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The theme for this review bundle is ‘summer’. ‘Cuttlebone’ (trip to the beach to gather pet food), ‘Summer House’ (a tale involving alcohol and murder), ‘Sophie’ (holidays and bad endings) and ‘The Dandelion Girl’ (the girl from the future) all feature.


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Inami: This way we get to go to the beach and also get free cuttlebone. Win-win.

Title: Cuttlebone

Developer: Kuroonehalf

Length: 20 min

Price: Free

Adult Content: None

Original Language: English

Version Language: English

Genres: Slice of Life

Relative Rating: 2/5

Overall Rating: 4/10

Key Positive Points: Backgrounds, interface design

Key Negative Points: Filler episode plot


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The Other Girl… why does that sound so familiar?

Title: Summer House

Developer: Carrollesque

Length: 20 min

Price: Free

Adult Content: None

Original Language: English

Version Language: English

Genres: Mystery, Thriller

Relative Rating: 2/5

Overall Rating: 3/10

Key Positive Points: Dark story

Key Negative Points: No sprites, crashes, some parts not fully explained


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I think my summer is ending here. As well as my life.

Title: Sophie

Developer: Didules

Length: 10 min

Price: Free

Adult Content: None

Original Language: French

Version Language: English

Genres: Comedy, Slice of Life

Relative Rating: 1/5

Overall Rating: 2/10

Key Positive Points: A number of CGs

Key Negative Points: Too many bad endings, choice outcomes unconnected, plot goes nowhere


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You know, the day before yesterday I saw a rabbit, and yesterday a deer, and today, you.

Title: The Dandelion Girl

Developer: /jp/ project

Length: 30 min

Price: Free

Adult Content: None

Original Language: English

Version Language: English

Genres: Drama, Romance

Relative Rating: 3/5

Overall Rating: 6/10

Key Positive Points: Good story, large extras section

Key Negative Points: More time needed to associate with characters


Time to talk about instant bad end choices. Sophie featured a number of choices. They were as simple as, for example, choosing to go to the supermarket or not. However, the outcomes are absurd. In one instance, saying something slightly different to one character caused a completely unknown man to appear and stab the protagonist to death. If these bad ends are to be included, it must be obvious as to why a certain choice led to the end. Warnings and hints should also be presented in the preceeding story to guide towards the correct decision. Most of the time, it is not even worth including an alternative ending if they are not of a reasonable length; the choice point can just be made to progress as a natural part of the story.

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Returning to my reviews after a two-year absence and with the recent review of ‘The Way We ALL GO’, the theme of this bundle is ‘looking back at the work of developers I reviewed previously’. We have ‘The Lockdown of Shinsou Elementary’ (scary school happenings), ‘Of Valkyries and Life’ (girls with wings, in different places and different eras), Yanderella (love triangles and killer cuddly rabbits) and Crimson Rafflesia (Hanachirasu with superpower children).


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???: I wonder… what kind of performance this school has for me…

Title: The Lockdown of Shinsou Elementary

Developer: TwinTurtle Games

Length: 1 min

Price: Free

Adult Content: None

Original Language: English

Version Language: English

Genres: Comedy, Thriller

Relative Rating: 1/5

Overall Rating: 2/10

Key Positive Points: Idea could potentially produce a good story

Key Negative Points: Idea was not built upon, far too short


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Still, the girl herself had no idea of her origin or for what purpose her wings existed.

Title: Of Valkyries and Life

Developer: Desulishor

Length: 20 min

Price: Free

Adult Content: None

Original Language: English

Version Language: English

Genres: Drama, Supernatural

Relative Rating: 2/5

Overall Rating: 4/10

Key Positive Points: Good artwork

Key Negative Points: Should focus on one story, text too wide to read easily


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Now, no matter how it turns out in the end, I’m sure… I’m sure the three of us won’t be able to stay together anymore.

Title: Yanderella

Developer: CHARON

Length: 1 hour 20 min

Price: Free

Adult Content: None

Original Language: Japanese

Version Language: English

Genres: Horror, Romance, Slice of Life

Relative Rating: 2/5

Overall Rating: 6/10

Key Positive Points: H-scenes averted, pixel artwork fits

Key Negative Points: Some generic plot points, text pace of engine far too slow


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Even after putrefying two men to death and leaving their bodies in the most disgusting-looking state of decomposition ever, Sho Reilen feels neither regret nor guilt.

Title: Crimson Rafflesia (Full Demo 1.0)

Developer: Soyasushi Productions

Length: 1 hour 20 min

Price: Free

Adult Content: None

Original Language: English

Version Language: English

Genres: Drama, Mystery, Supernatural, Thriller

Relative Rating: 3/5

Overall Rating: 5/10

Key Positive Points: Some good character work, some promising plot, secret content

Key Negative Points: Too many plot points copied from Hanachirasu


By chance, I happen to have picked two visual novels which are somewhat similar to Nitroplus works. Playing Crimson Rafflesia, almost every event that happens before the opening is copied from Hanachirasu; some effort is made to develop the following plot differently but there are still too many connections. Yanderella has some links to Kimi to Kanojo to Kanojo no Koi. but these are more subtle; the story is developed differently and it may merely be due to similar themes. Basing work on other visual novels is fine but at least some changes are needed, lest it seem as though ideas are being directly replicated. With a few tweaks, Crimson Rafflesia could become independent enough for the final release.

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Time for some RPG style visual novels. In this bundle we have ‘Dear Mariko’ (murderous stalkers are around), ‘Kimi to Boku to Kireigoto’ (a cycle of betrayal) and ‘Paper Cranes’ (the prison of the mind).


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It’s because of that woman. She’s been following me around for a while now.

Title: Dear Mariko

Developer: Soyasushi Productions

Length: 10 min

Price: Free

Adult Content: None

Original Language: English

Version Language: English

Genres: Horror, Thriller

Relative Rating: 2/5

Overall Rating: 4/10

Key Positive Points: Killer twists

Key Negative Points: Skipped over backstory, story potential not utilised


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Was I even sad about losing you?

Title: Kimi to Boku to Kireigoto

Developer: CHARON

Length: 20 min

Price: Free

Adult Content: None

Original Language: Japanese

Version Language: English

Genres: Drama, Slice of Life

Relative Rating: 1/5

Overall Rating: 4/10

Key Positive Points: Graphics and pixel art style

Key Negative Points: Hard to tell who is speaking, unclear ideas


Screenshot 2015-05-19 05.22.16

For everyone in The Cells, inmate or guard, there’s something that anchors them here, something that keeps them from escaping back into the world.

Title: Paper Cranes

Developer: Emily Kardamis

Length: 20 min

Price: Free

Adult Content: None

Original Language: English

Version Language: English

Genres: Mystery

Relative Rating: 2/5

Overall Rating: 4/10

Key Positive Points: Pixel artwork, exploration of confidence

Key Negative Points: Rushed morals, mostly just dialogue


These visual novels all start with a good, clear idea. However, they do not explore these ideas enough. If time was taken to build up and extend the story, the outcome would be worthy to read. Unfortunately, they stop short of the required quantity.

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TheWayWeALLGOSS

That’s what happens in life. Everything changes… and all you can do is keep on going, giving it everything you have.

Title: The Way We ALL GO

Developer: Ebi-hime

Length: 6 hours

Price: £4.79

Adult Content: None

Original Language: English

Version Language: English

Genres: Drama, Horror, Slice of Life


After a sudden move to the city two years ago, returning to the village in which he spent his childhood allows Atcchan to meet once more with the friends he left behind. Although he managed to keep in contact with a few people, he abandoned others without a word and has since not worked up enough courage to contact them. There are only three days to meet with his friends; spending most of your time with one person could potentially upset others.

Some of the major themes covered include separation and isolation, with other themes hidden within routes. The plot varies between normal, everyday scenes to sudden, tense encounters; be prepared to wade through to the endings to see the climax of your actions. If you are looking for extreme and bloodthirsty violence then you may be disappointed; efficient and realistic slaughter is the key focus here. I have seen a similar location and time period setting for a number of horror works before – the enclosed nature of the village give the impression of a cage from which we cannot escape until the problems are solved. The writing style worked for me and there were no spelling mistakes or errors which I could spot.

The first group of routes mainly focus around two characters: Noelle and Amu. Noelle is a quiet, isolated girl who transferred to the village from the city a number of years ago. Amu is the strong and loud childhood friend. The discussions between characters are normally quite harsh but fair. They try to say what they feel, even if it may hurt others. Sometimes this leads to dangerous confrontations. Most of the humour revolves around wordplay and conversational combat, with some dark comedy too. The second group of routes focus around some of the minor characters introduced in the earlier routes and explores them in more detail. Although I did not find these routes as captivating as the first half, they were still enjoyable to read. The final route of the game is mostly for fun – fan disk level shenanigans. By this point, we know the characters enough to enjoy this – as a whole the visual novel is a reasonable length.

There are many endings. Most of them are significantly different enough to deserve existence, although one or two of the ‘bad’ endings could have been combined. My main problem with so many endings was that, as it did not follow an easily recognisable system, it was difficult to tell what to aim for at the decision points. The list of the endings was not very useful for navigation either; any which were not yet unlocked gave no clues, any which were merely stated the ending name. After getting through about half of the endings, I would either have to start searching each path of the decision tree in order or otherwise look up the walkthrough. I opted for the walkthrough. The number of decision points was reasonable and most of the major decisions were obvious. Getting onto some routes required correct decisions on minor choices as well.

The Way We ALL GO is similar to Higurashi not just in themes and setting but also in artwork. More rather, in the original Higurashi artwork. Due to time, skill and money constraints, lower quality art assets were used in Higurashi. Many people are put-off by this style, preferring to read something with both reasonable story and reasonable artwork. Back now to The Way We ALL GO. For the CG, the art styles vary between each due to having multiple artists. Some of them are a very high quality but most are not. Likewise with a few of the character sprites – the grandparents are closer to the expected art quality. On a positive note, there are a variety of character expressions. Background artwork was based on various photographs freely available on the internet. With some effects applied, they are sufficient and consistent. While original drawings may be better in some cases, these backgrounds are still suitable.

As for the background music, there is a good variety to fit every atmosphere. The creepy music works very well to build tension. Music was taken from various royalty free sites but they still work well together. Sound effects were also taken from royalty free sites. The ‘cut-in attack’ feature was probably my favourite sound effect.

An ending list, CG gallery, music gallery and character profiles are available to view in the extra section. As discussed previously, the endings are relatively hard to locate but at least the list allows you to check that you have completed them all. Some of the graphics from the final route are missing from the CG gallery at the moment; everything else is still there, with basic functionality. Music gallery also works but may benefit from a slight reorganisation into a scrolling table format. The character profiles are a great touch. However, they did not unlock until I had finished the game. If possible, profiles which evolve as you meet characters and view endings may have improved the feature.

To summarise, focus was placed in the right area; developing a good story with good characters. Difficult themes are covered and the length gives you enough time to engage with the characters. Whereas the artwork and reliance on free resources does let the overall image down, it was not too distracting. If you are willing to overlook the appearance and read the story then there will be no regrets.


Relative Rating: 4/5

Overall Rating: 7/10

Key Positive Points: Strong story, character dialogue and character thought processes

Key Negative Points: Lack of consistent style and quality in artwork

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This compilation serves to transfer my previous reviews over to the new system. Some of the timings may be slightly out so I rounded up to the highest value previously stated. If you wish to read the old reviews on which these were based, you can find them in the following links.

Of Dinosaurs and Pineapples

The adventure of Bacon

Stupid Script Novel

Yandere-Chan

More than Forever: A Tragic Love Story

Schoolgirl x Squid

Project Dualis


2013-08-18_1421

Unicycle-riding donkeys juggling flaming midget accountants interns: Hey why weren’t we in the game.

Title: Of Dinosaurs and Pineapples

Developer: Envisage Games

Length: 10 min

Price: Free

Adult Content: None

Original Language: English

Version Language: English

Genres: Comedy

Relative Rating: 1/5

Overall Rating: 1/10

Key Positive Points: Tuna-can battles

Key Negative Points: Nonsense plot, poor artwork


2013-08-18_1513

Because everybody knows that the red monster hunts in the dark outside the farm.

Title: The adventure of Bacon

Developer: Unknown (KebecMaslow)

Length: 10 min

Price: Free

Adult Content: None

Original Language: Spanish

Version Language: English

Genres: Childrens

Relative Rating: 1/5

Overall Rating: 2/10

Key Positive Points: Works well as a children’s story

Key Negative Points: Too simplistic, needs polishing


2013-08-18_1552

You go to school, only to find out that it was blown up by a meteor. THE END

Title: Stupid Script Novel

Developer: Unknown (foxhead128)

Length: 10 min

Price: Free

Adult Content: None

Original Language: English

Version Language: English

Genres: Comedy

Relative Rating: 1/5

Overall Rating: 1/10

Key Positive Points: Maybe you have a little sister

Key Negative Points: Nonsense plot, poor artwork


2013-08-18_1736

Mia: Compensate with more blood.

Title: Yandere-Chan

Developer: Nyodude

Length: 60 min

Price: Free

Adult Content: None

Original Language: English

Version Language: English

Genres: Horror, Slice of Life

Relative Rating: 3/5

Overall Rating: 5/10

Key Positive Points: Yandere and bad endings

Key Negative Points: Lack of backstory and reason for actions


2013-08-18_2111

Shirley: Will you love me forever?

Title: More than Forever: A Tragic Love Story

Developer: TwinTurtle Games

Length: 10 min

Price: Free

Adult Content: None

Original Language: English

Version Language: English

Genres: Comedy

Relative Rating: 2/5

Overall Rating: 4/10

Key Positive Points: Book commentary

Key Negative Points: Story stopped short, relies on reader knowledge


2013-08-19_1103

He’s not a large, hulking, disgusting squid like you’d see in some kind of weird hentai. Instead, he is very small and cute, with tiny little tentacles and large, inquisitive eyes.

Title: Schoolgirl x Squid

Developer: Ebi-hime

Length: 60 min

Price: Free

Adult Content: None

Original Language: English

Version Language: English

Genres: Comedy, Romance, Slice of Life

Relative Rating: 3/5

Overall Rating: 5/10

Key Positive Points: Squid

Key Negative Points: Generic scenes, polish required


Project Dualis

She was suddenly acting like a completely different person…

Title: Project Dualis

Developer: Desulishor

Length: 60 min

Price: Free

Adult Content: None

Original Language: English

Version Language: English

Genres: Mystery, Romance, Slice of Life, Supernatural

Relative Rating: 3/5

Overall Rating: 5/10

Key Positive Points: Voice acting

Key Negative Points: Generic scenes, predictable outcome

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She was suddenly acting like a completely different person…

Project Dualis

Project Dualis was released quite recently and as I began to download it I realised it had a rather large file size. There was voice acting waiting – and a lot of it. There was also supposed to be a literary club, but it had closed down due to lack of members. Even by the end of the story, they had not got enough members to start the club up again.

Length: 30 – 60 min

Link: http://vndb.org/v13209

Story: A boy starts at a new school and meets a girl who has multiple personalities sharing one body. They become friends and school club activities ensue. This was where the story became less interesting as the activities did not excite me. The story continues, you reach the end and everything you would expect to happen happened. I would have liked to explore the feelings of the characters more – it does make a start at thinking about how the other personality would feel at the actions of the other but I would have liked to see it pushed further, with an existential crisis or a few. The game seems to be set in Japan, but they at one point refer to bands who are not Japanese; setting the whole game in an English-speaking country would have worked better for me and would also fit with the voice acting. There were two good endings and a number of not-so-bad bad endings.

Characters: All of the male characters in the story were plain. The female characters were better though and had defined personalities. The back story was quite predictable and I didn’t really get to know enough about them to care too much.

Art: There were quite a few CGs in the game, some with different styles. The abstract CGs were reasonably good, as were the normal CGs. I think a bit more work could have gone into some of the faces for the CGs. Now we move onto the character sprites – these were not as high in quality as the CGs. Some parts looked copied for two characters. The bodies were mostly fine but more detail was needed for the faces. They did have multiple expressions though, which improved them a tad.

Audio: The music was ok – it was from the public domain. This visual novel included voice acting in English. Most of this was quite high quality. The narration was also voice acted – the reason given was to imitate the style of Kyon from Haruhi. Although it would have been fine if you could toggle this on and off, there was no option to mute certain voices so you had to mute everyone if you did not want it on. The file size was quite high due to the audio files.

Other: There was a small gallery at the end but you had to click through all of the route’s pictures to view them. There was also a short word from the author about the production.

I quite enjoyed the concept and there were good results in the art and the voice acting. However, I did not think the story ended up being as interesting as it could have been and mostly just descended into a usual school day. The end of the routes made it a bit more worthwhile. For these reasons, I would give a rating of 6/10.

Project Dualis

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He’s not a large, hulking, disgusting squid like you’d see in some kind of weird hentai. Instead, he is very small and cute, with tiny little tentacles and large, inquisitive eyes.

Schoolgirl x Squid

“For all the people who have ever wanted to date a squid, this is definitely the visual novel for you!” As soon as I read this description, I knew this was definitely the visual novel for me. After playing it, maybe it was not.

Length: 30 – 60 min

Link: http://vndb.org/v13186

Story: A girl has a pet squid who she loves and can communicate with. When she gets home from school, they have conversations and the girl must take care of the squid. Make the wrong decision in his care and the squid will perish. The love and plot were a bit predictable, but being with a squid made it bearable. The school life section away from the squid was not as good. A number of facts about squid were included throughout. I think this was a good feature and helped improve the story. I will never again make the mistake of keeping my squid in freshwater tanks. There was quite a lot of references to famous Japanese works – while I got most of them I did not think as many were needed for this story.

Characters: There was a bit of background for some of the characters. There is a fashion blogger, a carefree classmate and of course a squid. I did not really think any of them stood out in terms of personality very much. At the start I disliked the main character, but nearer the end they redeemed themself a bit.

Art: The 3d models used were ok but could have been made a tad more realistic. I would have also liked the human personification to look a bit closer to its squid counterpart. Public domain was used for most photos. There were a few drawings CGs – I could not class these as very good so maybe a bit more work on them next time.

Audio: Music was ok and normally fitted the scenes. Sometimes it would swap half way through without changing scenes or having anything of note happening in the plot.

Other: After reaching the good ending, there was some extra commentary by the author which was rather interesting to read. It discussed the initial idea and the characters.

The parts of the story discussing squid were good. The rest was a tad generic. Some more polishing was also needed. Due to this, I give a score of 5/10. Alas, Ika-kun, our love could never be; for I am, always, so very hungry.

2013-08-19_1103

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