Eorzea Diaries: Do Unto Others…

One of the things that can make or break a massively multiplayer game like Final Fantasy XIV is the community.

You can have all the great content and regular updates in the world, but if your community is largely made up of obnoxious morons, you’ll end up driving away the passionate but thinner-skinned players, leaving behind only the aforementioned obnoxious morons. And thus the problem continues to compound itself.

For the most part, in my experience, anyway, the community of Final Fantasy XIV has been a mostly very helpful and supportive place. And I think it’s important to keep it that way.

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Scars

Let’s talk about Hanako, one of the heroines from 4 Leaf Studios’ excellent free visual novel Katawa Shoujo.

As you’ll know if you’ve read the previous posts on Lilly and EmiKatawa Shoujo is a bold, remarkable work that tackles a variety of difficult subject matter. The most obvious demonstration of this can’t be missed: it’s a game where the main characters all have disabilities.

But that’s not all there is to it. It becomes abundantly clear over the course of the five main narrative paths through the game — each focusing on one of the heroines — that all of the characters are dealing with deep-seated issues other than the outward signs of their disability.

Hanako, the character whom you first come to recognise as the shy girl with the burn scars all over one side of her body, is no exception. Understandably traumatised by the events that made her look the way she does, she’s a character riddled with mental health issues — many of which are highly relatable to a general audience.

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There’s Not Always a Happy Ending

The modern world is incredibly concerned with spoilers: the giving away of surprises before you, yourself, have reached that part in the narrative.

But some of the most effective stories out there are pretty up-front about their most surprising elements and still manage to forge a compelling, interesting narrative. D.O.’s Kana Little Sister is a good example of this — we know from the outset that Kana is likely to die at the end of the game, but that doesn’t stop it from being emotionally engaging throughout, and traumatic when the final moments of the story eventually roll around.

Another particularly effective example of this is in Nitroplus’ Saya no Uta (aka The Song of Saya), a horror-themed visual novel composed by Madoka Magica writer Gen Urobuchi.

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Eorzea Diaries: Confessions of a Terrified Tank

The thing with multiplayer online games is that sooner or later you have to deal with other people. In a game as inherently social and cooperative as an MMORPG, it tends to be on the “sooner” end of the spectrum.

To its credit, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn caters to lots of different play styles, though if you do intend on playing through the complete, authentically Final Fantasy storyline you’ll need to get comfortable with at least the 4-player dungeons as you progress through the game.

When I started playing Final Fantasy XIV, I chose the Thaumaturge class, which later becomes Black Mage — a “DPS” class, or damage-dealer. The job of a DPS character is simple and twofold: deal damage, try not to get hit. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s completely responsibility-free, but it’s definitely the best choice for those who perhaps aren’t comfortable with leading a party of adventurers.

People like me.

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The Rusian Fairy and the Chivalrous Pervert

In the strange and twisted world that forms the setting for Alcot’s comedy visual novel My Girlfriend is the President, Irina Putina is the Rusian [sic] president who shows up early in the game’s (fixed) first act and then sticks around for varying amounts of time in the remaining three, depending on which route you chose.

She’s a textbook tsundere in almost every respect, seeming abrasive, grumpy and quick to anger on the surface but regularly demonstrating that she has a soft centre beneath all the slapping. And to be fair to her, protagonist Junichiro generally deserves every single slap he gets from her.

Irina’s path is one of four different narrative routes you can branch the story of My Girlfriend is the President down in its first act, with the others being Starship Ezekiel, whom we’ve already discussed; the titular “girlfriend” (actually more accurately translated from the original Japanese as “childhood friend”) Yukino, who through a series of unfortunate happenstances finds herself the President of Japan-equivalent Nippon; and the resident older sister-type Ran-neechan. All four paths are markedly different, but the members of the main cast each have their own roles to play throughout this madcap adventure.

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Guidebook to Another Culture

Video games are a great means of immersing yourself in another culture. For years now, Western gamers have been enjoying titles like Yu Suzuki’s sadly unfinished Shenmue series and Atlus’ Persona titles not only for their enjoyable gameplay and overarching storylines, but for their ability to make you feel like you’re “living the Japanese life”.

There’s a huge amount of scope for interactive entertainment in general to promote and foster understanding between different cultures, whether you use the word “culture” to refer to national identity, socioeconomic groups, minorities of various descriptions or simply groups of people who have chosen to gather together under a particular banner for whatever reason. And it’s something of an underused aspect of interactive entertainment, too, though with the growing diversity of the games industry — particularly thanks to the indie scene and how easily we can access content from all over the world via the Internet these days — it’s something that more and more developers are starting to explore.

Nitroplus and 5pb.’s visual novel Steins;Gate is an interesting example of this practice in action, and it’s arguably only now that it’s been localised into English that it can be truly effective at one of the things it’s doing.

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A Misshapen Family

In this, the second part of our look at the free visual novel Katawa Shoujo, we delve into the narrative path that focuses on Lilly the blind girl.

If you missed the first part of our exploration of this fascinating game, take a moment to read The Fastest Thing on No Legs from the other day, which takes a close look at Emi, the athletic girl who lost her legs. And if you’re yet to play Katawa Shoujo for yourself, I’d encourage you to check it out for yourself; it really is an excellent, worthwhile experience — and for free, too.

Lilly, the subject of today’s piece and the character you initially know as “the mature-looking blind girl”, is an interesting character. From the moment the protagonist Hisao first meets her in the secluded abandoned classroom that she and her friend Hanako have been using as an improvised tearoom, it’s clear that she’s cut from a different cloth to many of the other students at Yamaku, the special school that is the setting for most of Katawa Shoujo’s narrative. Of course, the other students at Yamaku are also cut from a different cloth to the rest of society thanks to their various disabilities — including Hisao, who suffers from a debilitating heart condition — so for Lilly to set herself apart from such a group must make her pretty remarkable.

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Oh, Japan!