The Rice Digital Friday Letters Page, December 10, 2021 – dungeon-crawlin’ fools

The Rice Digital Friday Letters Page

Good evening everyone, and welcome to a slightly later than usual Rice Digital Friday Letters Page. I must confess that it was the office Christmas party last night, and we were all up very late and very full of alcohol and good food.

I was actually fine this morning, I must confess — but the long bus trip back from the Christmas party venue has meant that you poor souls have been left a little wanting for features to read today. Apologies for that — though thank you to our resident newshound Isaac for staying on top of the latest happenings in the meantime — and we’ll be back to business as usual from next week!

Anyway. You don’t need to know all that, but transparency and all that. Let’s get on with your letters for this week!

Heroine addict

Dear Rice,

The heroine in Dairoku is really cute. I’ve never played an otome game before, how much do you tend to get to see of the heroine in comparison to the boys?


Hi GhostWaffle, and thanks for your contribution to the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page. I don’t know you personally, but I’m going to go and ahead and assume from the things left unsaid in your letter that you are familiar with bishoujo visual novels aimed at heterosexual males and may well be a heterosexual male yourself — apologies if any of that is untrue!

The reason I mention this assumption is if it happens to be true, your question can be broadened out a bit to whether or not there is any inherent appeal in otome titles for heterosexual men who normally indulge in bishoujo titles.

Obviously the situation varies a bit from title to title, but for the most part I will say that you tend to be much more likely to see the heroine of an otome game than the protagonist of a bishoujo game. The reason for this is that otome game heroines are often intricately designed in their own right, so artists like to show them off — by contrast, a decent number of bishoujo game heroes are designed to be fairly vaguely defined to assist with the whole “self-insert” thing, particularly when it comes to eroge and nukige.

Letters page: Dairoku
She is cute, isn’t she?

I haven’t played Dairoku myself, but you’re likely to see a fair bit of the heroine throughout. And if you look at other otome titles — Code: Realize is a personal favourite — you’ll often find that the heroine is portrayed as a “talking head” in the text box, even if the narrative is typically presented in first-person fashion.

Completely unrelated to matters of how appealing you find the character designs, I wrote a piece a while back encouraging men to play more otome games — because far more than simply being “games for girls”, many of them very much have a distinct vibe about them. A lot of popular commercial otome take on very challenging themes in their narratives, with some even eschewing romance altogether in favour of simply telling some fascinating stories.

Lilia’s takeaway from Dairoku: Agents of Sakuratani was that it perhaps isn’t the best otome title out there — but that it might be a decent title to take your first steps into the genre as it keeps things reasonably gentle in narrative terms, instead focusing on the characters. If you want some more challenging, rewarding reads, though, take a look at stuff like the aforementioned Code: Realize, Collar x Malice, Piofiore: Fated Memories and Sweet Fuse.

Especially Sweet Fuse. Sweet Fuse is amazing and it doesn’t get talked about nearly enough.


Dear Rice,

I watched the Cowboy Bebop adaptation on Netflix and thought it was pretty decent. I’m one of the few people who hasn’t yet seen the original anime — though I want to now — and I thought it stood up OK as its own thing. Why do you think people hate live-action adaptations so much?


Hi J, and thanks for your contribution to this week’s Letters Page. I think the beef most people have with live-action adaptations is that there’s no real need for them to exist. I mean, Cowboy Bebop already exists and is good, so why does it need remaking in a very similar (albeit not identical) medium?

You could ask the same about why stories are adapted between different media such as manga, anime and light novels, but I think in those cases it’s a little more obvious — people like to enjoy their stories in different ways, and manga, anime and light novels each offer a distinct experience from one another.

Cowboy Bebop live-action cancelled

Live action and anime, though, are experienced in largely the same way: sit and watch, let the multisensory experience flow over you. Live action carries the implication of “realism”, whereas anime allows for more exaggerated and/or physically improbably situations. Those each have their own appeal elements, so I guess the reason live-action adaptations exist is to court people who, for whatever reason, don’t like animation.

But then the question has to be asked: if someone doesn’t like animation, would they even be aware of Cowboy Bebop in the first place? Would the live-action adaptation attract their attention without the baggage of it being an adaptation? I suspect not, given the tepid reception these adaptations tend to get — and indeed how quickly they end up cancelled.

Perhaps we just haven’t seen anyone do a live-action adaptation quite right yet. Personally, I’d rather they just stopped bothering and just let anime be anime — but apparently the suits have other ideas.

Come on, though. Didn’t the “black male” line bug you a little bit?


Dear Rice,

Last Wednesday I started playing Mary Skelter and I am enjoying it a lot. I wanted to ask if you liked dungeon crawlers and if you had a favourite one. Thanks to all of you at Rice Digital!


Hi again Kerift, you’re becoming a regular sight around here, aren’t you? Thanks for your letter.

To answer your question, yes, I personally really like dungeon crawlers, though I’m a relatively recent convert to them — I used to favour story-centric RPGs above all else, but it was Demon Gaze specifically that showed me the appeal of dungeon crawlers.

Besides Demon Gaze — which is worth your time, and getting a rerelease in the near future — I also enjoyed MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death, which is a pretty much forgotten Vita title from Idea Factory; Moero Crystal, which is super-fun if you like a bit of cheeky lewd along with your dungeon crawling; and Dungeon Travelers 2, which is my favourite game of all time.

Letters page: Dungeon Travelers 2
It’s a dungeon crawler, all right

If you don’t own a Vita, it’s worth investing in one just for the great dungeon crawlers available on it — though many of them (like Moero Crystal, which started as a Vita title) have ended up ported to Switch. Dungeon Travelers 2 (and its unlocalised sequel Dungeon Travelers 2-2) is crying out for a Switch port, though — we’ve been bugging outfits like eastasiasoft (who did the Moero Crystal port) to take it on for a while, but no joy as yet.

If you like dungeon crawlers, you also open yourself up to a wealth of older PC games too — stuff like the old Wizardry and Might and Magic games in particular. Wizardry specifically was instrumental in the development of what we know as “the JRPG” today, so if you don’t mind spending some time among dated visuals, it’s a series worth exploring.

The Quest on mobile is supposed to be good, too, though I haven’t played that one myself as yet. Mobile games that are 1) good and 2) not riddled with microtransaction bullshit are worth supporting though!

Hope that gives you some stuff to work on!

And there we go for another week. Time to go recover from last night, now. Have a lovely weekend, everyone, and we’ll see you bright, early and completely sober next week!

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