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Haven Review: Shiny Days

Shiny_days_posterFirst up is our disclaimer. We received this game for review purposes only, and as such all opinions in this review are our own. No money has been exchanged for this review.

The game and link presented in this article contain adult material, and are intended for mature audiences. Content may therefore be unsuitable for some viewers.

If you’ve spent any time in Japan, one of the first things you notice about it’s pop-culture is its complexity. The plots of Japanese horror (J-Horror) movies for example, are often quite difficult to follow. Japanese chess, called shogi, makes western chess look like checkers! Then you have the nation’s written language to consider. There are three distinct alphabets; one of which contains thousands of characters to memorize, and another that’s used primarily for words borrowed from other languages!gfs_242363_2_8

It’s on this note that we welcome you to our game review for Shiny Days…and I’ll try to get this out in one breath: Shiny Days (2015) is a remake of Summer Days (2006), which is itself the sequel to School Days (2005); all of which precedes the most current title in the series: Cross Days (2010), which is actually a retelling of School Days. If you’re confused now, just wait until you start playing.gfs_242363_2_18

Shiny Days tells the story of a high school girl named Setsuna. Looking forward to her upcoming summer vacation, Setsuna is summoned to the sick bed of her friend, Sekai. It seems that Sekai was hired for a summer job as a waitress, but her illness forces her to ask Setsuna to step in as a replacement. The latter is not happy about it, as this particular restaurant requires servers to parade around in skimpy costumes. Setsuna ultimately agrees to take the job on a part-time basis, after discovering that a boy she likes lives near the restaurant.

If you’ve read or watched much manga, it’s not hard to guess what’s coming. Setsuna‘s first customers include an unruly child, a slimy lecher and possibly the most snooty customer service critic you’ve ever seen. Will our heroine get some reprieve from embarrassment after clocking out on day one? No chance. She trips over another girl on the street, resulting in a clothing mishap that would make even Art Frahm blush! Inexplicably, the two girls are now obligated to become roommates.
67398510_2The gameplay itself is divided into episodes, which are further broken down into scenes. You can save your game during any scene, and for good measure the game prompts for a save at the end of each episode. The story progresses as a typical graphic novel, compete with Pause, Play, Rewind and Fast Forward buttons. Occasionally, the game will ask players to make a choice as to what the protagonist will say. This can have an impact on the sequence of scenes within an episode, and can actually cause a shuffling effect when rewinding or reloading a past save. For instance, you attempt to return to a certain scene, only to find it replaced with another! The moral here is to save often and pay attention, lest the story change on you.

Radish1By this point, you’re probably wondering about the good stuff! Yes, this game is racy…every bit as much as its predecessors. While the game has plenty of cute moe (mō’ eh) moments, it’s true selling point is hentai; that absolute “fan service” that signals a rating of “M” for mature…if not higher! With or without its erotic gratuity, this novel successfully serves up its original message; updated and remastered for the modern gamer.

Overall, is Shiny Days worth it? I say yes. If you’re a fan of the “Days” series, then you already know the premise and story arcs of this remake. If you’re new, this title is a great way to introduce a simple “slice-of-life” genre that can only be found amid the complexities of Japanese pop-culture.

-Chris Roberts-

Haven Review: Senran Kagura 2

First up is our disclaimer.  We received this game for review purposes only, and as such all views in this article our are own. No money has been exchanged for this review.

Senran Kagura 2 is the sequel to the first game, and has a anime series by the same name. Being completely honest here, it screams “Otaku!” This is actually my first Otaku-based game, and to give you an idea of what I mean, “Boobs” is the best overall summary. As you play through this visual novel and action-based adventure, your clothes will rip off while fighting the enemy; not to mention you can rip their clothes off as well!url

As they fall in defeat to your amazing ninja skills, they will speak either of how sad and pathetic they are or how much they’re in love with you. After all, you were able to get them into nothing but their bikinis!

Now let’s discuss a little about the overall story. The game has you following two ninjas: Asuka and Homura, as well as their friends. The story starts out with Asuka and her team fighting Homura and hers, while at the same time trying to get back a ninja scroll. However as they do, the villain ends up summoning a giant evil creature that aims to destroy everything. But it’s soon destroyed when Asuka beats it using the powers of friendship and everyone is happy to accept; except team Homura…they become renegades.Senran-Kagura-2-Crimson-Burst-7

This leads to the second bit of the story. “They” are trying to find their way in the world…but lets stop there. Don’t want to spoil the plot too much for everyone now, do we?

The game has a variety of features, such as ninja sexy poses. You can change their expressions and have them model for you, either like a stripper or like they’re taking it from behind. Add a little porn track here with the classic “Bow chica wow wow!”

Now besides all this, the game does try to focus on actual game-play. But I feel the developers only took into consideration the physics for the boobs and not the actual combat system. As I progressed through the story, even at Level One, I had huge difficulties because the bosses were overpowered and there is no guard in the game at all.jBHoEXPBrQaxl
You can dodge, but even doing that is really hard; as is parrying other enemies’ attacks. However in my reluctance to give up on the game, I wondered if there was an alternate strategy…and I did indeed find it.

So if you end up buying this game, here is the best way to beat every single enemy with no problems, take no damage all and achieve the best ranks: “B + X” is the solution. Simply jump up into the air and slam back down.
This aerial attack creates a mini-stun on all enemies and then allows you to jump back up and repeat this combo until they’re defeated. It even works well on bosses.skburst2-1280x720

I have cleared every single challenge room using this technique, I have beaten every boss and I have pretty much beaten the game at this point using nothing but that simple two-hit combo. Honestly, without this knowledge the combat would be impossibly difficult. Keep in mind that your special attacks don’t connect with enemies moving in the direction you’re facing.

In conclusion, do you like boobs, women in awkward sexual poses and young girls who just happen to be teenagers? Then this is the ideal game for you!

-Daniel Clatworthy-


Nekopara: Moe Manga Madness

NekoParaGenericKana Moe (pronounced “mo-eh”): Feelings of strong affection…mainly toward characters in anime, manga, and video games.
Manga: Comics and cartoons conforming to a style developed in Japan in the late 19th century.
Madness: Insanity; perhaps brought on by long, tedious story lines.

Nekopara ネコぱら (Cat Paradise) is a Japanese adult visual novel series developed by Neko Works and published by Sekai Project. The stories take place in a world where humans live alongside cat girls, or nekomimi (literally “cat ears”) in Japanese, and are able to keep them as pets…wait…WHAAAAA?? People actually own other people…and there must be added sexual innuendo, because that’s practically a regulation in all moe manga titles? That’s it…I’m covering my eyes (but peeking through my fingers).

I know. The thought of people acquiring others as chattel may seem really off-base to most, but let’s remember: ours is a world of many cultures. For instance, I have Steam friends in Europe who were horrified to learn that some North Americans paint dogs and cats with watercolor and ink. Another example is the field of genetic testing; completely outlawed in some countries, while performed regularly in others. You get the idea.

NekoParaLarryHeartAnyway, the disclaimer is over now. Let’s get us some nekomimi!

In Nekopara Vol. 1, our protagonist is the aspiring chef Kashou Minaduki, who moves away from home to open a bakery. While unpacking boxes, he discovers that two of his family’s cat girls, Chocola and Vanilla have stowed away to join him. After convincing Kashou to let them stay, the three work together to run the shop. This is where the player comes in to see the story through.

The game play is very simple. Whenever a “paw” icon appears at the bottom-right corner, the game is “pawsed” to let you read the on-screen dialog. To advance the story, just click your mouse anywhere on the screen. The story itself can become a grind at times, so occasionally a “tickle” icon will appear near one of the characters to mix things up. This is Nekopara‘s attempt at a QTE (Quick Time Event), and you have about half a second to notice the icon and click on it. So far, I’ve discovered tickles that look like a heart, a teardrop, a music note and a “recycle bin” circular arrow thingy. There’s no special benefit from a successful tickle-click, other than seeing the character’s reaction…usually a giggle, laugh or cutesy outburst.

The game’s voice acting is good, especially for Chocola and Vanilla. For some reason though, our protagonist Kashou is unvoiced. While curious, it does add an element of mystery. Considering I’m two hours in and still reading Chapter 1 of 8, I’m grateful for an element of anything! The story proceeds as you’d expect for a graphic novel of this genre; wholly cute at first, until the bombs start dropping:
NekoParaHarassIf you are a hardcore manga fan, you’ll likely enjoy the Nekopara series. Much attention is given to unique aspects of Japanese life, such as street vendors selling takoyaki topped with dried bonito flakes…Google that at your peril. If you’re just starting out with manga, you may opt for games a little less racy. Steam search words like Naruto and Dragonball come to mind.

A subtle, but interesting note about the game’s title. Take a moment to look at the picture at the top of this review…go ahead, I’ll wait. If you read Japanese at all, you’ll notice it immediately. If not, bear with me as we try a very short (I promise) Japanese language lesson!

Native Japanese words like “neko” use characters with soft curves and loops, such as:
HiraganaBoldForeign words like “paradise” (or “para”) use characters with straighter, sharper strokes, such as:
KatakanaBoldBut as you can see, the writing systems have been reversed for neko and para respectively, in the title! This is a highly cultural phenomenon; usually done by young adults as a form of cheeky rebellion over the powers that be. Such acts in other languages may be deemed disrespectful, but in Japanese it’s seen as harmless adolescent creativity.

Well done, devs!

NekoParaVolume2Nekopara Vol. 1, was released in two versions: an uncensored adult version that includes explicit sex and nudity, and a censored version where such explicit content is removed. Both versions released in December, 2014. Although Steam offers the latter version by default, there’s an adult-version patch available for players at least 18 years of age. A new “fan disc” called Nekopara Vol. 0 is also available on Steam. This one is censored, and there are no current plans to add adult content. A third installment, Nekopara Vol. 2 is due in December, 2015.

This brings us to our final point. Is Nekopara worth it? The answer for me is yes, as long as players are fans of the manga formula.  Currently, Volume 1 is selling on Steam for $10 (US) and Volume 0 is selling for $3. As a game completionist (fancy term for achievement hunter), I’ll be finishing both volumes, as well as Volume 2 when it drops next year. Until then, have fun…and as always: Ikimasu-yo!

-Chris Roberts-