Tag Archives: themes

The MoeGamer Awards: Best Integration of Mechanics with Thematic Elements

The MoeGamer Awards are a series of made-up prizes that give me an excuse to celebrate games, concepts and communities I’ve particularly appreciated over the course of 2017. Find out more and suggest some categories here!

Today’s suggestion comes to us from “riobravo79”, who doesn’t appear to have a website or Twitter or anything — not that I could find, anyway — but left a comment on the initial awards post. Thanks; hope you see this!

Balancing narrative themes and mechanical interest is always a concern for those making a game with any more complexity than a “walking simulator”, visual novel or similarly story-centric experience. And it’s with this in mind that one of the most common terms bandied about by people who like to pretend they know what they’re talking about is “ludonarrative dissonance”, intended to describe the disconnect between the narrative themes of the story and what you actually spend your time doing in the game.

Some games handle this better than others. Some games don’t even attempt to handle it, combining abstract mechanics with a more realistic narrative. But some games do a wonderful job with fusing their narrative and thematic elements with how the game as a whole works.

And the winner is…

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Rance VI: An Epic for Adults

Whew. Sorry for the somewhat delayed appearance of this article, but as you will know if you’re a regular reader, I like to beat at the very least the main story of games before I write about them in detail.

Rance VI’s main story is a substantial, ambitious affair — and there’s a whole bunch of post-game stuff to do once you’ve cleared it, too, if you really want to ensure you’ve got the most out of the game. Beating it to my satisfaction before penning this article took a little longer than anticipated!

In fact, Rance VI as a complete package is a substantial, ambitious affair, not just from a narrative perspective. There’s a whole lot to talk about, so the best way to go about this is going to be to tackle it a bit at a time. Make sure you visit the toilet before we set off… this is going to be a long journey!

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Doki Doki Literature Club: Cute Girls Write Poems

I normally don’t bother with spoiler warnings here on MoeGamer, since it should be fairly apparent that in the process of analysing certain works in depth, “spoilers” are something of a necessity.

I will, however, make an exception in the case of Doki Doki Literature Club, a Japanese-style visual novel from independent Western developer Team Salvato. This is a game that is best experienced completely and utterly blind, so if you have the slightest interest in a visual novel that subverts expectations and makes astonishingly good use of its medium, I recommend you go play it through now before reading any further. It’s completely free, can be cleared in an afternoon, and is available either via Steam or itch.io.

Beyond this point lie hefty spoilers, so consider yourself warned!

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Fate/stay night: The Friction of Real and Ideal

Fate/stay night’s final route Heaven’s Feel is a culmination of everything that has come before.

Longer, more complex, more challenging and concluding with a definite sense of “finality”, it’s a fitting end to an enormously ambitious visual novel — as well as just the beginning of something that would go on to become a worldwide phenomenon.

So let’s dive into the Holy Grail War for one last time and see where this epic (in every sense of the word) ends up…

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Fate/stay night: Struggling with Oneself

Unlimited Blade Works, the second of Fate/stay night’s three distinct narrative routes, concentrates on the concept of the struggle between oneself and an ideal.

It’s a story with an altogether different feeling to the Fate route, featuring a great deal more internal conflict.  And not just for the protagonist Shirou Emiya, either, but also for many of the people around him — most notably heroine Rin Tohsaka.

In fact, this time around, it’s only really Saber, who had plenty of her own struggles in Fate, who gets off relatively lightly (in terms of mental and philosophical challenges, anyway — though she does spend much of the story being physically and sexually tortured). Everyone else has a lot of very serious and meaningful questions to try and answer before the two weeks in which the story unfolds come to a close.

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From the Archives: Meaning in the Madness

With a lot of the games I’ve played over the last few years — including many of the visual novels that I’ve read — I’ve found myself thinking “gosh, I really wish I had this when I was a teenager.”

Not just from a technical standpoint — though naturally the games of today look and sound considerably better than those of 15 years ago — but from the perspective of subject matter and the willingness to tackle issues that simply would have been unthinkable to see in a video game of the ’90s.

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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MeiQ: Narrative, Themes and Characterisation

Dungeon crawlers aren’t historically associated with having particularly strong stories, perhaps largely due to their origins as mechanics-heavy games with player-created parties.

A number of recent Japanese takes on the subgenre — including, among others, Demon Gaze, Operation Abyss and Dungeon Travelers 2 — have proven it is possible to blend mechanically sound, deeply absorbing dungeon crawling with a strong sense of narrative, however.

MeiQ is the latest game to follow this trend, featuring an imaginative steampunk-cum-sci-fi tale revolving around a strong, all-female central cast of characters.

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