All posts by Pete Davison

Former games journo (GamePro, USgamer) and expert on all those Japanese games and visual novels the mainstream press likes to go "ew, pretty girls" at. I write things at great length.

From the Archives: Bonds of People are the True Power

One of my favorite things about Japanese role-playing games is their focus on camaraderie and friendship.

In fact, you can extend this outwards to a large amount of Japanese media in general — take a look at manga and anime and you’ll find a very similar situation.

The concept of nakama, or the trope of “true companions”, is very commonly seen — party members don’t necessarily always get along with one another, but they can count on one another and trust each other to do the right thing in a pinch.

The Persona series takes this concept considerably further than most other JRPGs by emphasizing not only the bonds between party members, but also the bonds between the protagonist and the people whose lives he passes through fleetingly.

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.

Continue reading From the Archives: Bonds of People are the True Power

The MoeGamer GameCast: Episode 9 – Garden of Memories, Part 2

In this week’s GameCast, Midori, Yumi and I continue our exploration of the Garden of Memories, and I share some further recollections that are important to me.

Original music, as ever, is the work of MusMus, and the awesome retro font is by Style64. Other music in this episode remains the copyright of its respective owners; you’ll also hear a piece from former Cover Game Megadimension Neptunia V-II as part of this episode.

Screenshot 2017-04-03 16.18.41.png

If you’re having trouble running the browser version, take a look at the TyranoBuilder FAQ, which explains how to run browser games locally — though be aware there can be some security risks involved, so only follow its recommendations when you want to run a browser-based episode of the GameCast.

Download for Windows (125MB)
Download for Mac (132MB)
Download for Browser (101MB)

Please consider showing your support for MoeGamer via Patreon so I can pay for some proper hosting for the browser versions, allowing people (including Linux users) to play the GameCast online.

If you’re new to the GameCast, start from the beginning to find out more about the characters and what this is all about!

Shmup Essentials: Dariusburst Chronicle Saviours

A common criticism of arcade-style shoot ’em ups by people who don’t understand that the main “point” of them is to replay them over and over for high scores is that they’re “too short” or “don’t have enough content”.

This is one criticism that most certainly cannot be levelled at Dariusburst Chronicle Saviours, the most recent installment in the long-running shmup series. Featuring a full port of the super-widescreen 32:9 arcade version of Dariusburst Another Chronicle EX — including its 3,000+ stage “Chronicle Mode”, which is communally unlocked by players from all over the world — as well as an all-original 200+ stage “Chronicle Saviours” (usually shortened to just “CS”) mode designed specifically for 16:9 displays and a single player, Dariusburst Chronicle Saviours most certainly isn’t a game you can accuse of being “over in 20 minutes”.

It’s also one of the most expensive shoot ’em ups available in the modern market, even compared to the relatively premium prices that Cave’s back catalogue has historically commanded. But is it worth splashing out on? Spoiler: yes; but read on if you’d like to know more.

Continue reading Shmup Essentials: Dariusburst Chronicle Saviours

From the Archives: A Fine Romance

The terms “visual novel” and “dating sim” are used somewhat interchangeably in the West — even by those who publish them — but in actuality, this isn’t particularly accurate.

Visual novels often involve romantic and/or sexual relationships as a key part of their narrative, sure, and dating sims involve a lot of reading text and making choices — but it’s in terms of overall structure that they differ quite significantly from one another.

Specifically, in a dating sim, you’re often given a lot more freedom in terms of how to pursue the your dream partner — and a consequent greater potential to mess things up entirely — whereas in a visual novel, you’re typically following a more clearly-defined, linear narrative.

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: A Fine Romance

Ne no Kami: Inspiration and Intent

This article is one chapter of a multi-part Cover Game feature!
<< First | < Previous


With visual novels having a lot more in common with conventional, non-interactive fiction than many other types of video games, it’s eminently possible for individual authors to give their work a clear sense of artistic identity and authorial voice.

Such is the case with Ne no Kami and Sacrament of the Zodiac, the work of Japanese circle Kuro Irodoru Yomiji and writer Fenrir Vier, who have made a great deal of effort to ensure that their work — and the world they’ve created — are internally consistent and true to their original visions.

In other words, unlike larger-scale projects developed by huge organisations, many members of whom have contrasting and conflicting priorities in development, the small team behind Ne no Kami was able to focus on giving their work a clear sense of artistic integrity rather than thinking of it as a “product” first, a creative work second.

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to pick Fenrir Vier’s brain about the creative process behind the development of such a piece of work.

Continue reading Ne no Kami: Inspiration and Intent

Final Fantasy XV: Episode Gladiolus – Reinventing and Refining

This article is one chapter of a multi-part Cover Game feature!
<< First | < Previous


For all the criticisms it’s possible to level at Final Fantasy XV, post-launch support isn’t one of them.

Square Enix has not only been preparing for the release of character-centric DLC packages focusing on each of protagonist Noctis’ companions, but also refining and expanding the base game into something that the company clearly intends to be a “platform” for substantial added content for some time yet.

The first of these DLC packages, Episode Gladiolus, is now available. Is it worth your time if you, like me, already sunk a hundred or more hours into Final Fantasy XV when it was first launched?

Continue reading Final Fantasy XV: Episode Gladiolus – Reinventing and Refining

From the Archives: Pandora’s Tower, and Why You Should Care

Of the three “Operation Rainfall” Wii RPGs that an Internet pressure group (now turned full-on news and reviews site and beloved friend of MoeGamer) helped bring to Europe and North America, the title that seems to get least attention is Ganbarion’s Pandora’s Tower.

This is sad, because Pandora’s Tower is brilliant and you absolutely should care about it. Why? Well, I’m glad you asked.

The three Operation Rainfall games are wildly divergent experiences from one another but they have one key thing in common: all of them shake up the player’s understanding of what the term “JRPG” really means. Xenoblade Chronicles provides quest-heavy open-world exploration; The Last Story provides a highly linear, tightly-scripted and fast-paced experience.

Neither of them follow the traditional “walk five steps on field screen, cut to separate battle screen” model, instead each deciding to try something different. The lower development overheads of working on the Wii, rather than holding these games back, allows the developers to take bigger risks with more adventurous concepts, mechanics and narrative arcs — and these risks have paid off bigtime.

But what of Pandora’s Tower?

Continue reading From the Archives: Pandora’s Tower, and Why You Should Care

The MoeGamer GameCast: Episode 8 – Garden of Memories, Part 1

The search for Penelope is on as Midori, Yumi and I find ourselves in the “Garden of Memories”, attempting to hunt down our elusive cat-eared friend.

This is a fairly short episode as I’ve been horribly ill over the last few days and barely able to get out of bed! Hopefully you’ll still enjoy what’s there, though, and this narrative thread will continue over the course of the next few episodes to add a bit of variety.

Original music, as ever, is the work of MusMus, and the awesome retro font is by Style64. Other music in this episode remains the copyright of its respective owners; you’ll also hear a theme from the wonderful Katawa Shoujo by NicolArmarfi and CplCrud as part of this episode.

If you’re having trouble running the browser version, take a look at the TyranoBuilder FAQ, which explains how to run browser games locally — though be aware there can be some security risks involved, so only follow its recommendations when you want to run a browser-based episode of the GameCast.

Download for Windows (125MB)
Download for Mac (129MB)
Download for Browser (97MB)

Please consider showing your support for MoeGamer via Patreon so I can pay for some proper hosting for the browser versions, allowing people (including Linux users) to play the GameCast online.

If you’re new to the GameCast, start from the beginning to find out more about the characters and what this is all about!

Shmup Essentials: Eschatos

Sometimes a game doesn’t need to do anything especially new to be a great experience. Sometimes it just has to do what it does really, really well.

Qute’s Eschatos, originally released only in Japan for Xbox 360, then subsequently ported to PC by Degica, very much falls into this category. On paper, it’s an incredibly conventional vertically scrolling shoot ’em up.

When you play it, however, you’ll realise that it’s something really rather special: a shoot ’em up that is both accessible to newcomers and challenging to veterans, and a game that manages to impart a strong sense of “narrative” and progression to its overall experience despite not really having a plot to speak of.

Continue reading Shmup Essentials: Eschatos

From the Archives: Culture Shock

One of the things video games are particularly good at as an entire medium is allowing you to immerse yourself in… things.

Exactly what you’re able to immerse yourself in depends entirely on the game — in Microsoft Flight Simulator you can immerse yourself in a realistic depiction of what it is like to fly a real aircraft, for example, while in Xenoblade Chronicles you can immerse yourself in a well-realized fantasy world.

One interesting possibility that this immersiveness allows for is the ability to “live” in another culture. For Westerners, it’s particularly intriguing to be able to immerse oneself into Japanese culture, for example, which is in many ways rather alien to the societal norms we see in America and Europe. Of course, said societal norms vary even between America and Europe, but not quite so drastically as the divergence in culture between “East” and “West.”

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: Culture Shock