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This weeks #TuneTuesday has me return to one of my favourite games and soundtracks. It is ‘Revised Shibuya -another-’ from CHAOS;CHILD composed by Takeshi Abo. I have mentioned this relatively unknown title before but to give a brief summary, Chaos;Child is the fourth main entry in the Science Adventure series (the same series the famous 'Steins;Gate' comes from) and a thematic sequel to Chaos;Head. As such, the plot is incredibly involved and rather confusing at times. In it, you take the role of Takuru Miyashiro, the president of his school's newspaper club, who investigates the "Return of The New Generation Madness" serial murder case that has been taking place in Shibuya. During the course of the game, he experiences delusions where the player gets the option to choose if Takuru should experience a positive or negative delusion or neither. These choices affect the plot's direction, causing it to branch off from the main narrative into different routes. That is, once you've played the game through for the first time, as you only have access to the common route (the canon route if you would). Chaos;Child is a murder mystery thriller, so death is commonplace within the narrative. Various members of the cast are thrown into mortal danger constantly, so one would expect the many cues to be creepy ambiences and/or horrifying assault on your eardrums. And you would be right with this, as there are many cases of both of those. My recent mentioning of this game was one of those such cues, ‘Peak Level’, which I described as ‘a broken Trance/Dubstep with some weird tribal vocals going on’ that usually accompanies the game’s horrific murder scenes or/and when shit hits the fan. As important as it is to have a horror game with scary music, what makes all good horror standout is the mastery over pacing. If you were to have scare after scare after scare, constantly, for however long your story is, then it wouldn’t be that scary. Your player (or reader in this case) would become climatised to it, and you never want someone to become climatised with scary things. It’s not good on the psyche. There are two ways you could address this. You can take the usual Western approach and just up the scares, but then end making the billionth SAW film. Whilst this is necessary, what is often needed are some calmer moments, so the player/reader can digest what has just happened and be lured into a false sense of security, and have time for some character development. ‘CHAOS;CHILD’ has pacing like no other, and has lots of fantastic music to depict all sorts of moods. As the title would imply, this is a variant on Revised Shibuya, which is much calmer and is often played when the characters, most of which are high school students and best of friends are trying to enjoy their lives, running the newspaper club, having meals, or going out shopping with each other in the bustling shopping district of Tokyo’s Shibuya district. You actually hear this version of the cue more than the other one, and more than any other cue in the game for that fact, and it never feels boring or repetitive. This also is to do with it’s pacing, and how the various instruments build and add to the starting piano part. There are also some creative use of chromaticism, which are notes and chords that are not usually found within the home key which in this case is the happy key of C major, the does a wonderful job at pulling you into the social life of the cast, making the world and those who live within feel alive and genuine. It is not an interactive score by any means, but it delivers on the emotion with amazing prowess.
I. BASIC INFORMATION :: Game Title Reanimation Scheme :: Genre Visual Novel Otome (GxB, GxG) :: Developer Wind Chimes Games Tumblr | Twitter | Facebook | Discord :: Platform PC (Windows/ Mac/ Linux) :: Availability Itch.io Free Demo :: Release Q4 2020 :: Rating Teen mild swearing, death, alcohol, blood, and violence :: Trailer II. DEMO REVIEW In this fantasy otome Visual Novel (VN), you play as Raenelle Talisko (first name changeable), a necromancer in the Kingdom of Nalenshir where magic is an integral part of the country. Raenelle’s job as a Reanimator requires her to reanimate corpses of the recently deceased in order to help them fulfill their final wishes. She is not very enthusiastic about her job and looks forward to getting a promotion to a different job. However, any plans for her career progression is soon disrupted when a regular spirit summoning ritual held one morning went awry. And that marks the start of a curious journey where Raenelle has to join the other mages in discovering the cause behind all death mages’ sudden inability to summon any spirit. :: Visual Aspect TLDR; Overall Impression: GOOD Unless you are particularly averse to anime-style art, you would not be disappointed with the quality presented in the VN. Although there may be some minor things that can be further improved, the visuals are consistently shown to have been handled with the utmost care and thought. Starting from the User Interface (UI) design, Reanimation Scheme already sets out to give us a visual treat. Apart from looking clean and neat, the UI is also highly customized to fit the story setting itself. The “Load”, “Settings”, “Extras” (which holds the “Gallery”, “Music”, and even “Achievements”), and “Help” menu screens are designed as a little ornate spellbook with a little surprise: the eyes of the skull would light up as you hover over other menu options. It is also wonderful that the infinite save slots feature from Ren’Py has been retained. My only complaints with the menus is with the small font size used and the lack of an obvious “Return” button – it took me a while to realize that I could click anywhere outside of the book to return to the game. Thankfully, the font size is larger in the actual dialogue boxes so there is no need for me to squint, though I think it can still afford to be bigger for a more comfortable read. Still, because the protagonist’s side sprite is always visible and most of the screen elements are always visually the same, I sometimes find it difficult to immediately register who is talking. The partial voice acting does help in recognizing the current speaker but alas, because it is only partial, there are still dialogue lines with no voice at all. In contrast, the “History” log, even at a glance, is much easier for discerning speakers with the different character’s names clearly marked with their own colors. I also love the customized Choice screen, where there is a friendly prompt provided at the top and Raenelle stands in the middle surrounded by choices contained in thought bubbles. As someone who sometimes forgets what the last dialogue before the choices was about, I find the concise prompt a real savior. Nevertheless, I wish the hover over effect for the current choice selection could be more visually distinctive. Moving on to character and background (BG) art, I must say I am impressed with their quality. The main characters’ sprites are given plenty of posture, facial expression, and clothing variations. Character sprites are used meticulously and purposefully along with the story; for instance, if you catch someone blatantly looking away during your chat with someone else, then they are indeed not paying attention to the two of you. Characters not only blink but they also appear bigger when they come closer to you. They also take hesitant steps at times and then dash out, albeit rather too quickly, of the room at other times. They can even juggle items across their open palms! The combined use of sprites and animation is amusingly creative and very much on point with the story events. In the demo, minor side characters are represented with black silhouettes. While I do look forward to seeing fully detailed sprites for them as well, the silhouette stand-ins are still a welcomed addition as opposed to having no visual representation at all. I personally would rather speak to a faceless silhouette than to thin air, after all. Plenty of small visual additions have been put in place to spice up the entire storytelling. From swirling mists to illustrations of smaller objects like potion bottles and magic runes, every visual implementation is a testament to the great amount of work put in to give readers a more enjoyable reading experience. If I really have to nitpick, I would say I would like to see the magic runes shine a little more. Alas, the visual part of the novel will not be complete without the detailed BG art, which includes day and night variants to suit the time of the day in the story. Other than the text overlays for shop signages that do not quite blend in with the illustration, the BG art gives a beautiful representation for the various locations present in the Kingdom of Nalenshir. :: Audio Aspect TLDR; Overall Impression: OKAY Music is considerably the best part of the demo’s audio aspect, though sound effects and partial voice acting have also played their part in bringing the story to life. The demo features six background music (BGM) and one instrumental theme track, all of which are composed by Alcaknight. I find all of them pleasant to listen to – none of them is strikingly memorable but none is awful either – and they fit the various moods of the story well. My current favorite is Raenelle’s Theme; I could stay on the Title screen for some time just to hear the instrumental theme on repeat! As with other VNs, sound effects (SFX) have been added to enhance the storytelling. They are all basic SFX, such as a simple door close and sound for spells, but they do add appropriate flavor to the story. I appreciate the chatter BG noise used to indicate a noisy environment, though I find the looping clip used for the busy teleportation square too short, which results in me having to listen to the chickens cackle constantly for that scene (or at least, I think they were chickens). I am not a fan of partial voice acting but I find it still okay in the demo, mainly because I noticed there are some variations in the same recorded phrase used for some of the characters, such as Raenelle’s friendly “Sebastien” and angry “Sebastien!” as well as Lord Waven’s neutral “Hmm” and questioning “Hmm?”. However, these variations are not numerous and I sometimes find myself hearing a voice clip that does not quite fit the tone of the text (cue Lord Waven’s forever angry “Hmph!”). :: Characters TLDR; Overall Impression: GOOD All characters have distinct individuality and their own personal issues to deal with. Because they have their own strengths and weaknesses, there is healthy room for character development yet. Even though the characters are somewhat molded after common stereotypes, they can still be told apart by their unique personalities. The characters certainly have a mind of their own and they each have their own problems to face. Raenelle, the protagonist, is someone with strong opinions and is not shy to stand up for herself against any unreasonable nonsense that others threw at her. On the whole, I find Raenelle a woman with decent sense, even though I do not quite agree with her frequent whines about her job. Her complaints show that she is only human but I hope Raenelle will actually do something about her job along the way. As for romance, given her personality and background, I am generally expecting a less wishy-washy and more mature approach to relationship from Raenelle. For now, there are two male and one female love interests (LIs). First, we have Raenelle’s friend, Aldrias Varet, an intelligent, good-natured, and soft-spoken person who likes to spend his free time pouring over books. Then, we have Kierdan Waven, a skilled ice mage, who is a serious man of few words but wields a commanding air around him. Finally, there is Lyrissa Yirath, a bubbly life mage who is a sweetheart determined to pave her own path in life. My initial bias is Kierdan as he falls into the same general category as my other favorite otome LIs. But his “you are not allowed to pry into my business but I can pry into yours” attitude is rather off-putting. I find myself having the tendency to make Raenelle react more forcefully when it comes to interacting with Lord Waven. After all, it is really satisfying to see Raenelle giving Lord Waven a piece of her mind. My only worry is that those choices would inevitably land me on a Bad End. Through the demo, I have taken a liking to Lyrissa. Aldrias, on the other hand, despite looking dashing in his formal wear, did not quite leave a special impression on me. As for the other two potential LIs that would be added if the Kickstarter stretch goals are reached, I can only say Jori Halwin really left a deep impression. Jori’s apparently irresponsible attitude irks me a lot and I am at a loss of words for his brand of humor. Sebastien, though having a sharp tongue, is notably less annoying than Jori is. That said, I do not find these characters bad; in fact, I think they are well-crafted if they can evoke emotions in us as much as real people do. :: Writing TLDR; Overall Impression: OKAY In general, the writing is well edited although there are times when overly packed sentences impede the reading flow. World-building is consistent but perhaps further explanations about the world can be supplied. In spite of the occasional presence of confusingly long sentences that require a re-read (or two), the writing is generally polished. There may still be minor typos to smooth out and awkward phrasings to improve here and there, but there is nothing too damaging to the reading experience. As far as the premise goes, I find it decent. I do not recall having came across a protagonist who is a necromancer before. However, it is still too early to say whether this would set the story apart from the others. When it comes to presenting Nalenshir, the three chapters in the demo show quite clearly – with the prevalence of communication mirrors, potions, and teleportation circles – how magic is fundamental in the Kingdom. The main thing I found unclear is whether everyone in Nalenshir has inherent magical abilities or there are folks who cannot wield any magic at all. Overall, I find the world-building pretty consistent; there are certainly parts that I find vague but nothing seems to stand out as contradictory. While the schools of magic present in the story are quite common, I think it would be nice to include an in-game list of key definitions for major things relevant to Reanimation Scheme’s world. Still, I look forward to seeing how the mystery of the failed spirit summoning rituals would be handled in the final full version. How deep is the mystery going to be? Will there be surprising twists awaiting us? Last but not least, how will each character’s route be contributing to unraveling the mystery meaningfully? :: Closing Remarks Despite containing only three chapters, Reanimation Scheme demo really shines with its fantastic visuals, lovely music, promising story premise, and lively characters. Even though the LIs fall into common stereotypes and may thus make the romance routes somewhat predictable, I still think Reanimation Scheme has the potential to tell a memorable tale of its own. Reanimation Scheme is currently on Kickstarter with around one week left to go! It is currently fully funded but there are still exciting Stretch Goals waiting to be reached. Be sure to check it out and help spread the word if you wish to support this otome VN project.
Carrying on with the paints-shitting terrifying music, this weeks Spooktober #TuneTuesday is Peak Level from 'Chaos;Child', composed by Takeshi Abo. I did cover this game in a recent(ish) #TuneTuesday thread, but to give a brief summary, Chaos;Child is the fourth main entry in the Science Adventure series (the same series the famous 'Steins;Gate' comes from) and a thematic sequel to Chaos;Head. As such, the plot is incredibly involved and rather confusing at times. In it, you take the role of Takuru Miyashiro, the president of his school's newspaper club, who investigates the "Return of The New Generation Madness" serial murder case that has been taking place in Shibuya. During the course of the game, he experiences delusions where the player gets the option to choose if Takuru should experience a positive or negative delusion or neither. These choices affect the plot's direction, causing it to branch off from the main narrative into different routes. That is, once you've played the game through for the first time, as you only have access to the common route (the canon route if you would). Chaos;Child is a murder mystery thriller, so death is commonplace within the narrative. Various members of the cast are thrown into mortal danger constantly. This is when today's cue enters. When 'Peak Level' is heard in the game, it is usually in direct conjunction with murders related to the Return of The New Generation Madness. In other words, it is played when someone is being murdered, usually horrifically and slowly. Chaos;Child doesn't fuck about either, as it does not shy away from any of the horrific imagery of someone chopping up their own arm and eating their own fingers, to use the very first thing you see in the game. And being a visual novel, the sound design and descriptions is just so much more immersive than your typical game, for a lot of the work is done by you. These are genuinely terrifying moments to sit through. In the early sections of the game, it is other people who are killed when this cue plays, but when the cue plays when you and/or your school buddies are around, that is when the fear goes from 0-to-10 really fucking fast as you are forced to watch your near defenceless protagonist and friends flee from whatever is attempting to tear them apart (literally in one case!). On its own, without any context, 'Peak Level' sounds like a broken Trance/Dubstep with some weird tribal vocals going on. But when 'Peak Level' is played in-game, it makes Chaos;Child one of the most frightening narratives to experience. There are 2 instances where this cue is it's most frightening, which is the end of Chapter 6 and 8. I won't tell you why so you'll have to experience Chaos;Child to find out.
This weeks #TuneTuesday comes from the visual novel I have just finished playing/reading/experiencing. It is 'Visible Essence' from 'Chaos;Child' composed by Takeshi Abo Chaos;Child is the fourth main entry in the Science Adventure series (the same series the famous 'Steins;Gate' comes from) and a thematic sequel to Chaos;Head. As such, the plot is incredibly involved and rather confusing at times. In it, you take the role of Takuru Miyashiro, the president of his school's newspaper club, who investigates the "Return of the New Generation Madness" serial murder case that has been taking place in Shibuya. During the course of the game, he experiences delusions where the player gets the option to choose if Takuru should experience a positive or negative delusion or neither. These choices affect the plot's direction, causing it to branch off from the main narrative into different routes. That is, once you've played the game through for the first time, as you only have access to the common route (the canon route if you would). Chaos;Child is a murder mystery thriller, so many of the cues are varying degrees of creepy and frightening, depending on what is going on at a certain moment in the story. With Japanese high school students as the protagonists, there are some lighter relief moments where some of the cues are more upbeat and pleasant, as well as some appropriately sad ones for certain moments. It is not a terribly interactive soundtrack, but music in media should always enhance the emotions on screen first before you throw all the clever Wwise toys at it. The cues never feel repetitive or monotonous, which is why this soundtrack is just fantastic. Then you have today's cue, which is very different from what the player is used to hearing in the game. I personally get Jean-Michel Jarre vibes from it, probably because it sounds very similar to one of the Oxygene tracks that's in G minor. Visible Essence plays towards the end of the visual novel, in association with a certain group of characters (who are nameless here for spoiler reasons) and certain climatic plot revelations that are true 'mind-blown' moments. The cue represents these people perfectly. They are frightening, extremely intelligent and have this strange brewing power that is never truly explained. That is all I'm going to say on the cue, for I fear I have said too much already. Go play Chaos;Child, for it is one of the best narrative experiences I have encountered in a game. It's sound design and voice acting is top-notch as well. I have very little to fault this game on, which is incredibly rare to find a piece of media this good.