Tag Archives: JAST USA

From the Archives: Politics Has Never Been So Moe

It occurred to me while compiling last week’s entry on the subject of “genre” that most of the visual novels I have personally played to date (Editor’s Note: at the time of original writing, 2012) have been rather “serious” affairs, dealing with delicate social and psychological issues, more often than not in a respectful, sensible manner.

So it was with some trepidation that I fired up Alcot’s My Girlfriend is the President, an English language release from JAST (Editor’s Note: sadly, seemingly out of print at the moment) and, to my knowledge, the first explicitly “comedy” VN I have personally encountered. (Editor’s Note: again, in 2012)

The premise of the game is absurd in the inimitable manner that only the Japanese can pull off with any confidence: aliens crash-land on “Nippon” (all country names in the game are bastardisations of their real-life equivalents except, oddly, for France), which wipes out the existing government. Then, wracked with guilt, said aliens decide to rebuild society and brainwash everyone as if nothing had happened.

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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From the Archives: A Question of Genre

How do you describe a piece of interactive entertainment? Chances are the first thing you mention is the way it plays, or the supposed “genre” it is part of.

Final Fantasy is a JRPG; Gears of War is a third-person shooter; Mario games are platformers. And this isn’t only true for mainstream games, either — even the most esoteric indie games tend to be described in terms of their mechanics. Fez is a puzzle-platformer; The Binding of Isaac is a roguelike shooter; Minecraft is an open-world building and survival sim.

While you may then elaborate on that by describing the setting — sci-fi, fantasy, cartoonish crazytown — it’s highly likely that this is not the first thing you mention. Interactive entertainment is pretty much the only artistic medium in which we do 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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From the Archives: School Days, Chaos Theory and Emotional Engagement

School Days HQ is a visual novel/interactive movie from STACK and 0verflow, localised by Sekai Project and published by JAST USA.

It’s a remastered remake of an earlier title from 2005, simply called School Days, and is rather notorious for all the wrong reasons — specifically, its violent tragic bad endings, which I won’t spoil here.

This article isn’t going to describe or analyse the overall plot in depth; rather, I’d like to talk about what School Days shows us about the possibilities and challenges a branching narrative offers to content creators, and what other games might be able to learn from the visual novel genre in general in this regard.

This article was originally published on Games Are Evil in August 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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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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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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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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