Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
Who's the fairest of them all? Favourite music
999 - 7
It's a game. Chemistry and philosophy - how fun! The various plot elements, while still leading to some reconstitution of thought, probably weren't unified well enough into a coherent whole. In the end it felt too much like a game, and I never really had a sensation of actual danger. Rather like Ever17 in that respect.
The root of the problem might've lain in the cast, since the characters weren't distinct or memorable enough. You can give them as unique designs and names as you want, but side characters with forgettable personalities may as well be part of the background. If there was one thing this story achieved... well, it did make me yell through the screen at an incompetent main character.
Perhaps this needs to be viewed as a sequel.
G-Senjou no Maou - 7
Too many red herrings - it got to the point where the alternative was absurd enough that it must be true, yet the characters always jumped on the simplest possible deductions first. I really appreciated how the MC steeled his resolve in the true route, but among many things, the love also came across as a spontaneous development with no decent foreshadowing.
Maou certainly managed to make an impression, but ultimately failed to become a relatable character due to his actions in the epilogue. Indeed, in terms of the cat and mouse game he was holding... well, while the atmosphere was impressive, the tricks themselves were really rather transparent. Some, such as with the bomb at the arena, were actually pointless.
I admit that I was tricked into believing certain things about Maou's identity which turned out to be untrue. However, there was such a lack of logical basis for his true identity that he might as well have turned out to be from the future and everything would've made as much sense.
For all the emphasis on classical music, it definitely wasn't used to its full potential as a motif. The OST was mostly adaptations/arrangements (I particularly enjoy 'A bad joke'/'Sabre Dance'), however, in terms of plot relevance there was a concert which literally bombed, 'Flight of the Valkyries' used during ice skating, and a single violin note played by the heroine.
Still, 'the devil on g-string' is an accurate title. An invisible and soundless demon resting on your shoulder, twisting just one note and ruining an otherwise perfect symphony. The convoluted past births twisted demons, leading to discord in the present.
Muv-Luv Alternative - 9
Vast gulfs in VN experiences do exist - and it's no wonder that the gap between first and second place is so huge. What generates the void after finishing a story like this? In essence, a little piece of your soul dies together with each character.
My soul is fully depleted.
The direction in the VN was intriguing - action scenes were portrayed almost entirely through animations rather than with detailed descriptions like those one would see in F/SN. Personally, I think I rather prefer the written style, but I'm sure that the production quality didn't hurt MLA's ratings.
That said, oftentimes it felt like tragedy for the sake of tragedy. Edgy feels are fine in moderation, but when aliens just become a plot device to kill off characters in weird and wonderful ways, it becomes quite a problem for immersion, relatability and suspension of disbelief.
The ending was also a rather cheap attempt at closure. I understand that war heroes aren't always celebrated and what not; I understand that the MC's character development came at the detriment of any conceivable normal life. However, anybody can write an ending like that. It would've been nice to relate particle superposition to the MC's mental state, and have the memories converge over time. Not one person prefers the naive MC to his alternative.
Regardless, it was definitely an experience seeing that the MC, rather than being some generic Gary Stu due to his abilities, was still forced to overcome trials, re-evalute himself, and lose several important things. Character growth is definitely one of the defining characteristics which makes this one of the best stories I've ever completed.
Muv-Luv - 6
Ever17 - 8
Closure, closure, closure. Honestly, the amount of closure this VN brings stops me from considering a re-read - because while the first few routes introduce questions, the last one answers them. Once you know the answers, it becomes difficult to enjoy being trapped in an underwater facility playing tag for even ten more minutes.
I definitely felt that the time-travel plot was well-represented, perhaps even more so than in Steins;Gate, though I would argue that they didn't actually resolve the paradox in the end. Well, whatever - it's a fourth-dimensional entity exerting agency, so who knows.
I wish there had been more animated CGs, since the onrushing wall of water near the beginning brought possibly the only real rush in the entire VN. In terms of atmosphere, I think that had there been more of an emphasis on survival rather than playing, it probably would've been more impressive - and that might be why 999 tends to outrank it in the wider community.
Kara no Shoujo - 10
A classy detective mystery written by somebody with more than a few issues, but enjoyable all the same. I couldn't save them, but they lived in my thoughts (as amputees and black eggs) for a considerable time afterwards.
The soundtrack is perfection - certainly, almost a quarter of the tracks will stay on my playlists for the foreseeable future. Rather than character development or plot, it might be even be atmosphere which drives this story to the top. Thematically, Touko is one of the best-designed characters I've ever seen.
The mystery is strong and unpredictable, if only because the reader is given so few clues - and the madness which flits intermittently throughout the story gives the impression that the serial killings are less like murders and more like natural disasters. Indeed, I began to suspect quite a few people and flipped through the notebook almost pathologically.
Inevitably, the reader begins to search for the killer not for the sake story progression or curiosity, but out of desire for a happy ending. Can I avert this tragedy? Is it really possible to read this story with an uninvested heart?
To both, the answer is 'no'.
Fate/Hollow Ataraxia - 7
Fate/Stay Night - 8
Saya no Uta - 9
The first VN I tried was inevitably my favourite for a long time. I admit - prior to this, I didn't think very highly of VNs, assuming them to be a somewhat outdated storytelling medium and affiliated with the stereotypical otaku image. However, the fact that this story remained on my mind for so long serves to showcase one of the medium's defining characteristics: character development.
Making the audience sympathize with a villain is not unheard of in today's stories. However, creating a villain that the audience cheers for, without actually making them a likeable character, is a different matter. Then, making the audience cheer for something which is undoubtably evil?
No - is that cruelty and sadism not simply born of an innocent ignorance?
Can something be called evil if it acts simply for the propagation of its species - like we do?
Are we sure that we're not simply flesh-eating monsters who see one another as normal humans?
The second standout element is probably the atmosphere. The art is as crisp and intriguing as it is unnerving and cthulhuian. The soundtrack is used to great effect, mirroring not just the characters' mental states, but even the reader's, as they become better-acquainted with the characters. Walls of meat may haunt my dreams, but I feel at peace.
There are many stories which use morality well, yet fail to actively provoke thought. This one succeeds - in every ending.