From the Archives: School Days, Chaos Theory and Emotional Engagement

School Days HQ is a visual novel/interactive movie from STACK and 0verflow, localised by Sekai Project and published by JAST USA.

It’s a remastered remake of an earlier title from 2005, simply called School Days, and is rather notorious for all the wrong reasons — specifically, its violent tragic bad endings, which I won’t spoil here.

This article isn’t going to describe or analyse the overall plot in depth; rather, I’d like to talk about what School Days shows us about the possibilities and challenges a branching narrative offers to content creators, and what other games might be able to learn from the visual novel genre in general in this regard.

This article was originally published on Games Are Evil in August 2012 as part of the site’s regular READ.ME column on visual novels. It has been republished here due to Games Are Evil no longer existing in its original form.

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Wii U Essentials: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD

Any time someone claims that Nintendo’s flagship action-adventure-kinda-sorta-but-not-really RPG series The Legend of Zelda is stagnant and doesn’t try anything new, the perfect rebuttal is The Wind Waker.

Originally released in 2002 to a somewhat surprised Gamecube audience that wasn’t sure what to make of its cel-shaded visuals and seafaring-heavy gameplay, The Wind Waker has subsequently proven itself to be a timeless classic in the series as well as one of the most interesting Zelda titles there has ever been.

And with the HD remaster for Wii U, the definitive version of the game now exists thanks to some much needed tweaks and updates as well as full widescreen support and glorious high-resolution visuals.

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Nights of Azure: Hack, Slash… and Command

Gust, as we’ve established, is a company that doesn’t like to do things completely conventionally. As such, it’s entirely fitting that a Gust action RPG isn’t quite what you’d normally expect from the genre.

Nights of Azure is a fascinating game from a mechanical perspective in numerous different ways. Drawing influences from a variety of sources including From Software’s popular Souls series, Falcom’s Ys franchise, monster-raising games such as Pokémon and even elements of tabletop role-playing, the whole experience is one you can easily lose yourself in.

The result is a game that is initially surprising and baffling in roughly equal measure, but taking the time to get to know what makes the game tick really pays off in the end: it’s one of the most interesting takes on the action RPG for a long time.

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Wii U Essentials: Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker

While Nintendo as a company is often accused of playing things rather safe by relying heavily on its established franchises and game styles, titles like Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker remind us that we’re dealing with a company that is still willing to innovate and experiment with its most beloved properties.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (Captain Toad hereafter) is a spinoff of the excellent Super Mario 3D World for Wii U. The titular Captain, who was first introduced as a character in the Wii’s Super Mario Galaxy, put in occasional guest appearances for single-player puzzle levels throughout Super Mario 3D World, and so well-received were these levels that they were subsequently spun off into a game of their own.

Captain Toad is far from a simple Super Mario 3D World reskin, however — and it most certainly develops the base idea considerably beyond the bonus levels found in its source material. The result is one of the Wii U’s most unusual but utterly joyful games, and an essential addition to any collection.

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Nights of Azure: Introduction and History

2015’s Nights of Azure — or Yoru no Nai Kuni to its Japanese audience — was something of a departure for veteran developer Gust.

Primarily known for unconventional turn-based role-playing games with heavy crafting components, a style of game best exemplified by the developer’s flagship Atelier series, Gust opted to step out of their comfort zone with Nights of Azure by making it an action RPG with elements of monster raising.

It turned out to be a highly successful experiment for the developer, and what appears to be the beginning of a new series for the company, since a sequel is on the way at the time of writing. Yet despite Nights of Azure’s relative freshness compared to Gust’s other output, the game never forgets its heritage, and is recognisably “Gust” in both style and tone.

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Wii U Essentials

MoeGamer’s site mission has always been to delve into the overlooked and underappreciated Japanese games of yesterday and today. And, let’s face it, you don’t get more overlooked, underappreciated and Japanese than Nintendo’s troubled Wii U console.

With Nintendo now looking to new horizons after two successful mobile apps — Pokémon Go and Super Mario Run — and its next console, the Nintendo Switch, on the way in March of 2017, now’s a great time to look back at the Wii U’s lifespan. More specifically, it’s a great time to look back at its small but well-formed library of games, and pick out those titles everyone looking to build a “complete” collection before the console disappears off the face of the planet should have on their shelves.

With that in mind, over the next few weeks/months, watch out for a series of “Wii U Essentials” articles alongside MoeGamer’s regular Cover Game features. Each focusing on a single retail game from the Wii U’s library, these articles aim to build a comprehensive record of this turbulent period in Nintendo’s history: a time when the company released some of its very finest games, yet it struggled to recapture popular attention and commercial success in the same way as the original Wii did.

The games will be presented in no particular order, beginning later this week with a look at Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker.

Final Fantasy XV: Narrative, Themes and Characterisation

Final Fantasy XV drew some raised eyebrows from certain quarters for its focus on an all-male cast, but this was a specific decision made in order to support the overall tone and character of the story.

Despite what this might sound like, however, Final Fantasy XV does not make any particular effort to explore concepts such as traditional (or indeed “toxic”) masculinity and the like. In fact, at numerous points over the course of its narrative, it subverts expectations through the interactions between its main cast and the supporting characters.

Not only that, unlike most previous Final Fantasy titles, the experience is not intended purely to be judged on its main scenario. Instead, as we explored last time, much like other Japanese attempts at open-world games such as the Xenoblade Chronicles series, the intention is clearly to build up a comprehensive picture of how the game world as a whole works, supporting the main scenario with numerous intertwining side stories and background lore to create a setting that feels well-crafted and truly alive.

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Oh, Japan!