Visual Novels on Steam

I’ve been on a bit of a visual novel kick for the last…couple of years? Suffice to say, whenever I discovered the genre, it pulled me in pretty effectively, and I’ve been addicted to a happy fan of the things ever since. Unfortunately, a lot of the supposed “best” ones originated in Japan and haven’t been officially translated for English-speaking audiences. I’m not a proponent of pirating something that’s not out of print (even if there is a fan patch for it), so a lot of these have remained out of my reach. Hey, imports are expensive!

Since Aksys released games like 999, Virtue’s Last Reward, Hakuoki, and Sweet Fuse (seriously, love you guys!), however, it seems like all-ages and otome visual novels are gaining some ground among the bigger companies. Jast USA finally got their hands on a license to Steins;Gate, and NIS America is bringing over the Vita version of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc. Both are slated come out in the first half of 2014.

But most of those games are on handheld consoles. What if all you have is a computer? At least Steins;Gate is going to come out on PC, but what if you want more visual novels? (And what if you want them sooner than “sometime in 2014″?) You can buy some great VNs online, but you really have to know what you’re looking for already or be willing to do your research, especially if you’re trying to avoid hentai.

Enter Steam.

Honestly, if visual novels are going to take off among the masses, just getting more of them on Steam would be a huge step. It would likely be a pretty good filter, and then the visual novels would be easy to find and buy. There aren’t a ton there right now (heck, there aren’t even a lot of games with visual novel elements on Steam right now), but there are a few, and you should support them if you like this type of game. Some are even going to be on sale for the next several days as part of the winter sale! In any case, here are a few that you can pick up right now that I’d personally recommend.

Analogue: A Hate Story — In this sci-fi story, you’ll play as the pilot of a one-man spacecraft trying to figure out what happened on board a now-derelict generation ship, which was trying to establish a colony on another planet. You’ll interact with a couple of the ship’s artificial intelligence programs, read the logs of the people who lived on board, and try to figure out why they died. Also, be prepared for a serious commentary on pre-20th century Korean society. There’s also a sequel out, called Hate Plus.

Dysfunctional Systems: Learning to Manage Chaos — Okay, so I haven’t played this one yet. But! I did play Dischan’s excellent free visual novel, Juniper’s Knot (I believe that one’s only available on iOS), which I’d also highly recommend. So, I’m expecting it to be good. In any case, this one follows a girl named Winter Harrison, who is trying to learn to mediate problems between chaotic worlds. I’m not sure what that means, but I can’t wait to find out!

Long Live the Queen — This probably only barely qualifies as a game with VN elements, but it’s on the list anyway because it’s damned good. If you’re into raising sims or tabletop games, you’re going to love it. The idea is simple: keep young Princess Elodie alive long enough to be crowned queen of her realm. Of course, various rebels, assassins, magic users, and even fantastical monsters lurk around every corner, ready to end Elodie’s life. Teach her the skills she needs to survive, or die an adorable, pink, chibified death.

If those aren’t enough for you, then head over to Steam Greenlight and vote to get some more visual novels in the store. Long Live the Queen and Dysfunctional Systems are actually recent Greenlight success stories, too. Here are others some you might consider voting for:

Backstage Pass — If you like otome games, then first go download and play Re:Alistair++, and you’ll know why you should vote for this. It’s not available yet outside Steam, but Sakevisual definitely knows how to put together an amusing story, so it has my vote already.

 

Higurashi When They Cry — This one is a classic supernatural murder mystery/horror tale from Japan. You might have even seen the anime already! It’s been translated and you can actually buy it from places like JList and Mangagamer, but really, this thing needs to be on Steam.

 

Flower Shop: Winter in Fairbrook & Summer in Fairbrook — Okay, so this is another romance game. But it’s also a rather addicting farming sim. I’ve only played Winter in Fairbook, but that one had a super cute story and nice art. Hey, Ayu Sakata of Sakevisual wrote the stories for these too, so I’d expect no less. They’re already available through Winter Wolves’ site and on Android. But we’re talking about bringing a whole genre to mainstream gamers here.

Welp, hope you enjoyed this little list, and I hope you’ll check out some of these visual novels. If you’re already a fan of this sort of game, what are some of your favorites?

Starting a San Francisco Nintendo Meetup Group!

When I was still in the good old college town of Gainesville, FL, I was part of a sweet Nintendo group. The regional Nintendo rep there is an awesome lady. She would let us know when she’d be in town for demos, and we’d all go meet her at the game store for freebies and hangout time. And StreetPasses…lots of StreetPasses.

Of course, we also got together for non-demo hangouts, too. A bunch of us that went to the Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses concert in Orlando wound up meeting for dinner beforehand, for example. We were also regulars at the food court in the local mall, though I don’t know how the other patrons felt about a bunch of geeks playing 3DS games and hogging a few tables. (Hey, we’d buy food, too, so we weren’t just loitering!)

That’s all to say, I’ve missed my Nintendo group since moving to San Francisco. Believe it or not, it’s still hard to find people to StreetPass here, and I don’t know that many gamers personally in SF as it is. When I get a Wii U, I also want to have people to play Nintendo Land, Mario Kart, etc. with. (Seriously, Nintendo Land is so much fun with a full complement of players, especially when a party atmosphere is involved. It turns into “Chase Me!” pretty quickly. If you already know about “Chase Me!” then why the heck didn’t you tell me you were reading my blog?)

Supposedly, there is such a group in SF already, according to the StreetPass Network, but I checked it out and it really hasn’t done anything for a while. Posted to their Facebook page, and I never got an answer…except from others wondering if they were having any events.

So, in the interest of meeting geeks, making friends, and (in all honesty) figuring out who in this town uses StreetPass, I’ve started up a Nintendo group on Meetup. Enter the SF Bay Area Nintendo Network! (And yes, I’m aware that’s a long, long name.)

3dsGroupLogoIdea3

We all put our 3DSes in a circle and took a picture at our first meetup, so I turned that into a logo for now.

I’m in touch with our Nintendo rep, and I’m trying to make sure I know when he’s demoing stuff so I can spread the word to folks who are interested. Meanwhile, we had a great inaugural hangout day earlier this month in Japantown, and we’ve got some other Meetups planned before the end of August.

Everyone really seemed to have fun at that first Meetup, which is encouraging. I have this thing about creating communities wherever I go; it’s really important to me. Throwing anime parties back in Florida was always so much fun, and I’d like to think I actually helped a lot of other geeks connect. Hopefully, I can make that happen here in SF with the gamers in this group.

One thing I’m really trying to figure out is how we can have multiplayer console gaming sessions in public spaces. It’s easy to just get a bunch of people together to play 3DS games–just find a food court or park and start playing. But not everyone has a 3DS, so I want to find places that will let me set up a console and a TV (or just a console, if they have a TV) so we can play Smash Bros. and other stuff.

In any case, it’s great to be connecting with other gamers in the area, and I’m excited to be heading up this group. If you happen to live in or around SF and want to meet some other folks who like Nintendo games, check us out!

Every Day’s Great with 8-bit Persona 4 Music

Hi folks! It’s been a while. There’s been some craziness in my life in the last few months: in the beginning of the year, I managed to find an amazing job as an editor! I feel unbelievably lucky to be doing something I enjoy and getting paid for it. I’m trying to get myself moved to a new city for said job in the near future, too, so there’s been plenty to do in that regard. Between that and my G.A.M.E.S. blog writing, my personal blog wound up falling by the wayside. Anyhoo, I don’t like it when I neglect the blog for so long, and I had some breathing room today, so I thought I should pop in to say I’m still here. I want to post more often now that things are settling down, though when the move starts, all bets are off.

You know you read the post title in Nanako’s voice.

Of course, you didn’t click through to read about why I’ve been gone. You wanted to hear that music I mentioned in the title, right? I’ve been playing the heck out of Persona 4 Golden every chance I can get, and I’m loving it so much. One major reason I like it is that I get to hear lots of Shoji Meguro’s awesome music.

When I fall in love with a game’s soundtrack, I tend to poke around YouTube to see if I can stream it. As I was looking for P4 music, I discovered that someone uploaded 8-bit remixes of several tracks from the game. Some of them, like this version of “Reach Out to the Truth” are pretty darned good. If you liked the 8-bit version of “I’ll Face Myself” that plays during the Void Quest boss fight (I don’t know for sure, but that version of the song might only be in P4G.), you’ll love this.

You can find the whole playlist here. I have no idea whether these are official mixes or not, but I’d love to track down the actual album if it exists. If it’s not an official remix album, I’d still like to find the original artist who did this arrangement, so either way, if you can shed any light on this, do leave a comment. :)

P.S. No spoilery comments on anything past the Secret Laboratory dungeon! I never played the original P4 on the PS2, so I’m going through this game for the first time.

These Guys Made Mario Kart Real

I always get warm fuzzies when people do awesomely geeky things with hardware. Some brilliant people from Waterloo labs put an RFID tag inside a Koopa shell plushie, put a tag reader on a go-kart, and then rigged up the kart to react to the shell–thus creating Mario Kart in real life. This is, of course, a gross simplification of their system. If you want to learn more, check out their page on the project. Meanwhile, here’s a video showing the karts in action. They even had item boxes, and someone ran a traffic light like Lakitu. :D

(Waterloo Labs via Hack A Day)

Best of the Backlog: 2012 Edition

In case you didn’t know, I have this constant, massive backlog of games that I need to play at pretty much all times. It’s a bit sad, but I’m making up for lots of lost time, so I often wind up putting off newer games so I can get through things from years past.

I did finish several new titles in 2012, but I also managed to clear out a significant chunk of my backlog. Here are some of the best games I played last year that I really should have gotten around to much sooner. Feel free to express your disbelief at how woefully behind I was.

Persona 3 Portable
P3PI love JRPGs, but somehow, I didn’t get around to playing a Persona game until last year. Now that I’ve beaten Persona 3 Portable, I could seriously kick myself for not doing it sooner. I loved this one so much that I started a New Game+ the same night I finished it. P3P is definitely one of my favorite games ever at this point. I must like being sad or something.

If you have a PSP, it’s totally worth it to get P3P and play as the female main character. You can have social links with every party member, so you learn more about them. Also, Elizabeth’s brother, Theo, is awesome.

The World Ends With You
TheWorldEndsWithYouI figured I would like TWEWY when I started it, but I had no idea that I would fall so completely in love with it. This game has a great story, awesome character designs, a rockin’ soundtrack, and a fun, fast-paced battle system. Sure, fighting enemies on two screens and balancing your DS to use the stylus can take some getting used to, but it’s totally worth the hand cramps.

Psst. Squeenix! Can you stop it with the money-grubbing iOS games and just make a 3DS sequel to this? It’ll be like printing money, I promise.

9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors
999999 was the first visual novel other than Hakuoki that I’d ever played, and now I’m hooked on the genre. It’s not a pure visual novel, but that’s fine: 999 has fun puzzles, and I love a good brain teaser. See my in-depth thoughts on the game here.

A word to anyone thinking of picking up the sequel, Virtue’s Last Reward: play 999 first, or some seriously awesome plot twists will go right over your head.

Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland
roronaI suppose this wasn’t my first Atelier game; if you want to get technical, I did play Mana Khemia. I just never finished that one. Once I started Atelier Rorona, I got sucked into the story and couldn’t put it down. My only complaint is that I didn’t really like how much of an idiot Rorona could be sometimes. However, she and the rest of the characters were endearing, the alchemy system was entertaining, and there was a good variety of places to explore. Now I just have to play Totori and Meruru before Ayesha comes out in March…(Heh. Not happening. Maybe I can shoot for before the end of the year.)

Hmm. Looking at my list, I guess I really do play a lot of Japanese games. In any case, if you’re behind like me and haven’t played these yet, I’d highly recommend all of them.

What sorts of games are in your backlog? How easy is it for you to check things off of your list of games to play someday?