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Old 02-16-2016, 08:53 PM
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muteKi muteKi is offline
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Default Let's Grow a Rooftop Lily Garden! Kindred Spirits on the Roof!

Introduction, Pt. 1

So as you all know, I'm part of the Visual Novel problem here on this forum. I am the one to blame for the existence of a Sakura Spirit stream on this forum.

Which was, on the one hand, absolutely amazing. On the other hand, when I bought it, I had no ability to fathom just how trash it actually was.

Thankfully, the game we're playing is a lot better. It's a more professional game with a higher pedigree and has a lot more thought into it. It's currently the top game on Mangagamer's weekly ranking, and a whole bunch of my friends have been excited for it for a long time. As far as visual novels go, this is about as top shelf as they come. And there's a lot that makes it significant to me on a personal level as well as culturally. Let's start with --

- This game has lesbians in it! And only lesbians!

- Lesbians!

You'll have to forgive T-Rex here. This is practically a catchphrase for him now, and he gets excited. So excited he starts talking out of turn. But fine, before I get back to what I was saying, anything else you want to add?

- It's also the first VN to not be edited for content in its publication on Steam, only translated!

- I suspect that's related to how it's being billed as a "frank depiction of same-sex relationships". Which hopefully means they don't wind up all inexplicably drenched in "juices" at some point.

- What are the other big sellers on the site right now? "Cosplay Alien"? "Harem Party"? "Hypno-training My Mother and Sister?" Yeesh!

- Well even from the title it's pretty easy to tell this is a very different game from the rest of the stuff that's there. Although "Harem Party" has a nice ring to it...

- You say that, but you haven't seen the preview pics for that one.


OK, so now that's out of the way, let's discuss a few things about this project. I don't have the luxury of a skype crew, so instead I have to find some friends the sad nerd way, by adapting characters from comics I've read to add commentary to the playthrough. Don't worry, though, I won't be holding all of their commentary to the Dinosaur Comics structure. But I have to do this game by text rather than streaming, for a very obvious reason.

- This game has nudity in it!

That's right. Even if it's not as explicit as some of the other games being sold on that site right now, this game does indeed have content that would be considered work-unsafe in most circumstances. By making the LP text-only, I can edit the content so that you all can keep the forum pure and clean.

- I mean, if they can make an all-ages version of Nekopara, we can do a playthrough of this game that both stays coherent and doesn't include any of the naughty bits.

So I've been honking my horn tooting my whistle exploding with joy making a big fuss about this game on Twitter lately especially, and that's because it really fills a specific gap in my life is going to keep me busy for a while seems like the visual novel I'd been hoping for for years, even if I didn't fully realize it at the time

I think before I really get into the game I want to talk at least a little about the game, it's history, and its cultural significance. I don't want this discussion to turn into a full-on anatomy --

- Hey-ohh!

Dammit. Anyway, while I don't want to be quite as exhaustive or analytical as I have been in my discussion of Sonic, this is definitely a game that's so far afield from everything else in this forum that I ought to come up with some justification as to why you should care about it.

- As far as these things go, lesbian visual novels are a pretty underserved market. While the market for lesbian manga is driven primarily by women (who are also the ones making the majority of the work, especially original stories), when it comes to games, the otome game genre, as in narrative driven romance games made for women, has been designed primarily around romancing men, typically bishounen (pretty-boy) sorts of games. In both cases, this is a historical thing. The tradition of lesbian stories marketed for women in Japan dates back to the 1970s with stories like Our White Room (Shiroi Heya no Futari), but by the 90s, conventions for artists really built up a market for such works, and lots of speciality publications offer room for shorts stories and manga serialization. But otome games are pretty new in comparison, and not a "thing" before Koei's Angelique in 1994. While there are plenty of games like that out there, since it's relatively easy to make a dating sim, a lot of them still tend to be obscure. Consider that the market for women who want to romance other women is probably even smaller than that, and it's not too hard to see why these stories tend to stay in cheaper-to-produce manga.

- Yeah, but in the last several years it's been easier to find games like that.

- Sure, and it's also like these games didn't exist before now either. Liar-soft, the producers of this game, have made a lesbian visual novel before this. It even shares the same team lead, Toi Tentsu, and the game art is done by Koume Keito of Spice and Wolf fame. It's a mystery novel with branching paths. And yes, as is the case for everything by Liar-soft, there is plenty of erotic content. The problem is that with this game some of that erotic content is rape and I'm not particularly comfortable with that.

There's a review of the game by someone who goes by Mara (not our Mara, I asked) on Okazu, which is generally a good site for recommendations and reviews of girls-love stories. You ought to read it, but the basic summary of the game is that it takes place in a private girls' academy so posh that it's basically its own floating island. But a series of sexual assaults are taking place there, and the main character has to figure out what is happening before the culprit can escape -- in which case, for whatever reason because I haven't played the game, the school staff will blame her for it.

While I don't want to defend the content here, the sad thing is that for a small team making a game like this, a sexual assault narrative in the game is almost par for the course. The only other game I can know anything about that had all-female sexual content is Lightning Warrior Raidy, and that game has lots of distressed damsels and also lots of revenge-porn scenes -- it's more of a dungeon crawler than a visual novel, after all. Really, my point is more that there's very limited precedent for what a game like this might look like, so even if it's disappointing it's probably not surprising that it's what they came up with; it was a very early Liar title and might be considered a sophomore slump. They've since shaped up and made more interesting titles that, even if they push in the direction of weird themes are more thoughtful about how they present their stories. An expanded version of the game with bonus content tried to push a more upbeat style, away from the darker tones of the original plot.

- Even if the game wasn't very good, Toi Tentsu (known in some places as Toi Amatsu, which I assume is based on an incorrect reading of the kanji) has collaborated with Koume on lesbian filth more recently. There's a Kantai Collection doujinshi with their names on it that came out not so long ago, and it's more in the style of Koume's Pollen Girls series. That is to say, unapologetically lewd!

- While they might still push on the depressing or grim tones, most of Liar's games tend to be more thoughtful about their sex now. They still have content that might make people uncomfortable in some of their games -- too many of them seem to have the "lolicon" tag on vndb, for example -- but in general try to stay away from depicting traumatic sexuality. They don't shy away from drama, however. There's arguably a big schism in the company's output from before and after the publishing of Seiken no Inganock -- which set up a sort of universe and tone in which many of their creative works are set. Most of the tales focus on surviving in grim circumstance with fairly limited sexual content; all of them have a steampunk setting. The most recent game in this series, Gakhthun of the Golden Lightning, is availble in English right now. You play as Nikola Tesla and have to protect the lives of people living in -- guess what? -- an academy on an artificial island, surrounded by the ocean.

- Wait, does this Nikola Tesla get his motor running too? Because I thought...

While I can't comment on the extent of Gakhthun's Tesla sex scenes, I will also point out that vndb informs me that this universe actually begins with Souten No Celenaria, which as near as I can tell is basically a porn parody of Skies of Arcadia, and takes a much more comedic tone over the rest of the games in the series.

- But I don't know how relevant all of this is to this game! I think there's a way more relevant visual novel series that we need to discuss!

(Continued in Pt. 2 below...)
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