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It's been a while...I've been playing more VNs than just Umineko lately, so I figured I'd post about them.

Katawa Shoujo
A visual novel made using the free Ren'Py Visual Novel Engine, the title translated to "Disability Girls" and comes from an omake sketch a doujinshi artist did that got picked up by 4chan. A group of 4channers got together and made the game, and surprisingly, given the origins, it manages to be sensitive and sweet and not at all horrifying once you get past the concept (an eroge focusing on disabled girls).

The main character, Hisao, is a teenaged boy who, after a heart attack, gets diagnosed with a heart condition. He ends up going to a boarding school for students with various kinds of disabilities. The potential love interests - all female - all have different disabilities: so you have the blind ojousama, the Cloudcuckoolander girl with no arms, the genki athlete with prosthetic legs, the shy, bookish girl with a seriously scarred face (which isn't quite a disability, but then I haven't played her route yet), and the scheming deaf student council president.

The entire game isn't done yet, but "Act I" has been released, and you can download it for free here. (As it's a Ren'Py game, you can get it for Windows, Mac or Linux.) It's well-done in terms of art, music, and writing, and really does manage to be sensitive and thought-provoking on the issue of disabilities, in spite of its 4chan origins (so I have a feeling that when they get to the eroge scenes, they'll be tastefully handled), and I'm looking forward to the future release of the rest of the game.

Full Circle
Another free American-made Ren'Py VN, this one is more of a "kinetic novel" or whatever the hell the term is now for VNs with no real interaction aside from clicking through the plot. (That is, there's no choices you can make, so instead of a story with different routes, it's more like reading a novel or watching a movie...it's only about an hour long, though, so it doesn't take too long to get through.) It's also one of the only original English-language BL visual novels out there, so, er, warning for the occasional written gay sex scene. (Nothing visual, though.)

The game is actually quite well-done, with nice art and music (though I like the painterly art in the opening menu and the backgrounds better than Mel's standard anime-style portrait). The story centers around a manskank named Melville "Mel" Thatcher who ends up having to move in with his best friend and get a job at a coffee shop, and in doing so realizes how hollow his relationships with other people have been (from his best friend to his little brother); he ends up coming to terms with his essential unlikeability as a person and having to learn how to establish meaningful relationships with people. While by the end Mel still isn't entirely likeable - as the bathroom scene with his former one-night stand/stalker shows - you really do feel that he's grown enough as a person to make it feel worthwhile having played it. Also there is a lot of snarkery surrounding his new job at a coffee shop and the hipsters he works with. XD

You can download the game here, for Windows, Mac or Linux.

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni
I know most of you have probably seen the anime, but for those few who haven't: Higurashi is a Groundhog Day Loop story centering around a group of school-aged friends in Hinamizawa, a tiny rural Japanese village, in the 1980s. Each iteration of the loop begins with cute slice-of-life hijinks among the group of friends and ends with bloody murder; each time, though, things go slightly differently, and you learn more about the backstory and why things are happening the way they are. There are eight arcs - four "question arcs," which set up the story and the mystery, and four "answer arcs," which help you figure out what was happening in the question arcs as well as resolving the story as a whole. Like Full Circle, it's a kinetic novel (though marketed as a "sound novel," given the emphasis on sound effects and, in the answer arcs, on TOTALLY AWESOME MUSIC).

The story centers around a new arrival to Hinamizawa, Keiichi Maebara, who has quickly made friends with cutesy high school girl Rena Ryugu; boisterous sempai Mion Sonozaki; and two younger girls, Satoko Houjou and Rika Furude. Each of the arcs centers around the village's Watanagashi (Cotton-Drifting) festival, and two murders that occur that night which seem to be tied in with past murders and mysterious deaths in the village; this eventually leads various characters to devolve into paranoia and suspicion, and then the cleavers and such come out. Warning for violence: obviously it's not as bad as the anime, as they don't actually show the gory bits (just describe them), but they're still pretty horrific (beatings, ripping out throats with bare hands, fingernail torture, etc.). The anime was a bit much even for me, but I'm fine with the VN version. Still, caveat emptor.

You can purchase the first four arcs in English as a digital download from MangaGamer; they are releasing the answer arcs as well, individually, but they're not finished yet. Sadly, it is Windows-only, as far as I know, so you'll need an emulator or Boot Camp or something along those lines if you're not using Windows.

Future VN goals: catch up on aUmineko (I'm currently in arc 3), finish Higurashi, and play a few others that I've downloaded (Fate/stay night and Narcissu, among others).
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gogmagog: The Fourth Doctor from <i>Doctor Who</i> (Default)
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