Visual Novels - because insomnia builds character.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A Winter's Tale

A Winter's Tale. A childhood friendship blooms into romance in this leisurely paced visual novel about a boy and girl in the depths of winter.
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Graphics - A mixed bag. The sprites are very nicely done. The clothing, expressions, and makeup change often and appropriately. The backgrounds, however, are varying. They are from the numerous free image collections available and range from nicely detailed illustrations to klutzy drawings to even photographs. Using stock backgrounds isn't uncommon but the mixed styles are irritating. 8/10

Music/SFX - The music is not outstanding but clean, varied, and appropriate to each scene and the piece as a whole. The ending theme is a fun vocal song that does not fit the piece in the slightest but was easily the best song in the game. The sound effects are the usual stock sounds and, as usual, are not adjusted for volume so they clash with the music a bit. 7/10

Story - Predictable to a fault and too long for such a piece. There is some drama but it is forced and has a predicable outcome. A Winter's Tale would be much more enjoyable if it had been condensed to only the main scenes. There is one choice but it only changes the ending conversation, not the result. 4.5/10

System/Extras - The system is a mixed bag. At first it appears to be a generic ONScripter release (bland menus) but the translators took some extra time to add in a footnote system for some of the Japanese terms and names used. The extras consist of a postscript which is mostly uninteresting. No cg mode (no CGs) and no music mode. 4/5

Score - 23.5/35 - 67% - mediocre

40 Days and 40 Nights of Rain

"For 40 days and 40 nights, the rain will fall." A war has left the world in ruins, and in that world, the "tin plate" soldier meets the girl with sky-blue eyes.
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Graphics - The graphics were handled a bit differently for this game compared to most. Full CGs of the setting were the main visuals for the story, very high in detail and colored well. These were all quite dark and serene, setting quite the mood for the story. When the characters were shown they stood out, each character drawing was full of detail, and though not overwhelming, and very beautiful. Traditional sprites were not used and the characters were never seen in setting, but rather, on a plain white, which was quite bland and didn't seem to serve the story very well visually. 9/10

Music/SFX - All of the music sounded like they were all played on the same instrument (likely piano), but every song was varying and never boring. The music was soft and calm, fitting well with the dark atmosphere of the story. The music played softly in the background and wasn't distracting. Sound effects were very generic, as if they were from a free website. They did not fit very well with the game at all, being quite disruptive at times. 8/10

Story - The story was original, well written and well translated. They story kept consistent, maintaining the perfect mood throughout the entire story, not being over or under dramatic. The plot was well thought out, everything flowed well, even the surprises fit in without seeming like they were thrown in at last minute. However, the story was too drawn out, it could have easily ended at several points in the story. 8/10

System/Extras - This release has all the features expected from an Nscripter game, generic save/load, log mode and hide text, but nothing new or different. Disappointingly, there were no extras to unlock. Art from the game can be seen at the creator's site here. 2/5

Score - 27/35 - 77% - Average

Friday, July 20, 2007

Blogginess- New Reviewer!

We have a new reviewer today! Jon Fawkes has offered/been forced to join the team here at Sleepless Nights. His first review has already been posted (A Midsummer's Resonance) so step up and tell him what you think. :D I've also posted a review of the game Planetarian today. As always the reviewer's name is listed at the bottom of the post.

7 days till Little Busters!

A Midsummer Day's Resonance

A Midsummer Day's Resonance is a sweet story about a girl who falls in love. A (somewhat) science-fiction story filled with romance and surprise. I enjoyed it thoroughly, from beginning to end.
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Graphics - The sprites were very cute and simple. The art for each chapter header was very nice as well. Backgrounds were also well done, high in detail, and helped a lot in conveying emotion. The only irritant was that the characters were consistently displayed in as a hologram which is consistent with the story, but somewhat awkward looking. 9/10

Music/SFX - The music was pleasant and subtle, so it didn't disrupt the game. There was a large variety of music, and it didn't feel overplayed. The sound effects however, were kind of disruptive, and could sometimes ruined the mood of the situation, like in a sad scene, where everything is silent and then you hear this loud *shiiiing*. 8/10

Story - The concept was original and the writing, even the science fiction bits, were easy to understand. The story was paced nicely and written well. There were some parts where improvements could be made in terms of conveying emotion. Some parts needed to be more sad, like the parts where the connection cuts out; while other parts needed to be more happy, like the parts where everyone was together. 8/10

System/Extras - This release has all the expected features of an ONScripter game but the "hide text" ("Clear" in the right-click menu) function doesn't work properly. The extras include a gallery mode for the chapter illustrations and a music mode. There is also an additional extras menu (rot13 for puzzle spoilers) juvpu jnf npprffrq ol tbvat gb gur tnyyrel naq ivrjvat gur PTf va gur beqre tvira ng gur raq bs gur tnzr. This menu had rough sketches, a character sprite gallery, and some additional humorous scenes. 4/5

Score - 29/35 - 83% - Good

Planetarian ~The Reverie of a Little Planet~ CD-ROM Edition

Planetarian is the story of a dying world, a living robot and the man who interacts with both. While it is a short piece and a simple piece it is one of the best works in English today.
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Graphics - The graphics are simply wonderful. The art is detailed and lively. Event CGs are interspersed through out the story and the sprites vary frequently. No skimping on backgrounds either. 10/10

Music/SFX - The music is very good, setting the mood quite well. I have found my self sitting and just listening to the jukebox mode over and over. 10/10

Voice Acting - This is the main difference between editions. The download editions have no voice acting (except the first line in the prologue ?), the CD-ROM edition has voice acting for Reverie (Yumemi) only and the PS2 has full voice acting. I am reviewing the CD edition. Reverie's voice was done excellently by Keiko Suzuki. I am looking forward to her performance in Little Busters! as well. The voice fit perfectly and added significantly to certain scenes in the story. Only downfall was the lack of voicing of other (albeit very minor) characters. Partial voicing tends to bug me (Except the protagonist. I don't like them voiced) but I understand it since these characters consisted of maybe 15 minutes of the entire work. 9/10

Story - The story is a bit slow to take off but pays off entirely. Reverie as (practically) the only other character is developed magnificently. This is a very character driven story. If you don't like such things make sure to try the trial before you decide to buy this or not. Insani's translation also is wonderfully done, with such details as adapting the characters name. (Something I don't normally agree with but the meaning of it is important to the story.) 10/10

System/Extras - All the normal features of a modern professional game engine (RealLive) including auto-mode, skip mode, log mode but also with a chapter list for loading and a beautiful GUI for the save/load menus. The extras are the usual Music and CG modes. 5/5

Overall - Wonderful game. Us English speakers should feel grateful that someone went through the effort to translate and release a patch to us no matter how difficult acquiring a copy can get.

Score - 44/45 - 98% - exceptional


How to get a copy of Planetarian

Insani's patch is designed for the original download version of Planetarian. However this version has been replaced by a new DRM system . The patch no longer works for the new system. Due to much piracy of the original version, Insani (understandably) refuses to release anymore commercial patches including ones for other versions of Planetarian and does not condone any other patches with their translation. However it is quite possible to patch the CD version and this is what I have done to play this story. There are instructions on how to do that here. The CD version is available from Himeya Shop here. If you can read Japanese you can purchase the new download edition here or the PS2 edition here.