The Rice Digital Friday Letters Page, June 24, 2022 – playing catch-up

The Rice Digital Friday Letters Page

Good afternoon everyone! Sorry to those of you who have written in the last couple of weeks and haven’t had a response yet — it’s been a busy time here at Rice Towers and thus there simply wasn’t a lot of time to compile the Letters Page recently! We’re making up for that today, though, ’cause I’m going to reply to each and every one of you.

As always, if you want to be part of these fun and games, just hit up the Contact form at the bottom of the page or reply to an issue of the Rice Digital Weekly Digest. Let’s have a happy corresponding fun time together!!

Original art by Pikako. Original source no longer appears to be online.

Neeeep-nep-nepnep-nep-nepnep-nep-neeeep

Greetings,

First time dropping a letter to you. I’ve noticed that you seem to like the Neptunia titles (I’ve played all but one or two) but I wonder what your favourite and worst games are?

Personally, my favourite is Megadimension V-II as it has a lot to offer and feels the most complete with the best story.

The worst for me is definitely Virtual Stars (with Blanc vs Zombies not far behind). I could see what they were going for and it had some fun ideas, but lacked the polish to make it work. While I did finish it, I found the experience to be thoroughly unenjoyable. Music was good, though.

Cheers!
Who Am I


Hi, Who Am I, and welcome to the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page! A great question, for sure, as yes, you’re quite right, we love Neptunia here at Rice Digital and I personally am a particular fan. In fact — as I believe I’ve mentioned on here once or twice before — the original Neptunia game is probably the one modern anime console RPG that made me turn completely away from the mainstream and pretty much start ignoring review scores completely.

As for favourites, I’m 100% with you on Megadimension Neptunia V-II — that’s a genuinely excellent game, not only among the best in the series but among Compile Heart’s work in general. It’s a fundamentally satisfying game with an enjoyable, intriguingly structured story and plenty of things to do — plus I absolutely loved the silly homages to Spelunker and classic dungeon crawlers with the bonus dungeons.

I’m also very fond of Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online. I feel that’s the one title in the series that really nailed the “action Neptunia” format better than any other — though Neptunia vs Senran Kagura was pretty good also — and simply had an enjoyable structure. I also should give a shout-out to Hyperdevotion Noire, which is the one strategy RPG other than the original Final Fantasy Tactics I actually managed to make it all the way through!

Letters page: Megadimension Neptunia V-II
Megadimension Neptunia V-II

I’d also probably agree with you on Blanc + Neptune vs. Zombies being on the weaker side of things — though I also think that game suffered from being designed a bit with multiplayer in mind, but there not being a lot of people to play with. I can see the “monster hunting” element of that game being a lot of fun if playing in co-op with others, but in single player it just became a bit of a drag after a while. I enjoyed the story, though, and Vert in school uniform and tights is an image I will take with me to my grave.

Mechanically speaking, the very first Neptunia game is probably the hardest sell for a lot of people because it makes a lot of really weird design decisions. But I can’t be mad at it or even think of it as the “worst”, because I still find it a thoroughly interesting and highly creative game, plus it’s the game which introduced me to the series and got me into the broader field of modern anime-style games. Also I miss the ability to load your own .jpgs in for special attacks and costumes.

I’m still yet to play a few titles in the series, I must confess — it might be a good excuse to do a deep-dive series exploring those at some point. One day I might even buy a PS5 and try ReVerse!

A question of procedure

Dear Rice,

My name is [redacted just in case]. I’m currently following a guide that was posted on this site a few days ago for the game even if TEMPEST. I wished to contact the author of that post so that I can ask them some questions about Tyril’s route, specifically during the trial after presenting Hugo’s article as evidence.

The site I usually rely on hasn’t updated/posted a walkthrough yet (don’t know when it’ll be posted and I don’t wish to play blindly) and this was the only place where I could find one. If there is a way to contact the person that posted the game’s guide, would it be okay to do so?

JM


Hi JM, as you might expect we’re not in the habit of giving out personal contact details for our writers, but I can certainly help facilitate that communication for you if needed — I’ll pass on your request and if Lilia is happy to get in touch she can contact you directly. Alternatively, her Twitter account @wilolils is public knowledge — you can find it at the bottom of every article she contributes — so stopping by there and sending her a mention or a DM may be the quickest way to get a message through!

Letters page: even if TEMPEST
even if TEMPEST

That goes for all of you — if you want to get in touch with someone specific, send us a letter here and I can pass it on, or just use the social media info they’ve shared in their footer bio. We’re happy to chat within reasonable boundaries — just remember to be nice!

That bears repeating and emphasising: if you have something to say to any of us directly, whether it’s praise or feedback — we expect any communication with us to be respectful and polite. A bit of simple civility goes a long way on today’s Internet, and if you’re an arse to me or our writers — because they will tell me — we reserve the right to shamelessly and publicly take the piss out of you in the future. Not that this will be an issue for you, I’m sure, JM, but anyone else reading this and hoping to speak directly to one of the Rice writers should consider themselves told!

Mai Mae

Dear Rice,

I’ve definitely put up with VRChat and Unity’s quirks, plus redoing content in FFXIV, so I could spend time with my girlfriends before. Wait, that’s not what you mean?

Like a lot of Neptunia fans, I’ll stick with repetitive and often uninspired gameplay because it’s how I spend time with the characters. I think I’m at the point where “gameplay” isn’t super important to me, and as long as a minimum threshold is met I’m happy to grind my RPG or hack-and-slash of choice, where I get to play as an anime girl in a largely-female cast.

I don’t usually “have the hots for” a character I haven’t gotten to know well first, probably on account of being demi, but the second time that I got a game because of a character it was Fate/EXTELLA. I was a huge fan of the legendary Tamamo-no-Mae, and when I found out that there was a game that you play as her I pounced on it.

Letters page: Fate/EXTELLA
Fate/EXTELLA

Then I found out there was a prequel, so I played that first. And found out I was actually playing as an anime girl version of me, and dating Tamamo-no-Mae. And it and EXTELLA both got really creative with the relationship, and the amount of stuff they were allowed to show in a T-rated game.

… then EXTELLA/Link basically got rid of the polyamorous lesbian love triangle of the previous game, in favour of just having more battles. I don’t know if it’s because of Sony’s new “global” standards, or if they judged that it’d sell better as an action game than a yuri visual novel. The only reason I haven’t sold my limited edition is because Tamamo is technically in it. I’ve barely touched it since I got it, though, so I guess that doesn’t count as ending a game for your waifu.

※ The first time I got a game because of a character, it was the sequel to an English-language visual novel, which quickly became famous for trolling fans. Like by unceremoniously killing off the character I’d bought it for, only to replace her with a copy who didn’t have all the “baggage.” Ouch.

Tama


Hi Tama, great to see you on the Letters Page again. Some wonderful stories there — I must confess to not having jumped back into the broader Fate sphere since ploughing through the 80+ hours of the original visual novel a few years back, but it’s great that you found some value from your virtual time with fox mom — and a shame that experience was denied to you in EXTELLA/Link!

I couldn’t say for sure exactly why that happened, either. It could well have been Sony’s influence, though outside of the 18+ scenes in the original visual novel Fate has never been on the super-ecchi side of things outside of some mildly provocative outfits, so I think that is probably unlikely, especially given the Switch release. I think your other suggestion is probably more likely — making it a straight (no pun intended) action game with minimal “personalisation” probably helped speed development along somewhat.

Letters page: Megadimension Neptunia V-II
Megadimension Neptunia V-II

I know exactly what you mean with the “gameplay” side of things feeling less important. I think this is a common situation people who are at least passingly familiar with visual novels find themselves in after some time — for them, immersing themselves in the story and getting to spend time with their favourite characters is far more important than exactly how well the mechanical elements of the games have been put together.

One of my favourite examples of this is Aselia the Eternal. This is a hybrid of strategy game and visual novel in which your first hint of “gameplay” (other than a few visual novel choices) doesn’t appear until a good 6 hours into the story — and that first 6 hours is pretty much a high school slice of life drama before it goes all isekai. It’s a fantastic game, and that initial 6 hours really pays off in helping you connect with the characters.

Your last paragraph has me intrigued. I kind of want to know what it is, but I also feel like knowing would be a spoiler!

Something different

Dear Rice,

Since there are summer sales on Steam, which dungeon crawler would you recommend? I already have Mary Skelter and I know Seven Pirates H, but I would like a game with a different style.

Thank you!
Kerift


Hi Kerift, great to see you on the Letters Page again. As I type this, I’ve not long ago published our 10 top picks from the Steam summer sale article, in which I recommended Demon Gaze Extra, which is very good indeed. As a relatively recent rerelease of a former Vita exclusive, it’s on the slightly pricier end of things, even discounted, but it is an absolutely huge, sprawling game that is well worth the money.

Aside from that, Moero Chronicle is a good time, especially if you like fanservice. This is another Vita port, and is a solid dungeon crawler full of wonderful monster girls and lingerie. It’s very mechanically sound as well as being saucy, though, so if that’s the kind of experience you’re after there’s a lot to like there.

Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk is often held up by dungeon crawler fans as a really excellent game, though being a Nippon Ichi title it’s quite complex and mechanically dense, so be prepared for that. At 65% off in the Steam sale, that’s a good discount, though, so might be worth nabbing even if you don’t get to it right away.

Likewise, Saviours of Sapphire Wings and Stranger of Sword City, available together in a double pack, are well-regarded dungeon crawlers, at least in their console incarnations; the Steam reviews seem to be mixed, so be aware of that.

Letters Page: Wizardry - Labyrinth of Lost Souls
Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls

If you really want to see where the genre came from, be brave and check out Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls. The Wizardry series is one of a couple of RPG series that stretch right back to the dawn of gaming, and played a key role in defining what dungeon crawlers are like even to this day. The series began life as a series of western RPGs, but became hugely popular in Japan; Labyrinth of Lost Souls is part of a Japanese-developed revival of the series and was originally released on PS3 in 2009, so it combines solid dungeon crawler gameplay with some attractive anime-style art. Don’t expect a lot in the way of narrative, though.

Finally, on the obscure (and lewd) end of the market, I hear Lilitales is good. This is a doujin (18+ with a free patch) dungeon crawler brought west by the spectacularly prolific Kagura Games, and is regarded as one of the best titles the company has brought over. It sold well in the Japanese doujin market and seems to be well-liked on Steam — so if you feel like taking a bit of a chance on something relatively unknown this might be worth a look!

That should keep you busy for a while — let us know what you end up with!


And there we go for another week. Thank you as always for your correspondence and support of our work here at Rice Digital — and we’ll see you again next week!

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