After not playing FTL for the better part of a decade, I've decided to pick it up again and try it a few more times, and try to get some of the content I never got back in the day, including the add-on content. It took me a few playthroughs to get back in the groove on Normal Mode, but I've been getting some deeper runs, including one that destroyed the Rebel Flagship and netted me the 600 scrap achievement. Probably try to do a few runs in between other games still.
Got back into Legend of Zelda: Link Between Worlds again recently, after losing my save data when I had to send my system in for repair. I like the fact that the bosses are revamped, much better designed versions of the ones in Link to the Past. Not to mention the much better controls and improved game play.
Zelda always was one of my favorite franchises, even if I haven't played any of the mainline games from the past 20 years.
The skill tree gets a little more versatile deeper into the game, and I have finally got my full cast of party members, so I can start setting up more combinations. In Chapter 2, each character gets a single class upgrade with a choice of two classes for each character. Skills also can be upgraded much like equipment. Skills can be upgraded in its main effect (attack power for attack skills, healing effect for healing skills, spell duration for status effect spells, etc). Additionally, most skills can also have one of two choices to upgrade a secondary effect on. I feel a lot of conflict with which upgrades to choose, because there's a significant difference between regular monster encounters and bosses. For the monsters, I just want extra damage to be able to end the fight a little quicker, even though I already blow through them. However, with the bosses, since they're such large HP sponges, I want skill effects like that it heals my party's HP or MP at the same time, so that I don't have to constantly be hurting for health or stopping skill usage until I get my MP back up.
Storyline is nothing too special to write home about. Ancient war between vampires and elves, and while the elves are sealed away, the vampires are starting to show a resurgence again, and the humans have to deal with it. The background environments are really nice and lush, though. The setting is floating islands, and the environments really play that up, with waterfalls to nowhere, and multiple small islands connected by bridges, and little islands in the background with no way to get to them.
Finished up chapter 4 and 5, and the short epilogue that plays after.
It's actually strange just how relatively well-balanced this game is. There's no obvious combos that are game-breaking. Enemies and bosses remain just tough enough that you can't steamroll them at any time, but with a little bit of grinding you can stay ahead of them (Expert mode I think only increases enemy health, not stats). Useful items are just rare and valuable enough (or crafting items used to make them are rare or expensive) that you can only really use them on bosses, but you can also use them on bosses frequently. There is a little bit of exploration required for materials and enchantments, because in the end-game, you absolutely need all the skill sets and equipment upgrades to stay on par.
Characters are only mildly memorable, much like the story. Lita, Adrian, and Seri make a good deadpan snarking trio. There's a lot of bits where they lampshade typical story tropes, without ever going out of the way to be blatant, in-your-face, breaking-the-fourth-wall about it.
This game bills itself as a 'yuri thriller visual novel' that takes place in a dystopian cyberpunk future. All this is technically true, but it lacks gravitas. There's a reasonably alright early segment, and an interesting middle section, but the game peters out and just decides it needs to wrap up instead of attempting to develop the relationship between the two protagonists. I've mentioned before how a lot of the random obscure VNs that I pick up through Humble Bundles or other sales have this exact problem. They get all horny with the setting and cast, shoot their load early, then wrap up with a terrible ending. Like how I keep thinking I could write a better book than a lot of the novels I've read, I also think I could write a better VN than most of the VNs I've played (though I'm cripplingly lazy, so that would take me years and years). This is yet another one that could have easily used another hour's worth of reading to develop far better characterisation and interaction between the two main characters.
There some amazing visuals to this game. There's no fancy action sequences or anything, with everything being mostly stills. However, the vast majority of the CG art or backgrounds are done with interesting vibrant shades of red or blue. You can see what I mean if you look up some of the in-game pictures. It's honestly just an amazingly cool art style.
I played the first TiTS game earlier this year, and got the second one on a Steam sale more recently.
I'm mildly surprised at how the first ten minutes of the game pretty much flat-out spoils the finale of the previous game. I seem to recall this happening to me previously on one of the games in this topic, and sure enough, STEINS;Gate 0 does the exact same thing, ha. So basically, play these games in order if you don't want to ruin the experience!
I did guess the twist with the jaegers in the prologue, pretty much by the time I entered the fortress.
The battle system hasn't really opened up much yet to show anything new. I do get the combo skills, but that's about it. Sooner or later, I should be able to put the 7th Orbment slot to good use. I have to see if the game actually gives you any idea on how to set up Orbments for extra skills, or if I'll just have to peruse a guide again for set-ups to get some OP spells. Otherwise, it's basically a re-run of FC, though I'm mildly surprised that the characters actually start at level 40, roughly my end-game level in FC, instead of just resetting them to level 1. Levelling up was surprisingly slow as a result, and I guess the Shining Poms are randomly part of certain regular mobs now, instead of being their own overworld encounter.
The graphics appear to run the exact same, with no real bump in resolution. Given that the games presumably run as three parts of a whole, and Falcom could get away with recycling a lot of assets, I'm not surprised. I guess there is a little bump in effects (rain in one area, and the night vision glasses in the fortress), but that's about it so far.
Anelace makes an interesting and amusing contrast to Estelle. I guess maybe some people would find her annoying, but I find her amusing and cute. One of her battle victory quotes is literally "I am invincible! Or am I?" Can Estelle deal with a girl who can out-Estelle Estelle? Probably not, because I assume the game will have a revolving door of characters again until I approach the endgame, much like the first game. So Anelace will be shuffled off-stage sooner or later.
This whole plot of Estelle trying to find Joshua and 'rescue' him, so-to-speak, reminds me of the Naruto manga/anime, with the whole subplot of Naruto attempting to retrieve Sasuke back to the village. Except Estelle is a lot cuter
I've been exploring the few new things the game has introduced so far early on. Some of the new upgraded quartz giving me multiple elemental spells is nice. The fishing minigame is meh, but at least it's not really frustrating (just have to pull at the right moment with a visual and audio cue). Apparently, fishing stuff isn't really missable in the first half of the game, so I'll skip out on a lot of it for now. The gambling stuff thankfully isn't that bad, either. Obviously it's still hit-and-miss, but it was easy enough for me to get a good run on poker to buy the stuff I wanted.
Now, cooking items and recipes...Good Lord are Surprise Cookies overpowered. They can do a lot of damage to both enemies and bosses in the early game, with area effect and no cast time. Obviously they have to be cooked to do so, but they're really cheap. A couple of monster drops are required, but both Savory Pinions and Prickly Seed are easily farmed from a couple of monsters in the Ruan area, and with the Luck Quartz I got from clearing FC, it's easier to get the monster drops when killing them with Estelle. But the most important thing is that they're extremely good against Shining Poms! I took Estelle and Schera up from level 42 to 48 in under half an hour through using Shining Cookies and Craft Arts against the Shining Poms in the Gulf Sea Causeway, which is how useful they are (then I got Kevin 10 minutes later and thought I should have held off so he could get in on that leveling action too, d'oh!). Probably they'll level off in usefulness after a while, but I'm sure more cooking items that are used as throwable area attacks will come up. Especially if I get any encounters with 2-3 Shining Poms close enough together to all get hit with a Cookie :O
Craft Arts seem way too good to keep going on like this. I picked Schera over Agate to go around with, so I get her AT Advance Craft. When fighting the battles with lots of monsters or a few tough monsters (chest ambushes, monster extermination quests, the last battle of Chapter 1), I can start off with Estelle's Morale, then Schera's AT Advance, Estelle and Olivier's area-of-attack Craft Art, and Kloe does whatever. It's really just cut through some of these battles extremely quickly. I only got to have him for a short while, but Kevin's Grail Sphere is also damn good. Full defense of the entire party for two attacks each if he uses it at full CP. I had one monster extermination quest with him in my party, and the two monsters didn't even get the chance to do any damage before I wrapped it up.
Other random thoughts:
Olivier and Bleublanc are truly a match made in heaven. I got the Laundry Pole+ drop from one of the monsters in the...Vista Roadway, I think? Estelle even more stronk now. The attack is higher than the other equippable item in a chest later, but it also has 3 range instead of 2, which makes it handier still. I'm glad that this game gets rid of the need for an Eagle Eye quartz, too. All monsters are now easily visible on the field and mini-map without needing said quartz.
Since I had Scherazard with me as my companion, I ran an all-girls party basically wherever possible through much of Chapters 2 and 3. It leads to some vaguely amusing moments in-universe, whether actually acted out on screen or just implied. The hot scenes peeping tom mission, for one. I should see if there's a YT playthrough with just Estelle and Tita there, to see if there's any real dialogue difference with only the two of them. A brief scene in the Erbe Royal Villa too, the one where Estelle bends over to look underneath the table.
Estelle is easily the ultimate big sister. All the little girls want her to be her big sister Meanwhile, Tita and Renne make such good little sister material. Speaking of Estelle, there was a pair of Strega sneakers in...Chapter 2, I think, that were Men only. I feel like for better gameplay-and-story integration, it should be 'Men and Estelle only'. Estelle wouldn't let something like gender get in the way of wearing a new pair of Stregas!
Somehow, I predicted the end of Chapter 3 all too easily. Well, not that it was that difficult, anyways. I mean, there were red flags already, but when Renne mentioned she was 11, I was thinking Joshua was also 11 when he left Ouroboros. I was not expecting the Doll Knight volumes that were readable in the Calvard embassy to actually be slightly lore-relevant to the ending of the chapter, though.
I mostly kept up with flavour text changing every few scenes in TiTS FC (and Tokyo Xanadu eX+, another Falcom game with flavour text changing every five seconds), but I've stopped bothering in this game. I still check up on the man-on-the-street, but I'm definitely not obsessively going over them anymore. Though on the subject of obsessively going over flavour text, I am trying to get the Odyssey of Anton achievement. I think the Steam tracker is still broken as it was apparently 7 years ago on release. I've spoken to him the 9 separate times you can get different text up to the end of chapter 3, but I still only have 4/12.
Surprisingly, I still haven't gotten very many of the upgraded quartz. I have a perfect save file from FC, so I get some of the stuff that I wouldn't have without it (the Luck Quartz and the Yin-Yang Quartz, off the top of my head), but still. I certainly haven't been pressured much to upgrade my quartz slots. It's nice that some of them are combining the functions of multiple Quartz together. Yin-Yang puts Haze together with Heal, which made dungeon crawling through the sewers easier.
Craft Arts almost feel like they're beginning to get too broken even in Chapter 2. Mind you, I'm playing Normal difficulty, so maybe you need to actually exploit them hard in higher difficulties.
The Shining Poms are still pretty much a gimme that I've been using to level up significantly. In Chapter 2, literally the first monster encounter outside of Elmo Village can spawn Shining Pom. This is very helpful, since I can run through my S-Breaks, then return into Elmo Village and use the hot springs to immediately restore my Craft Points back up to 200 for each character (I have no idea if this is only the case with FC clear data or not, though). There's no such convenient CP restoration in Chapter 3, but literally every encounter in the west sewers area has the chance for Shining Poms, so I can go through the first area and get three Shining Poms before exiting and re-entering to respawn some more monsters. A Rainbow Surprise and Perilous Meatball, or just a single Rainbow Surprise kills a Shining Pom there. Levelling up certainly hasn't been gruelling yet.
Completed chapters 4 and 5. It's definitely nice and nostalgic getting back to the early areas that I haven't been to since the start of the first game. The pace of action is picking up a little bit, too.
I forgot to mention it for my previous post, but I'm highly amused by the fact that there's a tea party that takes place in a harbor. The British be getting triggered.
Both the achievement that requires me to talk to three random pigeons in the entire damn game, and talk to the same guy over and over at multiple times over the course of 4 chapters, were completed. Small mercies that they're both done, and I think those are the last annoying ones left. Obviously, getting all the Bracer Points and all the chest messages can be time-consuming too, but they're not quite as quick to miss and skip over. For those ones, I keep track of how many I'm supposed to have at each point in the game, and the Steam ticker probably tracks with a mild delay. Well, I guess the recipe one and the gambling one can be easy to miss, too. Speaking of recipes, I see Orvid supplies a lot of monster ingredients, so when it comes time to actually cook them all, I shouldn't have to run around. I have been fishing on-and-off. Not enough to get all the rare fishes, but enough that basically all the common ones will have been caught when it comes time to actually complete my fishing book.
I'm not quite sure how I feel about trying to have basically every character have his or her own (sometimes thematic, sometimes literal) foil or counterpart or rival in the Ouroboros. I assume Kloe will have one in Chapter 6. It's a fairly basic writing trope, but to have it nonstop is a little jarring.
Other random character notes. I like how Estelle keeps calling Josette a tomboy. It takes one to know one. I have the random idea in my head of a Joshua x Estelle x Josette threesome, where 50% of it is Estelle and Josette claiming the other girl is the bigger tomboy. I find it funny how half the people in Rolent comment on Estelle wearing a skirt. Considering how much Schera keeps using her 'assets' and 'sex appeal' as an investigation tactic in front of Estelle, I half-imagine it'll rub off on her sooner or later. Kid Estelle is so cute. We got to see her very briefly in the beginning of the first game, so to get more of her is adorable.
The quest of killing lots of Shining Poms continues. Chapter 4 slowed down quite a bit, as it's getting to the point where I can only rely on S-Breaks now instead of items. But in Chapter 5, Tita getting too stronk with her BFGs. I assume at one point she'll have a BFG bigger than she is . The Giantfoot in Nebel Valley spawns 3 Shining Pom with it, and Tita with her weapon from Bose equipment shop and an Attack 4 + strength boost from Estelle's Morale is able to kill all 3 Shining Poms, even without any attack boost from the turns ticker.
In any event, starting in the next chapter, I'll probably start putting together some Quartz builds for the characters to get some of the new arts in this game. At the very least, I'll stick somebody, possibly Kloe, with a high Arts offense set-up with a very large AoE attack. Are Poms invincible against all Arts, or just the main 4 Elements? I'll have to look again and confirm, because if it's only the latter, then a Time/Space AoE can kill Shining Poms quicker. It must be the latter, because I remember being able to kill them with Shadow Spear in FC.
While taking a brief breather from Trails in the Sky, I decided to quickly run through one of the remaining Sakura VNs that I have from a Humble Bundle from years ago. There's not too many of them left. After that, I'll have to plug in some other short games in between my longer playthroughs.
This must be one of the newer games, because the production values are actually a lot better on this one. There's voice-acting! JP only of course, but still. There's character sprites for more than the obligatory two main girls! There's more CGs too, and some nice, fancy backgrounds. There's Steam Achievements, too. However, the writing is lackluster. There's an attempt at giving the two girls some background, but it's done incredibly poorly, just kind of mentioned in passing and thrown out in passing. There's brief mentions of plot details that in even a decent novel, would be foreshadowing for later, but here it's an aside to flesh out said backstories that never goes anywhere. There's no real drama or conflict for the characters, and what little there is is solved in informed actions, a "Oh yeah, we did that 5 minutes ago" sort of deal, instead of showing it live.
If I was playing this game in hard mode, I definitely would have needed to reload a save from the start of chapter 6. I hadn't realised I would be locked in for the majority of the chapter with no way to stock up on supplies. I've been building Kloe up to be my main Arts caster, but didn't have enough of her slots upgraded or sufficient Orbments to get Cocytus or Abyssal Fall going yet. When it came to the Estelle-only boss battle, I had a Crest Charm to prevent faint. However, both Buzzers I had were equipped to other characters no longer present in the party, and the Buzzer gives extra stats in addition to faint prevention (though honestly, I'm not sure if that would have made a difference, since they give boosts to arts attack/defense. I don't think any of the foes there use arts). I won that battle with a couple of Naptime Cookies and Knockout Meatballs, but it could have been entirely possible that I wouldn't have had any Vintage Wine to cook a few extra Meatballs.
Anyways, story commentary. Some cool moments in this chapter. Estelle is easily the heart and soul of this (sub)franchise. Also, I like how once she meets Josette again, she immediately refers to Josette as 'The TOMBOY!', then proceeds to call her a tomboy two more times in as many sentences. Our little tomboy is obsessed with calling out other tomboys . Finding the story out about Hamel wasn't particularly surprising. It's been strongly implied for some time. Though I'm somewhat surprised it was the result of a false flag operation instead of just a generic wartime massacre. Also, Joshua's real name is sort of a double meaning? He's both a stray of Hamel, and his direction was astray.
Finished chapters 7 and 8. The final boss of chapter 7, wtf. I had to trudge back and grab Kevin so his S-Break could save my bacon (this line was not an intentional Kevin Bacon reference). 8 ran on a lot longer than chapter 7. Plot intensifying. The lack of being able to use Arts for most of the chapter was annoying. I kept Tita on with a ZFG equipped, and set her up some water quartz to be able to keep my cast healed up. That, and going through some of my healing items, because I need them on my recipe list to start the cooking achievement.
I barely had more than half the quartz slots upgraded on my party, and now the game wants to throw level 3 quartz at me. I really do need to get some good quartz quickly for these new slots to be worth it.
I got all the Bracer Points possible with a perfect 382, for the second game in a row. Given how full both games are of things to miss, I'm decently certain I would have missed very little, outside of possibly a few random items from specific monsters, or some monster data that requires an Information or Heaven's Eye equipped. I got all the Gambler Jack and Liberl News books, and with the GJ novels, the Zemurian Ore as well.
Estelle is a master at baiting fish. I mean, I have the Master Fisher achievement. It wasn't as tedious as it could have been, but I have been using guides and they all basically agreed not to worry until chapter 8. At which point, thanks to location and bait data, I was able to easily get the remainder. If I didn't have that, I imagine it would have been a lot more hair-pulling and aggravating. Funny enough, the Achievements actually count the Valleria Lake Guardian as a fish, so it's possible to get the achievement with 24/25 fish caught, because the Guardian is also tabulated. Still, I went and grabbed the last one left on my list (Eel) afterwards.
Other than of course completing the game, I still have to make each recipe at least once, and get the chest message for every chest. I'm on track for actually having all recipes in the last chapter (only 2 left to go, which are in the last few dungeons I believe), and 394 chests checked up to the end of chapter 8.
Finished the game. The final time on my clock shows 65 hours and 1 minute. However, I'm pretty sure that it's counting time when I had my Steam game app minimised doing other things, because it lines up very close with my Steam played time too which counts just having the application executed and not active. You can probably scratch 5 hours there and round to 60 hours. Of course, I abused the fast-forward function a lot during the game, too. So in the original version without fast-forward, 75 hours isn't out of the question!
The final set of bosses weren't too bad. As I mentioned before, I played on Normal, so the bosses weren't overkill. It also meant I had a lot of good dishes and ingredients and Zeram Powder saved up, so I was able to go full ham on getting my CP back up right away and letting loose. A little bit of annoyance with status effects with the last boss, but I had Tita equipped with a Grail Locket, so I was able to use her restoration Craft where needed. On a random note, considering how Kloe is built to be geared for using Arts, I'm a little surprised that she gets given a rapier to use. I'm totally expecting the magic-user to use a stereotypical staff or stave or something, not a rapier, hah. Also, nice for Kloe to actually keep her costume change from the end of Chapter 8 into Chapter 9, even if Olivier doesn't.
I was actually expecting Renne to save Joshua and Estelle, not Ragnard + Cassius.
There were three characters I was given the ability to play as in the last chapter. If I'm a little honest, I find it annoying, since I have no reason to use them at this point. I've already gotten used to and set-up a party, so unless a character is absolutely game-breaking, there's no point in slotting her or him in at this junction. I'm actually a little thankful the game forces you to use one of the three party members briefly.
I did get a decent helping of level 3 quartz in the last few chapters. I blew through a decent amount of Sepith gearing up in Liber. I killed way too many Shining Poms in the Kailash Grey encounters in the Liber Ark 3 area to keep track. I ended up at Level 95 to finish the game.
What else. Achievements. I did get all of them. I kept a dungeon-by-dungeon tally of chests, so I was able to grab them all. I think there is leeway of one or two chests, like there is with the Bracer Points, because my Achievement activated right when I opened the second-last chest, but before I was able to check the chest message.
I'll play TiTS the 3rd, but it'll probably be the better part of a year before I get to it. Playing FC and SC in two and a half months is a little too much of one setting and gameplay at a time for me.
Picking off some short games from my Steam library...this game took me about 2.5 hours to play through the first time, and another hour to pick off the remaining endings. Despite the title, 'Richard' doesn't really play much of a role in this game. 80% of the screentime is easily soaked up by Alice. The game is a top-down perspective point-and-click game. Richard's brief exploration segments are all on a single screen (half a screen, really), while Alice gets the larger, more substantial segments that go across multiple screens.
The game takes place in a present-day society where global cooling has ushered in a new ice age, and it never stops snowing, ala The Day After Tomorrow or Snowpiercer. This leads to a massive breakdown in society, with the titular characters being two people who struggle to survive and find food and shelter, and both eventually end up in a prison. There's a neat little bit of metaphor at the start with TV static and snow, and the visual effect of TV static is used to change scenes.
Point-and-click segments are moderately alright. Most areas are reasonably obvious enough to explore and deduce how to progress. There is one exception about three-quarters of the game that I ended up having to look up a guide, because while it's an intuitive set-up, you still have to go out of your way to find the solution. However, when moving the characters around on the screen, they move soooooooo slow. Probably a good twenty minutes of playtime could have been cut off if they moved faster than a snail.
As far as the story, it just meanders around and doesn't really build up to its climax. It's easy to put together all the hints after the fact, but it just feels very anti-climactic. Also, the game is really ugly. This looks like it was done on bare-bone assets, and it shows. I can't enable full-screen, background props look terrible, and there's a lot of segments where it's just silence for minutes straight. The characters have portrait profiles when speaking, but they each only have a single headshot, so there's no difference between when they're happy, sad, angry, distressed, etc. There's a few times where the game makes a fade to black to scene change. Some moments it's impactful. Other times it's obvious it was done so that the game creators wouldn't have to script something in like putting a ladder up.
Another VN. This one is essentially a take on the Cinderella fairy tale, but is a little more rugged and down-to-earth take on it. Cinders isn't a one-note perfect little girl. The sisters, the stepmother, the prince, and the captain of the guard are more than single-dimension characters. There's actually two separate fairy godmothers, believe it or not, and a few separate love interests. The game is not voiced.
Cinders, the game, follows a story choice system, nominally with a branching route. There are nominally several separate endings, but they're all basically decided by the last two choices you make in the entire game. The earlier choices you make only change the flavour of the ending — for example, one of the endings is the 'Travellers' ending, where Cinders becomes a runaway. The last couple of choices in the game set you on this runaway path, but earlier choices can determine if Cinder runs away by herself, or with one of her boytoys. Still, it feels very much railroaded overall.
The game goes at pains to develop and flesh out the characters, but it feels very broadly repetitive up to the ending. Nobody really grows and develops, and it instead just hits the same beats over and over as it meanders on to the inevitable masquerade ball. The backgrounds are beautiful and picturesque. They have that sort of semi-realistic gritty feeling to them, but at the same time definitely capture a fairytale whimsy. However, the character portraits in turn look really fugly. There's only a few music tracks in the game, but surprisingly, they seem to segue very neatly in to one another, instead of abrupt, obvious cuts as the music changes.
I've been posting ongoing video game progress for over two years now. Occasionally, I get stunned when I come across some random game that I've picked out of a Humble Bundle or discount sale or other because the synopsis seems mildly interesting, then start playing it, only to find it's actually really good. Saku Saku is a VN with a suburban Japanese high school. The premise is the male protagonist coming out of his socially-aloof shell with the encouragement of his classmates to find love, even though he hasn't cared about the concept of love before. I'm really badly butchering how it goes.
There are presumably 5 romance candidates in the game, each with their own route. And I haven't actually played any of their routes yet. Like a lot of these games, there's a story preamble to build up the setting and flesh out the characters. In SS' case, the common route is 10 hours long (well, 9, but I'm rounding up here). Every character except for the protagonist is voiced (JP voice acting only), and I've been letting the full voice acting play out, so it could be read moderately quicker than that. There's some filler that could be surely chopped out, but what's interesting is that it preliminarily builds the case for each character route. Instead of tossing every character development moment of interest in the routes, the story sets it up so that it feels very natural for Yuma, the MC, to start going out with any of the girls. Given there's a full three weeks in-story on the common route, there are essentially multiple flags set for each girl.
At least for the story on the common route, there isn't much straight romance. There's talk of and about love, but it doesn't get right into the love proper. But the writing is actually really decent, slowly building up a crescendo over those three weeks to move into a character route. There's lots of comedy and slapstick too, and I feel the script does a damn good job avoiding any overwrought drama to try and shoehorn in plot. The girls are actually developed and made into plausible, distinct entities, instead of forgettable collections of tropes. That said, it certainly feels like an uneven balance on how much screentime each girl gets. The class president character, Anne, definitely steals the show for the most part.
What else. With any VN that isn't one with really high production values, the graphical effects are usually fairly lacklustre. Some pretty backgrounds, character portraits, call it a day. This one sort of treads that line. However, it does a lot of neat animation gags, usually in sync with the slapstick moments. There are some occasionally cool visual effects, like when it flips the PoV of a background to the opposite side of the room, or throws a character reflection on a background still of a glass cabinet for a foreboding effect. There's also a decent amount of sprites for each character, and a couple of the girls will go through multiple pose changes in a single line to reflect mood changes, again usually in the slapstick moments.
There is one thing that really sticks in my craw with the script, though. I noticed it after a couple of hours, and it's insanely distracting. Basically, no character says more than a couple of sentences in a row. Ever. The protagonist, Yuma, will have a single text box of dialogue. Then a girl will have one text box of dialogue of her own. Then Yuma will speak again within a single text box. Then the girl again. Then Yuma again. Then there'll be a few text boxes of Yuma's self-introspection to break up the dialogue, then he'll have a single text box worth of dialogue again before another girl speaks. The writing and dialogue actually flows relatively well that if I never noticed this, it wouldn't have been an issue. But no character ever actually speaking for an extended period of time is weirdly annoying me. While there's lots of short back-and-forth conversations in real life, people occasionally do speak an extended period of time without interruption.
Anyways. I'll get through at least one character route and post some more thoughts. It could indeed be that some of my comments on the writing will change by then. It could be that there's unnecessary overwrought drama, contrived circumstances, or flat character development. I'll see.
Played a quick 30 mins of Golf Club Wasteland, aka 'The ultra-rich play golf in ruins of civilization on an abandoned Earth'. Fun game, but getting the angles right for your shots can be tricky as hell. I do love the look of the game, especially the little background touches, like the billboard that reads 'In Case of Apocalypse, Dial 1800-HELPUS-GOD'.
I played the Mio route to start, clocking in at about 8 hours. Mio is the protagonist's childhood friend, so it plays up to some of those archetypes. However, she also has a form of androphobia (fear of men), in that she can't handle being touched by them. She has no issues walking to school with the protagonist, or sitting by him in class, or sharing a lunch with him. But Mio starts to cry after a few seconds of holding hands. So the writing does get a little interesting with this dynamic of a couple who can only have very brief moments of physical intimacy, at least until Mio slowly gets past her touch-based androphobia. Mio also has a bigger sister who roots for the couple on this route. Oh yeah. They run a shrine in their family's stead, so that means several shots of Mio in miko clothing, if a player is into that style or anything.
There is a little bit of overwraught drama, with one unlikely coincidence and one misunderstanding that appears quite forced to push the plot along.
Oh yeah. One character had two text boxes in a row on this route at one point. It's amazing how noticeable that becomes.
Decided to try out Arknights out since it was popping up in my recommended in the Google Play store when i was updating software for my new phone. Of what I've played of it, its not a bad little gatcha tower-defense game. An interesting thing about it I've just found out from what i unlocked earlier is that it has a X-com like base system were you unlock rooms to use your units to preform functions dictated by their out of combat skills.
Yuri is part of the school's Public Morals Committee (abbreviated to PMC 99% of the time in-game), which is basically the Japanese version of student hall monitor. She takes her role fairly seriously. The protagonist gets deputised into the PMC and builds a relation up with her through steady interaction here. There's one contrived incident to drive the plot along, but it's not overwraught drama. Yuri's route clocks in at about 11.5 hours, so a decent chunk longer than Mio's route. A lot of it is a very long pre-amble to her and the protagonist becoming a couple. Even if it drags on and on at times, it really does build up and develop in a believable way. There's a small subplot in there about Yuri having been a model for a clothes magazine before and quitting it because she couldn't quite break out of shell much, but the story doesn't really go anywhere with it besides the end-route conclusion that being with the protagonist helps Yuri shed her social paralysis enough to model again.
However, Yuri also has an older twin sister, Hanako, who is part of the newspaper club. However, Hanako is more specifically a photographer than a journalist, though she does both. Where Yuri is demure and fairly straight-laced, Hanako is extremely loud and abrasive. She's also snoopy, to the point she even gets a sprite nobody else has where she gets cat ears and slit eyes to indicate her being mischievous and/or prying. They have a lot of sisterly spats, but nothing that truly cuts bone-deep. A lot of the story involves the protagonist getting to know Hanako in addition to Yuri and realising while the two sometimes appear to be at odds in lifestyle and personality, they do truly love one another. Hanako and Yuri don't properly fit the 'tsundere' and 'ice queen' archetypes. While they sort of lean in those directions, they're fairly grounded, and nowhere near as extreme in personality as those archetypes usually suggest. Still, this relationship serves to give an interesting hot-and-cold dynamic.
This time around, I did the Konami route, which clocked in basically around 10 hours.
As to not beat around the bush, this is an incest route. Konami is the protagonist's younger sister by the year. While the route isn't quite a deconstruction, it actually plays the incest angle straight, instead of trying to go with a typical porn or doujin logic of 'that's hawt'. The first few hours, when the siblings realise they're in romantic love with each other instead of platonic love, is struggling to resist their teenage urges, because they both know and understand just how absolutely taboo such a relationship would be. After they get over that barrier and do the deed, the two have to hide their relationship as best they can from everybody else, again because of said same taboo status. Having to refrain from any affectionate displays in public, and unable to differentiate from what they did as brother-and-sister before and now as lovers, so they go too extreme in both directions. At one point, their relationship just about breaks down from the stress of hiding everything. Two adults do find out, and try to split them, not because they find the whole thing icky, but because they both know how unhappy their lives will be if society finds out and they are shunned.
So yeah. It's played surprisingly very straight for 'real-world consequences ensue'.