Thank you 4LS

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gecko
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Thank you 4LS

Post by gecko » Sat Jan 14, 2012 9:05 am

I really want to thank you for making this work available. I've played it for the most part of my evenings since the release, now being at 99% completion (still have to see Lily's bad end) and although I've got some gripes with it (more in my review below), I really found it of very high quality.

So, here's my review.

First, this thing is really polished. It has the typical limitations of a VN (limited number of sprites and background, long texts between choices), but once it is accepted as a VN, and what's more a free, independent VN, it looks very good.
The customized interface, the animations, the non-use of the default Renpy functions (like the roll-back being different than a save), the varied soundtrack, the nicely drawn sprites – with changes of expressions, all this gives a very polished feeling, far above most amateur VN.

Second, the stories are nicely handled. It varies depending on the path, I'll add detailed reviews path-by-path later, but on average, we are far from standardized manga cliché heroines, and in a much more mature viewpoint, I like that. My only general beef would be how Hisao overreacts to the player choices, and carries on with trying to be a white knight (except perhaps in Lily's path). But I guess I can't totally hate you for that, it's the drawback of him not being a faceless player-insert but a realistic teenager with his own issues. And I love that in a lot of cases, you can recover from a bad choice as long as you're not stubborn about it like by talking with Misha after pissing Emi off.

Third, most sex scenes are well handled. Once again, it varies depending on the path, but most of them are not for titillation, and really make the story progress. And those who do titillate (Emi, Lily) aren't gratuitous either, they really help establishing the couple as healthy hormonal teenagers. I really pity those who play with the adult scenes off, I think they really miss a part of the story (best example: Rin's "closer" or "Is that what you mean when you say I don't have to be alone?")
Two small gripes: on the text side, the characters are always perfectly compatible, both reaching orgasm in each scene where they could, despite it being nearly their first time. Having one time when one doesn't would have capped the realism of that subject otherwise treated very maturely. On the graphic side, the lack of pubic hair (except Lily's) – for the same reason.
I'm also unsure about some scenes introduction in Hanako and Shizune paths – in my mind, it bordered the unfortunate implications – more in my individual reviews when I'll get to write them.

So, thanks. I hope one day you'll have the time to read those reviews and see my thanks. Playing your game will remain a very good memory for me.

(For the record, my preference in terms of path/writing would be Rin, Emi, Lily or Hanako, Shizune. But more on that later.)
Actually, call me a hopeless romantic if you want, but I've been dreaming of Rin. I think I'm going to need to write a fanfic before I can turn the page on this game.
99% completion.
Mind-worm meter: Rin>>Emi>Lily>Hanako>>Shizune
Fanfic: The lamb and the fox

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gecko
Posts: 106
Joined: Fri Jan 13, 2012 5:40 pm

Emi's path review

Post by gecko » Sat Jan 14, 2012 9:07 am

As promised, detailed reviews! (I'll probably copy/paste that for discussion in the general threads about the paths, if having duplicate posts isn't a problem)

I started with Emi's path, being the one that had had sneaked upon me on my first play of the demo, I wanted to continue that first play up to it's natural end.
I'm glad I did. I love that path, how it is light-hearted but not silly, nor devoid of seriousness for the characters themselves. The H-scenes were well handled, realistic, funny, heart-warming. I think Hisao could have guessed that Emi's dad was dead. I did a long time before the reveal. I think he actually did, I didn't read surprise at the reveal, but I would have liked for the text to make it clearer.
I also liked how the choices gave you a second chance toward a good ending, like Misha having you apologize, which bails out the relationship, after Emi ejected you from her house. It helped counteract Hisao's overreacting/white-knighting tendencies (and actually helped me get the good ending on my first run).
Oh, and I got a good laugh at Kenji's reference to making someone fall from the roof look like an accident!
A very nice path. Beginning with it might have been what gave me the impetus to want to read all the rest and aim for 100% completion – although I'd have played Rin anyway.
99% completion.
Mind-worm meter: Rin>>Emi>Lily>Hanako>>Shizune
Fanfic: The lamb and the fox

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gecko
Posts: 106
Joined: Fri Jan 13, 2012 5:40 pm

Rin's path review

Post by gecko » Sat Jan 14, 2012 9:31 am

Rin... Ouch!
I knew she was going to be an intriguing, challenging character, I'd been mulling about her since I played the demo, so I jumped directly on her path after my first "natural play" (Emi). But I didn't realize how much I would get sucked in her story. I had problems getting to sleep after playing it, like after reading a deeply touching book. I'll get back on the story later, but having befriended several artists, I'd say I find it quite realistic.

As for the interactions, I found the choice points relevant. Once again in that game, I liked that there isn't only one path to the good end, so you can try and stay natural instead of meta-gaming it, so you can stay involved in the story. e.g. You can choose "I want to be like Emi" and still make Rin happy. My only gripe would be the "Explain" / "I need to understand" choice. Choosing the wrong one, having Hisao overreact (nooo, Hisao, stop, not like that!) and suddenly getting the end credits was like a punch in the stomach. Luckily, my previous save point was not far away (I had smelled something fishy with that choice) and I was able to quickly revert but aargh! I still consider I got the good end on my first try, because actually, my choice was in the intended spirit of the other answer:
For me, "explain" was the non-committal one, the one was letting Rin free to do what she could, and the onus to understand was on Hisao, while "I need to understand" sounded more like an ultimatum, putting pressure on Rin I didn't want to. Chalk it up to English not being my mother tongue maybe, so I didn't realize the strength of "explain", but I would have appreciated a clearer choice!
(okay, I could have chosen "I can't leave her alone" previously, and get the "it doesn't matter" choice, but I'm dumb like that – I was so annoyed by Hisao white-knighting tendencies than I didn't want to give him any reason to do it again)

I also disliked how I've needed a chart to get on her path first thing. Why would Hisao need to get in the art club to get interested in Rin? For me, it looked like he had already accepted that he didn't understand what Rin was painting, could not really help her, but that they both felt nice just being near each-other. Why would not wanting to stalk her in the club lead to a manly picnic? Seriously devs?

As I said, I found the story wasn't so out-of-here. Having been myself a budding musician or writer when younger, having hanged out with other musicians or with graphic artists, I've experienced how art is time-consuming, attention-sucking... It's difficult to dedicate oneself to art without becoming a bit selfish, without giving it the first place in your life, sometime to the point of actually lying to your friends (whom you owe money, for instance). Always thinking that once this deadline is past, you'll be able to mend things, but then discovering another deadline, another challenge, was masked by the first.
Some teachers can add a lot of pressure too. If they believe you can be good, they're going to make you question everything you propose, criticise everything you do, just to be sure that you don't grow comfortable, that you don't rely on old recipes but continue progressing. I remember an art student telling me he had taken to lie to his teacher, presenting a bad draft of a project on purpose, so he'd get predictable criticism he knew how to answer and could continue working on his real idea of the final project: being honest led to too many sleepless nights and to the verge of depression.
Rin was already unstable, not being sure who she was or wanted to be, before her teacher applied pressure, I don't think we need a big-scale mental problem for her to become the Rin who's written in that story. (especially that the teacher was probably applying pressure for some time already, even if he didn't have such a concrete goal)
Another good point for the story: nowhere did Rin having no arms make a difference, plot-wise. She was like that, that's all, and although it coloured some scenes (like the orange or the smoking), the plot never hung on that.
I just have one criticism of the story, it's that we learn nothing about Rin's family. Why is she so alone and vulnerable out there? Is there nobody, no parent, to care for her or be afraid for her? I'd have liked to know why.

As for the H-scenes, which H-scenes? I didn't even notice there was sex! No, I'm kidding, but seriously, so much happened, plot-wise and emotionally, in those, that I really didn't read them like sex scenes. I don't think one can fully appreciate that path with the adult scenes turned off.

Really, one week later or so, I'm still thinking of Rin. Specially now that I made the mistake of looking at the neutral end. I'm glad I took Emi's path before hers, or I would have felt very bad meeting her on that other path... But I think I'll have to devote my free time to some serious fanfic plotting during the next month, if I want to get KS out of my system.
99% completion.
Mind-worm meter: Rin>>Emi>Lily>Hanako>>Shizune
Fanfic: The lamb and the fox

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gecko
Posts: 106
Joined: Fri Jan 13, 2012 5:40 pm

Hanako's path review

Post by gecko » Sun Jan 15, 2012 5:35 pm

Progressing on my reviews, here's my review of Hanako path.
*SPOILERS ALERT: as is apparently the norm here (that I hadn't understood for my first review), I won't use spoiler tags for Hanako path spoilers*

Hanako was my third play-through, and my first outside of the "limbless pair". Man, did she give me a hard time! I'm apparently not considerate enough, because even agreeing with Lily, I could not get the good ending. No beef against the writer, it made sense, you need to get involved with Hanako before you have to give her space, but it was jarring to this player to realize how dumb he was...
What can I say except that I enjoyed this path very much, both story-wise and graphically. The pyjamas were cute, the pool playing was heart-warming, the story pace was okay with me, and the ending very satisfying. I think my only problem is with this path is the H-scene:
Story-wise, while I totally understand why it had to be awkward, I felt it lacked some explicit consent by Hanako. After spending the whole path walking on eggshells around her, Hisao going for it so boldly felt close to a rape to me. I hadn't read Hanako's disrobing as sexual at all, just a signal of trust, and if Hanako worded a consent, it totally escaped me. So I was kind of "way to abuse her trust, Hisao"
Graphically, the disembodied penis disturbed me. Why not do it like in the other paths?

Another thing is that despite understanding that the ending was perfectly positioned plot-wise (just after the climax and resolution), I really missed an intimate scene with the right state of mind. I would have liked to read how the writer would imagine Hanako would act now that the bad air between them was cleared.

So, in the end, a nice path, but with an unpleasant H-scene, and it didn't push the limbless paths out of my podium (but that might be me not being in the right mind to like Hanako)
99% completion.
Mind-worm meter: Rin>>Emi>Lily>Hanako>>Shizune
Fanfic: The lamb and the fox

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gecko
Posts: 106
Joined: Fri Jan 13, 2012 5:40 pm

Shizune's path review

Post by gecko » Mon Jan 16, 2012 6:03 pm

And now for my review of Shizune's path.
Once again, spoiler alert, I won't black things from the Shizune's path, I expect readers there to have already played it.

Honestly, I wasn't attracted much toward Shizune. Her bossy side was only second to Lily's properness in things that make me dislike IRL people. I played her because the obsessed completionist in me wanted to see her ending, or because the reader in me doesn't like to not finish a book. So you could say I didn't have high expectations but I hoped to be surprised.
Was I? Yes in a way. The weaving of the story between the friendships and with Misha was a nice touch. Shizune not being that comfortable with her bossy side and realizing she'd been driving her friends away was touching.
Unfortunately, a series of things didn't sit well with me in the story:
First, Shizune's dad seemed over-the-top for the story realistic tone. Seriously, people that obnoxious exist? And still find consulting work? Okay, maybe I'm naive, but I found it jarring. We already have a comical, over-the-top character with Kenji, I didn't need a second one.
Second, Hisao was very frustrating to me in this path. One girl says she's your girlfriend, then never a kiss, a walk holding hands, in several weeks, and you don't react, just wait? With the same girl who taught you to be upfront and act aggressively? And when finally, a choice point comes to make you react, it's not with her? Come on!
Third, the H-scene with Misha. I felt the introduction bordered unfortunate implications. Seriously, comforting a female friend means you've got to have sex with her? A platonic hug can't be in the plans? Okay, the fact that there was a choice point (and the first and only one!) indicated something serious was going to happen, so on a meta-gaming level, it wasn't that big of a trap. But I would have felt better if the choice was clearer, or delayed to when Misha's all over Hisao (it seems like a no-brainer to me that Hisao would accept to comfort her at first, as a friend, for a certain meaning of comfort). Having to meta-game it tends to jar me out of the story, I don't like that.

Summary for the tl;dr: a path that gave me a greater appreciation for a character I wasn't attracted to in the first place, but that remains my least favourite because of what I perceive as problems with the story itself.
99% completion.
Mind-worm meter: Rin>>Emi>Lily>Hanako>>Shizune
Fanfic: The lamb and the fox

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gecko
Posts: 106
Joined: Fri Jan 13, 2012 5:40 pm

Lily's path review

Post by gecko » Tue Jan 17, 2012 6:03 pm

I finished the game with Lily's path. I had kept her for the end because I wasn't overly fond of her character: I found her proper demeanour kind of icy, distant, and, honestly, boring.
SPOILER ALERT – the rest of this post contains unmarked spoilers about Lily. I consider that if you're reading that, you've already played it.

Boy, was I wrong! I loved how that path surprised me with a character that could be very passionate under her proper shell. I also liked how her being blind was treated, not ignored but not the main plot point. The sex scenes worked well for me, highlighting the trust between her and Hisao, and how she has, under her proper looks, a "healthy adolescent sex drive".

In the end, I enjoyed greatly that path. I felt the "race to the airport" and "hospital bed confession" parts a bit cliché, but that was only a minor annoyance. Lily is still too proper for her character to replace the limbless pair in my heart, but she's climbed to contest the third position to her friend Hanako. (I really don't know which to put there)
99% completion.
Mind-worm meter: Rin>>Emi>Lily>Hanako>>Shizune
Fanfic: The lamb and the fox

pepsi
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Joined: Fri Jan 20, 2012 8:58 am

Re: Emi's path review

Post by pepsi » Fri Jan 20, 2012 8:59 am

gecko wrote:I think Hisao could have guessed that Emi's dad was dead. I did a long time before the reveal. I think he actually did, I didn't read surprise at the reveal, but I would have liked for the text to make it clearer.
I think he guessed it, early on in fact. I like to think he just wanted Emi to tell him. That's why there's no surprise in the last act.

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grey_
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Re: Thank you 4LS

Post by grey_ » Sat Jan 21, 2012 2:32 pm

Yes, thank you 4LS.
Uhh

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