Operation Backlog Completion 2024
Sep 292021

I picked up the visual novel 9-nine- in a Steam sale after seeing a lot of praise for it online, especially from people who enjoyed other visual novels I love.

It’s split into four episodes, each of which follows a different route.

While that structure seems a bit odd at first, there’s actually a reason for it. You can’t skip episodes, and you have to play them in order. Each advances the overarching plot, which becomes a greater focus with each episode. Explaining in any more detail would require spoilers, so I won’t.

9-nine begins with a town festival, at which an earthquake causes the town’s sacred relic to shatter. After the earthquake, people begin awakening to special powers, and a boy named Kakeru gets caught up in an investigation when a girl is found turned to stone.

The first episode in particular feels somewhat like a murder mystery, as the main characters search for the user of the “Evil Eye,” the name they give to the petrification power.

However, it’s much more of a thriller at its core, especially as the episodes continue. There’s also a fair amount of romance, with each episode featuring a different heroine (although all are part of the main cast), and a number of humurous slice-of-life scenes as well. Some parts really made me laugh.

An interesting thing about 9-nine- is that it just gets progressively better. Episode 1 is slow-paced, mainly focused on romance and setting up the premise. Episode 2 is surprisingly emotional and raises the stakes even higher. Episode 3 might be the funniest of them all, and really kicks the plot into high gear. Finally, Episode 4 brings everything together for a truly epic and intense conclusion.

(A fifth episode was released in Japan with epilogue stories for each heroine.)

In short, if you try the first episode and aren’t especially hooked yet, it’s worth continuing if you at least find the premise intriguing.

9-nine- has some neat ideas that it executes well, and the story is a great mix of humorous, romantic, and exciting. If the premise sounds interesting to you, I highly recommend checking it out.

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Sep 272021

The Tales of Luminaria live stream took place last week, and we would have discussed it sooner except that we had Bayonetta 3 news for the first time in almost four years.

The live stream gave a basic overview of the game and its structure, which revealed some interesting details.

First, there are 21 main characters.

That’s a massive main cast for a Tales game to start with, and they’re all being considered main protagonists. Each character will have their own story, which in some cases will give you different perspective on the same events. They are split into three factions. Eight characters belong to the Federation’s Knight Academy, another eight are part of the Empire’s army, and the remaining five are adventurers who team up to pursue their own goal.

One episode will be released a week, and each will take about an hour to complete. Each character will have 8 episodes, and after you play Episode 1 for each character, a special “crossroad” episode will follow.

21 intertwining stories sounds like a massive game, and they estimated it would be like three console Tales games. If we assume 8 episodes for each character plus 8 crossroad episodes, at one hour an episode, that’s a 176-hour game.

Gameplay footage was also shown during the event, starting at 31:54 in the video.

A lot of people have been critical of it for not looking like a Tales game, but while combat looks very different (it’s using basic touchscreen controls), I was pleasantly surprised by how much it looks like a regular game. You run through the game environments, encounter monsters, talk to NPCs, and so on.

The game also has full English voice acting, and the main composer is Go Shiina. That stood out to me because the most epic song on Zestiria’s soundtrack were his.

There will also be an anime adaptation called Tales of Luminaria: The Fateful Crossroad. It will follow one character’s point of view and include content from the middle, instead of being an adaptation of the game’s beginning like Crestoria’s anime.

I’m very interested in how Tales of Luminaria will turn out. They confirmed that you do not need to pay for characters or main story episodes, so it doesn’t seem to lend itself easily to intrusive gacha mechanics. However, it’s still a free-to-play game with in-app purchases, so my theory is that the purchases (preferably not gacha, but probably) will be weapons/equipment.

I doubt my tablet will be able to run Tales of Luminaria, but if and when I replace it, I’ll be interested in giving this game a try once it’s out. How do you feel about Tales of Luminaria?

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Sep 242021

Bayonetta 3 exists!

It’s real, not just a collective hallucination we all had back in 2017! At yesterday’s Nintendo Direct, a new trailer was finally revealed along with a 2022 release window.

And we have a lot to talk about.

The Bayonetta 3 trailer has caused a lot of varied reactions, because on one hand it’s so exciting to finally see more from Bayonetta 3, but on the other hand, it looks quite different… in some suspicious ways.

Before we get into it, let’s discuss the 2017 teaser. That tiny teaser left fans with many theories about the possibility that the Bayonetta in the trailer was either a fake, a younger version, or a Bayonetta from an alternate timeline/universe.

She had her original hairstyle, new guns, no beauty mark, and no hair texture on her sleeves (suggesting her outfit could be real clothes, not magical), and the teaser ended with her seemingly cut in half.

That brings us to today’s trailer and our first look at Bayonetta 3 gameplay.

It begins with soldiers in Shibuya fighting giant monsters. This made me initially think the trailer wasn’t for Bayonetta 3 at all, but maybe Project G.G. (and then there was an Astral Chain fake-out, too).

But then Bayonetta appears! …With a new design that strangely resembles her child self.

In fact, a lot of things about this new Bayonetta design, such as her new outfit and dance moves, seem cuter, for lack of a better word. As if this isn’t the Bayonetta we’re familiar with, but a younger version of herself – or an alternate timeline version of Cereza trying to imitate her older self.

Madama Butterfly also has a different design. Was she redesigned for this game, or is she a different demon paired with a different Bayonetta?

And what’s up with Bayonetta’s medallion? The central medallion is familiar enough, but it has a new golden addition at the top set with a purple gem – which some fans think could be the Right Eye.

(Update: I don’t know how I missed that there’s actually multiple purple jewels, so maybe that’s meaningless.)

Bayonetta’s voice also sounds slightly different, and a recent tweet from her English voice actor, Hellena Taylor, had fans already wondering if she’d been recast… yet Taylor also seems to be under an NDA.

Could that mean this is a new Bayonetta/Cereza, but “our” Bayonetta will also appear?

Okay, let’s get back to the trailer. We see some traditional combat, Witch Time (stronger than usual, perhaps?), and what appears to be a torture attack that targets multiple enemies. At one point she also briefly transforms into the redesigned Madama Butterfly.

Then she dances, but instead of her clothes vanishing into hair to manifest a demon, a large red symbol appears on her back and the demon appears to beat up the monster. Following that, it shows a number of scenes in which the player is controlling demons directly to fight. A purple gauge decreasing during these fights suggests these demon summons are available until the gauge runs out.

The very end shows a silhouetted figure arriving, with a sword from which hangs a doll similar to that carried by Cereza in the first game.

(A popular candidate for the silhouetted figure right now is Jeanne.)

As I said before, a lot of this looks very different beyond just Bayonetta’s design. First, the human soldiers at the start seem like they can see the monsters, and the official website, describes the enemies as “mysterious life forms appearing to be neither angel nor demon.”

Her demon-summoning is different than anything she’s done before, and even the means of summoning them is new. Of course, since this is Bayonetta, the lack of nudity in the trailer has a lot of fans wondering if Bayonetta 3 is censored, but it seems much more likely that it’s either specifically for this trailer to avoid the Nintendo Direct getting a higher age rating, or is story-relevant considering the number of other differences in the character and her powers.

When asked if Cereza would get naked in Bayonetta 3, Kamiya responded with “Do not underestimate me.”

The website also names the two new gameplay mechanics as Demon Masquerade (fusing with a demon) and Demon Slave (directly controlling them).

The description ends with “The eyes of the world are on the mysterious Bayonetta 3, coming in 2022,” which could be just a cute way to tie in the lore, but makes me wonder if the Eyes will be important after all.

Except that’s not possible… if this is the same world/timeline.

In short, I do not think this is the Bayonetta we’re familiar with. Whether she’s an alternate timeline Cereza or something else, there are too many oddities. And I still don’t think the Bayonetta in the original teaser was the usual one, either. Alternate timelines or multiple universes – something strange is at work here. I’d believe a Bayonetta redesign if her appearance was all that changed, but too many differences are stacking up.

Who is she? Why is she fighting kaiju in Shibuya? Why are her powers so different? I have so many questions and some concerns, and I don’t know what to think, but I’m thrilled that we finally got to see Bayonetta 3.

What do you think about the new Bayonetta 3 trailer?

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