The Rice Digital Friday Letters Page, September 17 2021 – Reading break

The Rice Digital Friday Letters Page

Good afternoon, ladies and gents, and welcome once again to the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page, your opportunity to have your say without faffing around in comment sections. This is where you can guarantee the stuff you have to tell us or ask us will be read and responded to — and where we can hopefully all have a bit of fun in the process, too.

If you want to get involved, all you need to do is stop by any page on the site, click the little “Write to Rice!” widget over on the right and leave us a message. No personal info is required other than a pen name, and we’ll get back to you the following Friday!

A fair few questions to get through this week, so let’s get right to it!

The Rice Digital Friday Letters Page

Quiet time

Dear Rice,

I know it’s only been a couple of days, but I was wondering how you were getting along with your new visual novel reading regime?

Cardia


Hi Cardia — I see someone was paying attention — and welcome to the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page. And thanks for asking! It has indeed only been a couple of days since I pledged to myself to read more Code: Realize (and visual novels in general beyond that) and I’m pleased to say it’s been going well so far.

While I haven’t quite got out of the habit of watching LGR videos while eating my lunch, I have at least ditched pointless pissing around on my phone before going to sleep in favour of reading a few scenes of Code: Realize. And it’s a thoroughly nice way to end the day; there’s something really nice about being tucked up all warm and cosy in bed, immersing yourself full in the story a visual novel has to offer.

The Rice Digital Friday Letters Page: Code: Realize

The whole experience feels… I don’t know, I guess “intimate” is the word? There’s a feeling of being wrapped in the world of the narrative with no outside concerns mattering whatsoever — much like the feeling you get if you’re thoroughly absorbed in a good book. I guess that should be no surprise given how much the visual novel and actual novel media have in common with one another, but I guess it’s been a while since I truly allowed myself to be swept along with that.

Of course, the degree to which you experience this will likely vary enormously depending on what you’re reading. But Code: Realize is certainly working very nicely for bedtime reading right now. I recommend it.

So yes, so far it’s been going swimmingly! Now I just need to make it a habit, and perhaps I can finally cross some of those backlog entries off.

Awkward silence

Dear Rice,

Have you read Komi Can’t Communicate? It’s getting an anime, I hear. I’m a big fan of the manga but I’m not convinced it’s going to work as an anime. What do you think?

MC


I’m kind of with you there, MC; I think part of the reason that Komi Can’t Communicate works so effectively in the manga format is that it deliberately uses large tracts of absolutely nothing whatsoever happening to really emphasise the awkward situations depicted in the narrative. While it certainly is possible to do that in animated form, I question how far a studio would be willing to take that sort of thing knowing they only have about 20 minutes or so to play with.

I do want it to work, though. Komi Can’t Communicate is one of the best, most honest and non-judgemental depictions of social anxiety I’ve ever seen in popular media, and the whole thing is, I suspect, immensely valuable to a lot of people out there. I know I’m one of them; I’ve been Komi in plenty of situations in the past and I’m certain there will be many more times like it — but, like her, I’ve learned that there are people who will accept you for who you are and won’t force you to make noise if you don’t feel like doing so.

If nothing else, the anime adaptation will get more people to pay attention to the series, which I think is a good thing. I’m sure there are plenty of people who came to a work that is “best” in visual novel, manga or light novel format through anime, after all — just resist the temptation to be one of those smug “manga first” readers, I guess!

Adventurous prose

Dear Rice,

Looking back over your History of Lewd columns, I see a lot of older Japanese visual novels seem to have adventure game elements rather than just clicking through text. Would you like to see more of this in today’s visual novels?

Keigo


Hi Keigo, and thanks for the great question for this week’s Letters Page. We actually have seen a few developers of late playing around with the “adventure-style visual novel” format — the Ace Attorney series springs immediately to mind, as does Root Letter and Root Film — but yes, I’d actually love to see this a bit more.

It’s all smoke and mirrors to make you believe that you’re actually interacting with a fairly linear narrative, of course — and I suspect pretty much everyone playing these games even back in the day was well aware of this — but there’s a markedly different feel to a game where you passively watch events unfold and where you specifically have to tell the protagonist to do something.

The Rice Digital Friday Letters Page

Plus the adventure format opens up scope for interesting bonus features, too; I always liked the completely optional sidequest in Three Sisters’ Story where you help out the school nurse with some girls who have been having difficulties interacting with others. You can completely skip over that entire sequence without affecting the game’s ending if you want to — so choosing to engage with it feels like you’re making a meaningful choice.

Of course, as a longstanding adventure game fan, I’d love to see a full-on point and click adventure with cute anime girls in the leading role. Qureate’s Prison Princess actually had a decent stab at this a while back, but it’d be good to see something a bit more substantial in the same vein — that game was fun, but very short, even by adventure game standards.

C’mon, devs, give the people what they want. Or at least give Rice Digital’s editor what he wants.

The precious

Dear Rice,

What’s the most treasured game in your collection?

SHINGEN TAKEDA


Good day, Mr. SHINGEN TAKEDA, sir, it’s an honour to meet you, and thank you for your interesting question. This is kind of a difficult one for me because it depends on exactly what “treasured” means. Are we talking the most valuable game I own? That’s probably the GameCube Fire Emblem game, which I must confess I bought a while back and still haven’t actually played through to completion.

Or are we, instead, talking a game that is of significant importance to me personally? That tends to be what I understand by the word “treasured” — otherwise you’d have said “valuable”, I suspect. So… hmm. I’m going to have to think about this one for a moment. Give me a moment to look over my shelves.

[Time passes.]

I’ve narrowed it down to two. I think. So I’ll explain both of them.

The Rice Digital Friday Letters Page: Final Fantasy VII

First up is an obvious one: it’s my original PlayStation copy of Final Fantasy VII, the same copy that I had back in 1997. This is super-important to me because not only did it introduce me to the whole RPG genre — as a kid I’d tended to shy away from it on the home computers we had at home, because those games looked complicated — but also because it acted as a defining influence on my tastes in games to this day.

My friends and I were at secondary school when Final Fantasy VII came out. My brother, who was working on video games magazines at the time, came home one weekend and talked about it, saying it was the first time he’d ever seen a video game make someone cry. I was fascinated by this idea, so even though I only had a Japanese PlayStation at the time — I was using the classic “pen lid trick” to play PAL games on it — I picked up a copy of Final Fantasy VII to give it a go for myself… and I was absolutely infatuated with it from the moment it started up.

It didn’t take long for me to convince my friends to pick it up, too, and thus we all spent a delightful summer doing pretty much nothing other than eating Pot Noodle and repeatedly playing through Final Fantasy VII, both by ourselves and together. I have especially fond memories of a 36-hour stint playing through it, when my friend Woody and I were both whacking each other over the head with couch cushions to keep us awake. We loved that story, and we couldn’t get enough of it. And I still love it to this day.

The Rice Digital Friday Letters Page: Hyperdimension Neptunia

The second game I’d argue is a treasured possession is not necessarily one I’m especially likely to go back to, but it is one that I’m never, ever getting rid of. And that is the original Hyperdimension Neptunia for PlayStation 3. At the time I picked this up, I’d maintained a sort of casual interest in RPGs, but hadn’t really explored much of the Japanese end of the market. I was reading a lot of games media at the time, so I’d become convinced by the oft-repeated (and repeatedly disproven) claim that “JRPGs have been dead since the PS1 era”.

Something about it intrigued me, though — I think it was mostly the colourful art, which really stood out amid a lot of the more grim western fare of the day. A friend of mine had picked it up and posted a picture of it on her Google+ page (remember that?) — I asked her about it and she explained that I’d probably quite like it. So I nabbed myself a copy, gave it a go… and absolutely loved it.

I recognised that it was a deeply flawed experience in many ways — hence the fact it had reviewed spectacularly poorly — but in playing it I also determined that those flaws absolutely, positively did not matter to me. I was having fun; I was enjoying spending time with these characters; I was deriving great pleasure from figuring out the mechanics of this wonky game and bending its systems to my will.

That was the time I stopped paying attention to Metacritic and review scores in general, and started picking up games solely based on whether I thought I would be interested in them — regardless of critical reception from press or public. I haven’t steered myself wrong yet — and I’ve ended up having a host of fantastic gaming experiences I otherwise wouldn’t have had. And I have the original Hyperdimension Neptunia to thank for that.


And that’s your lot for this week. Want to join in? Just click on over to that “Write to Rice!” widget over on the right and pen us your words of wisdom. We’ll be looking forward to reading and responding to them next Friday. For now, have a thoroughly lovely weekend!

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