Conquering the Queen – Review

This is a title that is definitely outside of my comfort zone, as ‘surprise sex’ is not usually on my list of favorite things. Liquid games are widely known for their mastery of the non-consensual, which is definitely a put-off. But you know, they say a wise man once said “Don’t knock it till you try it”. I’m not sure this phrase was intended for sexual assault, but what can I say. When Kouryuu of Mangagamer announced that “Rape is now on sale! Get your rape now!”, I knew that I had to at least give it a shot.

(For the record, I do feel some guilt for playing and reviewing this game!)

Title Conquering the Queen
Original Title: 魔将の贄 (Mashou no Nie / Sacrifice to the Demon General)
Original Release November 2004
English Release October 2011
Studio Liquid (Nexton)
Localization Mangagamer
Genre Visual Novel (Dark Fantasy Rape Adventure)
Rating Adult Only (18+)
Availability Download Version @ Mangagamer € 19.95 ($28 USD Approx)

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Playing Kara no Shoujo

To be fair, I didn’t actually expect it to be a happy game, but this is pretty rough!

More Kamikaze Explorer

Kamikaze Explorer takes place in the not so distant future, where the oceans have risen and changed the way of life. Our protagonist Hayase Keiji transfers into a school for people with special abilities, because like the real future, kids start getting all kinds of special powers.  Keiji hooks up with a group of local students and joins Argonaut, a club with the purpose of solving problems and helping people. The special abilities thing feels like the TV show Heroes if the show was instead a Japanese high school love adventure. Like Heroes, character abilities range from passively useless to hugely overpowered, and again like the show the main character discovers his ability to gain and use the abilities of others.

But of course, the plot is really just an excuse to have a lot of really cute girls come together and interact with each other, which is what the game does best. The characters are all kinds of awesome and cute, and they play off each other in an enjoyable way. The game has the nickname ‘oppai explorer’ for a good reason, but what I didn’t expect was that the… soft (for lack of a better term) look to the characters was enough to make even a battle hardened lolicon a fan of the game. I’m not admitting anything there, I’m just saying. But yeah, the game is beautiful, from the character stand animations, the interface, and the HD resolution. A very good looking game.

And a good game in general, but for me it also ended up being a random target for hacking.  I was looking for something to do so I messed around with the idea of being able to modify the in game text of the game.  My Japanese still isn’t very good (I haven’t taken JLPT but I’m not at the level where I could do JLPT3), and while understanding ~50% of what’s going on is better than nothing, translation requires you to know 100%.  And hopefully, makes me better at the language in the process.

Don’t take that as a sign that I plan to translate the game or create a patch.  I just said that my Japanese knowledge is too weak to create an accurate translation, and whatever I do I probably won’t end up releasing publicly.  Mangagamer has mentioned Clochette is in talks with interest in coming to the English market, so with luck we’ll see it in English without the requirement of a fan translation.  On the other hand, maybe having experience with the game and game engine might prove useful for such an official project.

The Technical Stuff

I don’t plan on releasing a patch myself, and if I did, it would be just the demo.  And would probably be translated poorly, oh so poorly.  It can’t be any worse than the result when I fed the entire script through google translator, you really really don’t want that version of the game. 😛  But, I do have tools and stuff that might be useful if someone else wanted to work on it, or probably more importantly, other games that runs off of Windmill’s CatSystem2.

CatSystem2 has some limitations for running in English.  For one, it doesn’t seem to work in English language mode, you need to run in Japanese or use Applocale.  I THINK this has to do with font and configuration stuff, but I’m not smart enough to fix it.  The tools also compensate for a few engine limitations.  It will automatically add line-wrap to English sentences, it will change apostrophe’s to backquotes (because the engine will attempt to close quotes automatically, breaking things), and in the case of options, where spaces can’t be used it will automatically convert spaces to fullwidth ones that work.

Well, it should be simple enough to figure out, but there’s a readme with additional details in it.  You’ll need to install PHP to run from the command line with the multi-byte string (mbstring) module enabled.

Download the Tools

It so annoying to make the 100 of these needed for the full game...

CatSystem2 uses images for character name tags, so any attempt to translate the game will require you to create a new set of nametags and convert them to CS2’s HG3 image format.  The tools to do this are on the CatSystem2 homepage, which is here, there should be a tool WGC.exe which can convert a specially prepared Photoshop PSD file to HG3.  There’s directions on the CS2 site for this, but I created a full set of nametags for the Kamikaze Explorer demo.

Download the PSD/HG3

If you drop that into the Kamikaze Explorer\image directory, it should be automatically picked up.  The PSD file has layer names which correspond to the character ID’s in the name_table.csv inside of the config.int file.  It shouldn’t be too hard to figure out if you needed to make any changes.

And just to be completely random, I have a mirror of the demo here, since my friend is way too lazy to find it himself.

In Brief: Suika

I’ve been playing this game over the last little while after an online friend (Olf) pushed me to play it.  It’s an earlier game that Mangagamer released in English (and just an older game in general), but it has a good translation.  I must admit, it’s a little hard to follow the writing though… but I don’t think that’s the fault of the translation.  The story shifts perspectives and it doesn’t necessarily make it easy for you to determine who’s narrating.  At first I thought it was bad writing, but I’m starting to think that in those cases they are deliberately making it ambiguous.

The story itself is broken down into 4 separate chapters, each one with a different cast of characters.  The stories all take place over the same period of time, so there is some overlap and characters in one story will sometimes interact with the characters of the other stories.  In certain cases, your earlier choices in an earlier story will actually change the outcome of the future chapters.  It’s a bit confusing to figure it all out so I’ve been playing with a guide myself.

The stories themselves are all quite interesting.  They’re all fairly different from each other, even if they’re all stories about relationships.  Some of the stories are quite are very clever… chapter 3’s story more or less broadsided me with it’s reveal.  I completely failed to catch the significance of what was going on until it hit me right in the face. The characters are also a really interesting bunch, they don’t really fall into general VN stereotypes.  Definitely my favorite so far is Sayaka, who’s the heroine of chapter 2.  She’s just too awesome.

Well, back to playing.  Maybe once I’m done I’ll give it a full, proper review. 🙂

Kamikaze Explorer Haxing

Bamboo (president of Overdrive and head man over at Mangagamer) recently had a livestream meeting with fans (read the summary), where he mentioned that they were in talks with Clochette over their title Kamikaze Explorer. It’s actually the only ‘unannounced’ title they mentioned by name, and I’m really excited about the possibility of seeing it in English.

This discussion of Kamikaze Explorer convinced me to whip out (figuratively speaking!) my copy to mess around with it for a bit. Don’t get any bad ideas, I was just interested in casually hacking around with the game’s data files. It’s not terribly hard it turns out, since its based on Windmill’s CatSystem2 novel script engine (which is a sexy sexy game engine). I messed around a bit with text insertion as you can see above, but rest assured I have no intention of translating the game. That would be crazy. 😛

To a person like me, I don’t usually think about how much work goes into these games. It’s probably common to think of them as being simpler than your regular game to make, but that’s not really true is it. I took out all of the game’s audio files, just to see how much actual dialog there was, and came out with this:

To me, 34 hours of spoken dialog is kind of mind boggling. As a comparison, the number of lines is roughly equal to that of Mass Effect 2 (which claims 25000 lines). Unlike Mass Effect 2 though, spoken dialog only covers about half of the text in the game since your own character is unvoiced, as well as lines showing character thought, description, and narration. Just coming up with a script big enough to have 34 hours of spoken dialog must be all kinds of absurd.

In terms of art assets, the game has about 17000 individual art assets. These range from individual buttons, face variations for individual character poses (and even different copies for various levels of zoom), etc, but it’s still a crazy amount of data.

I suppose you shouldn’t look down on the genre and the people who make it just because the games appear simpler than your traditional game, because they are complex in their own way. One doesn’t look down on a novelist just because he doesn’t add visuals to his work after all. I guess it’s kind of eye-opening just how big these games are and how much work must go into them. I also pity the poor translator over at Mangagamer who’s going to have to go through the whole thing. 🙂

Edit: Further investigation shows the game is just bloody huge.  Approximately 1.4 million text characters.  Apparently Overdrive/Mangagamer’s Deardrops is only 800k characters long, and it’s not a short game by any stretch.  I hope the length doesn’t negatively affect the chance of Clochette and Mangagamer striking a deal.

Kira Kira Review

High off my recent visual novel binge and having had a good time with Edelweiss, I decided to move onto Overdrive’s and Mangagamer’s next big title, Kira Kira.  It’s not a new release by any stretch, but I bought the game a while ago and never really had a chance to play it.  The game has quite a reputation as one of the best the English market has to offer, and I’ve been pretty eager to see how it lives up.

Kira Kira
Original Release November 2007
English Release June 2009
Studio Over-Drive
Localization Mangagamer
Genre Visual Novel (Young Love Rock ‘n Roll Novel)
Rating Adult Version is Adult Only (18+), All-Ages Version removes sexual content.
Availability Digital Adult Version: 29.95€ (Approx. $41 US)
Digital Bundle w/ Curtain Call: 39.95€ (Approx. $49 US)
Digital All-Ages Version: 24.95€ (Approx. $34 US)
Package All-Ages Version: $19.95 US
Apple iPhone AppStore All-Ages Version: $9.99 US
Trial Available at Mangagamer.com

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Overdrive 5th Anniversary Live

Overdrive’s 5th Anniversary Live Concert ‘Second Literature Club Band vs Deardrops’ was on October 8th, and was all kinds of awesome. As you’d imagine, it had both Deardrops and the d2b Band (from Kira Kira), as well as Star Generation and Leo, bands featured in those games.

Airi (singer for Kirari) had damaged her voice though which kind of brought down the performance a bit. It looked honestly painful when she was singing, but she tried really hard and gave a good performance none the less.

I know you shouldn’t do this (hopefully I won’t get in trouble! >.>), but I made a clip made of bits and pieces from the concert. If you want to watch the full thing, you can still get a ticket up on Nico video and timeshift the concert until the end of the year (link).

Get the Flash Player to see this player.

Kira Kira Crazy!

Because of how entertained I was with Kira Kira, I picked up two of the Kira Kira albums.  I love Milktub’s music.  They’re pretty nice, and even have some music that wasn’t in the game. 😀

Also, I hate Canadian Customs.  I pay more for duty than I do for the discs. 🙁

Edelweiss Dialog Patch

I was on the Mangagamer boards and noticed that a number of users reported various typo and text issues with the updated Edelweiss translation (after their big re-translation).  Since Mangagamer isn’t very forthcoming with a patch,  I patched in the dialog fixes myself and made a patch to correct the reported issues.  A total of 72 lines were updated, which isn’t much but it may help improve the enjoyment of the game.  The patch requires an up to date version of the game, and miiight break saves.  Since most of the fixes are early on in the game, it’s probably only really helpful if you use this before you start playing.

Download the patch

More Font Patches

Since I figured I may as well, I created font patches also for the mangagamer releases of Da Capo and Suika. It’s just like the Kira Kira patch I posted, and will set the game to run the ‘Bitstream Vera Sans Mono’ font, the one mangagamer is using for their newer releases. There’s already patches for these games but I like this font better :). I’ve only tested the Da Capo patch with the package version, but it should also be compatible with the download version.

Download Da Capo Font Patch

Download Suika Font Patch