Category Archives: One-Shots

One-off articles about games, cultural phenomena, anime and anything else that isn’t getting the Cover Game treatment.

Harmony of Despair: Castlevania’s Red-Headed Stepchild

Speak to anyone who claims to be a fan of Konami’s Castlevania series and ask them what their favourite entry in the series is, and doubtless each one will give you a different answer.

Some will prefer the purity of the NES originals. Some will cite Symphony of the Night’s genre-defining nature. Some will extol the virtues of the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS titles. Some even have a soft spot for the 3D Nintendo 64 installments in the series.

One title you won’t hear a lot of people cite as their favourite Castlevania, however, is 2010’s Harmony of Despair, a digital-only game that originally released on Microsoft’s Xbox 360 platform — not typically a hotbed of Japanese games — and which subsequently came out on PlayStation 3 a year or so later, featuring a number of enhancements.

It’s a game that wasn’t received all that well on its original release, primarily because it deviated fairly dramatically from the Metroidvania format we’d come to expect from the series by this point. But although this game is far from your typical Castlevania of the erait remains worth a look, particularly as its age means you can now pick it up pretty damn cheap.

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Waifus I Have Loved

As Valentine’s Day rolls around once again, I find myself keenly aware that not everyone in this world is fortunate enough to be blessed with a partner, lover, spouse or otherwise significant other as understanding, tolerant and patient as my good wife.

At times like this, a man often turns to solace in the arms of a waifu — hell, even if you do have a partner, lover, spouse or otherwise significant other as understanding, tolerant and patient as my good wife, sometimes a man still turns to solace in the arms of a waifu.

But the process of picking a waifu is not a scientific one, nor is it as simple as seeing an attractive woman and feeling a sexual attraction. It is, for many, a deeper sense of connection with a character on an emotional level; a desire for that character to be real and part of one’s life.

Or it might just be a bit of dumb, silly fun. Either way, here are ten waifus I’ve loved over the years.

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Root Letter: Eleven Letters, Eight People, One Truth

Kadokawa Games’ Root Letter, first in their new Kadokawa Games Mystery series, quietly snuck out onto the market at the end of October, just four months after its Japanese release.

The proposed series is set to be a collection of visual novel-cum-adventure game hybrids for PlayStation platforms that feature real-world locations, artwork from Love Plus character designer Mino Taro and a cast of fictional actresses who will play different roles in each game. The plan, presumably, is to create a series of adventures that, while distinct in their own right in terms of story, will have numerous thematic and stylistic similarities throughout that make them feel like “part of a set”.

So far, all we have to judge the series on is its inaugural installment Root Letter, but fortunately it’s a very strong start indeed, eminently worthy of your time if you’ve ever enjoyed the Ace Attorney or Danganronpa games.

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Negligee: Pretty Girls in Sexy Pants

With a title like “Negligee”, you probably think you know what you’re getting — and in this case, you’d probably be right. Mostly.

Negligee is a short visual novel from the UK-based (but heavily Japan-inspired) developer Dharker Studio, whose previous work has included Beach Bounce, Summer Fling and Club Life, among others. To date, the team has put out works encompassing both “slice of life” romance stories and more fantastic, outlandish tales incorporating magic and sci-fi. Negligee falls very much into the former category by being about as down-to-earth as you can get.

But is it just an excuse to depict its heroines in a variety of revealing lingerie, or is there something more to it? Read on, and let’s take a closer look.

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Supipara: A Tale of the Greatest of Smiles

minori’s Supipara, a collection of five visual novels, the first of which has been localised by MangaGamer, is in an interesting situation. It’s a series that doesn’t quite exist yet.

As the series microsite notes, Supipara is an ambitious undertaking for both developer minori and localiser MangaGamer; while the first two chapters currently exist in Japan (albeit as a single game), and the first of these has already been localised into English, the future of the series is largely up to visual novel enthusiasts.

Rather than relying on crowdfunding as developers such as Frontwing and localisation outfits such as Sekai Project have done in the past, minori and MangaGamer are instead ploughing the combined profits from Supipara’s first chapter and science fiction love story eden* directly back into the series, with various milestones allowing the companies to continue their collaboration and — hopefully, anyway — see the Supipara project finally brought to complete fruition.

Having finished reading the first chapter of Supipara last night, I would very much like to see the remaining chapters become a reality. And if you’re a fan of visual novels, checking out Supipara’s first chapter is an eminently pleasing way to spend twelve or so hours of your life.

Why? Read on.

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Delicious! Pretty Girls Mahjong Solitaire: Exactly What it Sounds Like

You have to respect a game that is up-front about what it is; one that says to you “we both know why you’re here.”

Japanese developers and localisers — particularly in the visual novel sector, and especially when it comes to nukige, or games where the main point is sexual content rather than narrative — are good at this sort of frank honesty; browsing, for example, MangaGamer’s (emphatically not safe for work) front page reveals titles such as Boob Wars: Big Breasts vs Flat ChestsBusty Maid: Creampie Heaven and the gloriously self-aware Eroge: Sex and Games Makes Sexy Games.

Devleoper-publisher Zoo Corporation is no stranger to this practice, either, with its various labels Norn, Cybele, Miel and Yumesta each putting out a variety of games with fairly self-explanatory titles. Prior to 2015, the only Zoo title we’d seen in the West was 1994 puzzler BreakThru! — which Tetris creator Alexey Pajitnov had his name attached to despite having very little to do with — but all that changed with the release of Mahjong Pretty Girls Battle in January of that year.

A new series was born, with Delicious! Pretty Girls Mahjong Solitaire being its latest installment. And, you know, it’s pretty good, particularly considering its ludicrously cheap price at the time of writing.

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VA-11 Hall-A: Mixing Drinks and Changing Lives

VA-11 Hall-A is a remarkable work in so many ways. Not only is it the work of just two mysterious chaps from Venezuela, it’s one of the most authentically “Japanese-feeling” Western works for quite some time.

On top of all that, it’s simply an extremely well put together package, featuring beautiful pixel art by Christopher Ortiz strongly reminiscent of vintage Japanese computers such as the PC-88 and PC-98; some snappy, witty writing by Fernando Damas; and a cast of characters so memorable they’ll haunt your dreams long after you serve your last Piano Woman.

The cherry on top of all this is, as we previously discussed when we looked at the game’s early Prologue version, the fact that VA-11 Hall-A’s focus and setting are interesting, compelling and, if not completely unique, then certainly very distinctive.

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