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.

Shmup Essentials: Minus Zero

Shoot ’em ups are one of the oldest types of video game, having been around pretty much since the birth of the medium. So in order to stand out in this modern era, a new shmup needs to either do what it does really well… or do something unusual.

Triangle Service’s Minus Zero, originally released as part of the Xbox 360 compilation Shooting Love 200X in 2009, opts for the latter approach. It’s one of the most unusual shoot ’em ups out there — and one of the most addictive.

It’s a completely abstract game, consisting entirely of geometric shapes accompanied by a background and soundtrack that increase in complexity as you progress, but its main twist on the usual formula is that the only weapon you can use is a “lock-on” similar to that used in Sega’s Rez.

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Wii U Essentials: Xenoblade Chronicles X

While Nintendo platforms were very much the spiritual home of JRPGs in the 8- and 16-bit eras, in more recent times most of those games have jumped ship to Sony platforms.

This isn’t to say there’s a complete lack of JRPG goodness on Nintendo platforms, however; the 3DS has some solid titles, the original Wii had its three famous “Operation Rainfall” titles Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story and Pandora’s Tower — and the Wii U has Xenoblade Chronicles X.

Xenoblade Chronicles X is, it’s fair to say, a fairly different beast from its predecessor, and consequently it wasn’t to everyone’s taste. However, even if you didn’t enjoy it, it’s hard to deny that it’s a truly remarkable game, and a highly noteworthy entry in the Wii U’s library.

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Ne no Kami: Exploring Shinto Myths and Legends

This article is one chapter of a multi-part Cover Game feature!
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One of the best things about the visual novel medium is its ability — and willingness — to tackle things that are outside the normal remit of “video games” as a whole.

In the case of Ne no Kami: The Two Princess Knights of Kyoto, a visual novel from small, independent Japanese circle Kuro Irodoru Yomiji, there’s a certain degree of “crossover” in terms of subject matter. We have the sort of “plucky young heroes tackle otherworldly horrors” angle that we’re most used to seeing from more conventional video games, but at the same time we also have some sensitively handled exploration of romantic relationships, disparate cultures colliding and young people trying to find their place in the world.

Of particular note is Ne no Kami’s exploration of traditional Japanese and Shinto mythology, an angle which it takes great pains to point out is only its author’s interpretation rather than “fact”. But this doesn’t make it in any way “invalid”, of course; mythology, by its very nature, doesn’t have any “factual” basis in the first place, and has only survived so long by being reinterpreted and passed on across thousands of years.

Before we investigate the game’s story in detail, then, it behooves us to have a general understanding of the mythology on which it is based.

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Eorzean Diary: Lonely Explorer

One of my favourite additions to Final Fantasy XIV over time has been the randomly generated dungeon Palace of the Dead.

I actually like it specifically because it’s one of the few pieces of content in the game that can legitimately be run solo while it’s still “relevant” to you. Other dungeons and Trials in the game only really become soloable once they are so far beneath your character and item level that the only reason to run them is “for fun” or for the sake of their story, but Palace of the Dead is pretty much always useful for something or other, be it levelling an alt class or simply obtaining some endgame tomestones.

The other nice thing about Palace of the Dead is that it’s been specifically designed with soloing in mind, since it even has its own leaderboard for solo adventurers.

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The MoeGamer GameCast: Episode 5 – The Stacey Dooley Incident

In this episode of the GameCast, we discuss Stacey Dooley’s controversial BBC Three documentary “Young Sex for Sale in Japan”, Kemono Friends and the idiocy of licking Switch cartridges.

Trigger warning: Midori has a bit of a potty mouth in this week’s episode. Deal with it.

Switched up the music a bit for some variety this week. It’s still the work of watson at MusMus, though, and the font, as before, is the work of Style64. Other music used in this episode remains the copyright of its respective owners.

For a broader collection of responses to Dooley’s documentary from manga artists and readers alike since Nogami-san’s original tweets, check out this link.

Screenshot 2017-03-05 19.10.54.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 (130MB)
Download for Mac (133MB)
Download for Browser (102MB)

As I’ve said previously, if/when I have a bit more money floating around, I’ll sort out some proper hosting for browser versions so you don’t have to go through this process. If you’d like to help out with that — or if you just want to show your support for what I’m doing on the site in general — please consider making a pledge to my Patreon.

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

From the Archives: Aselia the Eternal and the Balance of Story and Game

A few weeks ago, we spent this column discussing the reason why we play different types of game.

The answer is, of course, different for everyone, but in the case of visual novel fans, most people will cite “story” as their main motivation to continue — even if the actual “gameplay” side of the title is left significantly wanting in the eyes of some people.

Take the title My Girlfriend is the President, which we discussed a while back, for example — in that game, once you’ve chosen which of the game’s four “paths” you’re going to undertake, there are absolutely no decisions to make that have any impact on the way the story ends at all, and yet that does not stop it from being a hugely entertaining and satisfying experience.

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: Aselia the Eternal and the Balance of Story and Game

Eorzean Diary: The Benefits of Being Left Behind

When I first started playing Final Fantasy XIV in A Realm Reborn’s open beta, I was keen to experience everything the game had to offer as soon as new things became available.

There’s a benefit to this approach, of course: coming into new things “blind” when no-one else knows what to do either allows the community as a whole to work together and figure things out for themselves, developing established strategies that simply become “the way things are done” from thereon.

But this also puts an undue amount of pressure on people, particularly in more “casual-friendly” content such as dungeons, non-Extreme Trials and even 24-player raids to an extent. If you weren’t there on that first day, expect to be admonished if you haven’t read up on an encounter beforehand; expect to be told to “watch a video”; and don’t expect any help. (Sometimes people will pleasantly surprise you, particularly in levelling content, but at level 60, this is unfortunately true for the most part.)

All that said, there is sometimes a benefit to being behind the curve, particularly when we come to the twilight hours of an expansion and await the next full installment in the game’s overarching storyline.

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Wii U Essentials: Splatoon

Multiplayer online shooters are notorious for being incredibly popular, but not particularly welcoming to newcomers.

Doubtless most of you reading have experienced at least one occasion where, while attempting to learn a new game, you were berated for being a “noob”, or utterly dominated by an experienced player taking advantage of the “fresh meat” on the map. With determination, you can push beyond this, of course, but it’s not something that everybody finds particularly palatable or fun.

Which is why Splatoon is such a wonderful piece of game design from Nintendo. By shifting the focus away from attacking other players directly while simultaneously removing the most common ways for people to be jerks to one another — i.e. voice and text chat — it created one of the most accessible, enjoyable takes on the multiplayer shooter ever created, and a game that even people who typically dislike multiplayer shooters can enjoy.

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Grisaia: Yuuji – The Boy Who Was Broken

This article is one chapter of a multi-part Cover Game feature!
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The Grisaia series may explore its five main heroines in considerable depth over its duration and various routes, but ultimately, the central character to the overall narrative is protagonist Kazami Yuuji.

Yuuji is one of the most distinctive, memorable and unusual visual novel protagonists in the entire medium. Through The Fruit of Grisaia’s exploration of him over the course of the five heroines’ routes, we learn a few details about him and his mysterious past. If you had come to the series completely blind, this would have the effect of gradually shifting your expectations: what might initially appear to be a relatively conventional high school-themed ren’ai (romance) visual novel slowly reveals itself to be much, much more complicated than you might expect.

And then you come to The Labyrinth of Grisaia, whose “Grand Route”, also known as The Cocoon of Caprice, finally gives us some concrete answers about who Yuuji is, why he is the way he is and the circumstances that brought him to Mihama Academy in the first place.

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