Tag Archives: storytelling

Cyberdimension Neptunia: Narrative, Themes and Characterisation

One of the interesting things about the Neptunia series as a whole is that it doesn’t really have an overarching “big plot” as such, but nonetheless sees each of its characters getting plenty of development.

Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online is an especially intriguing case in that, although it is a spinoff title from the main series, previous examples of which have been regarded as non-canonical, it feels like one of the most significant instances of each member of its main cast “advancing” in their overall development and growth.

In fact, in many ways, the fact Cyberdimension Neptunia does not feature a prominent note that it is a non-canonical installment can lead us to believe that it is a quasi-sequel to Megadimension Neptunia V-II and its predecessor Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory/Re;Birth3, particularly given the presence of characters who were introduced in those games, such as Plutia and Peashy (Victory/Re;Birth3) and Uzume (V-II). And in that context it’s actually a very significant installment in the series from a narrative perspective.

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Granblue Fantasy: More Than Just a Deck of Cards

Japanese mobile-social gacha-based RPGs — or “mobages” as they’re colloquially known today, after the social network many of them are hosted on — were originally described when they first appeared as “card battle” games.

Looking at Cygames’ previous title Rage of Bahamut, it’s easy to understand why. Everything about the game had the feel of a collectible card game about it, from the simplistic battle system (which primarily consisted of ensuring your numbers were bigger than the enemy’s) to the fact that the main incentive to collect all the available units (through blind draws) was to see the beautiful artwork. About the only thing missing was the ability to actually trade “cards” with other players.

In recent years, while the basic structure of these games has remained similar — draw cards, level them up, upgrade them to higher rarity versions, challenge more and more difficult content — there’s been a noticeable shift away from the “card game” feel in favour of something a lot more interesting. And Granblue Fantasy is a particularly good example of this evolution.

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From the Archives: Our Changing Attitudes to Interactive Storytelling

As I write this, I have beside me a copy of the October 1997 issue of PC Zone, a then-popular, now sadly defunct PC games magazine from my homeland of the UK.

I keep this magazine around for two reasons: firstly, the walkthrough of Discworld II on page 145 was written by none other than a teenage yours truly, earned me what felt like a small fortune when I was in secondary school, and represented one of the earliest occasions on which words I had written appeared on national newsstands; and secondly, I simply enjoy looking back on old magazines and seeing how much the games industry and its members’ attitudes have changed over the years.

It’s this second point that I particularly want to explore today.

This article was originally published on Games Are Evil in 2013 as part of the site’s regular READ.ME column on visual novels. It has been edited and republished here due to Games Are Evil no longer existing in its original form.

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Virtual Intimacy

The arrival of relatively affordable virtual reality solutions has the potential to allow us to explore narrative and characterisation in all-new ways — and I’m especially excited to see what Japan comes up with. 

An oft-cited strength of narrative-centric Japanese interactive entertainment is the sense of “intimacy” it engenders between the player, the protagonist and the core cast. Visual novels in particular are noteworthy for their in-depth explorations of characters and in allowing the player to “ride along” inside the protagonist’s head as they encounter various situations.

So what might virtual reality bring to this kind of experience? It’s an interesting question to ponder, and an exciting prospect to imagine.

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