Visual Novels - because insomnia builds character.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


Let's keep chugging along! al|together 2008 round 4/6!
A touching bittersweet story of tolerance and the transience of even the most important parts of our lives.

Graphics - The character artwork is simply beautiful and the pale delicate colors match the heroine. The background are nothing exceptional but they are certainly not bad. Most fit perfectly in the work and the use of cherry blossoms to enforce the pieces themes is brilliant. Only Mai receives any character artwork as she is the main focus but I would have liked to have seen the protagonist's sister. 9/10

Music/SFX - The music is also exceptional. The authors produced a vocal song for this game and it is a beautiful piece. The rest of the music is from various sources and quite a few tracks are used : 17 in total. Six different groups have music featured in the piece including an artist I have mentioned on my non-review blog : SAM . The authors also assigned "image titles" to generically named tracks to shed light on how it was used. Sound effects fit in perfectly as well and a detailed volume pane is supplied to adjust the levels to one's individual liking. 10/10

Voice Acting - Yes, this free software is voiced! Certainly a welcome addition to any game the voice acting is well executed and has minimal recording issues. The actress was well chosen and seemed to have a true grasp on her part. The VA is partial however, as side characters and the protagonist are not voiced. The singing was also integrated into the voice acting and worked very well. 9/10

Story - The story for Moonshine is very typical and fairly predictable but in this case that is not a bad thing. Mai is immediately entrancing and I long to know more of her story but that is not the story the authors chose to tell and I do not fault that choice for the one they told is much more unique. Moonshine is a simple story but it will stay with you. As a warning (because I've been trained to do so*) this game does grapple with the idea of trans-sexuality. I applaud the author for this but I know it is not everyone's cup of tea. This is not your typical discrimination story though, it is about much more. 10/10

System/Extras - This game uses ONScripter, meaning it is available for both Windows and Mac with a high chance of working on Linux (if supplied with a binary). This is a specialized build and the effort shines. As previously mentioned, there is a volume pane for sound but two other option panes are available as well. All normal ONScripter features are in place but with a jazzed up GUI including a small menu at the bottom of the screen. The extras include the standard jukebox and CG viewing mode. I have not mentioned this in my other reviews but Insani also supplies a wealth of essays about the al|together 2008 projects and the writings for this project are particularly insightful. 5/5

Overall - A great peice that no doubt will offend some for some unfathomable reason. Then again, that is more reason to read it. I finished the piece in less than two hours and do not regret a second of it.

Score - 43/45 - 96% - Exceptional

*I mean no offense to anyone by this and I certainly could care less if someone was offended by this work. But some parents think anime rooms are babysitting services (until they walk in during FAKE) so I've been trained to warn for almost anything. Honestly, if transsexuals are distasteful to you that's more reason to read this.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Letter

We're halfway there! al|together 2008 round 3/6!
Sometimes you stumble upon a game that from the start strives to be more than a diversion, a way to spend an evening. This is one of those titles. A story about family, memories and all that lies ahead.

Graphics - Nothing special here. The backgrounds are all stock photograhs with filters and there is no character art. The art for the extras screens (not the menu) is nice but that doesn't count for much. 7/10
Music/SFX - The music is stock but it was chosen well with one glaring exception. The song "Boss Battle 03" (as the name might suggest) is much to action themed to fit the story. The intent is there but its too much (that scene as a whole I felt was somewhat unnecessary). My first thought is "where did I hear this before?" I'm still not sure where, but some variant of the underlying beat was used in another game (possibly the Boss Battle 01 or 02 tracks?). This is one danger of stock music as this track is awkward at best and distracting at worst. The other songs fit very well, I particularly enjoyed "Wherever She Goes" and "My Dear" as they fit the introspective mood quite well. Transitions were sometimes abrupt though not unreasonably, and sound effects were properly implemented. The rain in particular stood out as there was both an outside and an inside version. 7.5/10

Story - The story develops slowly and the writing is almost poetic. While we are not given great amounts of background information, the interaction with Takahiro's family is easy to follow but not diluted. The writing is very delicate and authentic, I frequently found myself drawing connections to my own family life. My only significant complaint is the scene where "Boss Battle 03" plays, it felt unnecessary and over dramatic as the result of his "struggle" was likely already known to the reader. 9.5/10

System - This is an ONScripter release for Windows and Mac OS X. As usual no errors or problems; the author's note suggest that he chose this platform (Nscripter) due to complaints about the original release. The extras included are a jukebox mode and the aforementioned author's note. Obviously, a gallery is not needed as only backgrounds are used. 5/5

Overall - A touching story with a good score. Al|togther titles often show that games can be much more than fantastical diversions and this title is an excellent representive of the depth in storytelling that can be achieved.

Score - 29/35 - 83% - Good

Friday, November 28, 2008


Can't give up now! al|togther 2008 2/6~!
OMGWTFOTL's angst-y sister... Prepare to genuflect!

Graphics - Monochrome MS Paint drawings. Yeeep, the art style is simplistic and focuses on red, the color of rage and a natural fit with the story. The scheme lends to a very raw, angry feel especially since the entire game features a jittery effect. I don't think any other style would have worked as well. The translation team also went to great lengths to make localized text and graphics fit in with the game. 10/10

Music/SFX - There are two tracks of music, the title track and the in game track. I really do like both, the dramatic in-game track and the somewhat wistful piano opener. Because of the TIMER in the corner of the game, I had not noticed the loop and had to replay the game just to check the track count. Maybe a track for the true end would have been nice. 8/10

Story - Maybe, OMGWTFOTL was too zany for you? But the luxurious pacing of school sims makes you cry? This game strikes a happy medium. Never a dull moment but there is (some) reason in the flow and the protagonist's actions.While the timer makes it tempting to speed through without reading... it is worth it. The writing is polished and makes you keep at those many, many, replays it will take to get to the end. Even Itoko's rambling monologue keeps its self fresh. 10/10

System/Extras - This game runs on Windows only, however this is justified by the intense level of specialization used in the system. From the rage bar to the jitters to the font color and style, the system is carefully molded to the style of the art and the story. No extras but the system doesn't lend it's self to such, no event CG to collect and the music is easy to reach to replay if you desire. 5/5

Overall - This is a great piece though it is very difficult to clear. (If you are truely stuck I can email you some pointers.) The amount of thought and effort in this seemingly short and simple piece is amazing.

Score - 33/35 - 94% - Exceptional

Thursday, November 27, 2008

From the Bottom of the Heart

The Sleepless Nights team is aiming for timely reviews of all al|together 2008 releases this year. Lets get this party started! This is round 1/6.

This is the first work of al|together 2008. A bit of an appetizer, short but sweet.
Graphics - This game is approximately five minutes long. There are two standing dolls in the work, both well detailed and polished. All of the backgrounds are grayscale stock images with one exception used for artistic effect. A CG for his flashback or a few more variations on the standing CG would be nice but ultimately are not needed. 8/10

Music/SFX - The music comprises of classical pieces mostly piano. No sound effects are present and none are needed. The loops were each very short but the transistions were well timed Unfortunately, the sound transitions were rather abrupt . 9/10

Story - The story is very original and well-written. It has that melancholy charm to it that is reminiscent of Makoto Shinkai (think Voices of a Distant Star and 5 centimeters per second). The prologue was nice and set the scene well, but the overall story was extremely short and could have used a better paced lead in to the main plot. Still a very sweet and short love story, well worth the 5 minutes. 9/10

System/Extras - This is an ONScripter release with offical builds for Windows and Mac OS X (I suspect there is no offical "Linux" build because of the varying nature of Linux). Both versions run quickly and cleanly. Since the game comprised of a few short music loops and no event CGs, no extras modes are supplied or really needed. 4/5

Overall - It's five minutes long, Vista can take that long to boot up. You probably spend twice that on YouTube every day; What do you have to lose?

Score - 30/35 - 86% -Good