Let’s get one thing out of the way up front, because it seems to be a common point of confusion if Steam reviews are anything to go by.
The Winged Sakura series is not the same as the Sakura series. The Sakura series is a sprawling range of ecchi and hentai visual novels with a distinctive anime-inspired art style, developed by Western indie group Winged Cloud. Meanwhile, the Winged Sakura series is, at the time of writing, a trilogy of three disparate games with a shared cast, a (different) distinctive anime art style, this time developed by Winged Sakura Games, also known as one-man studio and BCIT graduate Hong Dang (plus freelancers).
To put it another way, if you’re one of those people who sees a new game with Sakura in the title and thinks “oh no, another Sakura game” or makes other similar assumptions, note that Winged Sakura: Endless Dream is nothing to do with those games, despite similarities in both its title and the name of its developer. It’s also really rather good.
Clear? All right then. Let’s continue.
Continue reading Winged Sakura: Endless Dream – Dungeons and Defenses
Sega’s Yakuza series is perhaps one of the most misunderstood franchises out there to people who haven’t played it.
Prior to its original release, it was assumed that the game would be a Japanese clone of Grand Theft Auto. Then people saw its real-time combat and started assuming it was a brawler.
It is neither of these things. It is, in fact, one of the most well-disguised JRPG series you’ll ever play.
This article was originally published on Games Are Evil in 2013 as part of the site’s regular Swords and Zippers column on JRPGs. It has been edited and republished here due to Games Are Evil no longer existing in its original form.
Continue reading From the Archives: Yakuza’s Modern-Day Questing Makes a Fine JRPG
Writing for The Atlantic, academic and media commentator Ian Bogost put forth the rather bold claim that “video games are better without stories” and asked “film, television and literature all tell them better, so why are games still obsessed with narrative?”
This is an interesting question to ponder in light of any discussion of video games, but it’s a particularly pertinent discussion to have when we’re considering something as ambitious and audacious as Nier: Automata — a game which not only tells a compelling story, it tells it in an incredibly fascinating way.
Bogost’s article meanders around the point somewhat, but ultimately seems to come to the conclusion that purely environmental storytelling — be it through the use of audiologs, a la BioShock, or less explicitly through the environment itself, as in “walking simulators” such as Gone Home — is not a particularly effective approach to presenting an interactive narrative, though it can provide an interesting playground for a player to explore.
And he’s not really wrong in this regard… apart from the fact that it’s only in relatively rare cases that a game exclusively relies on this approach.
Continue reading Nier Automata: A Game Better With — And Because Of — Its Narrative
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.
Continue reading From the Archives: Secret of the Elemental Stone
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.
Continue reading Nier Automata: Creating a Game That is “Unexpected”, That “Keeps Changing Form”
Nier: Automata is a fascinating game in its own right, but it becomes even more of an interesting story when you take it in context of everything that led to its creation.
In order to understand Nier: Automata and its predecessors, it is particularly important to understand creator Taro Yoko, one of the most distinctive “auteurs” in all of video game making — albeit one who, until the release of Automata, had largely flown under the radar in stark contrast to his contemporaries such as Hideo Kojima.
Yoko is a creator who, it’s fair to say, has consistently pushed back against the boundaries of what is “accepted practice” in video game development — both in terms of subject matter and mechanical considerations. And the results of his resistance to conventions and norms are some of the most distinctive and interesting — albeit sometimes flawed — creations in all of gaming.
Continue reading Nier Automata: Introduction and History
Of the three “Operation Rainfall” Wii RPGs that an Internet pressure group (now turned full-on news and reviews site and beloved friend of MoeGamer) helped bring to Europe and North America, the title that seems to get least attention is Ganbarion’s Pandora’s Tower.
This is sad, because Pandora’s Tower is brilliant and you absolutely should care about it. Why? Well, I’m glad you asked.
The three Operation Rainfall games are wildly divergent experiences from one another but they have one key thing in common: all of them shake up the player’s understanding of what the term “JRPG” really means. Xenoblade Chronicles provides quest-heavy open-world exploration; The Last Story provides a highly linear, tightly-scripted and fast-paced experience.
Neither of them follow the traditional “walk five steps on field screen, cut to separate battle screen” model, instead each deciding to try something different. The lower development overheads of working on the Wii, rather than holding these games back, allows the developers to take bigger risks with more adventurous concepts, mechanics and narrative arcs — and these risks have paid off bigtime.
But what of Pandora’s Tower?
Continue reading From the Archives: Pandora’s Tower, and Why You Should Care