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.

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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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Nier Automata: Creating a Game That is “Unexpected”, That “Keeps Changing Form”

Nier creator Taro Yoko has some strong opinions about how to keep games interesting.

Last time, we heard how he felt that modern triple-A games were often fun for the first twenty minutes, but that he often became concerned these initially impressive titles would become tiresome after twenty or more hours. It was this mindset that caused him to design the original Nier with so many unusual features to it, and many of these — and more — have carried across to Nier: Automata.

Today, then, we’ll take a look at Nier: Automata’s mechanical aspects — and how Yoko’s collaboration with Platinum Games has helped him to realise his vision better than ever before.

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Japanese Games Didn’t Just Suddenly “Get Good”

MoeGamer’s mission statement, which you’ll find over on the right, is “to provide comprehensive, interesting, positive and well-researched coverage of niche-interest and overlooked, underappreciated titles that tend to get a raw deal from the mainstream press”.

This has been my stated goal with the site from its inception in April 2014 — yes, we’re coming up on MoeGamer’s third birthday! — but my strong feelings towards it actually extend further back than that: to my JPgamer column and regular JRPG reviews at USgamer, to the visual novel and JRPG columns I hosted on the now-defunct Games Are Evil… in fact, my love of Japanese games can be traced all the way back to the 16- and 32-bit console eras in particular. (In the 8-bit era I was largely gaming on Atari computers!)

I’m not alone in my love of Japanese games and the feeling that they tend to get rough treatment at the hands of both the mainstream press and an ill-informed public — though to be fair to the latter, one tends to lead to another. Over the last few years in particular, there’s been great growth in “alternative” gaming sites aiming to specifically cater to niches underserved by the mainstream press. Friends of MoeGamer like Operation RainfallDigitally Downloaded and the recently launched j-ga.me/s/ all carry the desire to celebrate underappreciated titles — titles that, in many cases, have strong followings and communities surrounding them that are at best ignored and at worst ostracised and ridiculed the mainstream press — and all go about this task slightly differently.

One thing that brings us all together, though, is the sense of exasperation when a Japanese game that, for some reason, it is “acceptable” to enjoy comes along and even mainstream critics are forced to admit the things that sites like us have been arguing for literally years. And with 2017 being such a strong year for such games already, that has been happening quite a bit lately.

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Oh, Japan!