All posts by Pete Davison

Southampton-based music teacher, writer and enthusiast of Japanese popular culture.

From the Archives: Make Some Time for Magical Diary

You know how every so often you take a look at your Steam library and start to feel guilty about games you purchased because they sounded like just your sort of thing, but then you never got around to playing them?

Well, that was the thought that was going through my mind when I decided to finally fire up Magical Diary, a game I’ve owned for well over a year [at the time of original writing – Ed.] but which I was yet to try.

Magical Diary, if you’re unfamiliar, is a visual novel by Hanako Games and Spiky Caterpillar. Despite the distinctly Japanese-style presentation, it’s actually a Western-developed game — Hanako Games’ founder Georgina Bensley has long been a big fan of anime, and this influence clearly and obviously shows through both in Magical Diary and her other games, all of which are marketed as “girl-friendly.”

This article was originally published on Games Are Evil in 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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Nier Automata: Narrative, Themes and Characterisation

Nier creator Taro Yoko is particularly fascinated with death: not only the concept itself, but also how different people respond to it.

Yoko’s interest in the subject, as we’ve previously discussed, stems from a traumatic experience in his youth when he witnessed the accidental, easily avoidable death of a friend and discovered, to his surprise, that there was something oddly humorous in the moment as well as it being horrifying. Someone’s existence had come to a premature end, yes, but there was something fundamentally ridiculous about how it had happened; how sudden it was; and how everyone was powerless in the moment to prevent it from happening.

The inherent ridiculousness of death — particularly accidental death — is something that gamers have been familiar with for many years. And so what better medium through which to explore the concept itself — and what better characters to do so with than those that can’t die through conventional means?

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Games & Girls: Embracing the Stereotype

Among the denizens of the Internet, particularly those who are interested in video games, anime and other such nerdy things — especially those nerdy things that are a little outside the mainstream — there’s a strong trend of self-deprecation.

It’s not uncommon to hear people referring to themselves with something akin to “pride” when they describe their own awkwardness, their loneliness, their enjoyment of solitary activities over socialisation and the indulging of their passions in increasingly extravagant manners.

In practice, this sort of self-deprecation has a few different social purposes: firstly, to provide a shared sense of struggling against perceived adversity with fellow “outcasts” and consequently help to form something of a community; secondly, an attempt to prove to themselves and others that, despite what they may apparently believe and/or acknowledge to be their drawbacks, they’re comfortable in themselves; and thirdly, in some cases, simply to try and entertain others through voluntarily creating a sense of schadenfreude about themselves and their life.

Whatever the exact reason for it, it’s this sort of self-consciously lonely nerd stereotype that new episodic visual novel Games & Girls from the heavily Japanese-inspired German outfit Yume Creations fully embraces and begins to explore in its first installment.

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From the Archives: Secret of the Elemental Stone

I’m a big fan of unconventional JRPGs that buck the trends of the genre.

That’s not to say I don’t have any love for good old “ATTACK, MAGIC, ITEM” — quite the opposite, in fact — but when something combines the strengths of the JRPG genre (strong characters, heavy focus on narrative, over-the-top drama, colorfulness) with some fun mechanics from another type of game altogether, I sit up and pay special attention.

Fortune Summoners: Secret of the Elemental Stone, then.

This article was originally published on Games Are Evil in 2012 as part of the site’s regular Swords and Zippers column on JRPGs. It has been republished here due to Games Are Evil no longer existing in its original form.

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Puzzler Essentials: Purino Party

With the rise in free-to-play mobile games, the humble standalone puzzle game has become something of a rarity.

That’s not to say that they don’t exist at all any more, however, and, more to the point, puzzle games as a genre generally age a whole lot better than other types of game due to their abstract mechanics and non-reliance on realistic graphics.

With that in mind, then, let’s kick off a regular look at puzzle games from both yesterday and today to run alongside the other Essentials columns for Wii U games and shoot ’em ups.

First up for examination is a modern title from Grisaia developer Frontwing, loosely based on their unlocalised Pure Girl and Innocent Girl visual novels: Purino Party.

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From the Archives: On the “Idiocy” of Interactive Storytelling

Back at the end of November 2012, this article appeared over on community-led games writing site Bitmob (now folded into VentureBeat’s GamesBeat).

For those too lazy to follow the link and/or read the article, the gist is as follows: Shawn McGrath, creator of the psychedelic abstract shooter Dyad for PlayStation 3, made some rather bold proclamations on how inappropriate he thought video games were as a medium for telling stories.

Specifically, he noted that “linear story and interactive anything are diametrically opposed,” that they “make no sense together at all” and that “any attempt to put storylines in games in any traditional sense is completely idiotic.”

Strong words indeed. So what was his justification for this?

This article was originally published on Games Are Evil in 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.

Continue reading From the Archives: On the “Idiocy” of Interactive Storytelling

Shmup Essentials: Astebreed

There’s an assumption among certain parts of the gaming community that you need a big budget and a massive team to make something that looks amazing.

This is nonsense, of course, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the output of Japanese doujin circle Edelweiss, who have, to date, put out three exceptional (and exceptionally beautiful) games, each of which demonstrates a clear understanding of how to produce something that both looks spectacular and plays incredibly fluidly, in the grand tradition of arcade games.

Edelweiss’ most recent release is Astebreed, a shoot ’em up that began its life on PC but was subsequently ported to (and enhanced for) PlayStation 4. And it’s one hell of a game that any shmup fan should be proud to have in their library.

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