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Ongoing Investigations: Case #180

August 10, 2012

I am still rather dubious about Otome game adaptions, with the exception of Prince-sama of course, so it took me a while to pick up the Alice in the Country of Hearts omnibus vol. 1 manga. But with so many different manga series based on the game coming out in English I became really curious about it. It also helped that I have a weakness for Alice in Wonderland.

Alice is in her garden when she falls asleep, upon awakening she is dragged into a gaping hole in the ground by guy named Peter White (who happens to have bunny ears). After he forces her to drink a potion (by forcing a kiss on her) she enters the Country of Hearts where she meets all kinds of quirky and cute (mostly male) characters. As the story progresses, you and Alice begin to realize the world isn’t a simple one and things are not always as they seem. Three kingdoms are at war with each other over territory; there are mysterious shadows roaming the land; people are heavily armed; and of course Alice is told time and again it won’t be too easy to leave.

All of the storybook characters are here, plus some new ones, but they are reworked to be very different. My favorite is easily the Mad Hatter who is a mafia boss. If the very fact of this series being an Otome game didn’t give you a clue, there is every kind of guy with all kinds of personalities to pick from as a favorite. There is also the Queen of Hearts who may or may not have a crush on Alice as well.

One thing that I have to give the story props for is not trying to shoehorn in any big plot reasons for the guys falling in love with Alice. Nightmare clearly tells her that that is simply what will happen in this world. And Alice’s way home turns out to be refilling the vial of potion she drank by making friends and interacting with the inhabitants of the world. And actually the world does setup some intriguing mysteries which I am invested in which helps a lot.

That being said, this story only stays good if Alice doesn’t end up with creepy Peter White. His obsession with her is not attractive and most of the time he comes off as a sociopath. Luckily, it seems rather likely that Ace is “true path guy” because he is the only one not for fall in love with Alice right away. He is also carrying around a lot of secrets and mentioned wishing to leave the world.

I had a lot of fun reading this and will be picking up more.

There is no clearer sign the Witch Hunt has gone as close to pro as you can get without leaving the realm of fan project than the fact that they have been given the official permission to release the Rose Gun Days demo by 07th Expansion. I have to say that is extremely impressive.

Rose Gun Days is the newest series by Ryukishi07 who most people probably know as the When They Cry guy. The series is set in its own universe as opposed to the supernatural murder mystery setting he is more famous for. It is set in an alternate post WWII Japan were a major earthquake devastated Tokyo letting a joint Chinese/American task-force radically transform the country. This new Japan is more like a mixture of poverty of the depression era and the zeitgeist of prohibition era in the US. The opening gives you a distinct impression of the visual novels style (It also lets you know someone really liked Cowboy Bebop). There is also a concurrent story happening in an alternate version of the present where someone involved in the adventure is telling the tale to a reporter as a way of setting the story of those chaotic times straight for the public.

The story centers around Leo Shishigami who is a down on his luck former solider who gets caught up being a bodyguard in the middle of gang war when he saves the life of a beautiful bordello madam named Rose. The demo mostly seems to be an introduction to the setting and the characters. Knowing Ryukishi07 there will be a bigger plot but for now the demo mostly wants to just show you how Rose and Leo come to trust each other.

It is also there to show off the new fighting mini-game mechanic. Since Leo is a rough and tumble guy he and his associates are constantly getting into fights. The mechanic itself it fairly simple. Not losing the fights in the beginning is fairly easy. The thing is there is an attack and defense mode of the mini-game. The defense is fairly straight forward. You block all the attack on the screen with the mouse before time is up. The attacks however can be pass fairly effortlessly with 3 hits BUT you can try to rack up points by getting in as many hits as you can before time runs out. This leads to points chicken where you can get a ton of extra points or none at all if you get greedy.

But if you get enough points you can get higher fighting ranks for Leo. I do have to wonder if the ranks are just there for fun or if they have some greater plot relevance. Maybe you have to be a certain rank to win later fights or open up new story paths. Maybe you can only get the good/true/best ending if you do so well. Unlike other 07th Expansion games you can only save at certain checkpoints instead or at any time. I am curious to see how this plays out.

Other than that I am so glad to see that Ryukishi07 has finally learned that maybe art is not his strong suit and that he finally has enough dinero to let someone else to the heavy lifting when it comes to character design and art work. Claudia Kurosaki and Alfred Akagi still have that distinct Ryukishi07 feel at least they have been cleaned up a bit.

The story itself as I mentioned before is mostly set up. They give you a good idea of how desperate people are in this era and what it at stake for all the players. I did notice that more than any of his other works there is a good deal of nationalism almost to the point of jingoism in the story. It is not Hiroyuki Yoshino’s Guilty Crown level but it is hard to miss. Looking back Higurashi and Umineko had that at brief points but in this game it is fairly close to the surface. It does not really turn me off from the game but it is worth bringing up. It would make an interesting point of examination when the full game is out.

All in all I had a good time with the game. It gave me a good taste of what is to come. I am partially curious if a supernatural element is going to creep in later or is this all going to be played straight. Either way I look forward to the full game soon.

The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching and reading outside of our main posts on the blog. We each pick three things that we were interested in a week and talk a bit about them. There is often not much rhyme or reason to what we pick. They are just the most interesting things we saw since the last Ongoing Investigation.

Sailor Moon vol. 6 starts my (and many others) favorite arc in the series with the addition of the outer sailor senshi. A new brand of evil has hit Tokyo in the form of an elite school which is inducting students into their schemes. Also there is a mysterious lab at the school creating mutants that begin attack the city. What’s more, there are unfamiliar people running around at night dressed as sailor senshi!

I love all the mysteries created in this first part. This also strikes a new cord with the relationships both romantically and not. This arc starts to delve a little darker for the series which only continues as the story goes on.

Also, I had kinda forgotten about the sexual tension between Usagi and Haruka!

Persona 4 Arena has reenforced one simple lesson. I am not very good at fighting games. Not very good at all. My roommate got the game because he is about as big a Persona fan as I am a Type-Moon fan. Heck he bought a rather expensive fightstick just for the game. THAT is dedication to a franchise.

But so far what I have played has been in the story mode. And that should be considered Persona 4: The Visual Novel. It is talk, talk, talk. Then an animated scene. Then even more talk, talk, talk.  And then finally a fight. As someone who likes all the talking in Melty Blood I have absolutely no problem with that. But for some people it will be an interminable nightmare. The story mostly seems jokey so far but I am sure as I get close to finishing a path they will drop the hammer on some more real deal plot. For now it is mostly M Bearson and Yukiko Amagi being a horrible cook. From what I understand the ending is pretty much just set up for Persona 4 Arena 2. Considering the sales that seems like a strong possibility.

For those who can’t stand the text there is just simply the standard fighting game with an online component as well. The fighting game system seems fairly complex without being new fan unfriendly. There are only 4 buttons and all the moves seem fairly simple to pull off. The meat seems to come from the little systems that add a good deal of depth to the system. It was pretty clear to me from what I played that button mashing and cheese would not cut it. You have to have some degree of actual skills to get anywhere. Beyond that my expertise in the analysis of fighting games is far too weak for any greater insights. I am sure Dave will eventually have something actually interesting to say about it on his site.

Still I had fun. If you are any sort of Persona fan the story mode is a nice way to revisit everyone from Persona 4 and get some meaty Persona 3 updates as well. Otherwise there looks to be a fairly competent fighting game that is not too hard to pick up but still has a good deal of depth. We shall see how long that remains the case when the character tiers settle themselves out.

I picked up the first volume of The Dreamer at Otakon’s Artist Alley actually. It is a historical (thanks to time-traveling) romance story set during the American Revolution.

Bea is a Broadway hopeful and high school student who has good friends, the lead in the drama club’s upcoming production, and had finally caught the eye of a guy she’s been crushing on. Bea also happens to find herself in 1776 when she falls asleep, but so far we have no idea what it’s cause is. At first, understandably, Bea thinks it is merely a dream but it keeps happening and time keeps progressing until eventually it is clear that she is part of these past events. She starts getting more and more obsessed with returning to the past and to soldier Alan.

Because we don’t know all that has happened in the personal lives of the characters in the past prior to Bea’s remembering these dreams, there is a great set-up of mysteries. One thing is clear, Bea has not suddenly appeared, Alan has known her for many years though Bea has no memory of it, which is intriguing.

The romance is sweeping! I was sold within the first few pages. Though I can understand Bea being torn between her past and present suitors.

The history is well done and what really attracts me to the series. It probably also helps that the artist likes to fill the pages with rather handsome men some known in history and others new creations.

This is a webcomic series so you can actually check it out for free! I highly recommend it!

Forest is probably the weirdest visual novel I have played. It is about as close as you can get to an art house movie in visual novel form. You usually think of visual novels are the very definition of low art. While they might have fun and engaging stories they are hardly stretching for any brass ring of being “true art.” I love Type-Moon games. They distinctly explore themes while telling a rollicking and emotional story. But overall they are fairly straight forward. Forrest is anything but.

I got the game mostly because it is one of the games Hoshizora Meteor is most famous for. Since he is the main writer for Girls’ Work I am very interested to see what he is like as an author. Apparently if Girls’ Work is anything like this I have a bit of a trip to look forward to. Sekien No Inganock, which is by the same company, could be fairly complex and allegorical at times. But it did not prepare me for this.

Forest starts with two interconnected stories that both begin in medias res with one of the stories flashing back to the other. Oh. And they are both being told at the same time. So the story begins with two unidentified characters talking. The man is trying to get the full story about a series of incidents from the woman. They both clearly know more than they let on but the woman is clearly holding back. She might also not fully remember what happened. But that also could all be a ruse. All of the text related to that happens at the top of the screen.

The bottom of the screen is the events that two characters are discussing. It seems that various women from Shinjuku are being transported to an Alice in Wonderland styled world. The rules of the world seem highly codified but are not apparent to the women who have been spirited away or the audience. Also this part has the first sex scene which is sort of uncomfortable. Nothing really kinky happens. It is just more sadly desperate than anything else. It is a very unusual tone for what is usually supposed to be a turn on. I wonder if it is a clear indication that the rumor about Hoshizora Meteor leaving Liar Soft so he did not have to write sex scenes anymore is true.

The strangest thing is at times the two sections seems to almost be connected and able to interact whereas other times they are clearly separate times. Also there is a thick layer of symbolism and allegory running over both stories. This combined with the fact that we are dropped into both stories in the middle of things does not make anything simpler. The game makes itself clear that you are going to have to work to get any answers from it.

I have only just started the game so I am not sure what to think. In the end all this style is very dangerous. If you can pull it off you become a legendary game. Something that sort of shows exactly what the medium can do. A piece of true avant-garde art. If it all falls part you just look like a pretentious ass. I am curious to see where this game falls.

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