Now, let me be absolutely clear before we get started. This isn’t a ‘people’s choice’ listing that polls the entire EVN community to find out a general consensus of what everyone is looking forward to. This is a personal list: it’s what I’m looking forward to. If there is an EVN under development that you don’t see here there are most likely multiple reasons why it’s not. The top two reasons are more than likely A) I am not aware of the visual novel you’re talking about, so it didn’t make the list. Or B) I AM aware of the visual novel you’re talking about, but I’m not looking forward to it with the same amount of hype as you.
Please keep these things in mind as I consider the five EVNs I’m anticipating the most in 2013 by first breaking my own rules.
This is one that I’ve been quietly keeping my eyes on and once I get back to doing interviews, I would love to have the writer for this one come in and talk about the project. If you’re following its development and are familiar with things like The Witcher series or Game of Thrones, Icebound seems to be following in their footsteps; building a much more grounded fantasy world (yeah, think about that) that focuses more on world building and relatively human conflicts, rather than a focus on an epic struggle of good versus evil.
What I like about Icebound so far is that I feel like I’m already involved in the world even though I haven’t even played a demo for it yet. Much of the EVN’s internal history and the societal structure are available on the EVN’s site and clearly a great deal of thought was put into the small intangibles many people don’t think of right off the bat, but are vital to creating a recognizable atmosphere for any story. It’ll also help deepen the narrative as Johnny X (only his friends can call him Johnny X) now has a massive world he can tell two or three stories in instead of just one in case he just wanted to expand the world beyond just Icebound.
As for the actual storyline here for this particular game…that’s a little murkier. We know that the story will revolve around an alchemist named Dougal who just landed in the isolated city of Isenbarr. From their there doesn’t seem to be a central point that we know of. The main points seem to be the clash of the two branches of alchemy, one being more scientific and the other being more spiritual, which leads to the creation of a ‘new’ type of creature; this clockwork beast mentioned. That will, in my theory, branch out to the different plot points mentioned in the synopsis. But there is still much more to go through in the development of the VN, including a solid release date any maybe a trailer, before I can dig any further.
Now, let’s get to the actual list shall we?
5. Solstice (MoaCube)
I have to point this one out after the absolute slam dunk that was Cinders in 2012. The reasons I’m mentioning it though rather than having it somewhere on the list is because…well…I know very little about it. Until very, very recently I was barely aware of its existence. I understood the overall plot and there has been concept art, but no settled characters or even a projected release date. That last one is especially important because Cinders was originally schedule for release in 2011 but was pushed back. With the changing nature of game development, it’s understandable. However, until they Tom Grochowiak uploaded a teaser for the project, I couldn’t really rank it in my mind.
Then Tom uploaded that teaser we talked about earlier and the game changed slightly. Eventually, I will have to just straight steal from IGN and do a Rewind segment on upcoming EVN teasers so that I can safely speculate, but Solstice seems to have a more mystery/thriller feel to it as both Constance (a courtesan apparently) and Madame Ghede (SHE’S BACK!) seem wary of not only your character, but also the people your character, apparently named Galen, seem to be taking on inside of this domed city. The center of the mystery is still relatively unknown, but considering the warnings you’d think Galen’s suspect list is pretty high up the food chain so it hints at a possible political angle as well…which is kind of my thing so yes on that one.
In other notable spots, the architecture and clothing styles looks to be inspired by the Ottoman Empire, but it remains to be seen whether or not that culture impacts the overall story. There was also a little controversy surrounding Solstice for about five seconds when someone disapproved of Ghede’s appearance…apparently they’re unaware of Santeria or any other syncretic religions outside of what has been deemed a stereotype. Also there was a little something in their about Constance’s get up but not only do I find that stupid, I’m the guy who defend Poison Ivy slinking through BOTH Arkhamverse games in her thong…so I am in no position to talk.
The biggest sticking point in Solstice right now is that we don’t have a time table. The word is that it’ll still take a few months to hammer down the details, so we may see a 2013 release. Here’s keeping my fingers crossed and of course we’ll have more as it becomes available!
Check out the teaser video for Solstice here!
4. Hate Plus (Christine Love)
After the astonishing (and well deserved) success of 2012’s EVN of the Year Analogue: A Hate Story, Christine Love is now daring to go to a realm she has never gone before and make a sequel. Not a ‘spiritual successor’ or some other spinoff within the Love metaverse. No, she is making an actual, direct sequel…or will it be more of a prequel?
Hold onto you butts, kids. Business is about to pick up here.
Anyone who played through Analogue completely has the exact same question: what happened? How did the futuristic people of the Mugunghwa descend into a parallel, misanthropic kingdom? It seems that we will finally get some answers as we dive back into the data logs. From the preview images we’ve gotten, the overall presentation has been given a minor makeover with more emphasis on more colors than the more sanitary original. Also you will be able to import your completed game from the original Analogue to Hate Plus, which will allow you to see the impact your chosen ending had on your chosen AI(s).
However, what makes me tepid is that a lot of what can be expected with the plot remains speculation. A great job was done on Analogue’s Steam page where a diligent few have been cataloguing all the hints that have been dropped in the teaser shots so far and I encourage you to check it out. But still, sequels are tricky territory for a reason. Not only does it have to remain true the original, a good sequel also has to stand out from the original’s shadow. It’s the difference (at least to me) with Bioshock 2 and Mass Effect 2. Whereas Bioshock 2 played it safe by introducing a few new elements in a familiar setting and at the end of the day it was no deeper than a family feud. Mass Effect 2 tried something different by tasking you not only with preparing for a suicide run, but also requiring you to gain each team member’s loyalty in different (and ridiculously engaging) loyalty missions that neither 1 or 3 featured. To this formula, they kept a few familiar elements involved that would ring true to all players such as the Normandy and Joker, Tali and Garrus, etc. Two different approaches to sequels and ME 2 is considered the best game of the three while Bioshock 2 is, at this point, an afterthought in gaming history.
Approach here will be everything and it interests me greatly on just how well Christine Love will be able to wrangle with the twists and turns of the path in front of her. But I am excited to see the results…whenever they’re released. It was originally going to be next month but I believe it was pushed back. We’ll keep you updated.
3. Dysfunctional Systems (Dischan Group)
After the release of the teaser for Solstice, I was greeted by another unexpected video: the opening for Dischan’s next project. Dysfunctional Systems will be an episodic EVN, similar to the model used for the Walking Dead game that made such an impact last year. It will follow a girl named Winter chosen by her utopian society to help manage the issues of parallel worlds that could adversely affect the status of their own world.
Now there are two different ways you can look Winter’s mission. From the reaction I gathered so far, I can safely say one of the ways is for people ignorant of just how screwed up humans can be getting a strong dose of human failings. However, there’s also the ‘Manifest Destiny’ route where a ‘superior’ society treats others human beings like we treat gorillas in a zoo. Considering we’re not completely aware of just how Winter’s world system works, and again this is where I’m going to have to give in and rip off IGN, it’s a fair bet that we’ll get good doses of both. But outside of Winter’s tasks seems to be the larger question on the sustainability of ‘Utopia’ inhabited by a naturally flawed creation (humanity) as they come to grips with those flaws which, if nothing else, is highly interesting to me.
I am also hopeful that the episodic model is wildly successful for them because it isn’t the easiest thing in the world to pull off. Episodic anything revolves around two major sticking points: consistency and anticipation. Using my own favorite TV list for this, if one episode of 24 had Jack Bauer kicking ass and the next episode had him afraid to pull the trigger, me and millions of people would’ve tuned out well before Day 2. With visual novels it’s a bit easier as the story-heavy focus will keep the characters on the straight and narrow, but how we interact with the game will just matter that much more. It all has to work smoothly with familiar audio cues and music for each episode so that the audience can learn what sounds to associate with what events and the artwork for each episode has to be equally good. One of the big issues I had with Katawa Shoujo was the artwork for some paths was just flat-out better than others and it was clear that different artists work at them with differing amounts of interest. This cannot happen if Dysfunctional Systems is to work. (No pun intended)
Overall, I’m very excited for this EVN. The expected release date is in April, so we’ll be back then to see how it all turned out.
Check out the Episode 1 opening here!
2. ANYTHING from SakeVisual
I want you to do something for me, okay? Close your eyes and imagine your favorite dish. Imagine you’re in the kitchen as your favorite dish is being made. For me it’s Country Fried Steak with Smashed Potatoes and Sawmill Gravy with a side of Buttermilk Biscuits but that’s neither here nor there. You’ve planned it out and now it’s on the stove cooking and the aroma of it as that perfect flavor melds in the pot fills every sense of your body and wets your mouth to the point where if you don’t leave the room you will begin snacking on anything you can get your hands on just to make the hunger stop. But you can’t do that, because you’ll get full and this is your FAVORITE MEAL that you took all day to get together just so you can enjoy it and it’s COOKING RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU AND IT SMELLS SO GOOD AND WHY ISN’T IT DONE YET I WANT TO EAT!!!!!! But no…no. Patience is a virtue and it’ll be worth it. So you wait…even though you are very, very hungry…very.
Welcome to my 2012 with SakeVisual!
Not that I hate Ayu Sakata or anyone else involved in the development of fine Sake products. See where I’m from you only release something when the timing’s right. And, as a capitalist, I applaud Ms. Sakata for taking the Irrational route (see what I did there?) and not being afraid to push back a release in order to get the most out of their work. So yeah, I understand it. That doesn’t make the waiting any easier though. A year without anything from SakeVisual has been hard on this country boy and now more than ever I cannot wait to get my hands on one of their works.
At the top of this list is, of course, Yousei. With all of the previews shots and my own features on it, that one’s a given. But since interviewing the Grand Master of the Sake Order, I’ve also taken the ten minutes needed to read Ripples…yeah I hadn’t read it before then...shaddup. And though it’s a little heavy on the saccharine side, it’s still pretty good for a freakin’ ten minute story. There are several directions it can go from there that I can think of off the top of my head, which more than likely means that Every Sunrise will go in a completely different direction that will backhand my brain. On top of that are the two new romance games (one for profit, one for free) and now that I think about it, technically shouldn’t we get TWO Jisei games this year? It’s not our fault you wanted to be awesome and add more content Sakata! So yeah…eventually I will play a SakeVisual VN and when I do well this will happen.
Check out the latest video for Yousei here!
1. Break Chance Memento (Cyanide Tea)
The big reason BCM was #5 last year was simply that I had no idea how the Auro-Cyanide/Camille tandem would function (Sorry guys). They had a very unique premise, but the only thing I had to go on from either of them was don’t take it personally where Auro did the art and the art was what I was most critical of. So while I hoped for the best, I couldn’t go further than cautious cynicism.
Fast forward from January to December and wow how things have changed. Much of it has to do with them releasing Ristorante Amore and The Elevator which not only showed off their synchronicity as a team, but also their ability to create an interesting and engaging cast of characters regardless of the genre (barring Liam of course). If you pay attention last year Cyanide Tea’s projects focused on a few different things that are all featured in BCM to some degree. Murder, being haunted and therefore being unable to resolve the past, grounded romances and flawed characters has all been toyed with and it shows that it can all be handled very well. Between that and the consistent, brilliantly handled artwork any and all doubts have been effectively erased.
And yes, I know exactly what I’m getting into. This is a BL title just in case a certain blonde waif didn’t make that extremely obvious. And from the teaser page we get talks of ‘forbidden love’ and other things that make me question my sanity. Trust me; I go into BCM knowing I’m not the audience for it. But despite it all, despite every single reason I can think of I am still looking forward to this. Maybe it’s just because what it promises is more than just ogling a bunch of naked pretty males. Everyone at some point or another has experienced a moment in their family they wish they could take back and make things right. Brokenness comes with humanity, there’s no way around that. But why has this family been given an opportunity to fix their sins? Who are these people in the future that make it so important for them to repair their past issues and solve the crimes done against them when they were young? There are doubts, there are overall assumptions and then there are genuine questions surrounding intangibles about characters and plot points. That’s where I’m at with BCM.
Eventually that kind of curiosity will put me on the business end of a shovel. But for now, of all of the potentially great works here, I pray that Break Chance Memento sees a solid release in 2013. I cannot wait to play this EVN…still though; there is no way we’ll be able to avoid seeing Shuuki’s scrawny ass is there? Camille, Auro, you guys know there are just some things humanity shouldn’t have to bear witness to right? (Yeah I will never be out of Shuuki jokes…ever). Well I guess it could be-no. I’m not saying it…they’ll find a way to make it worse. Either way, joking aside, Break Chance Memento is my most anticipated EVN for this year.
Check out the latest BCM video here!
So what are you looking forward to seeing come out this year? Sound off in the comments or on twitter @vnsnow!