Foreword: I have very high evaluation of the games of the series and since this is the only Windows game of the series (I'll play Lipstick ADV.4 as well just out of spite, but it's universally despised by the fans of the series), I just had to play it. It took me quite some to realize that wish, but finally it's there. Welcome to the Lipstick ADV world!
Foreword: I never wanted to play this game, but got a request to make a playthrough recently, so agreed to do that since I was quite curious to see how much the original differs from the remake and why actually PC98 version is described as kamige by some reviewers (1) while remake being trampled to dirt. Title:Ai Shimai ~Futari no Kajitsu~ Developer:Silky's Date: 1994-09-30 VNDB link: https://vndb.org/v1836 Youtube walkthrough: https://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=u8udgdLjN0U
Synopsis:A sincere older step-sister and a curious younger step-sister are doomed to become love slaves. One day, a house wife named Yukie has a traffic accident. She is ordered to pay a large settlement to the other party, Taketo, the son of the owner/president of Nogawa Industries. Unable to make the settlement payment, Yukie allows Taketo to have her sexually. At the same time, Takato's father, Nogawa, approaches Yukie's step-daughter, Rumi, and blackmails her. His evil scheme even reaches for Tomoko, Yukie's younger step-sister.
Structure: 10 branches with endings, some of which are bad endings and some almost identical. Game takes part during 5 days of Taketo father trip overseas - during that time Taketo must settle the incident. Length:2.5 hours Game type: Nukige. Difficulty: Quite difficult due to big number of branches, guide recommended Character Design rating: 5/10 Protagonist rating: 2/10 Story rating: 2/10 Game quality: 7/10 Overall rating: 5/10
Rating comments: Even posting a nukige review is a high enough score for such a game, so 5/10 is not that bad. There's no real story and MC is just pure evil golden boy. But character design and graphics overall (including animated pieces) are really nice and all.
Protagonist: Taketo can only compete with cruelness with his father, corporate bigwig. Basically he has zero morality, so easily forges documents, drugs the opposite party and blackmails everyone. Don't think there was ever a trace of his humanity depicted anywhere in the text.
Characters: Main heroines are sisters Rumi and Tomoko, but their mother Yukie and secretary Yumi also play a very big and picturesque part in all this mess and all possible variations including 3P and 4P. Characters are cute, but not developed at all. What I disliked the most was that the interaction between the sisters is minimal, they remain schematic pieces.
Story: It's really all in the synopsis. Taketo's father gets into a crash and imposes dealing with its consequences on his son Taketo (in exchange for giving him pocket money) instructing him using harsh methods and using women weaknesses. And Taketo does just that - invites Yukie to the company office where drugs and binds her making lewd photos of her and forcing to sign a 5 million yen debt receipt. With that document and photos he goes straight to each of the girls at school, violating them as he wants in exchange of partial debt lifting. After 5 days father comes back from the overseas trip and finds out his safe cracked. Basically all the endings differ by the person who cracks the safe and the person who actually gets the safe contents in the end triggering all kinds of good/bad endings.
CG: Game hugely lacks non-HCG. It should probably be noted that pc-98 version does not contain censorship. Instead it just... lacks detail in some parts which was quite mainstream way of censorship in 1994. Sound: BGM... I definitely remember there was BGM and I even waited for two minutes for the intro piece to finish. But overall I guess I did not pay enough attention to that.
Title and Themes:Title reflects the brainless story - only the fruits of those two love sisters matter here.
Overall comments: I really did not know what to write about here, so let's keep this at minimum volume. Silky's had a great success with Nonomura Byouin no Hitobito and with that established a standart of multiple branches, multiple endings for further generations. Ai Shimai is their next game, so it's natural that it was meant to reap the success of that new experimental structure. But while Nonomura Byouin no Hitobito is an intriguing mystery game, Ai Shimai is made as a brainless nukige where multiple branches structure looks redundant. They could prolong the game time from 5 days to like 10 days to include all combinations of participants and add some bad endings, but instead they developed these 10 almost identical routes that don't even have logical endings. Like in one ending hero gets hit on the head and receives the best possible ending as a result and in other cases he gets to jail after the very same loosing consciousness instead. There's no effort made in any branch, so it all looks like a very spontaneous development. I'm just happy Silky's stopped spamming the same structure in their future games in favor of more variety. But Ai Shimai original is not all that bad compared to its remake that's a parade of ugliness. So is this game bad? Yes. But is this game good and significant enough to get a review? Absolutely yes.
Foreword: I did not have much hopes about the game, but its introduction came upon me as a whirlwind. Mechanical dolls? Knights without soul? Three armored musketeers? Great demon king in person? A parade of deaths? Those were only a few things encountered in first 10 minutes of the game. Game has a very strong start and a strong ending with some nice battles and character development in-between. What's not to like here?
Synopsis:A world devastated by the battle of gods. The surviving people created inanimate "carbon humans" by using the relics of Gods and sealing the soul within. For several hundred years the war lasted. Now carbon knight needs to deter the restoration of the once sealed demon king.
Structure: 13 short days. Length: 4 hours for one playthrough Game type: Eschatological fantasy. Difficulty: At least moderate, since there are a lot of choices and I only got lonely ending while there are happy endings with a girl as well. Character Design rating: 8/10 Protagonist rating: 5/10 Story rating: 9/10 Game quality: 7/10 Overall rating: 8/10
Rating comments: Overall score might be even 9 if I got some substantial epilogue that should exist in some girl ending. The lonely ending I got was too abrupt, but actually cool in itself. Characters are funny and cute enough. They look simple at the first glance, but each of main heroines carries a huge secret behind her back, so I like how their personalities played out. Protagonist is very straightforward, but he's probably needed like that for story's sake. Game quality suffers from big loading times between the scenes. Autoskip function is implemented very poorly. Backgrounds are mostly implemented in 3D, but that's rather a feature than a shortcoming here since those look immersive. But as for the story, it seems ordinary fight the demon king tale, but bears much more in it as it goes, so I rate story very high.
Protagonist: Isaak is shown almost always irritated and/or shouting. He is too straightforward and short-tempered. He's not the most pleasant MC to deal with, but he's not voiced, so he can grimace as much as he wants in silence.
Characters: There seem to be two main heroines - long red-hair Sheckly and short violet-hair Fortita. Sheckly is our usual child friend, tender and caring. Fortita is much more mysterious since she's very short and never aging. She's actually a carbon knight, soulless relic created to fight demonic invaders. She serves to Isaak and his father. There is also father Balzak's fighting buddy girl Gina who gets a H scene if willing. Possibly she can also get her ending, but according to very few and very poor CG gallery that exists for the game good ending confirmed only for Sheckly, just don't cite me on it. There are lots of very colorful side-characters as well. Everyone but MC is voiced, so it's never really boring.
Story: So the game starts in a whirlwind of events. Demon king and his army demolish the city and kill the populace. The three armored musketeers are the only ones who try to oppose the demons. Sheckly, Isaak and Fortita try to escape a group of mechanical dolls. Next we're shown the dialogue between the demon king and the three musketeers and how a mechanical doll comes out with three corpses of Sheckly, Isaak and Fortita pierced. Isaak's father who is one of the musketeers goes berserk and demolishes the demon king... Then Isaak wakes up and those events seem to be a dream on the demon king invasion three years ago. Isaak is dreaming of becoming carbon knight master and goes on a journey with Sheckly and Fortita. There they confront demonic underlings who predict the resurrection of the demon king once all his body parts scattered around the world are collected again. These events take roughly first 15-20 minutes of the game, so I would not consider them a spoiler. As you can imagine, all the demon parts are destined to be collected for a grand confrontation again. But what I especially liked was that the battles of carbon knights and demons started out quite plain, but kept on with more and more increasing numbers of fatalities on both sides nearly wiping all the characters in the game. That was absolutely terrific and unprecedented since the time I saw GANTZ. Just so you know, there's much more to the story than just a series of battles. Every hero has a huge secret and uncovering those secrets make the game really exciting. Ending is surprising as well.
System: So I decided to devise an optional system section since there are issues that don't fall into other sections well. So here I wanted to rant why I only got lonely ending and not going to pursue true ending with a girl. First of all, I value initial game experience very much - and each consecutive playthrough is a torture for me, especially without a guide. Secondly, I know that I like lonely ending the best since it's so cool, a real mortal combat. Lastly, game has very poor skipping feature that has to be turned on in the menu and you can't really stop it till there's a new choice or till a new scene starts. And each scene loads for some 10-20 seconds. It's really not fun doing it again. There are actually two more issues - big number of selections and very poor save implementation. Each time you load, you're thrown away very far back, so it's hugely inconvenient.
CG: Absolutely terrific CG. Just loving it with all my heart. So much detail. Sometimes the blend of 2D and 3D looks weird, but mostly it's in harmony. But the best part in the art is dresses of girls. These dresses show so much skin that they look like the prototypes for all the modern Korean mmorpgs. Truly hilarious and breathtaking.
Sound: BGM is decent, but not too memorable.
Title and Themes:Game does not tell us much about carbon knights from the start apart of the fact that Fortita is one. But carbon knight theme gets a huge development in the last third of the game and finishes with the absolute domination of this theme, so it's a good choice.
Overall comments: So Carbon Knight has its flaws lying mostly in technical part, but they don't belittle its advantages. I consider it to be the first traditional fantasy chuunige and a huge masterpiece of the time.
Foreword: Not the type of work I read usually. But game managed to conquer my heart with its opening song, as well as wonderful and various BGM. Actually, I would call it foreground songs rather than background music since those songs shine during the whole course of the game due to the fact that game's not voiced at all. But of course music alone can't be enough to keep attention. Shunpuu Shoujo has very beautiful unique art style and quite intriguing synopsis about celestial girl emerging in human world - such common synopsis was a base for lots of great visual novel stories of the past. But enough preface, let's begin. I'm sorry for the excessive number of screenshots - it's done because game has no CG gallery available online.
Synopsis: Takuma Takuma is a college student. One day a girl Sari from another world appears before him. She said that she appeared to purify the conscious body possessed by Takuma and the should live together till that time. Takuma friends and girl classmates aren't really happy about that. Where shall the future take him?
Structure: 13 small chapters. Length: 3-4 hours Game type: Celestial beings on Earth comedy Difficulty: Easy. Game offers a choice from time to time, but those are either flavor choices or additional CG triggers. Character Design rating: 8/10 Protagonist rating: 7/10 Story rating: 5/10 Game quality: 6/10 Overall rating: 7/10
Rating comments: I always ask myself first whether the game is of masterpiece level or not. And if it's not, it can only get as much as 6. And I've come to a conclusion that it's a masterpiece, albeit minor. Character design is astonishing, but characters don't get too much development. Protagonist is ok, but in the end he's just a passive girlish student. Story is on par with Viper-GTS level, so decent, but nothing too complicated or notable. Game quality gets a huge penalty for absence of voicing and overall small length.
Protagonist: Takuma main feature is that he looks so girlish with his small slender body and long pink hair. That looks a bit weird, but only till HCG come in action. Seeing two small angels on the screen cuddling is quite heartwarming. Overall he's a passive graduating student and can't really move narration by himself.
Characters: Story does not have branches, so there is only one main heroine Seiri there. But there are also two lively side-heroines - childhood friend that attends the same college and lower grade student who looks up to protagonist as a teacher. Yes... even though Takuma is a college student he somehow participates in practice as teacher for lower high school students. It's relations between these four characters that form the basis of the game and become the stage for lots of humorous situations. Apart of those four characters there are also two more heavenly beings and lots of sub-characters.
Story: I rated story the lowest - as 5/10, so I'm not truly content with that. Takuma finds Seiri jumping from the portal and getting to know the cast takes first 5 chapters. Then first celestial being appears and brings some cheap drama followed by bouncing back and merry chapters again. In 10th chapter second celestial being arrives bringing more drama and finishing on Christmas eve sweet date. The very ending is curious though as it gives an answer on the future awaiting protagonists since the default situation is quite sad - Seiri is bound to return to her world and live forever while Takuma has to grow old like any mortal. Happy end is very satisfactory.
CG: CG here are so gentle and cute. I don't think I've seen art style like that anywhere before. It surely is a treat after today's absolutely the same polished art style dominating in both anime and visual novels.
Sound: BGM is an important actor in the game. For the first hour I was just listening to the BGM rather than enjoy character interaction. Soundtrack is especially cool because there is lots of singing in it.
Humor: Humor here is not high quality, but rather in form of funny faces, character sprite emotions, chibi action CG etc. Most of such CG depict someone hitting someone else or such. But same as with CG, even chibi style here is very cute and actually only half-chibi since it's the same body that's deformed and head is proportional to the rest of the body.
Title and Themes:Title can be roughly translated as "spring breeze girl". I don't think there's a special meaning to it, but Seiri is really so pure and shiny that she's like a breeze among other games' heroines.
Overall comments: Game's actually better than description above. It has special charm that can't be felt without seeing for yourself. It has unique magic due absence of voicing and unconventional CG and BGM. I'm really glad that Aquarium recovered from the ugly art of its first works Carrot Time and Pretty Cat ~Lily and Kyle no Daibouken~. But I also like that the company does not forget its roots - just look at the very first screenshot - it's Nyantaru Pu himself from Toki no Moto e! I'm happy to see Aquarium made it in the 2000s and will look forward to seeing its further eleven works.
Foreword: I have not put a 10/10 score in a while. Psyclone is a classic cyberpunk story with sophisticated plot and great cast of characters. For genre fan it's an ultimate treasure. But game's not hookable, so I had to manually copy each line from the script for video playthrough. It was absolutely worth my time and I hope it can be worthy of yours.
Foreword: This game's synopsis shattered my imagination from the first second and only the rarity of the game stopped me from playing it at once. Did my high hopes of the game come true? You'll know soon enough.
Foreword: I was prejudiced towards this game after reading Japanese reviews blaming it for scrapping story in favor of H-events, but in reality the setting, plot and characters left me no choice but to get to the ending.
Foreword: Bell-Da as a company has come a long way in visual novel industry, but prior to Liaison there were only terrible macromedia flash tasteless short games. But Liaison managed to turn the tides by presenting a solid story about working adults that kept my attention for over 4 hours till the end.
Foreword: Game had hardy any characteristics but "degraded Kizuato" and I did not plan to make a review of it. However, it managed to keep my attention till the end for over three hours. So maybe it's not really bad?
Foreword:Game first arouse my interest as alternative version of Subarashiki Hibi. Then I tried to get the glimpse of it by watching hentai OVA... and it was the worst hentai OVA I ever seen, so I was really infuriated since it did not say much about the game. Finally I've picked it up while investigating year 1999 and it struck me as something more serious than a nukige, especially after seeing those demon mind-screw CG. And it's been a while since I enjoyed a visual novel that much.
Foreword: There is a good number of English reviews on this game (1234), but those are all kinda short and non-structured. Now I know why and mine won't be an exception. You'll know why soon enough as well.
Title:Kuon no Kizuna Developer: FOG Date: 1998-12-03 VNDB link: https://vndb.org/v2773 Youtube walkthrough: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLENAECnNmAq-CHIuWBfnU3DYzNCEcLjcV
Synopsis:This story starts out from the perspective of a high school student. One day a transfer student comes to his school, and tells him she’ll kill him. At the same time, he starts seeing weird dreams and people mysteriously gets killed in his city. Soon he realizes that them two are incarnated personalities of a man and a goddess that fell in love 1000 years ago. Since then, they have been trapped in a cycle of reincarnation and a battle against an evil god. Length: Took me 66 hours for all routes. Game type: ADV with choices and couple easy battles. Difficulty: I followed walkthrough, so not too sure on difficulty. There are some fake choices, but there are also choices that lead to game over. And there are a LOT of choices, so it must be quite difficult.
Character Design rating: 7/10 Protagonist rating: 8/10Story rating: 6/10 Game quality: 9/10 Overall rating: 7/10
Rating comments: This is one of the most ambitious projects I've ever seen. Just imagine - 66 hours. 66 hours of not raising stats, killing monsters or chasing girls over and over. 66 hours of pure text reading time. There's nothing like that in the 1990s and it won't be beaten till 2000s. You know, in many Japanese reviews of the time volume is a very important factor and there's often such criteria as cost-efficiency. Visual novels cost a lot and compared to solid books they used to lose all the time. But everything changed with Kuon no Kizuna. It became a paragon for both volume and visuals. I liked protagonist and characters enough, but they don't become cozy. They remain transcendent beings piercing the veil of time in an epic story, not really likable characters who I could respect for their characters or decisions, that's why it's 7/10. The story is indeed epic, but it does not go smoothly. We jump from reality to three periods all the time and the shifts aren't really explained, they just happen. I also did not like it that the first half of the story is pretty much the same for all three heroines and we just have to read it three times with little variation. That makes story only 6/10. But the quality of the game is superb, especially with full voice (excluding the protagonist though). The graphics are stunning and visual effects amazing. No complaints with the quality.
Protagonist: Mikado Takeru is a strong protagonist as he constantly has to protect those who are dear to him and he's the only one who can oppose demonic forces thanks to his demonic heritage. He's a one man army and hardly ever gets any help from the side. He'd be more realistic with voice, but he's quite cool even as he is now.
Characters: There are three heroines who have their own routes. Takahara Mayou is our mysterious transfer student who greets Takeru for the first time with words "This time I will definitely kill you". Itsuki Shiori is a childhood friend who Takeru lives with under the same roof. Tokiwa Saya is the class teacher.
Story: The rant part. So each heroine has her route... but it's the same route, at least for the first half of it. In the second half some periods are developed for each heroine, but still there's a very strong feeling that you're watching the same story and it irritates a lot. There are four periods: Heian, Genroku, Bakumatsu, and the present. Present and Heian are really the same and those are the most boring parts, especially Heian. Heian focuses on a an ancient period of Japanese history where nothing really happened for dozens of years and that's why it's full of myths and legends - because there was nothing to do there. In Kuon no Kizuna Heian is when beasts invasion starts and it differentiates just a bit in the end depending on the heroine chosen throughout it. I especially liked Bakumatsu period for meeting and fighting alongside Shinsengumi (and sometimes against) and kunoichi.
But there is a great problem with these periods - they aren't really connected to each other. People can die there or love there and in next period everything starts from scratch. That creates the feeling of multiple stories and I really dislike that genre. Nothing really happens throughout those stories, then beasts arrive, the short drama and it's over. Heroines aren't really able to hold attention. But what's worse, the heroine of your choice have play very small role till the very end of each part. But then comes the fantastic Special route №1 that arrived later with remake as an attempt to tighten the crumbling main story. Special route №1 lasts for some 7 hours, holds a totally new epic story with really great enemies and is a great ending for all the characters, so I can't praise it enough. The Special routes №2 and №3 are there for comic relief after all that superserious narration. So overall the story really sucks, repeats itself in routes and has poor tempo. But the great special route makes up for it.
CG: Just fantastic. See for yourself.
Sound: I really appreciated full voicing and beautiful BGM. That kept me from sleeping.
Overall comments: This game was created to surprise the imagination. It has huge length and astonishing visuals, but there still was no culture of such huge coherent stories - thus the multiple periods format with lousy links between them. Dialogues are long and not too meaningful, fights are inevitably dull and poorly written, heroines fail to catch attention and the absence of humor makes it all a real torture. The sudden jumps between periods only add to the confusion. But this game bears a huge importance for the industry as it made long story-driven visual novels without gameplay elements viable while only dating SIMs, charage and nukige governed the ball.
Foreword: It took me a while to get interested in this grandfather of all modern charage and moege. It took even longer to finish all the routes. I doubt I will ever pick a moege for review, but I need to see fundamentals with my own eyes. There are quite many reviews found, but only one of them (7nightstranslations) actually was reviewing a finished game, but still it was too short and only touched a few heroines. I'll have a word about each heroine at least.
Foreword: Why review a Sogna game? Aren't those just short mindless animated H episodes? Those were my thoughts as well. And that was actually true for the earlier series. Then something happened in 1994. Instead of the usual numbers alongside "Viper", game Viper-GTS appeared and it was a one-story episode based on earlier V6 short story. Then followed titles with numbers, as usual till Viper-BTR which is a one story game based on short V12 story. But same as GTS, BTR is indeed ero-centered. And that concludes PC-98 era for Viper games. First Windows Viper is Viper-CTR ~Asuka~ which is as usual based on another previously featured short story in V10. And I actually consider Viper-CTR ~Asuka~ "almost" a masterpiece. Its only problem is that it only takes 50 minutes to clear it, but it's stuffed with four H scenes. So why I'm retelling information that's easy to get from VNDB? It's because Viper-F40 is a totally different game and it's absolutely wrong to measure it by past Sogna experience. First of all, Viper-F40 has only one big story. That's not a new thing, of course, after GTS, BTR and CTR. But it is not based on any previous short story which means the setting and characters are created anew. And now the main part - the game takes almost 4 hours. And that's at least three times longer than any previous Sogna game. And I aspire to prove my point by showing that contents-wise it's also an absolutely new game.
Foreword: I really can't stand multiple stories visual novels. But this is C's ware work and the first story was really sweet, fast (just one hour long) and only included several non-significant choices, so I went for other two stories as well. And I promised myself that I would write a review on any game visual novel that I play to the end and that takes me over three hours to finish. So here it is - my first and hopefully last multiple stories visual novel review.
Foreword:A C's Ware game at the mature period of company development, past DESIRE, Xenon and Eve:Burst Error. That's already enough to hook me. It has other attractiveness factors like title mystery that is Russian word Рабыни for "female slave". But why bother with Russian title in a nukige? Another reason is that cover has absolutely no premise for slavery. So mayhaps it's a sly puzzle that the company prepared for us? I'm more than willing to discover.
Foreword:Game has a very strong start and intriguing concept which made me play to the end. It differed from my initial expectations, but it's a very original and good-looking game, so I don't regret playing it.
Foreword:Game's obscure, but it has one absolutely overwhelming Japanese review (giving 8/10 score btw) which claims that the game has references to dozens of media sources. I'm not good with media of 1996 year and earlier, but even I could discern 5 sources. Visual novel is easy to read and it's a great laugh at times while preserving a solid and intriguing plot with lovable characters, tonns of CG and almost full voicing. I say it's a neglected masterpiece.
Foreword: Who does not know of Leaf company? Who does not know that its games Shizuku and Kizuato are considered the first modern type visual novels? But how many of us actually played those? There are some good English reviews of those (1234567) and I initially only relied on those as well. But the historical significance of Kizuato made me change priorities. Throughout the rest of 90-s and the first half of 2000-s I encountered quite many story-focused visual novels that are described by Japanese reviewers as "degraded version of Kizuato", so I really needed to see the original myself to get the proper idea. As for Shizuku... it came first and is a curious blend of old and new types of visual novels. Why did Leaf bother to make two remakes of it if it's a plain nukige about radio waves? Or maybe it's a dark-themed masterpiece akin to Moon by Tactics? I hope to answer those questions here. And I decided to make a comparative review to spice things up. Screenshots on the left belong to Shizuku, on the right - to Kizuato.
Foreword: I keep exploring the vast vaults of Silky's games. This time it's even more suspicious work - a full scale yuri game. But it has many SF elements and even has genetically modified mutants - knowing Silky's they would not settle with an ordinary yuri work.
Foreword: There is a negative English review, but VNDB voting shows a decent 6.72 score atm and this is Silky's story oriented work, same Silky's that I praised multiple times for Kawarazaki-ke no Ichizoku, Reira Slave Doll, Ushinawareta Rakuen and Koihime. So I decided to make it to the end of Jack ~Haitoku no Megami~ no matter what.
Foreword: Silky's company and Slave doll in title inevitably make us think it's a nukige, but actually it's a scenario oriented game. Moreover, that's retelling of a classic cyberpunk story about an android hunter - the story that was already told in visual novels by Imitation wa Aisenai and Snatcher. Did Silky's ruin the classic concept or was it able to produce a masterpiece? You'll find the answer in this review. That's actually infamous Raira on the screen.
Foreword: I did not expect much of the first game in the series, but was pleasantly surprised. It's a really long scenario-centered game that stands on the same level as Gao Gao the 3rd, just in less intriguing environment. It's well worth a review!
Foreword: I was quite intrigued by original Gram Cats concept - mutated humans fight with aliens and ordinary schoolgirl gets an ability to transform into cat and thus becomes a great spy. But the eternal maze of corridors prevented me from finishing that game. So I thought I'd have more luck with the second part to get acquainted with this SF setting.
Foreword: Himeya Soft and C's Ware are basically the same people, so it would really be a shame to miss their first cyberpunk game, father of Xenon ~Mugen no Shitai~ and grandfather of luv wave. How deep is the story? How much torture does it imply on players? Does it already have mind-screw elements? I'll try to answer all those questions.