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Indie Wonderland: Sakura Spirit

Wait, what’s this? Another visual novel? That’s right, you bet it is! Surprise: I’ve decided to spend the next couple Indies Wonderland solely on visual novels and/or dating sim games. Welcome to Visual Novel And Dating Sim month, or however long I feel I can stretch this joke. Welcome to VNADS! I even made a website tag for it. Buckle in, boys and girls, because we are going on a ride.

Today’s thrill-ride: Sekai Project‘s Sakura Spirit. And, hey, guess what? Guess who you have to blame for me owning this game, and as a result, who you can blame for me kicking off this talking-heads-over-still-images parade? That’s right: it’s none other than our resident website ninja, Ninjustin. Which means you don’t even have to go very far if you want to yell at him, and/or encourage him, somehow. You can leave a comment at the end of this very article.

One could argue that I’m equally at fault here, because I had this game on my Steam wish list. I will vehemently deny and all blame, however. I’m just as much a passenger here as you are.

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, very high. Mechanical, absolute. Also, there’s a whole bunch of images of half-naked anime women on the second page. Be ye warned, I guess.)

After the break: Sakura Spirit. How stereotypically Japanese will it be? Here’s a hint: The sakura aren’t even in bloom.

Discourse Dojo: Hatred

Happy Friday, dear Ninjabluers! Ninjustin here. If you were wondering when or if we’d ever do Discourse Dojo again, the answer is now. Well, the answer is actually like a week ago, but it took me until now to actually edit and upload, so there.

Direct download (ogg)
Direct download (mp3)

Here’s the Youtube version, if you’re into that:

On this episode (is that what you call these? Episodes? Or do we call each of them podcasts? Or is the whole series one podcast? I dunno) we talk about the controversial trailer for Hatred, which is apparently an upcoming video game.

Note from Ninjustin:

This is just… just… ugh. Like I said again and again, I am not against the idea of a game tackling the subject of shooting massacres. If done tactfully, with respect for the subject matter, it could achieve a lot. But this? This looks like A) murder-porn, B) a cynical attempt at garnering controversy, C) a slap in the face, or D) all of the above. And we weren’t kidding, by the way — the game’s being made by Neo-Nazis.

Jibe from Jarenth:

Here is the sad current state of our beloved industry: I’d entirely forgotten about this game between when we recorded this podcast — one week ago tomorrow — and the time I’m writing this. There’s just so much ugh going on, it’s hard to keep track.

But yeah. I still entirely stand by the statement that Hatred provides, as its primary engagement fantasy, ‘viscerally murdering anyone and everyone you want’. Not just power. Not the high life of crime, or the anti-hero tale, or even the villain’s ascent to dominion. Just straight-up murder.

I dunno. I think there are better games we could be playing.

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Indie Wonderland: Flower Shop: Summer in Fairbrook

In last week’s Indie Wonderland: Costume Quest 2, I alluded to another game I’d been eyeballing for review at the time. Do you remember? I dismissively wrote about a ‘weird visual novel game about flower shops’, before segueing into Costume Quest 2 proper. You might have figured, at the time, I was being facetious for the sake of review opening comedy.

I wasn’t. Flower Shop: Summer in Fairbrook (by developer Winter Wolves is a real game, it’s about the complexities of balancing dating life with honest farm work while spending summer in a small agrarian town, it features a main character unironically called Steve, and I genuinely want to play this game a lot.

So what I’m saying is, I hope you guys are psyched for a summer in Fairbrook. Because I sure as hell am.

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, high. Mechanical, more or less absolute.)

After the break: What does one *do*, in Fairbrook? The answer involves a lot more small business trading than you would expect.

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Indie Wonderland: Costume Quest 2

Plans change sometimes, reader. Initially, I was halfway planning to review some weird visual novel game about flower shops this week. Who knows, that might still happen next time! It had talking and anime characters and a main character named Steve, what more could I possibly want.

But then someone helpfully informed me that Costume Quest 2 was slated for release that week — I actually heard it came out on the day it came out — and that, as they say, was that. I was a big fan of Double Fine‘s previous Costume Quest, having written both about the base game and Grubbins On Ice on the Blue Screen of Yore, so ditching all my previous plans to finally get a Costume Quest article here on Ninja Blues seemed like the only logical step. And it was.

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, High, but lacking in calories. Mechanical, Medium.)

After the break: Costume Quest 2. Is it like Costume Quest 1? It… it really is, honestly.

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Indie Early Access Land: Cosmochoria

Have you heard of Indie Gamer Chick‘s #GamesMatter operation? The gist of it is basically this: in order to counteract the recent wave of negativity and hate that has become associated with video games, and in order to remind everyone that games are a force of positivity and happiness for so many people the world over, IGC has teamed up with developers to give away free videogames. To… more or less anyone who wants them. Cool, innit? Giveaways happen in time-limited and amount-limited batches, so check out IGC’s Twitter if you’re interested.

It is through #GamesMatter that I got a hold of (among several other games) an Early Access key to Nate Schmold‘s Cosmochoria. From a brief developer stream, I got the impression that it looked like a happy colourful game where you jetpack around the universe planting plants on planets. Which is to say, it looked pretty interesting. And because of that, in the spirit of the originating event, and because I didn’t have anything more pressing to write about this week… well, here we are.

Standard Early Access warnings apply: everything that I say can, and probably will, change over the course of development. Cosmochoria is more or less in the Earliest Access, too, so normal caveats apply doubly.

After the break: Cosmochoria. Worth getting in Early Access? I say…

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Blue Streak: Mark of the Ninja Level 1

For those of you who have ever asked what Ninja Blues video content might look like, we have an answer! Something like this.

Ninjustin here. I’ve had a plan to make this exact thing for a long time. Mark of the Ninja is my favorite game, and I’ve wanted to take it step-by-step to talk about all the little and not-so-little reasons I love it so much. This is a video-based Let’s Play, but it’s not in the Game Grumps style of just running around and having fun and laughing. That’s not to say I don’t like that style — I love Game Grumps and still watch it almost daily — but I felt I wouldn’t be doing this game justice. I wanted to do something more analytical.

Brilliant name, isn’t it? Sadly, we didn’t think of it — it came from a friend of ours who goes by Thanatos.

I’m not sure if I’ll continue with this. I probably won’t have as many things to say in every level as I did in this level. But there’s still plenty more to be seen. I could also play specific levels with specific restrictions or alternate abilities/masks. I’ll have to think about it. In the meantime, let me know if you’d like to see more, what you like or dislike about the video, ways you could think to improve it, etc.

Also: Thank you all so much for your feedback from a few weeks ago! I was expecting one of two reactions to the post: 1) nobody would comment, leaving us where we started, or 2) a bunch of people would comment to get a free game, which would be fine. Instead we got a bunch of people commenting, the majority of whom specifically asked not to get a free game. I did not foresee that outcome. It really blew me away.

I’m working on the giveaway. I was going to give out the free games through random number generation, but since I have five candidates for six games… I have something else in mind. Stay tuned.

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Indie Wonderland: Concursion

The world is full of seemingly mind-baffling mysteries, sometimes. Why do we drive in a parkway and park in a driveway? Why do snowmen wear scarves and hats, even if the heat retention those provide brings them that much closer to melting? What is updog? And what in the devil is a ‘Concursion‘? Conundrums like this are what provide much-needed flavour to our ever-spinning universe.

Human curiosity being what it is, however, the world is also full of dull, functional answers: bringing the mysterious down to the mundane is the human condition in a nutshell. To wit: ‘because the words involved have different etymological roots’, ‘because they want to, regardless of consequences’, ‘a play on words you can use to fool your friends’, and ‘a ‘multi-genre’ platforming game of sorts developed by Puuba‘. Sorry, universal flavour: I’m a scientist. I solve the riddles of life and everything so other people won’t ‘have’ to.

Anyway: Concursion. It’s a video game. I’m curious. Are you curious? I’m curious. Let’s go see what all the hub-bub is about!

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, low. Mechanical, medium.)

After the break: Concursion. Truth be told, there was very little hub-bub. I… kinda understand why.

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Indie Wonderland: Hack ‘n’ Slash

“Oh, hey, a new Double Fine game on the Steam store page. Neat! I’ve covered most of their work in the past, and they’re pretty consistently high-quality, so that’ll save me the effort of having to think about which game I’m doing today.”

“Apparently it’s called… Hack ‘n’ Slash? Is that right? And it’s a game about… it kinda looks like a Zelda-esque game where you… hack… the gameworld? Like, actually change variables and stuff? Huh, that does sound interesting. It’s a little pricey, but what the hey. Double Fine haven’t steered me wrong before.”

Yes, readers: sometimes all the thought processes that go into my game are laziness, easily-piqued curiosity, and heuristics. I hope your sausages still taste okay, though.

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, high. Mechanical, reasonably high.)

After the break: I play Hack ‘n’ Slash. I hack in it. I don’t much slash in it. I feel moderately cheated.

Indie Delay-Land

Hey, readers. Sorry to have to inform you that this week’s Indie Wonderland is delayed: I have *legitimately* had the busiest workload of my entire life the past two weeks. We’re talking old-school literally literally. That phase is over, now, but I’ll need some time to pick up the pieces.

And by ‘some time’, I mean ‘one day’. This week’s Indie Wonderland will go up tomorrow. Because not even the heaviest workload imaginable is going to delay me for more than 24 Goddamn hours.

- Jarenth.

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Indie Wonderland: Runers

Runers is a strange game name. It doesn’t really gel in my mind well, for some reason, keeps sending me on weird association tangents. Runers. Runners. Ruffles. Rubbers. Rubles. Rupees? Does Runers take place in the super-convoluted Legend of Zelda timeline? It’s impossible to say that for sure about any game, to be honest: predicting the Zelda canon timeline is like predicting two plus two equals gumballs. But wait… Runers has six letters in the title, divided by two equals… Half-Life 3 confirmed?

In non-insanity news, Runers is also the first game by two-man outfit LGK Games, colloquially ‘Let’s Get Kraken’. It’s supposedly a game all about crafting spells, which I like, and then using said spells to adventure through infinite dungeons, which I also like. Two out of two sounds like a pretty good score, so I ‘leveraged’ some ‘industry contacts’ by ‘inadvertently whining at them’, and here we are!

Let’s see if spell-crafting and spell-slinging are all they’re cracked up to be.

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, nonexistent. Mechanical, medium, but also quite low.)

After the break: will there be crafting? Yes. Will there be fighting? Yes. Will you enjoy both? …