This is a reblog of my site http://geekysweetie.com – Other stuff may appear here such as reblogs from other wordpress.com sites. I blog and reblog about anime, video games, kdrama, toys, technology, and kawaii fashion and decor.
I just purchased and watched “The Red Turtle” last night. The silent animated feature length film was done, in part, by Studio Ghibli, famous animators of feature length family favorite anime films such as My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away, Ponyo, and The Cat’s Return, just to name a few.
I have to admit, I didn’t really do my research on this title (and didn’t realize it was a silent film until I began watching it), but every time I saw a preview, I just wanted to see it oh so badly. When I realized I could buy it for only $10 more than the “rental” price ($15 vs $5) I immediately purchased it.
For about the first 20 – 40 minutes of the film, I felt disappointed and disinterested; that quickly changed as the plot began to advance, and by the end I was so emotionally invested that I was crying.
Read on for the full review below.
Title: The Red Turtle
Studio: Studio Ghibli
Release Date (theatrical limited release) : January 20, 2017 (dvd / bluray) : May 2nd, 2017
Length: 1 hour and 20 minutes
Geeky: 3/5 – The beautiful artwork has a story book like quality while the musical score helps covey the feelings of the wordless cast of characters.
Sweetie: 5/5 – Without any voice, this movie still manages to tell an uplifting, wholesome, sad, touching, and romantic tale. This film reminded me of the Song of the Sea (which I also HIGHLY recommend and will eventually get around to reviewing). It also reminded me of a silent “Little Mermaid”. Or a little of the Tom Hanks “Castaway” film or Swiss Family Robinson.
Overall: 42/50 84% B “Very Good Anime For Girls”
Story: 8/10 If you’ve watched any of those films, you can guess some of the themes present in the Red Turtle, a story about a man shipwrecked on an island trying first to leave the island, then coming to accept his new life and live off the land.
There’s really several stories within the story here if you’re paying attention. At first, it is just the man and the sea and land and creatures there of. But a miracle occurs one day, turning a lonely devastated man, into a protector, caregiver, lover, and eventually father.
It’s a very circle of life tale. You watch all of the characters as they age, grow up, grow old, while witnessing their triumphs and struggles as they evolve and grow.
Although there are no words, and it takes some getting used to (at least for me; the only other silent film I’ve ever liked is Wall-e.), if you keep watching, you will eventually fall in love with the characters, and by the end it will leave you in tears, as it did for me.
It does start slow. I think the first 30ish minutes of the man being alone on the island could have been cut down to about 10-15 minutes and still conveyed the same point, that he is unable to leave the island, that he is angry, cold, bitter, and vengeful, etc. — Still after the appearance of other humans, we witness how their love for him changes the man into a much different and better person.
Characters: 8/10 : The characters have no names, and no real back stories. It’s never explained exactly how or why things happened the way they did; whether that was intentional to allow you to insert yourself into their shoes, or just the nature of the silent story telling format, it doesn’t matter because the characters are still incredibly real, raw, and full of emotion and personality even without back stories and without voices. I felt an immediate connection to the characters and felt myself emotionally invested and caring about what fates and circumstances fell upon them.
Animation: 8/10 – Although it’s not done in any kind of “traditional” anime style (big eyes, fantasy hair colors, etc), it still has charm. The sea, the starlit sky, the forests, the land, and even the characters. This film had to rely 50 / 50 on music as well as animation to tell the story. The characters’ movements had to convey their emotion. This is no easy task, yet it is one that this film excels at. Whether it’s capturing the curiosity of a small child, the desperation and isolation of a lonely man, the love and tenderness of a woman, or the animals who share the island with the small family, there is no shortage to emotion and charm in the animation.
Music: 10/10 – Think of this as basically Fantasia meets the Little Mermaid. The music score, when music is present, is vital in telling the story. Many times throughout the film there will be little to no music and only ambient noises and sound effects. This makes the power of the instrumental musical pieces even more powerful when it is used to convey the emotions of the cast or even the power of nature itself.
Big Fish & Begonia (also known as Da Yu Hai Tang) is not technically an anime since it is from China instead of Japan; however, it is a beautifully animated fantasy adventure with a lot of heart. The quality of the animation is on par with Disney or Studio Ghibli.
The story has a few plot holes and pacing issues, but overall, the emotional impact of the story telling makes this film a must watch. The story may feel familiar if you’ve watched Disney’s the Little Mermaid, or another Chinese animation from the 90s, Chinese Ghost Story. Despite the similar concepts, Big Fish & Begonia still manages to add its own unique twists and takes on concepts of forbidden love and reincarnation.
Title: Big Fish & Begonia (Da Yu Hai Tang)
Release Date: July 2016 (China) (Not yet licensed for North America)
Production: Bejing Enlight Media
Geeky: 5/5 – The production values are top notch. The quality of the animation, music, and acting are all on PAR with Disney or Studio Ghibli. Many consider this film to be the “dawn of animation” in China. It took 12 years to complete, and the level of dedication, time, care, and skill that went into making this film really shows.
Sweetie: 4/5 – I did decide to deduct one point for a few major plot holes and pacing issues. However, the themes of love (often times unrequited), life, death, and reincarnation make this film very “sweet” indeed. I was not expecting to cry as much as I did by the end!
Overall: 47/55 85% B “Very Good Anime For Girls”
Concept: 10/10 I am in love with the concept behind this film. I am a huge fan of Chinese Ghost Story and also the Little Mermaid.
I even prefer the old 80s Japanese version of the Little Mermaid over the Disney one (blasphemous, I know, right?). Don’t get me wrong, I love Disney’s Little Mermaid too. But the reason I love the non-Disney version so much is because of how sad it is.
Spoiler for the Japanese Little Mermaid below:
In the end, the prince marries another girl. The Little Mermaid’s sisters come to her with a poisoned dagger. If she chooses to kill the prince and his new bride, she can return back home with her family. However, the Little Mermaid only wishes for the prince’s happiness and cannot bring herself to harm him because she is so in love with him. As the sun rises, per her agreement with the Sea Witch, the Little Mermaid turns into sea foam and dies.
I know this sounds horrible to some people who always insist on watching movies with a happy ending, but I’ve always loved tearjerkers, even as a child. There’s just something so touching and sweet about this tragic tale. It also happens to follow the original story more closely as well.
So if we combine that 80s Little Mermaid with Chinese Ghost Story, we get something very similar to Big Fish & Begonia. Chinese Ghost Story is another beautifully animated Chinese film. (The animation was done by a Japanese studio). The story involves a young man who finds himself lost in a literal “Ghost Town”. All of the city’s inhabitants are spirits who have passed over. There, he meets a beautiful woman who also happens to be a ghost. Eventually the two of them fall in love; however, the only way for them to be together is for both of them to reincarnate back on earth.
Story: 7/10 The story of Big Fish and Begonia revolves around Chun, a young girl who has just become an adult in her society. Chun is from a mystical world. The movie describes the world by having Chun narrate that they are not gods, nor humans, but “others”.
In this mystical world, all adolescents become dolphins and journey to the human world for 7 days as a right of passage. During this time if they should come into contact with humans, they will not be allowed to return back to their own world.
However, a sea squall occurs which traps Chun in a fisherman’s net on her last day on Earth. The past few days, she has spent observing the humans and their world, especially one young human who loves the sea. This human sees that Chun is trapped in the net and swims out to save her.
Although he is able to free Chun from the fisherman’s net, he drowns in the storm. Chun tries to save him, but is only able to retrieve his ocarina. Chun can’t forget the young man or his grieving family even when she returns back to her own world.
Chun discovers that there may be a way to revive the young boy and return him back to his world. She trades half of her life in exchange for his. In doing so, she also irreversibly links together their two souls. Should one of them perish, so shall they both. To complicate matters, his soul must remain a fish until returning back to the human world. In Chinese legends, there was a big fish who could fly through the skies. Thus Chun names him after the fish of legend, Kun.
Many sad things happen along the way, but Chun resolves herself to complete her mission, even if it costs her her own life. As much as Chun cares for Kun, there’s another character who equally cares for Chun. He is her childhood friend named Qiu. With the same resolve that Chun takes to protect Kun, Qiu takes similar resolve to protect Chun, also willing if necessary to trade his life for hers.
Overall, I really enjoyed the film and loved the concept and story. My complaint with the story is the introduction of minor characters halfway through. They abandon certain concepts they have introduced, and create inconsistencies and plot holes. Here are a few examples.
1.) In theory, Chun should not have even been able to return back to her world. Contact with humans was forbidden. Yes, her world begins to suffer, and everyone turns against her. But, when the film starts, her mother warns her not to let the humans see her and tells her that another girl just took the journey and was unable to return for breaking this rule.
2.) At one point, a villain will escape into the human world. (You’ll know what I’m referring to if you watch the movie). After escaping into the human world, we never see or hear from this villain again. You would think it had some motive for wanting to go into the human world and that some consequences may occur in the human world as the result of introduction of this character. We’re never shown exactly what those consequences are.
3.) When returning to the human world, all memories are supposed to be erased; however, that doesn’t seem to happen. There’s also the issue or significance of the necklace that Chun is wearing at the end, that I don’t recall being explained. It seems the creators want your attention to be called to the necklace from the swinging and shining animation and camera zoom and pan given to that scene. What significance exactly did the necklace hold?
This next bit might be a Spoiler for the end of Big Fish and Begonia
4.) If you watch past the credits you see a scene with Qiu (possibly eluding to a sequel of some sort), and at the end of the credits you are told that the film is based on a Chinese legend about a brother (Qiu) who evoked an 8,000 year long autumn, and his sister, Chun, who evoked an 8,000 year long spring. Then we are led to believe that the Qiu and Chun in this film are the reincarnations of the ones in Chinese Legend. Chun even tells Qiu that she can’t love him because she thinks of him as her brother.
When we look at their respective magical ability, Chun with her flowering and plant growing, and Qiu with his fruit growing/harvesting, this also reinforces the idea that they are brother and sister. Also while researching this, I discovered that Chun is the Chinese word for Spring, and Qiu, the Chinese word for Autumn.
You can also do your own research into reading more about the Legend of Qiu and Chun. One such source that I found describes that they had an incestuous affair for many years, despite Chun later marrying for political reasons, and being separated by distance geographically. Despite the distance, their feelings for one another never diminished.
The problem that I have with this theory is just simply that Chun doesn’t love Qiu in this film which seems to be a direct contradiction to the ancient legend. If it was based on this Chinese legend, it seems that she would have also had feelings for him as well as, or maybe even more than, her feelings for Kun. Qiu very clearly has those feelings for Chun as he tells her that his only regret is having not held her in his arms on their final night together. However, Chun seems to only regard Qiu as a good friend, and nothing more.
Despite the inconsistency that this creates, I have to say, Qiu is my favorite character, and that one line of dialog, and the scene of their final night together, and Qiu’s sacrifice for Chun, really is my favorite part of this movie.
Characters: 8/10 Qiu makes this film for me. He begins as a bit of a child-like impish, practical jokester. By the end of the film, he has matured so much, and sacrifices so much as a result of his love and desire to protect Chun.
Chun likewise grows as a character, with her resolve to protect Kun. She goes against her elders, her mother, the people of her village. She is shunned as a result of breaking the laws of her people. While it would be easy to harbor a grudge against the people who have cast her out of their tribe, she instead endeavors to help them when tragedy befalls their home.
Chun also realizes what she was warned, that we cannot ever truly atone for our sins. As a result of helping Kun, other people begin to suffer. She realizes the weight and consequences of her actions; however, it is too late to change course.
Qiu learns a similar lesson. He asks how to save and help Chun, but the answer he receives eats away at him. He asks a shopkeeper if he has anything that can make him forget his sadness. The shopkeeper offers him a drink, but he warns it will also take away his happiness. He learns that in order to have happiness, you must also experience sadness.
The minor characters are also sources of wisdom and have a lot of heart, especially Chun’s grandparents who help her even after their own death.
I did deduct 2 points because there are some characters that are forgotten and abandoned, and even Kun himself feels underdeveloped as a character. It was hard for me to like the relationship of Kun x Chun because so much more development had been put into Qiu compared to Kun.
Animation: 5/5 This is one of the most beautifully animated films I have seen, not just from China, but from anywhere. It blends beautiful 2D and some nice 3D animation techniques. The fantasy world and characters are all unique and mesmerizing.
Voice Acting 5/5 Big Fish and Begonia is a very emotional film, and to pull that off, it makes use of talented voice actors who can capture and convey their feelings of love, guilt, grief, and despair.
Music: 3/5 Music also has a Disney-ish feeling and helps tell the story. I especially liked the song during the ending credits. There a few Disney-ish feeling “song/dance” skits, which can sometimes detract from the mature and dark feeling of the film; these are brief, but not as well handled in my opinion as similar scenes in Chinese Ghost Story, which makes great use of music interludes to tell their story. The music also doesn’t feel that memorable in Big Fish and Begonia, but it is overall, quite lovely.
“Shall We Date” is a very popular series of free mobile and browser based Otome Games (Games for Girls) by NTT Solmare. Wizardess Heart is one such game in this series. I recommend this game for anyone who loves Harry Potter (or cute anime games in general). Check out my review of “Shall We Date: Wizardess Heart +” below!
Title: Shall We Date? Wizardess Heart+
Developer: NtT Solmare
Genre: Otome Visual Novel with Dressup Game elements
Geeky: 3/5 There are numerous limited time events and the graphics are quite pretty – however, as is the case with visual novel games, there is not much meat to the gameplay and overall challenge or difficulty levels are low. However, it does earn some “geek” cred for the fact that it is sure to appeal to all Harry Potter fans.
Sweetie: 5/5 This game has everything a girl could ask for, beautiful graphics, tons of romanceable (cute) guys, dressup elements, a great love story, interesting characters, high replay value, freedom of choice, multiple endings, and lots of events
Overall: 68/80 85% B “Very Good Game For Girls”
Concept: 9/10 Wizardess Heart is a visual novel. A visual novel is a type of game, often without any combat or action, which allows you to see different parts of an overarching story by making different decisions at certain points which leads you to various different endings. As is common in many free or low budget visual novels, you begin this adventure by choosing which route you want to be on by selecting one from more than a dozen different men. I dislike this approach to visual novel telling. I prefer to not know which route I’m on and let my choices determine that, such as in more high budget premium visual novels such as Clannad or Stein’s Gate for example. I did deduct 1 point from concept for that, but that’s just my personal taste. Getting the route and ending that you want is really the only challenge in playing a visual novel, so removing that, by forcing you to select the route before you even play the game, significantly lowers the “gameplay” value by eliminating any sense of challenge from the game. It’s not just low budget games taking this approach lately either, many Idea Factory titles such as Norn9 Var Commons and Amnesia also take this approach.
Wizardess Heart does spice up the gameplay a bit by having 2 endings per each route, a “normal ending” and a “good ending”, and you must make correct choices to max your love score while playing to reach the good ending.
The game also offers dressup features letting you dress yourself, your guy, and decorate your room. The items in dressup also grant you stat bonuses such as your charm or magic score which will help you progress through the game. Many of the items are limited edition, making you want to login to play to collect the items before they expire. This gives you bragging rights and lets you show off your awesome items to everyone. The dressup features definitely keep you more engaged in the game than if they just had a straight up visual novel without these event items.
Sometimes there are also limited time stories that you can read, and they sometimes even let you vote for who should be the main characters in these stories. Once again, this encourages players to login and continue playing the game.
The sheer number of datable characters, charming cute graphics, and unique “Harry Potter-esque” story all make this mobile game stand-out in a sea of “sameness”.
Story: 9/10 Shall We Date? Wizardess Heart is an Otome Game that puts you in the role of a young female magician. Your magic gives you the ability to speak to animals; however, when it comes to controlling magic for use on non-living objects, you are significantly less skilled. It’s every magician’s dream to get an invite to study magic at the prestigious Gedonelune Royal Magic Academy; but, you never thought you were good enough to get accepted there. One day though your letter of acceptance arrives and you are transported to a strange magical world with talking stuffed animals, unicorns, magic classes, and most of all, really cute guys lol.
Each guy’s route has a different story, and each story has 2 endings. This makes nearly 30 endings just from the main routes. As mentioned under concept, occasionally, special event stories will be added, which if you complete before the end of the event let you see completely new mini-stories about each of the characters.
The average story length is long too, which is both a blessing, and a curse. Long enough that you will either need to spend several days/weeks playing each route, or break down and buy “story tickets” that let you advance the story. It adds to replay and keeps the game more interesting, but does interrupt the “flow” of the story when you want to play for long periods of time.
The translation and editing seem very high quality (I’ve only been playing for about a week so I have only seen one route admittedly). But compared to “Shall We Date? Guard Me Sherlock” which I also began playing recently, I see far fewer typos or “awkward” sounding translation phrases in Wizardess Heart+. I saw quite a few instances of these typos or translation “errors” in Guard Me Sherlock, enough to be jarring and take away from the actual story — However, I have not seen any, to my recollection, while playing Wizardess Heart+.
Characters 10/10: The Characters are all highly likeable and diverse. New Characters get added all the time. There’re tsundere types who rarely show their emotions, “Shota” style boys who act like little kids, Romantic “prince” like types, Aggressive/reckless types, secretive/mysterious types, “bestfriend” types, and anywhere in between.
Not only are there a wide variety of characters, but they do experience significant character growth and development throughout the game. The characters all have weaknesses, secrets, flaws, etc. Not just mary janes. This endears them to the audience, and makes them seem more real. It also adds some mystery and depth to an otherwise fluffy sweet story. Some of these guys have a few skeletons in their closet. Is your love for them strong enough to accept their flaws or will it tear you apart? In this way, it tells a more mature and deeper love story, one that may be closer to Josei as opposed to Shoujo, even despite the “Magic Girl” premise.
Gameplay: 7/10 Gameplay is pretty straight forward, you begin with a short prologue about your character and her magic. Once you are accepted to the academy you will be asked to select a buddy. This determines which route you will be on for this playthrough. You are allowed to view a preview of each character and read some basic information about them to help you decide.
Once you’ve chosen your buddy, you can begin reading his story. You will be awarded several story tickets in the beginning. Every few minutes you’ll end up coming to either a break in the story, or a decision you must make, both of which will consume a story ticket. When you run out of story tickets you can either purchase more for real money, or wait until they refill. I think they refill at a rate of 1 ticket every 2 hours – and you can hold a max of 5 tickets, so ideally, if possible, you want to be logging in and playing at least once every 10 hours so you don’t miss a story ticket from your inventory being full.
As with most mobile games, you can get login bonuses for playing consecutive days. After you login you can go on a “free date” once per day. Dates let you get special items such as dressup items, story tickets, in-game currency, and more. You can also challenge other players to see who has a higher charm score, winning here will not only grant items but also raise your charm, magic, and other in-game stats. Also winning 5 times in a row grants a special bonus.
Don’t forget to check the announcements for special events also! These events are the best way to get nice items without spending real money, such as new limited edition dressup items, or more story tickets to keep playing longer, or in-game currency.
You can also send free gifts to your friends who play, or invite friends who don’t play to come check out the game.
Dressup and decorating plays a huge role in gameplay. Not only is it cute and adds customization to your character, it also grants stat boosts and as mentioned above these stats let you challenge other people playing the game, affect your dates, and even affect the story. You do not have to be wearing an item to get the stat boost, it works just by collecting them and having them in your inventory. This allows you to dress freely as you would like without worrying about the stats.
While gameplay in visual novels is never a strong point, this game loses points in my opinion for the “choose your route at the beginning” format that it takes. However, it makes up and earns points when it comes to special events, dressup, replay value, number of endings, number of choices, and number of characters/routes within the game. It loses a significant amount of points for the “story ticket” system which forces you to wait before seeing more of the game.
It’s also a nice touch that the game will sync and allow you to continue playing on mobile, pc, facebook, facebook gameroom, etc.
Artwork: 9/10: The artwork is very cute and high quality, like that from a real anime. The user interface is simple, but it gets the job done, is user friendly enough, and is not distracting from the game. I deducted 1 point because I would have liked to have seen character portraits to indicate who’s speaking as it can be confusing when multiple sprites are on the screen. Otherwise, both the backgrounds and characters are detailed and beautiful. In the dressup game section the graphics change to chibi super-deformed sprites which are less detailed but instead give off a charming and cute expression which fits the overall cute theme of the game.
Music: 6/10: The music is good and fits well with the theme, this game does lack vocal tracks such as voice acting or theme song though. There also doesn’t appear to be much variety in music or sound effects.
Replay Value: 10/10 The sheer number of characters, each having 2 endings, as well as special events, etc make this game one that is fun to replay.
Crunchyroll shared news lastnight that a new Cardcaptor Sakura anime has been announced to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Cardcaptor Sakura manga. Earlier this year it was reported that a new Cardcaptor Sakura manga would be released that would continue the adventures of Sakura and her friends as they enter into Junior High.
No information is available at this time as to if the new Cardcaptor Sakura anime will follow the newly announced manga, or whether it will be a series or stand-alone movie, or perhaps a reboot or remake of the original series (for example, taking the route of fellow magical girl Sailor Moon and what she did for her anniversary with the new Sailor Moon Crystal anime), or perhaps this new Cardcaptor Sakura anime will be something new entirely. Also no release date or voice actor cast or further info has been released just yet, which indicates it may be well into 2017 or even 2018 before we actually get to see this new anime.
Crunchyroll currently has all of the original anime to view on their site. I personally need to sit down and marathon them all at some point. Over the years, I’ve seen a dozen or so episodes and at least 2 of the movies, and from what I’ve seen it’s a very cute show! Just so much to watch and so little time that I never “got into it” as much as I would expect to be into a magical girl romantic comedy / fantasy adventure such as this.
Now that the new show has been announced that motivates me to want to hurry up and watch the original episodes 🙂 I know what my plans will be this weekend lol. Anyone else?
Platform: You can play it directly in your computer browser. Or they also have a mobile app for both android and IOS when you are on the go.
Where to Get the Game: It’s free to play and you can find the apps or browser version at the official website. Link at top of this post.
Overall: 84/100 84% B “Very Good Game for Girls”
Geeky: 5/5 The ability to lead huge troops and the skill tree and city building aspects make this game high on the geek list.
Sweetie: 3/5 It’s a “pretty” game, but there’s not much “cute” – there’s also not much customization as far as appearances go. The story although funny, is mostly just there to move you through the quests and progress through the game, and not there to give you a sense of who’s who, why your kingdoms are at war, or about the lore or setting in the game world.
Concept: 9/10 Stormfall is a smart, sarcastic, witty, funny browser game which offers a large variety of quests, areas to explore, massive scale combat, ability to customize which research you take on, an awesome musical score and beautiful lush graphics with voice acting by a smart-alec narrator. While it does little to innovate the strategy genre, it is still a fun game for anyone who loves these city building types of games, and the high production values will keep you entertained, while daily quests and lots of things to see, do, build, and explore will have you replaying this game often.
Gameplay: 10/10 Like most strategy games, there is a city building aspect which the game introduces early on. You build farms to feed your troops, iron mines to get materials to arm your troops, and earn taxes to help fund your troops. You build libraries to research magic, and other structures to help build new types of weapons, armor, and unlock new units to add to your armies.
There’s also a skill tree element called the “Art of War” where you can customize which talents you learn, learning them in different order will branch off to letting you learn different skills, such as fortification, bows, thieves, trading, smuggling, etc. This is where a lot of the initial strategy comes into play.
The tutorial really helps new players jump right into the game and learn the mechanics. The narrator keeps the game entertaining and gives it a fresh perspective. From research, to city building, to intrigue, alliances, and battles, this game offers many options to let you take charge of your kingdoms.
The user interface is clean and intuitive, and combat feels dynamic but yet not overly complex or frustrating. The game has a good sense of balance between building and researching and battling to progress your kingdom.
Story: 7/10 – This game cracks me up – it is so funny LOL. You’ll see the humor right away within the first few seconds of the tutorial. The humor is accented by great voice acting! I’ve never seen a strategy game take such a sarcastic approach. It’s very refreshing! It makes it stand out in a sea of similar mobile games. It makes it unique and memorable and keeps me playing for longer. Beyond the humor though it seems like not much is revealed about the world, characters, lore, history, or setting of the game.
Characters: 3/10 The only character that’s given much personality is the narrator. I kinda feel this is a missed opportunity, as your advisers could have been given much more personality, and dialog even if it was only written and not voiced. I also think the game is missing a gameplay element by not letting you “recruit” advisers or having some bonuses/enhancements for different advisers, or aging/dying/marrying/mentoring etc of advisers, like many other games in this genre offer.
Graphics: 10/10 – The game is brought to live with beautiful detailed 3D environments and rich fantasy artwork and animation.
Music: 10/10 – For a little mobile/browser game, this game has some seriously wonderful music. It reminds me a lot of the music from Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit. Very pretty and the same “fantasy” vibe. It’s very dramatic music. There’s a good variety too, from very intense drum solos, to calming harp-like music.
Voice Acting: 7/10 – I’m surprised there’s voice acting throughout much of the game, and it’s actually pretty good. I like the tone, humor (at times), and deliverance throughout. However, very few of the key characters in the game are voiced and voice is given primarily through a narrator.
Community: 10/10 – Whether it’s chatting in game, forming alliances, recruiting your friends, joining a league, trading at the market, or using the official forums this game has a great sense of community that offers a break from the routine tasks of managing your kingdom.
Replay Value: 10/10 The daily quests, and sheer amount of things to build, do, and learn about this game make it worth logging in daily to work on your kingdom.
Genre: Otome Visual Novel Dating Sim (With Stat-Raising Sim elements)
Publisher: NGames Interactive
Geeky: 3/5 – Technically speaking, this game is more advanced than about 95% of other Otome Dating Sims. It uses Live 2D to make the characters fully animated on dates, like Ensemble Stars or NekoPara. It also has much more to offer than just “dating” or “just dressup”.
Sweetie: 5/5 – One of the cutest games you’ll ever play.
Overall: 78 / 90 87% B+ “Very Good Game For Girls”
Concept: 10/10 This is fast becoming one of my favorite mobile games because of the wide variety of things to do from dressing up yourself, or one of several boys. It has full voice acting, and uses Live 2D to bring the characters “to life” – It has sky high production values. But not only that, but it’s a ton of fun. You can cook sweets to give to the boys to boost their affection, or plan a date by selecting different locations. You can work part time to earn in game currency, or study different subjects to boost your stats which helps unlock new event scenes, jobs, or even new guys to meet. There’s TONS of in game events too, which makes you want to keep playing, and an interesting story too.
Gameplay: 10/10 This game is unlike any of the other “dressup” games out there – it’s also equally different than some of the voltage/ntt solomare/kyonplete etc visual novels which have “dressup” components to them. This is more like a brand new genre of gaming that balances both dressup challenge type gameplay, with otome multiple ending/branching plot gameplay, as well as throwing in “Stat-Raising” gameplay ala Princess Maker or Tokimeki Memorial. It really captures several of my favorite genres here.
The basics of gameplay begin in “Story Mode” – here each “level” will present a new dressup challenge. You’re given hints at each level as to what to wear to pass to the next stage. For example you might be asked to wear “Pretty and Pure” clothes or “Mature and Sexy” or “Casual Streetwear” or “vintage” just to name a few. The different items you can get in the game all have these different traits (Once again like Tokimeki Memorial Girl’s Side), and when combined, you can create different looks. At the end you’re scored on how well you met the requirements. As you progress, you learn more about the strange fantasy world and explore deeper the character backgrounds and story.
But Gameplay doesn’t stop in story mode, it’s only beginning. From the main menu you have many different options, from cooking sweets, to tailoring or upgrading your own clothes, to dating, to playing various daily minigames to earn free items.
Story Mode helps you unlock new recipes for cooking or tailoring your clothes. (PS: the cooking and tailoring modes don’t open until later in story mode). Story mode is also how you meet new guys to date. As you play you keep unlocking new ways to play the game, making it an exciting and fresh experience on multiple playthroughs.
It even has a Skinship feature on the dates. If you don’t know what Skinship is, you might’ve heard about the recent controversy and removal of Skinship from Fire Emblem Fates which I covered in a news article here. But if you haven’t heard, Skinship is a concept common in many Japanese dating games, in which as your affection grows between you and the characters, you can “try your luck” at “petting” them in different parts of their body, stomach, arms, hair, face, lips, ear, etc. But if you are too bold or too forward, the affection will decrease, but if you are “petting” appropriately, it helps you bond with the character and thus, your affection will increase.
There is really a lot of things to do! You could play this game for hours a day, or devote as little as 20 minutes a day to collect your login bonus and free items for the day. It’s up to you.
Story: 7/10 – I think the story is cute, and SURPRISINGLY the translation is NOT terrible – I say surprisingly because if you look at their googleplay or itunes app store page…. their English is VERY poor. They must have outsourced the game’s translation or hired an editor though because there is little beyond minor typos which you see in almost all games with heavy text.
The story itself is about a girl (you) who is summoned into another world. When she first arrives, she can’t speak the language or understand what is happening. A young man casts a spell on her so that she may understand the native language of the world, and another young man begins helping her collect emblems as she begins life in the new world a “transfer student” in a magical school.
You learn that by helping others with their problems or concerns, you can extract magic shards from them which are causing their anxiety (and also which are valuable in this new world.) The events in the story focus on helping others and learning about why you’ve been summoned to the strange magic world.
Characters: 7/10 The characters are cute, both how they are drawn, as well as their personalities. There’s also ample character depth and progression as you increase affection with the different guys and turn that Tsundere or Shy boy into hopeless romantics for you lol. The characters also have unique fantasy elements to them, such as the main “cannon” character being an “elf” which is similar to a “druid” in that he can shapeshift – and sometimes not always “at will” similar to anime such as Fruits Basket or Ranma 1/2.
Graphics: 10/10 — I love this game’s graphics. Dozens of dressup options, high customization, you can make your own makeup, and combine different pieces of clothing, from dresses, to stockings, shoes, hair styles, hats, purses, jewelry, and more. Things have a soft, sweet, “dreamlike” vibe, and lots of pinks are used making it super cute and girly. Plus, as I mentioned, when you enter the dates, the game uses Live 2D which is a relatively new technology that can create fully animated models which appear 2D or anime like. — This sets it apart from other games which just use still images, which still, unfortunately, is the norm for almost all games of this type.
Music: 7/10: There’s a lot of cute and catchy tunes in this app, but a lot of them do get reused pretty often.
Voice Acting: 9/10 The game has the original voice acting in tact. I could be wrong, but I think it’s Chinese voice acting? It’s definitely not Japanese. It may be Korean, I dunno — That said, regardless of what it is, it’s highly expressive and further helps bring the characters to life. I deducted a point (maybe somewhat unfairly) because I didn’t like a few of the voices, but I’m not overly used to hearing Chinese (or whatever language this is). I just felt some of the voices were a little “jarring” on my nerves. Might just take some getting used to though. At least they kept the voice acting in so yay. Similar games such as Hello Nikki were originally fully voiced, and the voices removed for US release, so I really appreciate that this game kept the voices in tact.
Replay Value: 10/10 – I’ve said throughout this review, but the multitude of different things to do, from cooking, crafting, dating, minigames, dressup, questing, and in game limited time events, and of course exploring the story, keeps you wanting to play each day. This game is a huge time sink, but an enjoyable one!
Overall: 78 / 90 87% B+ “Very Good Game For Girls”
If there’s one thing that I love in a game, it’s a branching plot and multiple endings, as you’ll see from many of the games reviewed or news given here on this website. So I was really excited when Pixel x Pixel Games emailed me yesterday to promote their new Action-RPG.
This game looks really great for retro game lovers. It was clearly made with a lot of love and fond memories of someone growing up in the 90s playing all of the classic games.
I’ll just include the message I received from Pixel x Pixel Games below because it pretty much highlights all of the features that I would want to highlight about this game. I’ve bolded the bits that I thought were the most exciting. Check out what Pixel x Pixel Games has to say about Guardian of the Rose below.
Guardians of the Rose is a story of high adventure, taken on by a small group of companions, that are seeking to overthrow the Great Witches that have assumed control of the kingdom. You are a newly christened member of the Royal Guard, the magic-keepers of the king. With the Royal Guard now tainted by witchcraft you have no choice but to take it upon yourself to form a new Guard that will overthrow the witchcraft that has enslaved the kingdom. Encounters with river spirits, groundlings, giants, and dragons alike are some of the adventures that will befall you.
Open-Ended Adventuring – The world is laid out specifically so that you can choose to explore in any direction you want. You can choose to progress the storyline at your own pace while immersing yourself inside the lore and sidequests of the kingdom. These sidequests are not your typical “save my chicken” type quests but instead are designed to make the player feel like he is making a significant difference in the lands around him.
High Fantasy pitting Magic vs Witchcraft – Magic was taught to the people by a legendary hero that saved the world from the Great Witches long ago. Ever since, witchcraft has been outlawed and users of the craft have been hunted mercilessly by the Royal Guard. Now that witchcraft has risen to power again, you are tasked with saving the Kingdom but you have no magical ability like the great heroes of times before.
Compelling Story – Guardians of the Rose was heavily inspired by the classic tales of Homer, Viking Sagas, and high fantasy novels like Lord of the Rings and Winds of Fate. Not only is the main storyline compelling but there is a focus on enveloping the entire game in epic world lore.
Choose your own way to play – The player must choose what path to take, good or evil. The only goal of the game is to restore peace to the land. How it is done is up to the player. You can choose to incite revolution from the stealth of the shadows or you can wage all out war. With a completely customizable stats and skills system there is very little the player does not have control over.
Multiple Endings – Depending on how you play the game, which path you take in your exploration of the lands, and who you decide to party with, the game’s story and ending can change fairly drastically.
Guardians of the Rose is a story-driven 2D action adventure RPG. It controls like a modernized, fast-paced version of old-school Zeldaand Gauntlet games with the RPG elements of the Elder Scrolls Series.
Along with the inspiration from classic books and stories the games style was inspired by old school Arcade games that I would play as a kid at Pizza Hut and the local bowling Alley.
Check out the press release provided by Pixel x Pixel Games below:
Guardians of the Rose is a story-driven 2D action adventure RPG.
Controls like a modernized, fast-paced version of old-schoolZelda and Gauntlet games with the RPG elements of the Elder Scrolls Series.
Inspired by the Classics of the 8-bit and 16-bit Generations
Pixel Art Graphics and Chiptune Sounds
Hidden Secrets around every corner
Compelling, charming characters
Open World Exploration
Epic Boss Fights
Long lost magical Artifacts
Choose how you complete the story: wage all out war, incite a revolution, or something in-between
Alternate Endings based on how you play the game
The illegal art of Witchcraft has tainted the Royal Guard and brought ruin upon the kingdom. A small group of the Royal Guard has slaughtered the King’s family and taken control of the kingdom. It is now up to you and a small group of members of the Royal Guard that calls themselves the Guardians of the Rose to save the kingdom. Your small band of allies has to work together in secret to cause a revolution in the kingdom. One slip up and you will be on the run from the Royal Guard and wanted by relentless bounty hunters.
And you, a boy with no magical ability, are left with the task to save the kingdom. Will you choose to taint yourself with witchcraft or will you choose to search out legendary magical items to use in your struggle to save the kingdom? Explore the Unfellable Forest while avoiding being trampled by Sand Giants and Unfellable Beasts. Fight off sea serpents and other creatures of the deep that are terrorizing sea port towns. Venture into the snow-ridden Mountain Lands and discover hidden temples in the wild forests.
(see kickstarter lore for more information on Guardians of the Rose’s Story)
HISTORY OF PIXEL X PIXEL GAMES
My uncle taught me how to play Mario and Duck Hunt on the NES when I was 1 or 2 years old. Shortly after, he gave me his NES when he was shipped off to Desert Storm. I’ve wanted to make video games ever since. I’ve been drawing and selling my art to strangers and my mom’s coworkers since I was 3 years old.
I was a graphic designer/web developer before becoming a stay-at-home dad in 2012 when my son was born. In late 2012 I published my first flash game to Mochimedia. After working on a couple more games in ActionScript I realized that I had arrived to the Flash party after everyone else had already left. I then continued practicing making games on Unity with C# for a couple of years and now have been developing Guardians of the Rose inside of Game Maker Studio using their in-born coding language GML.
I am so excited for this! (and isn’t the opening theme awesome too? And look how cute she is – and just OMG. Geeking out right now so bad lol.) I had never heard of it, until I saw the trailer on CrunchyRoll’s Facebook page. From the comments on the facebook wall and the official website at http://www.kyotoanimation.co.jp/books/violet/ this anime is about Artificial Intelligence / AI / Robots / Robotics – Similar to Chobits, Time of Eve, Metropolis, HAL, and Plastic Memories. – All favorites of mine – I am fascinated by the concept of humanoid AI creatures – especially those who have feelings, or what we would classify as feelings – and how they would fit into society. It might also be quite similar to Tegami Bachi as it looks like she has the power to convey emotions within letters just like Lag Seeing – Tegami Bachi is another favorite of mine as well – so this is shaping up to be a must watch for me.
Violet Ever Garden is a Japanese light novel, written by Kana Akatsuki and illustrated by Akiko Takase.
Auto Memories Doll.It’s been quite a while since that name caused a fuss. Originally invented by Professor Orland solely for his beloved wife, Auto Memories Dolls eventually spread out into the world, and a machine that allows people to rent out the dolls was also created.
“I will run as fast as I can to wherever my customer desires. I am the Auto Memories Doll, Violet Evergarden.”
A girl who almost appears to have popped out of a fairy tale with her blonde hair and blue eyes said this with her inorganic beauty and sweet voice.
The folks at Badland Games just emailed me their press release for their upcoming title: Anima: Gate of Memories which is based on a series of books. It is being developed by a small team and heavily involving the author of the novels.
This looks to be a really fun, story-rich RPG with multiple endings, choice-based dialogue system, beautiful graphics, and fun combat system. I’m seeing if I can get a key so I can share some more details and possibly stream or upload some videos for you guys – but until then, enjoy the press release and official trailer below!
Third-person action RPG *Anima: Gate of Memories* due June 3 on Steam (Windows/Linux), PS4 & Xbox One, N. American PS4 launch to take place June 7
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Action RPG Anima: Gate of Memories Available June 3rd (Steam, PS4, Xbox One)
North American PS4 Release on Tuesday, June 7th
MADRID — May 26, 2016 —BadLand Games and Anima Project proudly announce that the much-anticipated RPG Anima: Gate of Memories will be released digitally on June 3, 2016 on Xbox One, Steam, and PlayStation 4. In North America, the PlayStation 4 launch will take place on June 7th. Anima: Gate of Memories will have both a standard and collector’s edition PlayStation 4 box release in select territories on June 3rd.
Anima: Gate of Memories is a third-person action RPG focused on combat and exploration. Players will enjoy a deep and multifaceted story where their choices and actions directly impact the journey and decide the characters’ fates. As players travel through the tower of Arcane and the gorgeously animated world of Gaia, they’ll endure epic battles with formidable opponents — each with special features and gameplay.
Join The Bearer and Ergo — agents of an ancient society called Nathaniel which for centuries has protected mankind from the darkness — on their journey to recover an old artifact called The Byblos that has been stolen by a renegade of the order. After a long pursuit — crossing areas ravaged by war — they are able to corner the fugitive in the middle of an ancient construction. All at once, the entire area is swallowed by light. Our protagonists awake inside a strange structure where they are no longer alone; strange beings have also been summoned there. Soon, both will discover that something darker than they could imagine is about to begin — a war in the shadows in which they will have a leading role.
Based on the international Anima: Beyond Fantasy RPG books, Anima: Gate of Memories is being developed by the author and Anima Project — a small team of developers.
Multiple endings: Your choices and actions will influence the journey and decide the destiny of the characters.
Epic battles with formidable opponents: Challenge many legendary entities, each with their own special features and gameplay.
Deep combat system: The combat system combines RPG elements with fast-paced action and spectacular attacks and spells.
Unique locations: Travel through the tower of Arcane and the world of Gaia across stunning backgrounds and places.
A huge world: You can move with great freedom — visiting different locations and having the option to always retrace your steps to revisit areas, discover new secrets, and unlock access to previously inaccessible places.
Customizable skill trees: Enhanced your characters’ abilities by increasing their stats.
Pricing & Availability
Anima: Gate of Memories will be released digitally on June 3, 2016 for Xbox One, Steam (Windows/Linux), and PlayStation 4. (In North America, the PlayStation 4 launch will be on June 7th.) On June 3rd, the title will also have a standard and collector’s edition PlayStation 4 box release in select territories. The game will retail for $19.99.
BadLand Games is an international publishing company that firmly believes in the need to support emerging talent. We are passionate gamers on a mission to find the diamonds in the rough. Working alongside talented developers, we bring captivating, outstanding games to the masses. We’re always on the lookout for enthusiastic and dedicated developers with all sorts of games from beat ‘em ups and RPGs to puzzle games — and everything in between. To learn more about BadLand Games, please visit http://badlandgames.com
About Anima Project
Anima Project is an indie studio formed by just three people who have dedicated their lives to games. After 10 years working on the acclaimed Anima: Beyond Fantasy RPG book series, they have decided to go further using their experience to create videogames. To learn more about Anima Project, please visit http://www.gateofmemories.com
Tsukihime was my very first visual novel, and still one of my favorites. While looking up images to use in this post, I also came across news that there’s a remake in the works. This is old news I guess as it was first announced clear back in 2012. However, a post from Siliconera indicates that yes, it’s still in development as of July 2015, so that’s a good sign. You can see more updates about this remake over on Siliconera here.
I’m not going to cover those details here, because this review is actually for the original Tsukihime visual novel from 2001. Also, I’ve never watched the anime, I’ve been told by many people that the Tsukihime anime sucked. Please don’t ignore this visual novel, even if you really hated the anime. This is a must play for any visual novel fan.
PS: You can grab the fan translation here. I couldn’t find a link for you guys to buy the game as it is now out of print, but Yahoo Japan Auctions or Ebay may be a good place to look. This game has never officially been released in English; but maybe now with the remake, we’ll finally see a commercial release.
P.P.S: This game is set in the same universe as Fate/Extra which is available in English. Instead of being a visual novel though, it’s an RPG that plays EXTREMELY similar to the Persona series. It’s a great game, and it’s getting older, and may become harder to find. If you like persona, or like Tsukihime, then you need to get this game. You can get Fate/Extra on Amazon for $44.95 here.
Also, Please Note: This is a Hentai Game, which means that it has adult scenes. — However, those scenes are very few in nature. This game is very long with an excellent story, and the hentai is near the end of each route. For example, I estimate it’ll take you at least 60 hours to complete all the routes in this game. The amount of hentai scenes in the game accounts for less than 2 hours from that total. You can always skip past those scenes if it makes you uncomfortable. Also one of the routes is with the main character’s sister, so if that makes you uncomfortable, you may either not want to play that route, or skip this game entirely. This is an adult game, and should not be played by children. Not only does it have a few sex scenes, but it has a TON of gore. It’s a very violent game.
Title: Tsukihime – Blue, Blue Glass Moon, Under the Crimson Sky
Release Date: 2001 (Japan only)
Genre: Visual Novel
Overall: 57/80 71% C- “Good Game for Girls”
Concept: 10/10 Tsukihime is a visual novel with a dark, sad, and super natural story. It’s a very violent game. It’s also a hentai game. The writing in Tsukihime is exceptional. The characters are really unique and detailed. The writing is almost TOO detailed at times. I was really cringing in some of the scenes with Ciel near the end. It still makes my finger nails hurt just thinking about it haha. Overall it’s a great game. It has kinda amateurish artwork. It’s actually a Doujin game – which I guess is the equivalent to what we western folk call “Indie Games” – that is, Type-Moon began as a group of fans working on a game together, and not a big corporation. Given that – I think the artwork is acceptable since they didn’t necessarily have the budget or skill and experience as more established studios.
Gameplay: 3/10 Like most visual novels, there’s nothing to do except read, and click, and read, and click ad nauseam. The choices presented to you are also pretty dang spread out and few in number. The choices do matter and determine which route you get on. If you’re stuck, also there’s a tips section that’s set up in a really unique and humorous way. There’s also of course the option to skip previously read text. But it’s pretty basic visual novel style gameplay here. You don’t really play this game for gameplay, you play it for story, but I’m scoring story separately below. so Gameplay wise, it’s about a 3.
Story: 10/10 The reason I love this visual novel so much is because of the story. It’s a long tale with some surprising twists especially regarding Shiki (the player character) and the two maid twins. It’s been a few years since I played, but I think one of the maid’s routes only unlocks after completing all other good and true endings – and her route really will close the loop nicely on all the questions from the previous routes, bringing the game a good sense of closure.
I don’t want to spoil the story, but the bare bones is as follows (may spoil the first hour or so of the game for you): You play as Shiki; he has been hospitalized and sick for a long time. Shiki has a memory of a girl who disappeared from his life who was very kind to him and encouraged him greatly. The other girls throughout the game will remind him of his mystery girl in his memories. Somewhere along the way while hospitalized, he discovered he could see the “life line” in all things – living or even inanimate objects. Because he was bored and stuck in a hospital bed, he discovered one day that just by idly tracing his finger over this “life line” he could erase whatever that object was from existence. Not just “killing” whatever it was, but making it so it never “was” to begin with. Finally now he’s going home from the hospital. He gets notice that his father died and that he is being requested to move back to his childhood home. He has not been home in many years. Shiki becomes reacquainted with his sister and the maids of the mansion where he used to play as a child. He also begins going back to school. On his way to school one day he passes by a beautiful woman. He doesn’t know why, but he feels compelled to follow her. He waits until she enters her apartment, and he can’t resist the urge to murder her. Shiki is not a violent person; he’s never hurt anyone before, but he feels disgusted by this woman. He cannot control himself and completely destroys her, chopping her to bits with a knife and brutally attacking her. Much to Shiki’s surprise, as he’s leaving school the next day, the woman is there again in the same place where they met the day before. It turns out that she is a vampire, and that’s why Shiki could not kill her. It’s also explained why he felt so compelled to kill her (and about his strange power to see life lines) later on in the story – but I won’t spoil that for you just now. Needless to say, the vampire is pissed, and she also has a mission she’s on, so she forces Shiki to basically become her slave and help her by using his power of being able to see life lines to obliterate anyone or anything from existence.
Characters: 10/10 Each of the characters has a different super natural secret. Also all characters have a “good” ending and a “true” ending which is much sadder. The character interaction is really high. The characters are unique, and as the mystery plays out you do see them evolve and change. You also are drawn to the characters and begin to feel their pain and saddness. Most of their pasts are very sad.
Graphics: 3/10 Sorry to say, but these graphics are bad. They’re ugly, the proportions are weird, and they just look very amateurish. The picture I’ve attached is from the 2001 visual novel. You can see how her head almost seems to be detached from her neck and at a funny angle – and this one of the more “pretty” pictures that I could find. (Not counting the anime or fanart or etc) Luckily, in the new remake the artwork is much higher quality, while still having the same character designs and appearance, just being redrawn and recolored in a more modern style. These graphics are no where nearly as bad as the original Higurashi – but still bad lol. By that, if Higurashi is like a 1 on a 10 scale, Tsukihime is maybe a 3. A slight improvement, but still not even “average” looking.
Music: 7/10 I like the music and sound effects used in Tsukihime. It fits the mood perfectly and gives it a nice dark and mysterious feeling. However, ultimately, none of the tracks really stand out in a memorable way.
Replay Value: 10/10 The game is long in and of itself. Each route will probably take 6-10 hours to complete. When you factor in the multiple endings for each character, that extends that time to 12-20 hours per character with 4 dateable characters – you’re looking around 60-80 hours of gameplay time. And it’s well worth it. The story and each of the routes are really interesting. The stories do start a bit slow, but you learn more and more about Shiki, his powers, his past, and just why he was sent away from his childhood home in the first place. Really great story, worth playing all routes to see how all the puzzle pieces fit together. The new remake is adding more characters and routes, so I’m really looking forward to it. I just hope they don’t change the story too much as it’s so good already as it is!