Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Begin Again and Hot Roomies (groan, that name)

So, one guy is a dojo instructor. And the other
is a pastry chef/cafe owner...but it's not
the one you think it is. The buff looking
dude is the cafe owner...
Begin Again is a mobile game from Hanabi and I was really pleasantly surprised by it. You play a somewhere-around-college-aged woman who's football (soccer, for Americans) dreams were recently destroyed by a career-ending injury inflicted on her by a fellow player. She's moved to a new small town where her mother is to try and piece her life back together and figure out what she wants to do with her life now that she's not going to the Olympics.

The art is decent and there are some sections that have manga-esque illustrations and also bits where it's like you are texting with other characters. Other than that, it's very straightforward with the choices you are presented with (though some of the choices don't seem to have any effect whatsoever on the actual story -- like what you want for dinner).

So, in this new town you soon make some new friends (two girls, which was nice -- she actually makes friends that care about her that have nothing really to do with the romanceable characters other than to provide encouragement...and there's also her mom and her female coach...whoa, an otome that might meet the Bechdel test? I think it just might...) and meet two guys who have an impact on your life. One is a huge, buff dude who happens to run a cafe and loves to bake delicate pastries and name them cute names. And yeah, he's the beefcake one that can lift you up, no problem. And the other, the one that looks like the classic handsome dude in the picture? He's a martial artist and dojo instructor. They also happen to be childhood friends with each other and have a long history together.

It's a very straightforward story and both guys develop feelings for you and it's easy to tell generally which choice goes with which guy. No need for a walkthrough. Both stories are quite sweet and satisfying and it's nice to see that the MC shows real character growth in both of them. You can't really go wrong either way as both guys are great and the game is fairly short, so there's no reason not to playthrough both characters. That said, it doesn't have much re-playability as it is so short. Once you've done each guy's route, there's no reason to come back to it. I don't think there are even any bad endings (if there are, no idea how you get one).

There's also nothing to buy or collect and no dress up or princess lessons or any of the other normal game mechanics to move forward. In fact, the only reason to pay money is to turn off the ads (which costs you £6.99 in the UK app store or nearly $10)...but the ads weren't all that intrusive and the story wasn't that long, so I didn't even think about bothering with it. Which makes me wonder how they make any money off of the game at all other than from ad revenue? I like to support app developers if they've got a good product and this is one I'd consider spending some money on as it was nicely done and the story was pretty good -- but not $10 good. I can buy a full game from Steam for that with many, many more hours of play time. I'd have spent £1 or £2 pounds. Maybe up to £3. It's a pretty short game.

Aw, aren't they cute?
Anyway, definitely worth the time. Just ignore the ads. Another one from Hanabi with a very similar format is their Hot Roomies one. OMG is that a horrible name but the game itself is actually just as good. Just ignore the name. It conjures up images of a college party house or something and this isn't that at all.

In this one, you are a recent college grad and looking for a job. You run into an old childhood friend (of course you do...) and the two of you search for a good place to live. You find one -- in the home of a writer who happens to have written some books you loved as a child.

Again, both guys are great. There are no tsunderes or yanderes or sadistic bastards in these games. You can't really go wrong as far as picking one. There's also not a huge amount of angst either, though there's a small amount of tension/jealousy.

The childhood friend is a bit of a puppy dog and the writer is a bit older, but again, it's a short game with a quick playthrough, so no reason not to do both. I personally preferred the writer and his pet cat, but that's just me. They were both nice.

I suppose the only big quibble I could make for these two games is that it's not good for fans of a lot of drama or angst. It's very low on that scale. But definitely nice for an afternoon where you want to read through something casually that will make you feel good.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Ninja Shadow

So, I'm a glutton for punishment. Remember how much Shall We Date? Love Tangle annoys me (and continues to annoy me?)? Well, I'd also downloaded their Ninja Shadow. And...well, it's not that bad. Don't get me wrong: it isn't great. The translation/wording is often very comically clunky and the plot lines are sometimes pretty scanty / sketchy and resolved too quickly, but I don't want to burn it with fire.


In this one, you play Saori. She's the twin sister of Kaname, who was supposed to travel to Nagasaki to become part of a vigilante group in order to earn help for their village, which has fallen on hard times. Does that make much sense? Probably not, but let's go with it. On their way there, Kaname is killed because he's too much of a good guy to leave a treacherous situation alone -- basically, this corrupt pig-like merchant named Suegetsu (which I'm spelling from memory, so that might be wrong) is burning down a village and Kaname dies trying to save people. How Saori doesn't also die is a bit of a mystery, but hey. That's the set up. So she cuts off her hair and puts on her brother's clothes and travels to Nagasaki pretending to be her brother so she can a) get revenge on the man who killed him and b) save her village by pretending to be a ninja assassin and joining the vigilante. She wields a sickle and chain and does already have some mad skillz because she'd trained with her brother.

Plus sides: she's dedicated, loyal, plucky, fairly fearless, and not afraid to kill people. Hmm. That sounds like it should be a bad thing, doesn't it? Well, here it's good. Also, similar to Love Tangle, the mechanics of the game are pretty easy. You earn story tickets over time (every 3 hours? Better than the 5 a day thing anyway). It's fairly generous with jade (in game currency) and koban (game cash) and there's a daily free gacha. To earn "talent" to pass challenges you work in the Meiko Salon (which is actually a real thing within the game, so at least it make sense, unlike the cooking game in Love Tangle) and sell different products to earn points for each character. This also unlocks special side stories, so at least you get a bonus there. You do have to unlock "love challenges" but it can be done the free route quite easily OR you can easily save up enough jade to at least unlock some of them the premium way. I haven't yet spent any money on the game, though I might at some point just because I feel it's decent (unlike Love Tangle wherein I will never give them money for that, even if it is the same company).

It really seemed like the game was trying to push the Makoto (he's the blue-haired leader) route or the Asagi (he's the priest) one on you, so I chose...Shintaro. He's a dojo instructor and, when partnered up with Saori/Kaname, teachers her swordsmanship. He's a man's man. A manly man. He has no idea what to do with girls though, so it's a good thing he thinks she's a guy...

Can you guess what those two bumps are? Um...yeah. At one point during training, shy Shintaro finally realises that Saori is a girl...and let me tell you... he's shocked, man, shocked. This is beyond his realm of expertise, but he's willing to learn.

They complete a number of missions together, growing closer all the time. They ultimately have to come up against the evil merchant. Once Shintaro has figured out that she's a girl -- it takes a lot longer for him than anyone else...the others seem to figure it out but keep her secret -- he's protective of her BUT (and this is the nice part) he doesn't try to keep her away from obtaining the justice she seeks. No coddling in the vigilante.

It's actually a pretty nice story and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would because Shintaro didn't appear on first glance to at all be my type. He's very adorkably awkward and they are cute together. The romance didn't seem too rushed either and didn't come out of nowhere.

Then they had a launch event for Kunihiro, so I figured, eh, why not? He's a blue-haired dancing traveling priest type of guy and he's not in the vigilante. And I'll get some bonus stuff if I do his route. Let's go!

Well, let me tell you...early on you figure out that this route is NOT going to be like the Shintaro route. For one thing, Kunihiro knew her brother and immediately recognises that Saori is a girl. Boy, does he. And Saori definitely knows that he's a dude...she goes searching for him up in the woods early on in the story and finds him bathing...

Well, hello there, Kunihiro. You've got no nipples, but you sure do
have a six pack. And a saucy attitude for a priest.
Let's just say that, where Shintaro had to work up his courage to even hold her hand, Kunihiro has no problems in that respect whatsoever. It was kind of refreshing, actually. After doing a few routes in Love Tangle where the research-y storyline all feels quite similar between routes, there's definitely a difference in Ninja Shadow. And Saori as well -- she reacts differently to Kunihiro than to Shintaro. Her growth is different. The relationship is different. Here she (and Kunihiro) are bolder on the feelings front. A lot bolder. But hey, lookit those abs...

There is, of course, danger in this route as well and intrigue and all of that. The romance is much more straightforward and there's some shmexytimes (but not in too graphic a way-- the CGs are sweet). All in all, another satisfying route though I have to say I preferred Shintaro's sweetness to Kunihiro's...um...hotness. He's a little much for me.

After that, I went on to Eduard, the blonde Dutchman who works as a translator and as a vigilante. Even though blonde is totally not my type. But there was something oddly sweet about him. And from the very first time they meet, you feel like Eduard knows something is up with Saori/Kaname. Either that or he's an equal opportunity kind of guy. One thing I find rather comic...they keep making such a point out of Eduard's blonde hair marking him as a foreigner and oh, isn't that unusual etc. etc. People literally stare at him when they are out in public. But, uh...Saori's got blonde-ish hair too. And the other dudes have everything from bright red to blue to purple. So it feels kinda funny when they keep remarking on Eduard's hair. I realise it's to help differentiate the characters, but, seriously...

Hmmmm, thinks Saori...does he know I'm a girl or is this just a weird
foreigner's way of greeting people?
I'm almost but not quite done with his route now and it's generally been pretty good. Eduard keeps Saori on her toes, constantly complimenting her in ways that she feels she shouldn't accept since she's supposed to be her brother. But he's getting to her and she's definitely getting to him. And Eduard has secrets too...

Edit: So getting close to the end with Eduard and Saori actually straight up confessed that she loves him (he's in sort-of hiding and there's some shady stuff going on and she searches him out because she's concerned) but the interesting thing is that she didn't also tell him, hey, by the way, I'm a girl... The story didn't really go into how he reacted to her confession other than that it seemed like it made him happy so it kinda makes you wonder what he's gonna do when she outs herself? Though the next scene is Asagi basically confronting her and saying he's pretty sure she's a girl...

Edit 2: Yep, Eduard had her figured out from the beginning it turns out. I kind of suspected that. The story ended pretty sweetly and I can say overall that I enjoyed this one. Go, enigmatic Dutch man FTW!

Ritsu's fairly beefcake but the boy apparently can't figure out how to wear clothes. That's his sleeve hanging down there on the right. I'm guessing they wanted to show off his biceps but it just makes me want to ask him if he needs help.
I started on Ritsu after that. He's the green-haired tabloid salesman that isn't in the vigilante. Two chapters in and I was thinking eh, meh, is he gonna be one of those guys?...but now I'm in the final chapter and I've come around. He's on a mission of uncovering the truth and also wants to uncover the vigilante...because, apparently, they offed his brother when his brother found out their identities. It's a rule imposed by the Edo Vigilante, who originated the whole vigilante code and are, I suppose, a bit more strict about it than Makoto (the leader of the Nagasaki Vigilante) wants to be. Because, hey, harsh, man. It is kinda crappy that they have to kill innocents.

Anyway, that provides the tension in the story. Will he figure it out? Won't he? Will Saori be ordered to kill him? Can their love survive her multiple deceptions? Etc. Etc. Yeah, I'm pretty sure it'll all work out in the end...

Edit 3: Finished up Ritsu and it ended pretty well. Overall I'd say I liked him and the story and it wrapped things up okay (and pretty much the way I expected it to go -- Ritsu winds up joining the Vigilante too...after all, what else was gonna happen? They'd go on the run?) It kinda glossed over the whole dead brother thing, though. You'd think he'd have at least asked Makoto about it...and I found it similar to Eduard's route in that, once they are together, Saori goes around blushing even more than normal and can't handle his attention without freezing up. What happened to the girl who got naked in a meadow with Kunihiro and wasn't fussed?


And...a launch event for Yoshiyuki (try saying that three times fast, I dare you) popped up, so I started that. I'd actually been waiting for him as he had appeared in another route (I think Kunihiro's?) as someone who was an old friend -- but not a childhood friend, thankfully...though that distinction doesn't really mean a lot when all these characters are so young anyway. Kids! They're all kids! Get off my lawn!

He's the pirate-y looking one who turns out to be...kind of a pirate. Sort of. And he comes on pretty strong, but in a nice way. He met Saori back on a ninja mission at some point and he already loves her, apparently. Though I find it really odd that he hasn't asked her a) why she is pretending to be a man or b) why she is going by her brother's name when it seems he knew both of them or even c) why she's in Nagasaki anyway. And I'm in Chapter 4? Maybe 5? You'd think it would have come up...or even some throwaway line like, "Hey, I went to visit you in your village, you know, because I love you and all that, but you weren't there."

But so far I'd say I'm liking him. I like that they banter together and he's a nice guy and upfront and seems to care for her. I suppose you could say him not asking her is him being kind and un-pushy. And he's buff pirate man without guyliner. He doesn't need it. We'll see how it goes.

Friday, March 23, 2018

What is this thing called Spring?

Today was the last day of Spring term for the little dude. CANNOT BELIEVE it's already nearly the end of March. FFS.

It was only a half day and we wound up going with a bunch of other kids and mum's to a big trampoline place called Rush. The funny story is that one of the mum's had texted me the day before asking if the little dude wanted to go to Rush.

Well, I didn't have a clue what she was talking about. So, I'm, like, Rush? The band? Am I showing my age?

And she's like, Afraid so. It's a trampoline park.

Yeah. I'm that mom. To be fair, I didn't think Rush would actually still be playing (though I just looked them up and apparently they still are. Wow.). Though if they were giving a concert, the little dude would probably like them. He's really been into Led Zeppelin lately. And they are actually before my time. By quite a bit. They started in 1968, before I was born. Anyway.

I finished my edit on the one manuscript and sent it to my agent. Got a little bit of news on the other one from him...basically, the publisher that's considering it is still considering it but really seem to be dragging their feet. It's frustrating. I've never been asked to do so many changes before a contract before. Not going to dwell on it. We'll see what happens with this other one as there's a different editor at another house interested in seeing it. Basically, I'm taking a break while little dude is off school anyway.

Like I said, not dwelling, not dwelling...

Let's see...back to my current obsessions...

Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome...yeah...okay. I had to uninstall it off of little dude's computer after I played a bit more (though I do plan on using the money I recently earned from school visits and some freelance stuff to get a Windows laptop of my own). I got through the first...eh...shmexytimes scene and it was...okay, you know what? There's not really a good word for it. Graphic isn't the word. I mean, yes, it was graphic. Sort of. It was also...squelchy. And after doing some research online, I found out that the way Foley artists make that noise is...with a can of dog food. And a spoon. And now I can't get that out of my head and I...omg. It's just kinda gross, isn't it? It's gross.

Okay, no, I'll seriously discuss it.

Things that are good: a) it's funny in a ridiculous way wherein you can't take it seriously and in how it b) kind of pokes fun at the otome world in general and c) the art is mostly decent (though, seriously, they should have really, really, really NOT drawn all the liquid-y bits...it was...disturbing...I mean, yeesh, girl, that looks like a problem, maybe you should see a doctor...) and d) ...it's funny. It's kinda like a parody. Basically, I keep coming back to that.

Things that aren't so good: a) the romance really isn't believe at all because b) it literally goes from first kiss to full on contortionist-worthy shmexiness and spurt-iness IN THE SAME FREAKING SCENE and c) even with suspension of disbelief, there's no way any of these three weirdos (MC, and the two love interests) would find love with each other or anyone else. AND... d) you'd kind of think that after the MC does it for her VERY FIRST TIME with the dude that at least some of the following scenes might, you know, address that? But no...no thought or discussion or mention of it from either one of them. It was weirdly dissociative. It was kind of like the developers went oh! Time for sexy time! Wham, bam, thank-you-ma'am! And now back to our story...

So, I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it. Once I get another laptop, I do plan on playing it some more because the ridiculousness of the humour appeals to me (especially the random endings, like how she winds up as, like, a female wrestler in one of them). The fairly thin & contrived plot doesn't thrill me nor how either of the guys treat the MC. She's really not as strong as I thought she'd be from reviews. And I can't say I find the shmexytime the least bit...er, shmexy. I think if I'd had a video of my face while reading it, it would have been basically...Well, that's awkward...should I be watching this? Maybe I should just click faster...No, wait, that's kind of making it worse...oh, jesus, she sure is making a lot of noise...holy crap, I'm glad no one else is home...omg, is it over yet? Hey, why do her nether regions resemble a Barbie? That's actually more disturbing...omg...is her back going to break? What's his hand doing? Is that angle even possible? No, no, omg, I have to look away...click, click, click...oh, thank god, it's finally over.

I may just not be suitable for this kind of thing. There's that possibility.

A Knight in Shining Armour...with shining hair

(This is the scene where Zen arrives to save the day...and Hae helps)

Hae took the clock off the wall and took the batteries out. She'd been cooped up in the apartment for so long that the tick, tick, tick of it was starting to get to her. Yoosung had hinted that Zen was on the way to pick her up from the horrible place. She didn't want to be there for another minute. She'd already packed up her bag -- she hadn't had much to pack as it was -- and had been pacing for the last twenty minutes. The idea of the bomb still scared her. Seven had said it was disabled, but was it really? Why in the world had Rika made him put a bomb there, anyway? It didn't match with everything the members of the RFA had told her of the almost-mythical woman who could do no wrong. Something wasn't right.

She had just completed her circuit around the sofa when there was a loud crash. The window exploded inward and she shielded herself reflexively from the glass that rained down around her. What--? What had happened? She was on the fourteenth floor! When she took her hands from her face, a strange man stood there. White haired and wild-eyed, like Zen had described from his dream! He had a strange half-mask on his face and a tattoo on his arm. She'd never seen anyone like him before.

"You're busy with the party?" the man asked calmly, as if he hadn't just come rappelling down a building and through a window. "You want to scream? Shhh. I'll just force you to shut up so you'd better be quiet."

"Who are you...?"

"Oh. I get that you want to see my face, but if you come closer, you'll step on glass."

He was crazy. Hae was sure of it. His eyes -- they weren't right. His pupils were dilated and his voice...the hair on her arms had stood on end. There was something wrong with him. Fundamentally wrong. Some kind of drugs? She had no idea what, but it was bad. This was bad. She took a careful step away from him and he blinked at her owlishly, tilting his head to one side.

"This was the only way to avoid the thermal sensors and the security cameras." He brushed some glass off of himself. "Wait. I'll go to you." He stepped forward, glass crunching under his feet. Hae backed further away, but there really wasn't anywhere to go. The apartment wasn't that big.

"What do you want?"

He had her cornered now and grabbed her wrist. "I'm from paradise," he said. "You don't know this, but you were invited too...from the moment you installed that mysterious app."

She tried to twist away from him but his grip was like iron. He didn't even seem to notice her struggle.

"I know it took some time for me to come for you." He almost sounded apologetic. "Now let's go together, to Magenta!" Hae pulled as hard as she could, but his grip, if anything, tightened. This close, the look in his eyes was even more terrifying. It's like he wasn't even there. "You look scared," he said. "But don't worry too much. I won't hurt you. I was ordered to bring you alive."

Was that supposed to make her feel better? He was hurting her now! She couldn't go with him. Wouldn't. Somehow she knew that there was no coming back from whatever place he wanted to take her too. None of what he was saying made any sense. She struggled harder, hitting him with her free hand, kicking, scratching -- but he simply stood there. She could see the faint outline of a smile under his mask and that, perhaps, was the most terrifying part. He was enjoying this.

"So...don't fight back."

"Why should I listen to you?" She was trying to buy time. If she could only reach the table by the bed, maybe get the lamp -- anything.

"Because I'm a generous person who will take you to paradise. I'll need days to explain all the good things about paradise. Endless parties, overflowing love, joy without pain..." He was staring off into the middle distance. She was sure he wasn't even seeing the room they were in. "Reality is ugly. There is nothing good about this world." That last sentence he practically spit out, then his face changed again, his smile grown bigger. "I'll save you. You won't get hurt if you just listen to me."

She shook her head and continued to pull against his hold. Another inch, two...she was almost there.

"I'm sure you must have heard strange things ever since you entered the RFA. What a pity..."

Ding-dong.

The doorbell! Was it Zen?

"Huh? You invited someone?" For the first time, the man looked surprised.

The door shook as whoever it was knocked on it. It had to be Zen.

"I wonder who it is? Maybe Luciel Choi? Since he's the only one who knows this place."

He knew Seven's name? Who was this man? The door shook again as Zen pounded on it. "How do you know Seven?" she yelled, loud enough that hopefully Zen would realise she wasn't alone. Would the question distract this strange man?

It did. He turned and leaned in to stare at her face. "Of course I know him. Since..."

The door burst open and Zen charged in.

"Oh no, someone seems to know the door password." The strange man sounded almost detached, like everything was happening to someone else and not to him, almost like it was a movie he was watching.

"Hae, are you hurt?" Zen looked wild-eyed himself and scared. He looked from her to the man and back again.

"I'm fine!" She wasn't, not really, but the answer came out of her anyway. She wanted to at least reassure him, to take that look away from his face. To protect him.

Zen held out his hands and slowly approached them. "I...I don't know who you are, but let go of her."

Poor Hae. She still has no eyes.
Or teeth, apparently.
"No." The man yanked Hae's wrist around and pulled her to him. He let go, but only just long enough to wrap an arm around her neck. Hae let out a short scream as his arm squeezed her neck. She reached up and pulled on his arm, but he only barely loosened his grip. What was he holding in his other hand? A button?

"If you don't, I'll have to use force to protect my girl."

The man let out a short laugh. The mask had fallen off of his face and Hae could feel his breath on her ear. "You move a single inch, and you see this switch here?" He waved the thing he was holding in his hand. "I'll press it. If I do...the whole place will BLOW UP!" He was screaming now, right in her ear. "And go to ASHES!"

Zen flinched. Hae could see he was unsure what to do. His shoulders were hunched. Was he going to rush them anyway?

"I already have Luciel's device figured out. It did take some time though." The man had calmed down again. He tsk-tsked. "Installing a bomb in a house a woman lives on her own? What is wrong with everyone in the RFA?"

"...What do you want?" Zen asked through gritted teeth.

"To escape this place safely with RFA's party planner. Of course, I'll take all of the members away soon. If you don't want to activate the bomb, you'd better stay still. Just watch as I take 'your girl' and disappear."

"Damn...!" Zen was shaking in anger. "Where did you come from? What do you want...?! Are you the one who led Hae here...?"

The man just laughed, a full belly laugh like it was the funniest joke he'd ever heard. Zen twitched. He was going to do something. Hae knew it. She could see it in his eyes. She had to do something. She was not going to let this man hurt Zen. She pulled as hard as she could with both hands on the man's arm and sunk her teeth into his hand as hard as she could. She could feel the bones of his hand grind against her teeth.

"OW! What are you doing? Let go!" He shook her off and she stumbled away from him, her jaw aching. Could she taste blood?

"Hae! Come here!" She ran to Zen. The rest of the room was a blur. All she could see was him.

"I'll activate the bomb!"

But Zen was already pulling her towards the door. "I'm so sorry for being late," he said. "Hold tight. We're going to run!" They were through the door, hands together. "Just trust me and run!" They were out the door and into the stairwell. Was the man following them? Was he going to set off the bomb and blow himself up? They kept running, feet pounding down the stairs until they finally emerged, breathless, at the bottom, but they didn't stop there. Zen pulled her after him and stepped in front of a passing taxi to stop it. The man's light wasn't even on, but Zen got in anyway, taking her with him.

"Hey!" said the driver.

"Just drive!" yelled Zen. "Go, go!" And the man did, something in the urgency of Zen's voice spurring him on. He took the corner and raced away. Hae collapsed onto Zen, panting and out of breath. She was shaking. She was hot. She was cold. She couldn't breathe. She closed her eyes and buried her face in Zen's chest. He was safe. They were safe. Zen wrapped his arms around her and held on tighter than he'd ever held onto anything before.

(I'm not clear on whether Unknown/Ray actually blows up the apartment or not, but I'm guessing he doesn't since Rika wanted the information anyway. And I'm pretty sure he doesn't blow himself up. Or maybe he does hit the button, because he's just that crazy-pants but Seven's disabling of the bomb had actually worked and nothing happens. Actually, I'll go with that. He pushes the button as they are at the door, but nothing happens and he is left staring stupidly after them and cursing. His arm throbbing -- Hae broke the skin -- he rifles through some of the drawers in the apartment and grabs some things that the Savior had described to him. He leaves through the front door, stopping just long enough to stare into the camera for a long moment. Then he's gone.)

(Also...I'd just like to say...DUDE. Unknown. Man. Do you realise how much you freaking monologue? Don't you know what that means? You're the villain in this story, man. Villains do all the monologuing. Don't you know anything?)




Zen, Knock, Knock, who's there...it's Hae...

So, I am enjoying going through Zen's route again and having the calling card. There were definitely some good calls I missed. And I just like Zen. I know in real life I'd never get past thinking holy cow this guy thinks a lot of himself...get a grip, man because if any real person said the stuff he says you really would be, like, DUDE. Maybe there are real people out there who are like this. I dunno. Never met anyone in real life that handsome. Eh...no one in real life is that handsome. Anyway.

I did decide to write up some of the visual novel sections. This is from the first time Zen and Hae meet, when she goes to his apartment after he hurts his ankle. All of this is a bit backwards as I've never given Hae her backstory even though I've already written up some bits featuring her. All of the other MCs (for Yoosung, Jumin, and Seven) got their backstory first, but since I didn't do any write ups of playthroughs the first time I did Zen, that didn't happen here. Shoot, she wasn't even named Hae originally. I'd just gone with my default "fill in the blank character name" of Lirael the first time through.

So...Hae's Backstory


I'm gonna say she's a year younger than Zen. Because I want her to call him Oppa. So that makes her 22 or 23. I'll say she's fairly smart but didn't go to university because she couldn't afford to. Perhaps her father is gone (divorced? dead? out of the picture.) and her mother lives in some provincial backwater town and works hard at some menial job. She has two younger sisters and a younger brother who are still at home. Hae went to the city to look for work when the cafe she had been working at in her hometown had closed.

She'd only been around for a few months when she downloaded the app that would change her life on a whim -- and this is a girl who doesn't usually operate by whim. She's been working at a part-time job at a cafe. She wants to do something more. Something where she can work with people. She's not sure what. She sends home money when she can. As the oldest, she has always put everyone else first, perhaps one reason she's never had a boyfriend. No time for it. She's held some kind of job ever since she was old enough. Her middle sister is really clever and she wants to make sure that one goes to university. She's always been the one to hold things together and to sort things out. Their mother is a good person, but ineffectual and has been a lost soul since her husband had gone (eh, let's say he's dead after all). The first thing Hae did after she figured out that the RFA really wanted her to stay in Rika's old apartment was to get her few meagre belongings and get out of the tiny apartment she had been staying in so she could save the money.

Knock, Knock, who's there...

Driver Kim pulled the car over in front of a plain block-shaped apartment building. Hae stepped out when he opened her door for her. Was this where Zen lived? It was hard to picture him here. It was a quiet neighbourhood; plain and ordinary. Somehow he seemed like he should be living somewhere fantastical. A mythical garden, maybe. Mount Olympus. She shook her head. She was being silly. This wasn't a fairytale.

The driver led her to the correct door, smiling at her kindly as she hesitated. "This is it," he said. She took a deep breath. Counted to three. Counted again. She was nervous now. What if...what if he didn't like her? Yes, they'd talked and talked and it had seemed like they had a connection, that there was something there, something different...but she wasn't special. She wasn't anyone in particular. Just a girl. Maybe Jaehee should have come after all.

When she didn't move, Driver Kim smiled to himself and reached past her to push the doorbell. Hae jumped a little and straightened up. She couldn't think like that. And that wasn't what was important here, anyway. She was here to help Zen, to make him feel better, to comfort him. That was why Jumin had sent her. Well, that and that cat project he wanted Zen to model for. She wasn't entirely sure how she felt about that, but it had been an easy excuse to take. She could admit it to herself. She wanted to meet Zen in person. She'd come because she wanted to meet him.

Ding-dong.

The door opened and there he was. Zen.

"Yes~" he said, such a simple word, so normal. But he was anything but. She'd seen him so many times in the selfies that he had posted but...photographs didn't capture him. Couldn't capture him. He did belong in a mythical garden.

"Ive brought her following Mr. Han's orders," said Driver Kim. "He has told me to bring her back in two hours, so I will be waiting out front."

"Hae! Nice to meet you!" Zen stood there awkwardly leaning against the doorframe, his leg still in the cast. His eyes had widened when he saw her, like he was surprised. Did she not look like he had expected? She had the sudden urge to hide behind Driver Kim. Maybe she should have changed clothes? Not that she had much to choose from. Maybe she should have gone shopping. She hadn't even thought about that. Certainly she should have or at least put on something better than jeans and a plain old shirt. What kind of girl was she? Meeting Zen looking like this--

Well, she couldn't be who she wasn't. She was who she was. So she smiled at him instead. His eyes grew even wider.

He reached out and took her wrist to pull her into the apartment, nearly overbalancing. "Oh, Driver? You can ignore what Jumin said. We'll have fun and call you when we're finished. Bye~"

"Excuse me? But..."

Zen had shut the door in the poor man's face. He laughed a little nervously and let her go. "Hey, Hae." He backed up a bit. "I'm sorry I don't have much in the house."

Hae felt a little bad for the driver. He'd seemed like a nice man. "Is it...okay to ignore what Driver Kim said?"

"It's fine, fine." Zen reached out a hand like he was going to touch her face but then dropped it and clasped his hands behind his back. "Wow...You're a cute lady. Your eyes are so bright." He gave another small laugh. Was he as nervous as she was? Had he really called her cute? She blushed. "Nice to meet you," he said. Hae nearly did laugh then. He'd said that already. He was nervous! Inexplicably, that made her feel better.

Zen took a deep, calming breath. And smiled. Oh, his smile. "And I really wanted to see you. I mean it."

"I wanted to see you too." Hae took a small step closer to him. He was like a magnet. "You're more handsome in person." Oh good heavens. Had she really said that? But he was. She wasn't lying. She'd never seen anyone as beautiful as this man. And it wasn't like he didn't already know.

"Ah! -- I don't want to let you go!" Zen clapped his hands on his face three times, like he was trying to wake himself up. "You can't live here, can you?"

Hae's heart skipped a beat. "Oh!" was all she could say.

"I haven't been this happy to see someone at my house..." Zen pivoted around, waving an arm around and she thought he'd fall over for a minute as he had to balance on his good leg. "I had so many things I wanted to show you." He took a clumsy step in one direction and then reversed course towards the kitchen. "First, what do you want to drink?" He waved towards the couch. "Let's sit down and talk?"

She went and sat as he hobbled towards the kitchen. She wanted to help him, but he was talking so fast that she couldn't even think about getting a word in edgewise. "If you're bored, we can play games. Or later do you want to go shopping for groceries? It's uncomfortable for me to walk so I can't go by myself."

"Alright," she quickly said, as he stopped to take a breath. "I'll help you." That's what she was here for anyway.

Zen stopped, frozen for a moment. The teapot he was filling up nearly overflowed. "Really?" He shut off the water just in time. "Yay! I'm so excited to go grocery shopping together!" He set down the teapot. It was already forgotten as he whipped back around. "Let's get ready to go out!"

Hae couldn't help it. She giggled behind her hand. Oh, he was so funny! So sweet! She hadn't quite expected this. She hadn't known what to expect, honestly, but not this -- not this adorable, sweet man.

"If you're feeling up to it, let's go," she said. It was already a bit late. It had taken longer to get here than she had thought it would. It would have been faster if she'd been able to come from Rika's apartment; the office she'd had to meet Driver Kim at had been farther away and in the opposite direction. If he really didn't have anything much in the house, then she should help him stock up now. They could even have Driver Kim take them, She didn't think the man would mind.

"Oh, I'm fine, I'm fine...now that you're here." He was struggling to put on his coat, hopping on one leg. Hae hurried over to help him. He stopped jittering around as she helped him get his arms in his jacket, looking her in the eyes. His eyes -- she blinked as he stared at her like he was searching for the answer to life, the universe and everything.

(haha, had to stick in a Hitchhiker's Guide reference)

"So, you're staying for dinner, right?" Zen blurted out and then blushed. "And you can...even stay the night!"

"Okay." Oh, God. He could have asked her to go with him to the other side of the moon and she would have said yes. What would her sisters say? Nothing. That's what they'd say. If they were here, they'd do the same thing. And after the conversations they'd been having...the late night ones, where she closed her eyes and just listened to his voice close to her ear. ~Ah!

"That's okay, right?" He let out a nervous laugh. "Don't worry, I swear I won't do anything weird to you." He was twiddling his fingers together and looking nervous. Hae almost wanted to giggle again. "It's just that it's getting dark and I'll get worried...I'd rather you sleep here and leave tomorrow morning." She smiled at him. He was so cute. "And...I want you to stay here longer." Should she tell him she understood? That she knew what he was really trying to say? Because she felt it too. "I'm so excited right now," he continued, almost looking like he was ready to jump out of his own skin, like he couldn't sit still. "I'll cook dinner for you!"

Driver Kim drove them to a nearby Lotte Mart. Hae got Zen a cart so he could lean on it as they walked.

"What would you like for dinner? I don't cook much, to be honest, but I...I want to cook for you."

A housewife passing by gave Hae a telling look and nodded at her. Hae wasn't sure what she was trying to say, but she blushed all the same.

"What about japchae or bibimbap or even fried rice? Something simple is fine. But you have to at least let me help." Hae patted his hand. "I'll feel guilty if you don't. That's why I'm here, after all."

"Ah, you're so sweet," he said, smiling at her. "I knew you would be. I just knew it." Then he was off, as if he was suddenly on a mission. She could barely keep up. He asked her questions as they careened around the store, people magically giving way in front of them, perhaps because the eyes of all the women were already on Zen. "Do you like cherries? Grapes? Watermelon? Snow pears?" He was loading up the cart.

"You should get what you like," said Hae, laughing.

He stopped the cart. "But I want to take good care of you, Hae, like you've been caring for me."

"I haven't done anything, really."

"Oh, but you have," he said, so seriously that she felt herself blushing again. She hadn't blushed this much since...well, ever. He looked at her for a long moment. "Let's go," he said. "Let's go home."

Home.

Ah! He...had he really been serious when he'd said she should stay? She could almost hear Jaehee in her head. Scary.

She was quiet on the drive back, listening to Zen with half an ear as he told her about his favourite movies. If he did really want her to stay the night...should she? Oh, she wanted to...but Jaehee's voice rang in her head. And her grandmother's. Technically, even if it felt like she'd known Zen forever, this was the first time they had ever met face to face. What kind of girl stayed over at a man's house the first time they met? Was she that kind of girl?

She watched Zen as he talked. He was so animated when talking about the things he loved. He wanted her to watch Finding Mr. Destiny with him. He thought she'd like it.

"And it's a very romantic film, you know...don't you think you'd like to watch that with me? Maybe after dinner...oh, though it will be very late then. If it's too late and you're too tired, maybe next time? Or tomorrow!"

Maybe she was that kind of girl...if the man was Zen.

~~~~~~~~~~

Hae helped Zen cook dinner in his small kitchen. She'd never cooked with someone before. It felt--good. Like something out of a TV drama, like a scene she wished she'd seen played out at home with her mother and father, except he had died so long ago now that she couldn't remember if anything like this had ever actually happened. And it was fun. They cut the carrots into flower shapes. He let her taste a bit of the sauce, holding it out to her on a spoon. She almost didn't want the cooking part to end.

They sat down to eat after Hae brought Driver Kim out a plate. She'd thought they might ask him in, as she felt guilty he was waiting outside, but Zen had said, so seriously, that he wanted their first meal together to just be...together. Just the two of them. She couldn't argue with that.

His table was small, perhaps because he lived alone, and their knees touched under the table. She tried to keep still as they ate, but every time one of them moved, it was an electric jolt. The food was good, but Hae was too conscious of Zen to really enjoy it. This was too new. Too--exciting.

"It's so good!" said Zen. "It must be you. Mine never comes out like this." He laughed. "Oh, I probably shouldn't have admitted that!"

She laughed with him. Hers never came out this good either, not when she cooked alone.

"This is nice, isn't it?" asked Zen. "Almost like we're...I mean..." he stopped and took a drink. "It's nice."

It was. Hae couldn't help but imagine an endless succession of nights like this. The two of them, just doing simple things. Cooking, eating meals, watching movies, grocery shopping...things people did when they lived together. When they were a couple. Just the thought made her feel warm inside.

~~~~~~~~~~

(and now a bit in Zen's POV just because)

The dishes were washed and put away. Night had truly fallen and it was far past the two hour time limit that Jumin had set. Zen didn't want her to go. His apartment felt like a different place with her inside it, like the colours were richer and deeper. The air was sweeter -- but, no, that was her shampoo. Cherry blossoms. She smelled like cherries. He wanted to eat her up. He wanted her to stay. He'd said so earlier, but had she thought he was joking? He hadn't been, not really, but it had been more of a wish than anything else. He couldn't believe he'd actually said it. It had just come out. But...did she want to?

"Do you want to stay longer?" Zen couldn't quite look her in the eye as he asked. What if she said no? "If that's what you want...Uhm...Then stay here a bit longer." Hae nodded and his heart skipped a beat, skittering around in his chest. "I want to show you something."

He knew it was ridiculous. They had only known each other for such a short time. Had only been face to face for a couple of hours. Had eaten exactly one meal together. But he wanted her to know everything about him. He wanted to know everything about her. To show her everything about himself, every bit. He told her all about how he had wound up living in this sub-basement apartment as he led her upstairs to the roof. It was one of his refuges. A safe, quiet spot that almost no one came to but him, even though it was an oasis of sorts.

There were only 3 other apartments in the building and one was currently empty, the second was home to a businessman that traveled all the time and the last was Noona Pak. She kept a herb garden up on the roof and the smells of basil and thyme were released as he led Hae to a bench he'd built from a simple plank of wood and some old clay pots.

"Why don't you sit here?" He sat next to her, so very conscious of how close they were, how warm she was. The night air had a slight chill but he felt her warmth, sitting next to her. "I'm sorry for making you go so late." He looked up at the stars that felt, for the first time in a long time, that they were shining brightly just for him. And Hae. "I'm so happy that you came." He snuck a peek at her. He'd thought she'd be looking up at the beautiful night sky, but her eyes were on him. Her lovely eyes. They were so warm and kind. "I mean it-!"He looked back up, hoping she wouldn't notice the flush that had spread across his cheeks. "I'd love to make you stay here with me if I could."

Oh no, had he really said that out loud? He didn't want to scare her.

"I want to stay here too," said Hae. Her voice -- she had the kind of voice that wrapped around you. He'd thought before she came that it was some trick of the phone, maybe because he couldn't help but hold it close to his ear, so close, when they had talked. But no, in person, it was even more. Like honey, throaty but soft and so, so sweet. He could listen to that voice forever. She could read the phone book and it would sound like poetry.

Still my favourite CG from the game.
His heart thudded in his chest. "I'm so happy to hear that." Thump. Thump. Could she hear it? Could she feel it? It felt as loud as a thousand drums. He cleared his throat. He had to change the subject to something safer. So he talked about his fears about the rehearsal, about his injury, about his dreams.

Why was she so easy to talk to? There was no one else he had ever been able to talk to this way. Certainly not Jaehee, even if she did go on and on about being his fan. She expected so much of him all the time and sometimes it all just felt like a weight pushing down and crushing him. The weight of expectations. His own dreams were enough to carry. But with Hae...it didn't feel that way. He felt...lighter.

He found himself even telling her about his brother and his family. He'd never told anyone in the RFA about his family. It was too raw, even after all these years. But she seemed to understand. She was listening, really listening to him.

"It must have been so difficult," she said softly, shifting on the bench next to him, her thigh rubbing against his.

"Yeah..." The words were just spilling out now. He told her about some of the bad things he had done as a teenager. He couldn't look at her now, not while he was saying these things. Would she be disappointed? He found Venus up in the sky and stared at it's shining light instead. He wasn't sure what he would do if she didn't understand. He even told her about how he hadn't accepted Jumin's help because Jumin reminded him so much of his brother. It hurt, even now, to think about it.

"I can't believe I've told you all of these things about me," he said when the words finally stopped pouring out of him. He could feel that his face was red. He was usually able to control it; he had to be, with skin like his, but he couldn't, not tonight. "It's strange...I feel as if I've known you for a long time. Why do you think that is? You're...strange." Ah! That wasn't what he'd meant to say! He didn't mean strange like strange, he meant...he didn't know what he meant. But she smiled at him and somehow he knew she understood.

"Can I...hold your hand?' he asked, without even thinking about it. He just wanted to. He needed to touch her, make sure she was real. That she was here. It all felt like a dream.

"Hold it tight and never let go." She reached out and their hands met. Her skin was so soft and she was so warm. She twined her fingers with his.

Oh god, how could she say such things with that voice? With that face? That sweet smile? His heart thudded again, faster. What was wrong with him? He held hands with actresses all the time, danced with them, kissed them even, whatever the show called for. But this...this was different. A warmth was spreading through him. A need -- a desperate need.

"Oh." He slid his hand away. "Sorry...I can't." He stood up and backed away a few steps. She looked up at him, surprised. "It's going to be trouble if you stay the night."

"What do you mean?"

Ah! Did she not understand? "If you can't guess, then you don't need to know." He hoped he didn't sound rude. God. He was burning inside. Every bit of him. He could feel her eyes on him, opened a little wider now, framed with her long, dark eyelashes, almost luminous under the night sky and he pictured those eyes looking up at him, not from up here on the rooftop, but down below, in his bedroom...

He backed a little farther away. "Sorry. I can't help myself. I'm a guy...Just holding your hand makes me imagine what will happen in the end." He swallowed. Hard. Looked away. Looked anywhere but at her because he was getting lost and it was far too soon for this. His brain knew that but his body didn't. His heart too. He wanted--! Too much. He wanted too much. He was going to drive her away if he acted like this.

She stood up silently and took a step towards him. What was she going to say? He--he couldn't do this. Couldn't be like this, not with her. He couldn't ruin this moment, this night. "You should go home before it's too late." He cleared his throat and tried to smile his normal smile. His mouth was dry. "Thankfully, the driver is still waiting outside." He babbled some more, backing towards the door as she followed him quietly. "I'm sorry that it seems as if I'm almost kicking you out." He felt like a live wire. Could she tell? She was so quiet.

"It's fine. I can come next time." She hesitated for a second, then reached out and squeezed his arm and smiled up at him, almost shyly, then let go. It could have been the touch of a moonbeam, of the sun, of a thousand blazing sons.

Oh, God, did she know what she was doing to him? Did she realise? Could she see---? "That's only better for me," Zen babbled on. "Now that you know where I am, you can come whenever you want!" He opened the rooftop door. "Should we go down now?" He kept talking on and on, utter nonsense, unable to stop as she followed him all the way down and to Driver Kim's car with a slight smile on her face.

She rolled down a window as the car drove off and leaned out to wave to him. He stood there and stared after the car for a long moment, his hand still in the air.

Hae.

Why had he let her go? The night felt empty now, and cold.


(Okay, I'm reasonably happy with that. This is a good example though of how this is very indulgent fiction -- this really wouldn't fly in a book. It's a bit too long for a chapter and it's got the wrong kind of detail, as far as moving plot forward. It jumps POVs. Bit disjointed. But I'm not worried about that for this. This is just for fun. And Lovely Zen.)


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

On re-playthroughs and editing and whatever other random things

Edit-ish Stuff...
Nearly done with the revision on A Slight Exaggeration. It's significantly shorter now, as I cut around 4ish chapters from the middle bit but haven't added much in to replace it. That's not necessarily an issue, though. Should finish it entirely tomorrow and then I can pitch it back to the agent and hopefully he'll pitch it on to the Scholastic editor (the one that I nearly went with as my agent when she was agenting). I like her and it would be cool to work with her. And I like this book. It's not perfect yet...well, they never are. They are never ever ever perfect and I will always want to twiddle with them BUT I do really like it. Hopefully an editor will too. :) It's got a much easier hook than Yonder & Beyond, though I do like that book too. Still waiting to hear back from the other editor about that one.

Went into the British Library again today to work on it and to meet up with Tracey, though she wound up having to bail fairly early as she wasn't feeling well. It was good to get into the city, though. I do need something to pry me out of the house sometimes. Tomorrow I will probably stay home though...and utilise my fireplace. It's still freaking cold, though not as cold as this past weekend.

In otome-ish news... 
hahaha...I was kind of having Mystic Messenger withdrawal and I wanted to build up enough hourglasses to unlock Jaehee's route without having to play through the first 4 days, so I've been playing Casual Story again for Zen. Also because now I have a Zen calling card, which I didn't the first time through. Ah, Oppa Zen... And I'd never done the normal ending for him, as I didn't realise then how easy it was to do both the good/normal ends at the same time.

So...yeah. I'm making excuses. I just like Zen. Though if I'd thought it through, I might have realised that playing Zen right before playing Jaehee was probably an iffy idea because you really wanna smack her in his route. Though, since we're traveling later this month and will be in the US, it'll be a while until I get to Jaehee anyway, so hopefully it'll be okay. I'm not even going to open the game while we're in a different time zone. Talk about withdrawal...

It is making me want to write up some more Zennish fiction though. He is such a narcissist but he's so sweet too. I didn't do a playthrough write up when I played him the first time, so maybe I'll write up a few things for some of the visual novel sections, like when the MC goes over to his house the first time. I dunno. We'll see. I've done their first Valentine's Day and his proposal after story...what else would be good to write up? Anyone? Bueller?

Also made it a little farther in Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome, though I only had about 30 minutes today, so not very far. It is funny. Have no idea which of the two weirdo guys I'm headed towards but I'm playing blind without any walkthroughs this time, so we'll see. As far as personal tastes go...er...neither of them are necessarily appealing, though I guess Miki (the blonde one) is sort of nicer? But this one almost feels like something you play for laughs rather than romance so I'm not too concerned. I think I'll go all the way through to an end and then lookup how many possible ends there are and then figure out what I'm gonna do next. There aren't a huge amount of decision points though, so I'm not sure how re-playable it will be.

Next writing-y stuff...
I've been thinking some more about what I want to work on next, knowing that whatever it is will hopefully get shoved aside when either Yonder or A Slight Exaggeration get picked up (please!!) and I have to go into edit mode. And...well...I'm not sure. All the otome I've been doing has made me want to write some romance-ish stuff. The Death's Door YA is romance, BUT it's by necessity going to have to be very tame romance. We're talking, like, maybe a kiss. And I kinda want to explore more than that.

So I was thinking about the Hildie book again but the more I think about it, the more I think that I was writing the entirely wrong story. Basically, I wrote thousands of words of back story but I didn't write THE STORY. Not that it wasn't interesting in and of itself, but it wasn't the right story. So I kind of feel like I would need to toss nearly all of it if I ever want to do something with Hildie again. I do like the character. She kicks ass. Literally. And she would definitely be up for shmexytimes.

And I think I knew that I was writing the wrong story even when I was writing it but I got stuck in a loop. That's why I couldn't finish it. Also, I seem to mostly do better when there's something fantastical to the plot and not just your normal wham bam crime fiction bloodbath. Eh, reasons. Lots of reasons.

So then I was thinking, hey, maybe there's some other useful idea that I could dust off. Something maybe even New Adult. Meh, I don't know. Logically, I should just tackle the Death book since it's partially complete and has a good hook and I do like the characters and it's in a genre I've done before.

Maybe I'll just keep writing the MM sort of fan fiction stuff to satisfy my romance craving. I dunno. I do feel a little guilty every time I take time out to write it even though it is fun. It's so low-pressure and I can do whatever I want with it. But, at the same time, it's nothing that can go anywhere.  So I do have guilt. It's not like I'm one of those prolific writers who can churn out multiple books a year. I can generally do one and I really ought to do more.

We'll see, we'll see. Blogging again has been really nice. I'm only talking to myself, but it's better than it all rolling around in my head.

Hence this very ramble-y post.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome & being tracked...

So, I bought myself a game as a reward for passing my driver's test. Also because it was on sale on Steam...because I'm cheap. I'm my mother's daughter. Anyway. I picked up Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome. I'd been wanting to try it for a while because I've heard it's really funny and that the MC isn't a total pushover. But mostly because it's funny. It's also got a patch you can download that makes it an 18+ game which I originally wasn't going to do right away but then I read a review that explained that a lot of the plot development/romance doesn't actually make sense unless you have it. Like, in the non-patched version they go from one spot to boom shmexytimes without much explanation. That didn't sound good, so I went ahead and installed the patch. We'll see how that goes...


The whole premise is pretty absurd -- Ema is this super tall loner girl that no one talks to. Not that she makes an effort either. They all think she's scary and she personally prefers that to the bullying she got when she was younger. Then, one fateful day, she runs into Miki (the blonde masochist, though he's not obviously a masochist from the get go), who is a budding fashion designer. He's been living in America until recently and has been searching for his muse -- Ema. He saw her once (dunno when, but I've only just started the game) and has been looking for her since then.

She thinks he's a total freak and doesn't understand what he's talking about. Later that day, when she's gone to throw away his contact info, Saito (the dark haired sadist, who's pretty obviously a sadist from the get go) appears. It seems he's actually a childhood friend of Miki and he drags Ema to Miki's house and the rest, as they say, is history.

So far, I'd have to say it is pretty funny. The very first choice in the game is to stay in bed and sleep or force yourself to get up. If you stay in bed, that's it. Game over. Time passes and you die a lonely old woman never having met the guys who will change your life... LOL...yeah. I died right away.

I'd have to say I'm not altogether sure Ema is really all that strong at this point. I mean, she does talk back, but she's also a lot more scared than I thought she'd be. She's got this weird idea that Saito is, like, a yakuza or something. And she's been kind of going along with what the guys are having her do (try on clothes, exercise, etc.) because she doesn't want to appear mean or it seems easier. She's definitely a path of least resistance kind of girl. I kind of get it, as she's a girl who's got little to no experience with people, especially guys. She's just more trepidatious than I thought she would be after the reviews I'd read. But, I suppose she's got to so that the story progresses...still, I'd kind of like to see her punch Saito once or twice...

The art is good and the voice acting is as well (it's in Japanese). Will post or update this once I've played it some more...

In sort of funny news...I have to play this on the little dude's laptop because it won't run on a Mac. And I realised this weekend that hubster had installed some kind of tracking software on little dude's laptop so he gets a screentime report. I dunno that he actually checks it much (or he might have mentioned the, er, hours I spent playing Pasty Lovers...) but sheesh. Now I'm trying to think of some excuse to buy myself a new computer...especially because sometimes I'd have both going while working on my Mac and I'd just leave the game running on the side. So some days it probably looked like it was on literally all day...oopsies.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Love...365

This post'll be used to keep track of the routes I've read on Love 365 from Voltage -- mostly the free ones, but also some paid ones too.

EDIT: This was getting too long, so I'm moving some of it (generally, the ones that I liked and that therefore have bigger write ups) to separate posts. Check the otome-ness table of contents for links.

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Voltage. They have moments of brilliance (and I say this as a writer -- every now and then they come up with some really nice moments) and stuff that makes me want to scratch my eyes out either because the writing is just plain horrible, because it is so cliched and trite, or because I am squicked out. I started with some of their standalone apps and now have moved to their consolidated thing (Love 365). I do appreciate that they are moving to one app; it makes it a lot easier to keep track. And I don't mind paying for content...I just wish it wasn't so iffy. I'm close to 50% on my enjoyment though every now and then there's a route I like 100% (okay, maybe 90%).

Anyway, these aren't in any particular order...

Kissed by the Baddest Bidder

You're a lowly maid at a fancy hotel/casino full of rich people and celebrities. An accident happens and suddenly you find yourself literally in chains and up on the auction block. Someone buys you and the story continues...

Let's be honest. If one of these hadn't come up as a free option, I wouldn't have read it. Effing human trafficking. You really can't dress this up in a nice way. It's lipstick on a pig.

So, I did Eisuke's route when it was free awhile ago. He's actually the owner and basically the boss dude of the hotel/casino. He buys you and sort of (?) basically says you're going to work off your payment. He's tough and can't display affection and is basically stone-cold. You have to keep working as a maid while also pretending to be his girlfriend. Meanwhile, all kinds of crazy mob-ish yakuza-ish type of things are going on and the nice guy that was your boss before likes you, the other maids mostly hate you, you're working hard...

Erm. So I didn't hate this one as much as I thought I would. Eisuke turns out to have a bit of a heart, it's just pretty buried. There's some shmexy times. Dangerous stuff. The MC isn't completely useless...just mostly useless. All of the other guys that work for Eisuke provide some comic relief. But I wouldn't say that I loved it. I think that's partly the whole premise...it's hard for me to get behind the whole concept. And even when he loves her, he's still a bit of an ass.

I didn't read any of the free bits for any of the other characters and don't have any opinions on them, though I notice they've added a new one since I read it and it's the freaking Mad Hatter...from another universe...WTF?

Finally, in Love Again

In this story, you are a 34 year old pastry chef who hasn't been in a relationship for 10 years because you have been very focused on your career. In a short space of time, you quit your job and go to a single's event that your mother set up for you. Weirdly, a ton of younger guys appear to be hitting on you...

In general terms, I really liked that the MC is older. Didn't love the whole "younger man" angle thing that most of the routes have, but it was nice to have a mature MC.

I tried out Sosuke's route when it came up as a free option and I was surprised by how much I liked it. He's kind of a take on the childhood friend, except in this case, he was a friend of your younger brothers. He's 8 years younger and is a professional sailor/delivery guy (the part time job being the method you meet him & spend time with him in). Basically, he's loved you since he was, like, seven. It's always been you for him but you don't even remember him when you first meet again. A lot of the route is taken up with the MC dithering a bit about whether she's too old for him (especially after her brothers flat out tell her they disapprove). Sosuke himself is lovely -- he's a genuinely nice guy -- loyal, caring, etc. etc. ... a paragon of virtue, shall we say, but so nice that you actually don't mind how perfect he is.  I am actually considering whether I might want to spend next month's monthly passes on more of his story because he was really lovely and sweet.

There's also:
  • Aki - owner of the bakery that you wind up working at. He's 26 and, at first glance, seems to be on the slightly obnoxious, thinks-a-lot-of-himself side. Not sure how I feel about him.
  • Momoi or Momo - Age 25, head pastry chef under Aki and your new boss. He's noted as "confident and conceited" and that definitely seems to be the case. I didn't think I'd like him at all but I read the free bit of his POV and actually think he might turn out okay as he's a closet fan of Ghibli and a bit of a fanboy. And even in Sosuke's route, he might be tough, but he also gives the MC respect when she deserves it.
  • Yoh - He's only 22 and is an ikebana flower arranger. Billed as "deceptively sweet" I tried the free chapters of his story and POV and am pretty sure I won't be playing through his route as he's definitely an opportunistic liar. At least Aki and Momo had a real reason they were chatting up the MC at the singles event...this guy is literally trying to play on her sympathies to find himself a place to live.
  • Yuto - Another serious youngster clocking in at only 21, he's the only son of a sweets manufacturer and very rich. I read through the free chapters on his story and his POV and, again, another one that I'm not planning on reading because it's that trite old story where he and another friend of his made a bet where they have to get an "undateable" girl to fall in love with them. So, yeah, asshole. You can try and turn that around (hello, so many forgettable Hollywood movies) but I'm always leery of guys who put so little value on other people and think only of themselves. I don't even want to like him.
  • Kazuki - this one is the ex-boyfriend and the only one that is a bit older than the MC. He seemed like a real jerk in the bit I read of his story, but then the POV free bits **almost** made me feel like he might be redeemable, but I doubt if I'll play his route. Move on, honey.
  • Kanata - Another guy that's about her age (35). Didn't read anything of his free chapters, so no idea. He's a novelist.

My Forged Wedding

You're looking for a job and you've traveled to whatever big city it is to visit your uncle (who isn't actually your uncle, thank goodness, since he's one of the route options) in hopes of finding work. Instead, you get roped into pretending to be someone's wife...

Things I like in general about this one: the MC is no fainting flower. She drinks sochu and is, at least in the bits I've seen, basically one of the guys in a lot of ways. Even though she gets roped into a weird situation, she's a fairly tough girl.

I started playing this one as the standalone app and it's now been transferred as well. I played Yuta's route in the original. He's a comedian and I have no idea why I picked him as he's honestly the least my type out of all the guys. I don't remember why. He needs you to pretend to be his ball-and-chain for a television show and you have to basically henpeck him on TV. He's pretty funny and sweet and I overall enjoyed his route, but I didn't like how he kind of disappeared towards the end (to create that separation anxiety in the plot, I suppose). And...he's kind of a puppy. I wouldn't necessarily recommend this route to other people, but it wasn't bad.

Then Yamato popped up as a free option once it got moved to Love 365 and I did his route. He's a teacher at an all girl's school and needs you to pretend to be his wife so he doesn't get fired. I enjoyed this one more than Yuta. Yamato's one of those guys that makes fun of you and is very bull-headed, but a softie on the inside. It just takes you a while to get there. My least fav bit is the stuff with the teenage student. The MC wasn't as strong in this route in some ways and caved a bit too much. But it all came together in the end and there's a bit more shmexy to this route than Yuta. Definitely.

This is Takao. He's freaking adorable.
That's not even his kid. He's like a cousin.
When the MC comes in and finds him like this,
she totally joins in the nap. Who wouldn't?
I also used my monthly pass to buy the Takao route. He's a lawyer and needs you to play his fiancé because his ailing grandmother has one last dying wish. Okay, he's my fav so far for this story. He's just so freaking nice. There's not a bad bone in his body. And his family is great too -- especially grandma, who has a ton of tricks up her sleeve. The MC is good in this one too and they both show themselves to be very caring people. Probably one of my fav Voltage routes. Still working my way through Sequel and Wedding Bells as I took some time out to do Sosuke. This is a cleansing route...meaning, even though there's the required minimum angst, you don't ever want to burn anyone with fire. It's nice, romantic, and sexy too.

It's routes like this one that make me not delete the Love 365 app. I'm sure there are people who prefer the "bad boys" and the sarcastically mean tsunderes and yanderes, but I'm not one of those people. I can get treated badly in real life.

I do also want to play through Ren (the Researcher -- no idea why he needs you to be his fake wife) because I actually like the kind of silent types as long as it isn't over done (I'm looking at you, Seiya)). Not sure about the others, a lot of which weren't even mentioned in the prologue, or the uncle character (because that just feels kinda weird).

When Destiny Comes Knocking

You've been in a dating slump. You're an office worker and you've moved into a new neighbourhood and you find there's a shrine right across the street run by a multi-talented dude who meddles in your love life. You also meet a bunch of regulars who go to the bar there, including a co-worker. Will you follow the bartender/shrine dude's advice and find love?

So. I tried out Rheo's route first, who's a rockstar/musician guy who thinks a lot of himself. I did his main story and the free bits of his POV and...ugh...well...I actually liked him less after doing part of the POV story, which normally doesn't happen to me. Sure, in his route, he's kind of a full-of-himself creative type who pushes boundaries. But then (spoilery bit) you find out that the whole reason he was paying attention to the MC is because she's got this super expressive face and he wants to capture all of her expressions on photo and use them in a music video WITHOUT HER PERMISSION or knowledge whereas meanwhile, she thinks he's spending time with her because he likes her and/or wants to. You kind of see it in the main route, but the POV really drives it home. So I went from feeling okay about it to feeling quite meh.

Then I tried the Seiya route (he's the dead silent robotics engineer) and oh dear god did it piss me off. He's not just the "silent type" -- he never effing says a word. He texts the MC everything. And she's useless as well...she likes him but she can't handle how he communicates so the whole route is one big ball of anxiety where, again, the love interest is using the MC because she's so expressive (he's trying to build a robot that could replace a romantic partner...that, probably, should have given me a clue as to how it might go). It's my least favourite Voltage route so far (well, other than ones I didn't even try, I suppose). There are "lusty nights" routes for this guy and all I can think is...how??

I don't think I'll be doing any more of the routes in this story. The Shintaro character that the MC works with might be okay but they have him talk in this very cringeworthy slang-y fashion that I can't stand. And then there's the childhood friend one who's a Kabuki actor but the MC was so useless in the two routes that I read that I don't think I can take any more of her.

Metro PD

You're a cop -- well, okay, you've been basically a community officer handling neighbourhood stuff. But then you get transferred to a serious crimes unit full of mostly hot guys. Can you succeed in this dangerous, testosterone-fueled world and maybe even find love?

I wasn't particularly interested in this, probably because I have to be in the mood to be reading anything police procedural (the year and a half I spent on the Hildie hit-woman book kind of killed me since I did so much research), so if it hadn't come up as a free route, I probably wouldn't have done it. But, along came Hiroshi Kirisawa, who is your new boss. I enjoyed this one more than I thought I would, even though I'm not super fond of the boss/subordinate romance plot. That bit was handled fairly well here, though and Kirisawa was a surprisingly decent guy. He's rough around the edges, but is always a gentleman and is encouraging and supportive (which isn't something I can say about the other guys that the MC works with). Plus, he cooks. He's like house mom for the guys under him. The crime/police work stuff is actually very light so there's not a huge amount of excitement there, though that actually worked for me (again, Hildie. She killed me, man...I OD'd on crime fiction and police manuals and Kray brothers history). The MC is actually fairly competent and brave, which is good. And there were a few nice moments of humour too. So, all in all, I liked it. I'm not sure I'd go on to read any of the other guys as they mostly come across as jerks, but if they added a POV for Kirisawa I would read it.

Our Two Bedroom Story

Your mom is getting re-married to a new dude and he offers you a place to live but conveniently for the plot of this story, doesn't tell you that he's also told his son that he can stay in it too. So you show up and, with no other place to stay because you apparently packed up all your things and moved without even going by to look at the new place...ahem...you find said son living there. And whoa! He happens to work at your company. Oh, what to do? 

Hmmm. Can you tell I found this situation to be incredibly contrived? I don't actually mind the whole "living together by some weird twist of fate" thing but I think it works better in My Forged Wedding than in this one. Also, the MC in that one has more of a backbone than the one in this one, though by Voltage standards, the one in Our Two Bedroom Story isn't too bad. The MC is the puppy in this story--she's kind of excitable and loud and not much gets her down for long. And she loves her job. She's determined and plucky and she gets embarrassed way too easily.

I did the Minato route when it was free. He's the confident, kind of cruel one who thinks he has a good sense of humour (er, not really) and is crap at housework. He's bossy. He makes inappropriate jokes. This is another one where I didn't absolutely love him, but reading his POV helped (the free bit of it, anyway) because then you see him from the beginning feeling kind of weird and protective about the whole thing. In the main route he's all kinds of arrogant awkward but it was nice to see the other side of him.

I was also slightly weirded out that they are technically step-siblings now. Sure, they aren't blood related, but it's still kind of weird. Like, how do they introduce each other later on, once they're actually together? Hey, meet my husband Minato...he's also my step-brother... And the dude's worried about what their co-workers will think if they even walk into work together...sheesh.

In Your Arms Tonight

You're married to a dude named Koichi. It was arranged by your parents. You think you're happy but it's been 3 months and your new husband hasn't touched you once and then you see him apparently having an affair. Will you find love...somehow?

I thought I'd read one of these routes, but maybe I just did the prologue and some sample chapters because now that I'm looking at it, I don't feel like I finished one when it was free and I definitely didn't buy one... Anyway, I think I was interested in this one because it was a different kind of set up for otome where you start off married. But I don't see how I'd want to play a route with the cheater husband...and some of the other guys look like real jerks too...and the bit I just re-read of the prologue makes me think the MC is really weak-willed. So. Just putting this up here to remind myself. Of course, that might be a cultural thing because I have a hard time imagining myself ever agreeing to an arranged marriage to begin with. In the prologue, she's just so happy that her friends are jealous because she's got this great catch -- a handsome guy with a good job -- but she doesn't know a thing about him. So I have a hard time mustering up any initial sympathy for her. I'm guessing if you choose the husband as your route you find some kind of sob story where he loved the other woman before and just married the MC because reasons.

After School Affairs

You're a teacher at a high school that has recently combined two schools together (one being a "richer" school and the other being a more normal one). Will you find love among the staff as you struggle to make things work in this new situation?

I did a free route on this one and pretty sure it was the Rikiya Mononobe one but obviously it wasn't something I absolutely adored since I had to page through all of the love interest options a few times and look for the motorcycle reference to even figure out which character it was for. I remember that he kinda played a "bad boy" type and was very strict. You earned his respect by doing your job well. There was kind of a weird sub plot thrown in with delinquent students and the bad boy teacher's past. Kinda convoluted. He was very blunt. But he liked cats, so there's that. It was a decent route. I did like that the MC developed more confidence along the way and wasn't afraid to put herself in danger to protect her students or her love interest.


My Sweet Bodyguard


You are a rather scatterbrained college student and out of nowhere, someone attacks you but you are saved by some mysterious but attractive (kind of) guys. Surprise! You're the new prime minister's illegitimate daughter that he's been searching for all your life apparently unsuccessfully but somehow, amazingly, everyone figures out who you are as soon as he takes office. Isn't that something? But, oh no, everyone wants to kill you and your dad...welp, bodyguards to the rescue!

Is Subaru surprised? In pain?
Channeling Gollum?
Hrm...can you tell I'm less than impressed with this one? The Subaru route came up as a free option so I thought I'd try it out. First, the problems...the MC is pretty staggeringly useless. Like, she can't do anything. She can't even walk across a room without falling on top of her bodyguard. I'm not kidding. She's in charge of costumes for her drama club and she can't sew (Subaru does it better -- in fact, he does everything better than she does...cooking, cleaning, school work...can I just be Subaru instead? Even if he is a bit of a smug asshole?).

Two, the artwork. All of the guys have kind of weird hair. One has eyes that are almost alien because they are so big and buggy. At least Subaru was one of the more attractive ones, but his "surprised/shocked" face was...comically weird. Actually, they all had sort of weird faces/expressions. It was like the artist on this one was submitting weird sprites to see if anyone would notice and no one at Voltage did. The CGs looked like they were done by someone else entirely in a different style (and were much better). But, seriously, it's hard to take them as legitimate love interests when mostly they looked weird. Or constipated.

Three...the whole love part. It was way too fast. Subaru is one of those guys that treats the MC like an idiot but in this case, she pretty much is. Okay, it's totally believable that some normal girl that falls into this extraordinary situation where people are trying to kill her all of a sudden would be freaking out. But...I dunno...she's just SO useless. And even though he's treating her like an idiot, she pretty much immediately falls for him. And even realises it, which that part is a bit of a departure for otome. And he, even though he HAS A FIANCE and is a cold bastard and has only ever dallied around with women before...he falls for her "sweet innocence" far too quickly too. It's just hard to picture this very well-educated (Harvard), multiple-language speaking, successful dude from a very posh upbringing would so quickly fall for this immature, useless, idiot of an MC.

Meh. Don't get me wrong. It wasn't absolutely horrible. But I just couldn't buy into it for all of the reasons above. And also this...

Hi, I'm Kosugi, one of the MCs drama friends. I'm one of the few side
characters in any Voltage route that actually has a sprite but I have the
world's weirdest eyebrows. Also, I like to dress up in monkey costumes.



Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Relief...sweet, sweet relief...

I passed the driver's practical test. First try. Woot! I don't think I have ever been this nervous before a test before -- EVER. For anything. Any kind of test. I do honestly hate driving in this country. It's not fun. Driving in Florida was fun. It was easy.

I was lucky that I had a nice examiner because he was kind to me. I was a bit hesitant at the roundabouts (somehow I wound up unlucky in that he took me on a route that had some I hadn't been in before, including one monster huge one with four lanes and I had no clue where I was going) but I didn't do anything too egregious.

So, phew.

I am SO glad I don't have to do that again. I could barely even sleep last night and then I was having this weird dream where I was supposed to be flying to a job interview in NYC (for what, I don't know) and Tony was flying somewhere else with a bunch of friends and I had this stack of passports and I couldn't find the right ones and I knew I was going to be late to the plane and I didn't know where the little dude was or where his passport was and...and...and...yeah, one of those dreams. About on par with one of those horrible high school dreams where you're naked in front of everyone or you've got a final exam for a class you never attended. (And this paragraph wins for longest run on sentence ever...)

And my skin has gone crazy. I've had more pimples this week than any time since I was a teenager.

The STRESS, man.

Ack.

I am too old for this shit. Yo.

Monday, March 12, 2018

The speed of dust

Very busy weekend with little dude's birthday party and also Mother's Day (Mum's Day) which I will never get used to being in March rather than May. Sunday was actually quite relaxing though as little dude and I binge watched about 7 episodes of School Babysitters, which gives How to Keep a Mummy a serious run for kawaii-ness.

So nice to find another anime that's totally okay to watch with the little man. It's very sweet, though it has a bit of angst (the main character is, after all, an orphan and is taking care of his teensy little brother by himself when he gets taken in by possibly the strangest benefactor of all time -- the shaggy headmistress -- and has to work in the school's daycare to pay for his keep).

Seriously. It's cute. So cute. And little dude does love his cute stuff. So do I. Sometimes you need a palate cleanser. Something nice where no one is dying or desperate or horrible or whatever. It's a show that's mostly about adorable little toddlers interacting with high schoolers. It's about some orphan kids finding family and friends. About that little tiny dude taking his first errand super seriously. Love it. And it was a great Mother's Day thing for us to do together.

He's also reading a new manga that a friend of mine started him on called Re: Monsters, which is kind of the direct opposite. Jelly always spoils him and gave him three different manga first volumes for his birthday (and some treats from the Japan Centre). He started with the Re:Monsters one where a dude is killed in a world similar to ours (or maybe the same, not sure) and then is re-born into a fantasy world as a goblin.

So, an isekai kind of story, which is one of his favourites -- but also a genre that tends to have a lot of...issues...as far as being appropriate. So far this one seems pretty good -- there's definitely death & violence, but that's all I've noticed so far. And he liked the first volume so much that he spent some of his birthday money getting the next two books. And then proceeded to read them the same day. (Go, Amazon Prime! -- they delivered the books literally about 6 hours after we ordered them)

In other manga news...I'd signed up a while back for the Anime / Manga exchange over on Reddit. I thought it would be fun to try. I wound up getting the person I was assigned some Attack on Titan stuff. The person who got me sent The Wind Rises (a Studio Ghibli movie I didn't have yet!) Have to watch that soon! And the two volumes of SP Baby by the same mangaka that did Happy Marriage (which I'd read ages ago).

It's not a deep story by any means, but it was fun and the art was good. Here we've got a sort of ne'er do well lady who, through kind of an accident, becomes the bodyguard of the Prime Minister's nephew but he treats her more like a girlfriend than a bodyguard because, and this is the trope-y bit I could have done without, he had met her once years ago when they were in high school or middle school and has been thinking about her ever since. I like that she's pretty tough but vulnerable at the same time. I like that he's handsome but also kind of a clueless puppy dog. I'd rather they hadn't done the whole "I knew you when and I've been searching for you since then" thing but I think it was a shorthand method of explaining the immediate love & attraction he had for her as there are only two volumes total. So I kind of get it. There wasn't really room to develop the love more normally. And I was glad that the childhood friend that she was in love with to start off with was actually a nice guy, just not interested in her, rather than turning out to be a raging jerk, which often seems to be the case if they aren't the intended love interest. Anyway, I enjoyed it and read them both this weekend.

And...I feel like I'm going through Mystic Messenger withdrawal. Ha. I did two rounds of the Christmas DLC (first, that purposeful route through Zen...ah, still love him...and then a route where it was first 707 and then switched halfway through to Jumin, so kind of confusing, as I didn't realise it would do that). But then I knew the weekend was packed and I've got my driving test tomorrow and had my last lesson today (ack!) and I've got to actually get a good night's sleep. So I haven't started another run of the Christmas DLC and...I feel lonely. Which is kinda sad.

But...I gotta get through that test. Please, please, O gods of driving on the wrong side of the road and roundabouts from hell, O please let me pass the first time.