Games — Fire Emblem Fates — First Comes Love

Lots of rumors and incomplete information have been floating around in regards to the new Fire Emblem game’s marriage system, with the inclusion of the mysterious new same-sex A+ social ranks but the unexplained inability for the main character to partake in those. Polygon confirmed in a statement directly from Nintendo that Fire Emblem Fates will have some same-sex S-rank marriage options, but it’s still a bit confusing. But yay, progress!

Apparently in the Nohr version of the game, Conquest, there will be a single male character that the player-created protagonist can marry regardless of their gender. In the Hoshido version of the game, Birthright, there will be a single female character that can be married regardless of the main character’s gender. These characters can also be accessed from the other versions of the game through a DLC that will bridge the two storylines. I’ve seen mention of who those two characters are but nothing definitive yet.

This seems like a pittance, but it’s actually a really huge step for very traditionally conservative Nintendo! They appear to be trying to listen, and hopefully they’ll keep up with the improvements. BioWare initially started out slowly with single character representation too, and a decade later they’ve built themselves up to stating and demonstrating that diversity is an important aspect of their games.

Now to hold out hope for Atlus with Persona 5

Keep Final Fantasy VII Weird

Final Fantasy VII isn’t my favorite entry in the series, but it was the first RPG I ever played and therefore holds a special immovable place in my heart. It was also one of my first introductions to the power of transformative works. Upon finishing the game I was pulled deep into the collaborative internet world of fanfiction, fanart, and doujinshi collecting. Some of the characters stuck with me and I wanted more.

But then suddenly I didn’t want any more. I did buy the deplorable fighting game Ehrgeiz just so I could face Cloud off against Sephiroth, and see dear Zack again. But each subsequent prequel, sequel, and spin-off didn’t capture what I liked about the original game and so I didn’t pay attention to it.

Something tapered off. Seeing most of the AVALANCHE gang cross paths in the original Kingdom Hearts was initially warm and fuzzy for me. But in Kingdom Hearts 2 it became less so. Dirge of Cerberus did not look like something that appealed to me, maybe because I wasn’t big on Vincent. I watched Advent Children once and pretty much don’t remember anything that was going on there. Reno was hot.

I did absolutely love most of Crisis Core, until the Gackt insert, poetry reading, and all-too-literal one-winged angel imagery showed up. The game’s missions could get a bit repetitive but the character sprites were endearingly expressive and the mechanics at play in the ending sequence were so effective in conveying what they needed to.

None of the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII entries entirely captured my feelings about the original characters, and that’s difficult to come to terms with because then I realize none of the follow-ups ever will. It’s impossible. Final Fantasy VII as I personally know it is an imagined mental construct rooted in the 90s, with high school me diligently piling fancanon, vicarious strategy guide reading, and an active imagination along side the original material.

Even though via past experience I know I actually prefer Final Fantasy VII in its original form, I am really REALLY excited for the PlayStation 4 remake that was just announced at E3. When the lights dimmed at the Square-Enix presser and I saw the lifestream flourishes on the side displays I started yelling in disbelief. We had been trained to never believe in this one thing. And there it was. It’s coming, eventually, hopefully.

I’m worried that modern blockbuster game expectations won’t allow the Final Fantasy VII remake it to be as silly as its original incarnation, dolphin whistles and all, but playing the recent MMO Final Fantasy XIV has show me that flamboyant aestheticians and suplexing goldsmiths can still happily coexist as breathers between epic storylines. I hope the developers go for that feel and let Final Fantasy VII remain weird.

And Keep Cloud Awkward.

International Love Ultimatum — Dating sim game jam running in June!

I had been wanting to organize a game jam themed around dating sims for a long while now, and finally committed the month of June towards that goal!

The International Love Ultimatum will be a month-long digital game jam. You can work solo or in a team, the only rule is you have to finish some kind of romantically-themed game within the coming month of June. There is an iluJam Tumblr page with details, FAQs, research, resources, and tools available to help you out. Submissions will be handled through the itch.io website.

I’m excited to be working on a silly little Yowamushi Pedal dating sim in Tyranobuilder with a friend of mine. Hope you give the jam some thought and make something fun! Even if you don’t finish by the end of June

Games — Norn9: Var Commons coming in English!

Blessed be otome fans in the year 2015.

After announcing Code: Realize a couple of weeks ago, Aksys just posted that they’ll also be bringing over Norn9 to the Vita. Norn9 is an interesting game because you can choose to play as one of three fully-voiced heroines, each with three different guys to choose stories with (so nine male leads total).

The art for the game looks very nice and from what I’ve heard of the music so far I’m very impressed!

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Koharu – voiced by Ayumi Fujimura

Koharu’s routes:
Kakeru Yuiga – voiced by

Yūki Kaji
Senri Ichinose – voiced by

Hiro Shimono
Masamune Tōya – voiced by

Takuya Satō

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Mikoto Kuga – voiced by Ayahi Takagaki

Mikoto’s routes:
Natsuhiko Azuma – voiced by

Daisuke Ono
Sakuya Nijō – voiced by

Mitsuki Saiga
Itsuki Kagami – voiced by

Kōji Yusa

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Nanami Shiranui – voiced by Asami Seto

Nanami’s routes:
Akito Syukuri – voiced by

Noriaki Sugiyama

Ron Muroboshi – voiced by

Tomokazu Sugita

Heishi Otomaru – voiced by

Hiroyuki Yoshino

Norn9: Var Commons will be out for Playstation Vita in Fall 2015. You can preorder now!

Games — Starfighter: Eclipse released!

My friends over at Date Nighto have been working on their custom-built, browser-based Starfighter dating sim for a while now, and it’s just been officially released to the public!

I’ve been excited for their HTML5 visual novel engine for years and it’s amazing seeing the tech develop from its humble Namco High beginnings into what it’s capable of now. Lead developer Conrad first started the project because he wanted to work with his friend HamletMachine on making her popular 18+ comic Starfighter into an interactive visual novel and since platforms like Steam don’t allow explicit sexual content then they had to build their own.

I offered a bit of my QA testing services at the end of the project cycle but I have genuinely been excited for this title since the Kickstarter was announced. If you are a fan of sci-fi space operatics involving a cute guy with an undercut kissing fellow space marines then please consider this game!

Games — Code: Realize coming to the West!

2015 is shaping up to be a good year for otome games! With Ozmafia!! being worked on by MangaGamer for a PC/Steam release, and just last week Amnesia: Memories was announced by Idea Factory International for Vita and PC/Steam release, now we have Aksys Games coming back strong with Code: Realize ~Guardian of Rebirth~! (which you can preorder now)

You play as Cardia, a girl growing up in a magical steam-powered alternate history where it’s become apparent that she’s been afflicted with some kind of Rogue-like poisonous touch, and the story covers how she deals with that in her everyday life all the while finding love with men based on historical and literary figures.

I don’t have much details on the characters yet since I’m trying to go into the game without spoiling too much but I can tell you who is there, what they look like, and who voices them.

Arsène Lupin voiced by Maeno Tomoaki (Decim in Death Parade, Camus in Uta no Prince-sama)

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Abraham Van Helsing voiced by Suwabe Junichi (Aomine in Kuroko’s Basketball, Space Dandy in Space Dandy)

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Victor Frankenstein voiced by Kakihara Tetsuya (Toudou in Yowamushi Pedal, Natsu in Fairy Tail)

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Impey Barbicane voiced by Morikubo Shotarou (Makishima in Yowamushi Pedal, Yosuke in Persona 4)

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Saint-Germaine voiced by Hirakawa Daisuke (Rei in Free!, Kakyoin in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure)

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Aksys says the game will be out in the Fall and Amazon lists a pre-order date of November. A small announcement site can be found here and the official Japanese site is available if you wanna see more screenshots.

Games — Amnesia: Memories

At a recent press event, Idea Factory International announced that they would be localizing their first otome dating sim, Amnesia, developed by their sister studio Otomate. One of Otomate’s other games, Hakuoki, had previously been released by publisher Aksys Games.

This is super exciting news because ever since the opening of Idea Factory’s North American branch fans of dating sims have been hoping it would open up their subsidiary Otomate’s library of titles. Idea Factory International had been seeking a publisher for Amnesia last year as well but no news ultimately came of that.

Seems instead they opted for a digital-only release, which sounds wise as it eliminates the overhead costs of manufacturing retail disks and obtaining dwindling Vita retail shelf space. In addition to the Vita they announced they’ll be releasing Amnesia for PC via Steam as well. This was amazing news as a PC version currently doesn’t exist in Japan, so this’ll be a port purely with the Western market in mind. The larger install base on PC will be sure to help with accessibility and bringing in new players. Maybe eventually the iOS/Android port will make its way over in English as well to cover a wide range of platforms.

Amnesia is certainly an interesting choice in title. It has some existing popularity among otome game fans, and the character styles and UI look especially gorgeous on the Vita. But the game has some particularly troubling character routes, so I’m really curious to see how well the game goes over with new players expecting happy romances. Also the matter that the main point-of-view character doesn’t talk in the game text and instead intent is inferred based on side commentary or how your partner reacts, similar to drama CDs, may come off as awkward to people who have only seen otherwise in the dating sim games they’ve played.

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You play as a nameless Heroine who has lost her memories due to an accidental collision by an other-worldly sprite named Orion. He wants to set things right and offers to help guide you through the metaphorical doors that lead to regaining your lost memories.

After the introduction the game starts with you outright choosing one of four character routes to attempt, via worlds themed by card suites. The twist is the stories throw you into already established relationships, and it’s your job to figure out why you’re partnered with that particular guy in that version of the world without raising suspicion about your affliction, and piece back together your lost memories.

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Shin – Heart. Childhood friend of the Heroine and Toma. Was bullied due to his family’s bad reputation. Studying to enter University. Voiced by Tetsuya Kakihara (Toudou from Yowamushi Pedal, Natsu from Fairy Tail).

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Ikki – Spade. Childhood friend of Kent’s and co-worker to the Heroine. Is very popular and has a large group of fangirls who jealously keep romantic competition at bay. Fourth-year University student. Voiced by Kishou Taniyama (Natsuki from Uta no Prince-sama, Jean from Attack on Titan).

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Kent – Clover. Childhood friend of Ikki’s and a University graduate. Was the Heroine’s tutor. Voiced by Akira Ishida (Kaworu from Neon Genesis Evangelion, Togami from Danganronpa).

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Toma – Diamond. Childhood friend of the Heroine and Shin. Second-year University student and acts as an older brother type. Voiced by Satoshi Hino (Noiz from DRAMAtical Murder, Shinkai from Yowamushi Pedal).

And I can’t really recommend the anime adaptation of Amnesia. It’s a complicated, confusing, and unsatisfying sampler of all the game’s routes combined into a short season. Wait for the game instead, which isn’t that far off!

Amnesia: Memories will be available in August for Playstation Vita via PSN and for PC via Steam, with Playstation TV support being patched in later.

Games — Love Live!

In my head I have a good idea of how long it takes for my Love Points to completely regenerate. At my current rank I’m capped at 38 LP, one generates every 6 minutes so that’s 10 points per hour. Therefore it takes just shy of 4 hours till I’m losing resources.

When I first started playing Love Live I didn’t really think of LP as valuable but now after a week I have been trained to find every edge. 38 LP is about 3 normal song plays or 2 hard song plays for the rhythm game that’s at Love Live’s core. Each play through yields me attempts at or progress towards individual song achievements. If I can manage to Full Combo a song for the first time, meaning I only score Perfect or Great timing in an unbroken chain for its duration, when set to Hard difficulty I will be rewarded 1,000 Friend Points. Those points yield me 10 Regular Scouting attempts which earn me new members eligible for Idolization or fodder to level up the rest of my team, in addition to a 5% chance at a more powerful and unique Rare cards appearing.

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Love Live can sound pretty gruesome when you conflate the gameplay systems with the actual setting. In the game you play this imaginary force within an all-girls school and rallying the idol club, idols being Japanese pop stars and mega entertainers. As explained in the anime, the premise is the school is slated to be shut down due to lack of prospective students and the school’s idol group is started by concerned students in order to drum up admissions. In the game you start by picking one of the main 9 members from the anime and then are given 8 other Normal students to begin your team for playing the rhythm game. As you progress you will earn more Normal teammates through song completion rewards.

After you start getting duplicates members you can initially combine two of them with the Special Practice function in order to Idolize the card, changing the girl’s art into something less like a student and more like an actual performer’s costume, and which also increases her rarity by a bit (she’s still a Normal but with 2 stars instead of just 1). Any further duplicates can be used in Practice to boost the levels of any particular card of choice. The consumed card disappears. Where does she go? Blood for the Blood God.

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As you start Idolizing girls and using them on your teams in songs their Bond will increase. When the Bond stat is maxed out you’ll be alerted that you’ve unlocked a side story for that particular student. The stories are just a couple of thematic lines from the girl but the real reward is the single Love Gem given to you after viewing it. At this point it’s arguably best to feed further spare students to this girl in order to fatten them up to max level for the Album bonus, then in turn feeding them to one of your more permanent golden goddess characters.

These earned Love Gems are the real life currency of Love Live and I’ve learned that they are extremely precious. You only get them in singular-to-small quantities from log-in events, difficult song rewards, unlocking side stories, and achievements. 5 Love Gems can be used to make a single attempt at an Honor Student Scouting (#SOLOYOLO), awarding you one guaranteed Rare or above card, and maybe even Super Rare or an Ultra Rare. Rares, Super Rares, and Ultra Rares feature one of the 9 main girls from the anime in a multitude of thematic outfits, even these can be further Idolized if duplicates are obtained. If you spend 50 gems in one go it gives you 1 free draw, totaling 11. Some timed promotional events encourage full 11 pulls by guaranteeing at least 1 SR or above. To put this into perspective straight up buying 50 Love Gems costs $30.

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I scrimped and saved my gems

(in addition to spending $4 for 6 gems in order to make up for the solo pulls I foolishly succumbed to days prior)

and used them during a recent 11 guaranteed SR+ promotion as my friends recommended I do. It’s painful waiting to accumulate that many gems. I ended up luckily getting a coveted UR card in my batch (Nico-Nico-Nii!) and once I set her to be the character displayed in my profile a multitude of random friends requests started rolling in. It was kind of unsettling.

Dunno what kind of impression I’m giving with this but I’m actually having a lot of fun with the game now that I know what the hell I’m doing with regards to its economy. It’s satisfying noticing yourself getting better at being able to complete a particular song on harder difficulties, eventually breathlessly pulling off that a Full Combo for the juicy rewards. It’s also surprisingly exciting getting duplicates for the first time because you know you can then Idolize your cards and see their new fancy art, which begins the process of maxing out their bonds and levels. And then the cycle continues

My favorite Muse is Nozomi.

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A systems designer friend described the game as sounding like Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA with Puzzle & Dragons resource management. Sounds about right!

 

You can download School Idol Festival – Love Live! on the iTunes store for iOS and the Google Play store for Android. You can also watch the adorable anime on Crunchyroll or on Hulu.

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