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

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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

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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

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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

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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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Nier Automata: Narrative, Themes and Characterisation

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Nier creator Taro Yoko is particularly fascinated with death: not only the concept itself, but also how different people respond to it.

Yoko’s interest in the subject, as we’ve previously discussed, stems from a traumatic experience in his youth when he witnessed the accidental, easily avoidable death of a friend and discovered, to his surprise, that there was something oddly humorous in the moment as well as it being horrifying. Someone’s existence had come to a premature end, yes, but there was something fundamentally ridiculous about how it had happened; how sudden it was; and how everyone was powerless in the moment to prevent it from happening.

The inherent ridiculousness of death — particularly accidental death — is something that gamers have been familiar with for many years. And so what better medium through which to explore the concept itself — and what better characters to do so with than those that can’t die through conventional means?

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Final Fantasy XV: Narrative, Themes and Characterisation

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Final Fantasy XV drew some raised eyebrows from certain quarters for its focus on an all-male cast, but this was a specific decision made in order to support the overall tone and character of the story.

Despite what this might sound like, however, Final Fantasy XV does not make any particular effort to explore concepts such as traditional (or indeed “toxic”) masculinity and the like. In fact, at numerous points over the course of its narrative, it subverts expectations through the interactions between its main cast and the supporting characters.

Not only that, unlike most previous Final Fantasy titles, the experience is not intended purely to be judged on its main scenario. Instead, as we explored last time, much like other Japanese attempts at open-world games such as the Xenoblade Chronicles series, the intention is clearly to build up a comprehensive picture of how the game world as a whole works, supporting the main scenario with numerous intertwining side stories and background lore to create a setting that feels well-crafted and truly alive.

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Fairy Fencer F ADF: Narrative, Themes and Characterisation

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Compile Heart games, as we’ve previously discussed, don’t exactly follow the mould of the stereotypical JRPG. However, this doesn’t stop them from having a strong sense of worldbuilding.

You may not be able to freely wander the whole world in a Compile Heart game as you can do in a more open-world adventure, but physically representing something isn’t the only way to give the player a feeling of time and place. You can also do it through the writing.

And this is exactly how Compile Heart builds its worlds, both in its popular Neptunia series and in its outlier titles such as Omega Quintet and Fairy Fencer F. The latter, in particular, demonstrates that the company is more than capable of building a convincing world with an interesting mythology using relatively minimal resources.

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