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[Review] Steins;Gate: My Darling’s Embrace (Nintendo Switch)

De surpresa, STEINS;GATE: My Darling's Embrace é disponibilizado para o  Switch no ocidente – Switch Brasil

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Developer: 5pb
Release: Dec 10, 2019 (for Western markets)
Price: $40 USD

Steins;Gate: My Darling’s Embrace is a spin-off of the popular Steins;Gate series of visual novels. This spin-off in particular, focuses on pure dating sim / romantic comedy elements and takes the Steins;Gate universe in a very light-hearted direction, so be warned that if you are looking for the same sort of tension that you usually found in Steins;Gate then this spin-off is not for you. Also, it is highly advised that you play either Steins;Gate or Steins;Gate 0 before going into this spinoff, just to get a better introduction and background to most of the characters. There’s no true bad endings or game overs in this game.

Kurisu invites Rintaro over...
Kurisu invites Rintaro over…

Plot: The main protagonist, Okabe Rintaro, has found himself in a new Delta attractor field, which seemingly does not have any world shattering consequences like the Alpha or Beta attractor fields do. This is a relatively peaceful attractor field, and several new gadgets have been made by the Lab members. There’s notably a gadget that cuffs two lovers together, zaps them if they argue or try to get away and will only let them break free if they have the same thoughts together. Another gadget displays the thoughts of a person and transmits it to a video display, and yet another gadget broadcasts video publicly for the whole world to see. Clearly, all these gadgets work together to much embarrassing effect for the Lab members. In particular Rintaro finds himself with one of 6 possible Lab members to be in romantic subplot with.

In this Delta timeline, Moe's the lead singer of the Lab band
In this Delta timeline, Moe’s the lead singer of the Lab’s band

Gameplay: Like other Steins;Gate games, it uses the D-Mail system. So the different routes are affected by when (or if) you open your phone at certain times, which people you contact, and which emails you send (or don’t send). The rest is standard visual novel reading as this series is not point and click or investigative in nature.

Faris and Mayuri with their typical cafe greeting
Faris and Mayuri with their typical cafe greeting

Characters: Steins;Gate has fairly memorable characters, and all of them are represented here with no new additions.

-Okabe Rintaro: the protagonist of Steins;Gate who is a self described mad genius, who comes across as both eccentric and self-loathing at times. 

-Daru: Okabe’s closest male friend, a pervert and a prodigal programmer and hacker who can bypass almost any security system. 

-Kurisu Makise: the heroine of the original series, a tsundere, a scientific prodigy, and canonically Okabe’s main lover. Of course, she is presented as a romantic option here.

-Mayuri Shiina: Okabe’s closest female friend, cute, innocent, a bit ditzy but always there in need for her friends. Another romantic option here.

-Suzuha Amane: A time traveler from the future, usually a very serious personality from the other series, she’s a bit more light hearted here, and thus appears as another romantic option here.

-Faris NyanNyan: A cosplaying catgirl who comes from a well to do background and owner of a popular maid cafe. Available as another romantic option here.

-Luka Urushiba: Biologically a male, but always appears and acts very feminine, leading many to mistake his gender. He’s one of Mayuri’s close friends, and – despite his gender – also available as a romantic option in this game 😉

-Moeka Kiryu: Nicknamed ‘Shining Finger’ for her preference for and speed at texting, a very introverted girl who – unlike the original series – does not pose any kind of threat in this game, and thus is available as another romantic option.

A rare visual of Moeka
A rare visual of Moeka

Graphics: Steins;Gate has always had a signature graphical style with pastel-looking backgrounds and characters and if you enjoyed that style, then nothing changes here. I personally do like this style as well.

Music: Again, I’ve always enjoyed Steins;Gate’s background music which I think have always matched the mood of the scene. In this game since it’s so lighthearted it’s mostly that kind of music as well, which is fine by me.

Conclusion: 7/10. It’s definitely not as engrossing as the original Steins;Gate (10/10) or Steins;Gate 0 (9/10) for me, since it focuses mostly on romantic comedy here, which is a tried and true genre for visual novels. Since I reference Muv-Luv a lot (a great visual novel series for those of you who haven’t played it), I’ll continue with the analogy that if Steins;Gate and Steins;Gate 0 were the Muv-Luv Unlimited/Alternative then this spin off must be the Muv-Luv Extra of Steins;Gate. I.e it’s really light-hearted, relatively short, and if you are just looking for a visual novel to lighten up your mood then this will do it. If you’ve always wondered what the Steins;Gate universe could be like if the characters didn’t have to deal with the impending doom or SERN/WWIII/Mayuri/Kurisu’s death and wanted a more light hearted ‘fun’ take on the universe, or maybe wanted to ship Rintaro with one of the main cast, then this one is it. Otherwise I consider this one a fairly average visual novel; it’s not a must get or anything, but it will help you unwind after a long day at work.

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[Review] Aokana: Four Rhythms (Nintendo Switch)

Aokana - Four Rhythms Across the Blue on Steam

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Sprite
Release: Aug 21, 2020
Price: $60 USD

Aokana: Four Rhythms Across the Blue (not sure why they named it that) is a visual novel with a premise that’s a bit different than most visual novels – instead of being a typical dating sim or investigative type visual novel, it focuses on a competitive sport.

Plot: In Aokana’s universe, there’s an invention called Anti-Gravity Shoes which like the name implies, allows its wearers to fly in the sky. There’s a popular sport in the game called Flying Circus which makes use of the shoes. 
The sport is deceptively simple: it’s a one on one sport where the players have to stay within a square, and a player scores a point either by touching the outer posts of the square consecutively before the other player, or by touching the other player’s back. The player with the most points at the end of regulation wins.

Masaya typically commentates on a match
Masaya typically commentates on a match

Of course, there’s more to it than that. There’s different playing styles – Fighter (focuses on touching the opponent’s back), Speeder (focuses on touching the posts before the other player), and All-Rounder (can do either, but does not specialize as much as the other two). There’s lots of basic and advanced moves shown in the game. There’s also different types of Anti-Grav Shoes and different settings for them. Honestly, the sport and the strategies they explain are fairly well detailed for a visual novel like this and sometimes I felt myself getting sucked into this fictional sport and rooting for different teams as if it actually existed.

The protagonist, Masaya Hinata, was a former top FC (Flying Circus) player, who quit the sport due to a traumatic event, and is now tasked with coaching a team of 3 girls and 1 guy to lead their school to the FC championship. 

Shindou demolishes Misaki in an FC dogfight
Shindou demolishes Misaki in an FC dogfight

Gameplay: Ok, it’s not entirely focused on the sport, there are some dating sim and eroge elements in the game – but they happen mostly towards the end of the game and are very light by visual novel standards and nothing too shocking occurs. Hinata can date/focus on one of 4 girls in the game, depending on which options you select in the game, but the options don’t come up very often, so the majority of this game is basically just reading. 

One of the more dating sim type moments in the game
Dating sim elements are in the game but they are rather uncommon

Characters: I love the characters. They’re probably the strong point of this game. Masaya Hinata is not that pervy compared to most visual novel protagonists, and mostly focuses on the tasks at hand. He’s a relatively serious protagonist, despite the harlem of girls around him, and that’s a welcome change of pace from all those perverted protagonists from other visual novels I’ve played. 

-Asuka is the main and default girl in the game, she’s a very cheerful type that’s hard to dislike, a bit ditzy sometimes, but also an FC prodigy and the school’s best player. 
-Misaki is Hinata’s close female friend, an academic genius, has an odd sense of humor and a bit of a tomboy. I have no problems with Misaki, I think she’s pretty cool.
-Mashiro. I personally don’t really like this character. She’s a borderline lesbian stalker with her one sided obsession with Misaki, and honestly doesn’t really have many redeeming qualities unlike the other characters. Still, she’s in here as a ‘cute/dorky’ type.
-Rika is Hinata’s next door neighbor and unlike the other 3 girls she’s the only dateable option that’s not from the same school. She has a pretty serious personality that makes it hard for me to get into her, but some players may like her.
-Madoka is the FC club’s manager and a very silly girl with a lot of funny comments sometimes. Honestly it makes her charming and I wish she was a dateable option, but alas she is not.
-Shion is Madoka’s older brother and president of the FC club, the only guy Hinata coaches, and has an obsession with muscles and working out.
-Aoi is Hinata’s homeroom teacher, his former mentor, a former FC superstar player and the FC Club advisor. 
-Shirase is the Grav Shoe’s store owner and drops by sometimes for advice.
-Satouin is a typical princessy-type girl who is one of the regular opponents for the FC Club
-Shindou is the initial antagonist in the game, a top FC player and a big opponent for the FC club
-Saki and Irina are the final antagonists in the game, and behave (and play) in a manner that suits that title

The characters overall are very fleshed out and the humor plays out pretty well sometimes between them, I think the fact that the characters are interesting also makes the FC matches fun to get into as well. 

the whole gang

The Whole Gang
The FC Club and the whole gang

Graphics: I have no complaints about the graphics in this game, they are high quality modern Anime style graphics and I’m not surprised that just like Steins Gate, Yu-No, Muv-Luv and others – that this game has been adapted into an Anime series. There’s sometimes characters moving in the background or animations but those scenes are relatively uncommon. The chapters are even split into ‘episodes’ making it feel more like an Anime.

Senran Kagura Peach Beach Splash got nothing on this
Senran Kagura Peach Beach Splash got nothing on this

Music: The background music is very fitting to the scenes, and sometimes during certain eventful scenes, jpop music will start playing, making this game feel even more like an Anime sometimes. I have no problems with that.

Conclusion: 9/10 from me. I really enjoyed this visual novel more than I expected. I usually play dating sims, sci-fi and investigative type visual novels, so it’s kind of refreshing to play a title that focuses on a competitive sport and coaching these girls instead of just romance. Sure there IS romance, but it’s very sparse and light compared to other visual novels. The characters are very easy to get into and that makes the FC sport and matches themselves very interesting to get into too. Had no complaints about the graphics or music either. The only thing is people who are expecting a visual novel with more gameplay should probably look elsewhere – this visual novel is very heavy on reading with very little gameplay elements. There’s a few choices here and there but that’s about it. Overall I do recommend this title if you are ok with mostly reading instead of clicking options.

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2019: Year in Review

Every year, I do a year in review, with highlights and lowlights and a summary so this is my year in review for 2019.

Highlights

-I found a great job at a great company with great co-workers at Kong
-Had a great time in Korea this year, met all my friends again, made a Korean gf
-Went on a nice cruise with my family this year

Lowlights

-Still recovering from all the financial issues I suffered last year mainly losing the majority of my life savings because of the QuadrigaCX crypto exchange collapse
-More difficult to make new friends in Vancouver than I expected

Summary

I don’t have a whole lot of updates for this year, because this year was pretty much a recovery year from the disaster that was last year. Last year took away my San Francisco apartment, my life savings, and most of my best friends away from me. I started out this year with almost no savings, no house, unemployed and with no friends in Vancouver.

The start to this year was really rough. I was told that the exchange that I used last year to transfer my savings over to Canada, QuadrigaCX had gone under with over $215M CAD owing to creditors once the CEO died under mysterious circumstances in India. The rest of this year was basically waiting for updates from the ongoing lawsuit – Ernst&Young being the bankruptcy trustee and Miller Thomson being the lawyers.

So far they are still processing claims, and have been doing so for the last 4 months with no updates to us creditors so far. They have roughly $33M + $12M (the CEO and his widow enriched themselves by purchasing Nova Scotia property so there’s extra assets here) for us but roughly $7M I estimate will be in legal fees paid to EY and MT. After that there’s roughly $38M left in the pot for us creditors, depending on how much people claim. There’s $215M in total claims outstanding but me and several other creditors theorize that at least half of those claims are not real or left on the exchange by money launderers. And then there’s the CRA (Canada’s IRS) waiting to take even more money from us.
So I calculated it and I think roughly we’ll get back anywhere from 15% (worst case scenario) to 40% (best case)  with 25-30% being the most likely percentage we’ll get back. I have no idea how long this process will take but hopefully sometime next year we’ll get it back.

So that being the backdrop, a hammer that was dropped on me at the beginning of the year, you can see the rest of the year takes a backseat to this whole lawsuit thing.
I did manage to luck out finding a great SF company to work for (Kong Inc) that I could work remotely for, and everything about that company I liked better than my previous company. My manager, coworkers, the type of work I was doing etc I learned way more in 6 months than I did in a whole 1.5years at my previous company.
And I did manage to have some time to travel to Korea for a bit and that was a really great experience, much better than last year (God really had it in for me last year), got to meet all my friends again and dated a bunch of girls, etc it really transported me back to the days when I lived there (2015-2016). I also got a chance to go on a cruise with my family (to the Bahamas) which I haven’t traveled with since late 2013 and especially getting to see my brother again is nice since he’s usually busy and very isolated since he lives in Winnipeg.

But once I got back to Vancouver, it became lonely again, and I think it might be just because its hard in general to make friends once you’re out of school but even harder when you work from home and have no co-workers to really talk to. At least in San Francisco I still have one really good friend to hang out with. In Vancouver I didn’t know anyone. I tried going to some language exchange meetups but the people I meet there are always very transient, they change every time so its hard to meet someone stable.
I did get into a relationship with a girl I met in Korea but its long distance and that’s always really difficult to maintain. I hope I can though, because she seems much more stable than my ex gf was, and much more mature (she’s 3 years older than me). On top of that, I don’t really like my landlord and am looking to find a new place to move to next year. He is incredibly strict with his house rules and seems always ready to fine me since he blames me for  everything that happens around the house (I have 6-7 housemates) and raised my rent by $100 because he said I ‘stayed at home too much thus using more electricity’ which is ridiculous. 

So yeah this year is mostly a recovery year, but after the initial shock that happened early this year and lucking out into finding a good company to work for, the rest of the year went reasonably smoothly. Let’s hope that next year will continue to go smoothly and hopefully I’ll have some luck finally with crypto (I still have some reserves but its down a whopping 80% and I missed a good chance to sell it in the summer, hopefully it will go back up next year), and with the lawsuit as well (oh please don’t let that $215M in claims be a real number, hopefully most of those big claims are fake).

Otherwise I’m just slowly saving up money again trying to afford a place in Vancouver eventually. This process might be considerably faster or slower depending on how much crypto goes up/down next year and how much/when money I get back from the QuadrigaCX lawsuit…