Meanwhile, I have been playing three games on rotation recently: Deathsmiles, School Days HQ and Trails in the Sky.

Deathsmiles I’ve probably talked about before. It’s possibly my favourite of Cave’s shooters, not coincidentally because it’s one of the more accessible ones. I’ve rediscovered it thanks to my new arcade stick, but man that game has a wonderful soundtrack and a gorgeous art style. Hope the sequel makes it to Western audiences sometime.

Trails in the Sky is an excellent RPG, offering plenty of meaty exploration, fighting and questing wrapped up in a deliciously well-translated bun peppered with memorable characters. There’s a fabulous “will they, won’t they” relationship at the core of the party right from the get-go, so I’ll be interested to see how that develops.

School Days HQ, meanwhile, is a remastered visual novel/interactive movie that is extremely fondly regarded by fans of the genre. It does an excellent job of emotionally engaging the player and drawing them into the intricacies of its seemingly rather mundane plot, even with a relative lack of interaction. Japanese school drama and love triangles ahoy. If you’re interested in Japanese cultural norms and the concepts of “omote” and “ura” (public and private faces of society) it’s fascinating. Omote: holding a school festival where each class and club makes a display to show pride in their culture and school; ura: at least one of the stalls having a “break room” hidden in the back where couples can go to, uh, spend some “alone time” together.

It’s also interesting in that it’s one of the few games where not making a choice is a valid option — any time there are two dialogue options on screen, there’s also the secret third option to “just wait”, which can lead in a different direction altogether. It’s shockingly divergent, too — I finished the game once last night (with what was ostensibly a “good” ending but which still felt somewhat bittersweet, impressively) and was helpfully informed that I had seen just 12% of what it had to offer. There are supposedly 20 different endings, so I’m curious to check those out. There’s explicit shagging in it, yes, and it could probably have told its story without being quite so graphic about it (and in fact the original version saw a 15+ bonk-free rerelease on PS2 in Japan), but eh; it is what it is, and these scenes at least appear to serve the story rather than purely acting as a “reward” for the player.

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