Treasures of Steam’s Secret Comiket Sale, Part I

There’s a Steam sale full of Japanese doujin (indie) games going on right now in celebration of Japan’s biannual Comiket event, but you’d be forgiven for not knowing about it; it hasn’t been publicised anywhere on the platform’s front page.

Instead, it’s seemingly relying on word-of-mouth to spread — a little disappointing for a platform that has, historically, allowed both big-name and small-scale projects to shine through front-page promotion. The reason for the sale’s lack of promotion isn’t entirely clear; perhaps it’s due to the perception of the titles involved in it as “niche interest” rather than games that will appeal to a broad slice of Steam’s audience. And that might be fair enough in some cases — but it’s also a squandered opportunity to expose these games to a much wider audience.

So let’s take the time to explore what’s in this sale now and do at least a little to address the issue. You can find the sale’s page at this link, and after the break, what you can expect from a selection of the games involved, with more to follow throughout the week.

Continue reading Treasures of Steam’s Secret Comiket Sale, Part I

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Sexual Healing

Visual novels have been around for a lot longer than some people realise — and, like any art form, they’ve changed noticeably over time.

An excellent example of the way they’ve changed — aesthetically, thematically and in terms of gameplay — comes in the form of Nocturnal Illusion, a title first brought to Western shores by localisation specialists JAST USA all the way back in 1997. It’s noteworthy in that, unlike many more recent visual novels, it’s not a “slice of life” affair focusing exclusively on romantic entanglements between the protagonist and the members of the cast who are love interests; while the game does explore the nature of love and sexuality in places, it’s actually much more of a surreal, fantastic, symbolic and at times horrific affair — and it’s hugely compelling as a result.

Regrettably, Nocturnal Illusion is extremely difficult to get running on modern machines owing to its age, though it is possible to get it going through a bit of fiddling around with ViLE — a “virtual machine” project for older visual novels that appears to have been dormant since 2011.

Alternatively, you could just read on and find out more about this unusual and remarkable game.

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Why You Should Be Playing Trails in the Sky Right Now

Today marks the release of the English PC version of The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky, a fantastic JRPG from Japanese developer Falcom and localisation specialists Xseed Games. You should probably grab a copy.

Tempting as it is to leave this article as nothing more than that introductory paragraph — existing Trails in the Sky fans will know what I mean — I’m well aware that there are plenty of you out there who probably need a little more convincing than this, so let’s take a little while to ponder the game, why it’s so noteworthy, and why you should definitely support it. And also what on earth it is, for those who are unfamiliar with either Trails in the Sky specifically, or the Legend of Heroes series as a whole, which is entirely possible.

Grab yourself a drink, arm yourself with a suitably hefty-looking quarterstaff and prepare yourself, then; we’re going in.

Continue reading Why You Should Be Playing Trails in the Sky Right Now

Eorzea Diaries: How to Build a World

Regardless of the type of overall game experience you’re going for in a massive, open-world game like an MMO — be it mechanic-centric or narrative-heavy — one of the most important things for the development team to get right is that feeling of “place” — of the virtual world feeling truly convincing.

This is something that Final Fantasy XIV’s predecessor Final Fantasy XI did very well, particularly within the main city-states, and it’s a tradition that A Realm Reborn continues with aplomb.

Worldbuilding is a far more complex matter than simply plonking some rocks and trees down at the side of pathways, however. It’s even more complex than the overall geometry of the environments that you explore over the course of the game — it’s a combination of things, all working together to make the virtual world as convincing as it possibly can be.

Let’s explore how A Realm Reborn handles this.

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In Pursuit of Several Truths

One common aspect of modern Japanese narrative-centric games and visual novels that we tend not to see quite so much in contemporary Western titles is the matter of multiple endings.

In some cases — visual novels being the prime example — seeing another ending is a relatively straightforward matter of picking different choices throughout the course of the story. In some cases, there will be a simple branching point towards the end that determines which ending you get; in other, more complex offerings, there will be completely divergent narrative paths down which to proceed.

In other cases — primarily more complex games such as role-playing games — seeing different endings is often dependent on a variety of other factors, some of which may not necessarily be entirely obvious at first glance, and some of which may be all but impossible to figure out yourself without the help of a guide.

Multiple endings provide replayability, sure, but are they a good thing?

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Eorzea Diaries: The Hunt Begins

Final Fantasy XIV’s third major content patch Defenders of Eorzea is here at last, bringing with it some significant new story content, some great new dungeons and a bunch of new game features.

One of the most anticipated new features in Defenders of Eorzea was the new Hunt system, a Final Fantasy XII-inspired activity that tasked players with several things: tracking down daily Marks from among the regular enemies that wander the world; tracking down a single weekly Elite Mark in exchange for significant rewards; and taking on any other Elite Marks you happen to stumble across in your travels.

While a sound idea in principle, so far The Hunt has had a somewhat questionable introduction to the people of Eorzea, even going so far as to make quite a few people disappointed, upset or even angry.

Let’s look in a little more detail at what’s up with The Hunt.

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Eorzea Diaries: Countdown to 2.3

Final Fantasy XIV’s third major content patch, Defenders of Eorzea, is set to launch tomorrow, promising, among other things, an epic battle against iconic recurring Final Fantasy character Ramuh, the continuation of several narrative threads, plus a host of new game systems.

Square Enix has been gradually teasing the various new features over the last few weeks, culminating in the publication of the preliminary patch notes late last week. And while these patch notes don’t tell us absolutely everything about what to expect, they, along with the most recent Letter from the Producer direct from Naoki Yoshida, give us a pleasant preview of what the adventurers of Eorzea will be spending the next three months indulging in.

We took a preliminary look at what was coming in the new patch in the previous installment of Eorzea Diaries; let’s today take a look at some more specific details — plus some interesting tidbits of information that were quietly snuck into the patch notes having not really been mentioned prior to today.

Continue reading Eorzea Diaries: Countdown to 2.3

Oh, Japan!