I! My! Girls! If you’re unfamiliar with VNs and not a big fan of slice of life anime I suggest sticking with the first game unless you’re willing to take risks. Luckily, both games come in a bundle deal for max savings. Happy gaming!

 

By Inactive or EX ROG Staffer On 22 Jan, 2014 At 06:11 PM | Categorized As PC Games, ROG News | With 0 Comments

No GravatarA visual novel created by the writer of the world renowned Spice and Wolf light novel series was greenlit for an English release on Steam yesterday. The game’s English release was fully backed by the Sekai Project, a young American localization company that focuses its efforts on giving greater exposure to doujins (indie Japanese works) by working with the creators and using the power of crowdfunding and social media to bring these works to English audiences overseas.

 WORLD END ECONOMiCA promotional art

WORLD END ECONOMiCA will be a three part visual novel gradually released one episode at a time. As a big fan of Japanese indie games I am greatly looking forward to this release and the release of the other episodes as well. For now I believe this game will receive a warm welcome on Steam, and with this bit of news I gladly welcome the Sekai Project to the video game scene.

By Inactive or EX ROG Staffer On 18 Aug, 2013 At 03:26 PM | Categorized As Featured, Indie Spotlight, PC Games | With 0 Comments
eXceed 2nd Vampire REX banner

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 eXceed 2nd Vampire REX banner

eXceed 2nd – Vampire is the sequel game to eXceed – Gun Bullet Children which I’ve previously reviewed. Produced by FLAT and later remade by their shooting focused brand Tennen-sozai as eXceed 2nd – Vampire REX, this game is extremely different from its predecessor.

In the previous game you played as one of the Gun Bullet Children and now you’re an enemy of the church, a vampire named Lia Fyle on a mission to help lay a siege on the Holy Land. On the way you encounter characters from the previous game as well as new ones and battle each other.

It’s a fact of life young girls are some of the most powerful entities in Japanese fiction.

The game is still divided into stages that have preliminary enemies attack you until you meet the boss for the stage but the gameplay itself changes entirely by introducing a “polarity” system that allows you to absorb enemy bullets and inflict twice the damage on enemies hit by a different polarity than the one they have. There are two polarities, holy and evil, and you can freely switch between the two to suit your needs. Absorbed bullets raise the bomb charge gauge which when full can be detonated to unleash a blast that will cancel all bullets of the opposite polarity and blast enemies on screen.

Holy Canon Blast

Holy Canon Blast!

The game is incredibly fun and requires quick reflexes to not get shot by any wrong bullet. The challenge also lies in trying to get bonus points, and chain bonuses for hitting enemies of reverse polarity gives incentive to start dodging instead of constantly switching polarities to absorb bullets. The game is made unnecessarily harder by having your character larger than the original game and having fatter bullets, hence making the polarity really useful in tight spaces. It’s a minor detail, but takes getting used to.

The dialogue throughout the game presents a simple but interesting look into every character’s personality and yes, the voice acting is superb and the translation simply perfect. Some of the backgrounds in the game are ones from the previous game and some newer ones are present, and although I think familiarity should be part of a series of games such a simple game should make more changes to their scenery to expand upon their flat world. The music is even more kick*** than the previous game and matches the feel of the game pretty well. The graphics feel crisper and almost everything is an improvement from the previous game.

Battle between Lia Fyle and Miyabi Housen

This second installment is a sign of a great series and honestly speaking, has made eXceed one of my favorite indie games.

You can see what the game is all about by downloading the demo here. You can buy it here from a variety of sources including Steam and GameStop, but I highly recommend getting the eXceed Collection which has all three eXceed games for $9.99. And remember how I said the music kicked a**? You can download it right now. With great upbeat techno music, it’s possibly one of the best video game soundtracks in existence.

I will soon review the third and last eXceed game made so far, eXceed 3rd – Jade Penetrate.

By Inactive or EX ROG Staffer On 25 Jun, 2013 At 11:39 PM | Categorized As Featured, Indie Spotlight, PC Games, Reviews | With 0 Comments
eXceed - Gun Bullet Children

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Gun Bullet Children is a game that bloomed out of Touhou’s instant popularity. Coming from the already established  Japanese indie game developer FLAT, it was the beginning of the series of vertical shooters called eXceed.

eXceed - Gun Bullet Children

Gun Bullet Children is a simple game. As a bullet hell game, you’re going to be subjected to just that, an enormous amount of bullets and lazers coming at you from every way you have to dodge while gunning down the enemies yourself. Your main objective is to get to the boss at the last level and defeat him, the hard part is not dying en route. The enemies have a tendency to shoot in patterns and getting the rhythm down is an essential part of beating the game. Killing enemies will make them drop items the player can collect, these items are either red or blue. An essential part of the game is leveling up your character, which will make their standard attacks more powerful. That is achieved by collecting enough red items from enemies. Both red and blue items will increase your score, and when the score reaches a certain point you get an extra “life”.

eXceed enemies drop items

The game manages to create variation through two means, the difficulty and their characters. There’s not much to say about difficulty, just your standard, easy, normal, and hard. The variation that completely changes the way you play comes from your three main characters.

The three character differ in their three methods of attack: their standard attack, counter-magic, and bomb. With each character comes a new way to play, and mastering all three will require a lot of practice.

Counter-magic can only be performed if the bar that allows it is completely full and is filled the more attacks are dodged. Bombs are only available through lives, and each life allows for the character to use three bombs, once you lose a life you can’t get the bombs from that life back. Bombs have the ultimate advantage, because while they last you are invincible and can get in the line of fire dealing even more damage to the enemy until the bomb stops.

Tinatu Kagaya is the best character to play with because her standard attack covers a broad area which is great because you can indirectly shoot at enemies while dodging their attacks and her other two attacks obliterate every enemy on the screen at once. Every time she levels up the more bullets she can shoot at once, making her standard attack cover a larger areas and cause more damage to enemies.

Tinatu fighting a difficult boss

Sowel Devosiana has a “doll” that assists her in her attacks. Sowel shoots fire directly in front of her which makes it inconvenient when dodging attacks, but her doll shoots the enemy closest to her and doesn’t cause the player or herself damage if she’s in the line of fire, making her a very valuable asset. Counter-magic makes the doll shoot out lethal fire in 8 directions that kill all the enemies it touches and the bomb makes her grow giant and attack all on screen enemies.

Sowel in bullet hell

Now Miyabi Housen is the most difficult character to play with. Her standard attack is just a single column of fire directly above her. Her counter-magic is very unique because it doesn’t cover the entire screen like those of her fellow main characters, it makes two fire orbs revolve around her as a form of support fire and is only ideal when dealing with short range attacks, which makes it less than ideal for boss battles.

Miyabi dodging

The coolest thing she can do however is bomb. Her bomb is said to “fire a massive laser cannon” but it looks more like she harvested the power of fire and is turning the area in front of her into a fiery hell.

Miyabi's Bomb

As simple as the game play is, it’s quite addicting. But as much as I love this game I have complaints. The backgrounds are rather drab and only Tinatu’s bomb seems to last long enough to make the most out of it. Also there’s the issue that the game is an import (in its original Japanese form). To make up for it, Nyu Media has graciously provided a page with a complete translation of the dialogue in the game for those of us that don’t speak Japanese. The game also comes with decent voice acting (Miyabi is super high pitched).

Random symbols, can't understand.

What comes out of a computer without the ability to write in Japanese.

I’m not going to say much but be aware of your enemies, because come the following game you’ll be in for a surprise.

I consider this game a must have, the game play and amazing background music make this game. Getting the game and accessing the background music file will give a great addition to anyone’s video game soundtrack collection.

exceed bundle

As a first doujin game, this is excellent and the following games get better and better. You can get eXceed – Gun Bullet Children by itself for $2.99 but I definitely recommend getting the eXceed collection with all 3 games for $9.99, cheaper than getting each game individually. All these beautiful games are completely DRM free and great bullet hell games that rival classics like Touhou. Thanks to the localization team at Nyu Media Ltd.

The review for the second game in the series, 2nd – Vampire REX, is here.