Dragon Quest V: Happy ending

After 35 fulfilling hours, my DQV playthrough comes to an end. That's not to say that I defeated the last boss and saw the credits roll, though; because the truth is that I didn't. I found said last boss at the bottom of his lair, and engaged him unprepared to test the waters; and while vanquishing his first form was easy enough, his second form wiped out my whole party in a matter of turns. The right course of action would be to go back at him with an vengeance and a solid strategy; however, I just cannot bring myself to do that. To be honest, I don't really care that much about beating Grandmaster Nimzo to a pulp. For once, he's not exactly my sworn enemy: the first time I met him was precisely during the final showdown, and it feels weird to kill a big baddie I just met. Sure, he more or less destroyed my MC's whole life through his minions' actions; but he remained such an elusive presence throughout the whole game that it's hard to resent him genuinely. Slaughtering Ladja was a thrill because of all the bad blood between us; but slaughtering Nimzo feels more like your obligatory Final Boss Fight. And then, there's the issue of me being lazy: there were so few boss fights during the game that I basically grew complacent, and I just cannot be arsed to rack my brain for strategies and try again.

And so will DQV remain unfinished business for now. I had a most lovely time with that game, and I'll definitely miss my awesome party especially my little jailcat Jayla, i.e. the best party member an RPG player could wish for. (She was fast, strong, versatile, and totally adorable to boot; what's not to love?) I won't lie and claim that I loved DQV more than DQIX, though. My DQIX run was one of my most epic RPG playthroughs ever, and DQV simply cannot emulate the sheer scale of DQIX. DQV is more of a domestic RPG, with basic mechanics, a small game world and a mundane yet endearing story. The overall simplicity of the game bordered on shallowness at times, and there was a bit too much flirting with fake longevity; but playing DQV made me happy all the way through, and that's all that matters.

So what's next, you may ask? Well, I just secured physical copies of the 'Summer of Mystery' otome games from Aksys; and since I've had my fill of grinding for the time being, I'm gonna unwind by playing those ultimate Aksys offerings. (I cannot imagine any physical Vita game coming out in the West in the months to come, let alone an otome game.) I'll see you soon with tidings of romance and mystery, dear fellow gamers; and as usual, thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!


Dragon Quest V: Soothing late stages

30 hours, getting close to the final boss. After the slightly tumultuous middle stages of my run, I finally made peace with the game. No longer do I even try to figure out where to go or what to do next if the story doesn't kindly direct me; instead, I run straight to an FAQ and move on. That shameless display of laziness oh-so-wise decision allowed me to focus fully on what I love the most in traditional RPGs, i.e. the holy Grinding. And oh boy, did I grind indeed. My hero and his two feline foils now boast a hefty Lv.45; and although that might be enough to slaughter the final boss, I'm still gonna keep grinding until they all reach the big 50. Just to be sure, and because I love grinding oh so much.

The last ten hours have been smooth sailing, a soothing blend of grinding and dungeon exploration. I would have loved to tackle a couple of sidequests as a diversion and grind along the way; but weirdly enough, there are just no sidequests to be found in DQV. (Or, if there are any, they are incredibly well hidden.) I'm quite puzzled by that absence, all the more so as DQIX was a giant sidequest fest. This makes the proliferation of 'Where do I go next' instances in DQV look suspiciously like an attempt at fake longevity, methinks. But I digress; I was actually praising the game and the lovely, grindy ten hours I just spent with it. I recruited a Moosifer around the 25-hour mark, and I don't regret it one bit: that new ally is incredibly strong and sturdy, and he can hold his own on the battlefield just as masterfully as the rest of the crew despite boasting only a paltry Lv.16.

I've grinded so much that I unfortunately feel a bit disconnected from the story now; on top of that, the events of the last ten hours somewhat failed to captivate me. (Spoilers!) It was nice to see my expectations as a seasoned RPG player neatly subverted, as the so-called 'Legendary Hero' turned out to be my MC's son instead of said MC himself; however, since I hardly ever interacted with the twins since their introduction, I couldn't care less about my son being the resident Chosen One. That sure won't give him extra levels, and I'm not sure equipping the Zenithian gear can compensate for the 10-level gap between him and his father; but since he's a good healer, maybe he'll be allowed to partake in the final fight if the going gets rough. As for being reunited with Bianca, it was pretty much a case of 'Too little, too late'. I honestly didn't care anymore at that point, and I wouldn't have minded a post-final boss reunion at all. It goes without saying that leveling her up is unthinkable; I would have liked to fight with her more, but she's just too far behind the rest of my crew. Now if you ask me, dropping undelevelled party members on the player so that they'll be forced to grind looks awfully like a display of fake longevity. Especially when it's done multiple times over the course of a single game. (End of spoilers.)

So here I am, in the final dungeon and nearly at the last boss' door. I'll grind just a bit more, as promised; and then, it will be time for the final showdown. See you soon for my ultimate DQV tidings, dear fellow gamers! Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!


Dragon Quest V: Mixed middle stages

20 hours of play under my belt, and things are getting a bit sour between me and DQV. The honeymoon period is over, and the game's flaws are starting to rear their ugly heads and to ever-so-slightly spoil my run. Mind you, the grinding is still soothing, the exploration is still thrilling, and the atmosphere is still enthralling; and then you have all those magical little moments that only DQ can provide, such as that glorious fight in which I vanquished two metal slimes with two critical hits. Glorious, indeed. I still love the game very much, really; but I undeniably love it a little less than when I started it, and here's why.

No boss fight for hours on end: I honestly cannot remember the last time I faced a boss. Grinding is all well and nice, but it somewhat loses its edge when the game doesn't offer you mighty bosses to use as touchstones. I know bosses are bound to come back before the end of the game (like, literally), but that long boss-less stretch is a bit disturbing nonetheless.

The choice that never was: The only thing I knew about DQV before playing it was that you could choose your wife; and while I certainly didn't expect any kind of active romancing from a DQ game, I at least expected to be given a real choice. However, the game frames that 'choice' in a mighty biased way that totally defeats the purpose of letting the player choose. Let's first discard Debora as the obvious added-in-remake troll she is, and let's focus on the two original girls (minor spoilers!). So we have Bianca, our childhood friend we just reunited with; not only is she blatantly is love with us, but her ailing father begs us to take care of her. And then we have Nera, a complete stranger who shows nothing but polite disinterest towards us; not only is she clearly in love with a local knight who loves her back, but she tries to get rid of us by hooking us up with Bianca. If this is not the game actively trying to shove us into Bianca's arms, I don't know what is. There's just no fairness here: one choice feels like Destiny, the other feels like forced mariage. One choice makes you feel like a gentleman, the other makes you feel like a heartbreaker. If the writers wanted the hero to marry Bianca that badly, they should have made that mariage a scripted event. Mind you, I had decided to tie the knot with Bianca from the get-go; but I would have loved a more balanced choice that didn't make me feel like a saint or a scumbag. (End of spoilers)

The kids aren't alright: So, the game ultimately dumped my kids on me so that we could all roam&grind together. That certainly fits my hero's role as a father; but pray tell, what am I supposed to do with those wimps as a player? They are painfully underlevelled, which means that I have to waste tons of time grinding if I want to use them in battle. Why would I do that, when I have my already levelled-up feline team at hand? For now, the kiddies stay in the wagon and reap XP from battles; we'll see if they join the party once they reach decent levels.

Where do I go next?: Yup, that dreaded old-school RPG trope is alive and well in DQV. While early quests always explicitely told me where to go, current quests are much more elusive, giving me only the faintest of clues and letting me figure out by myself where I'm supposed to be headed. Mind you, this wouldn't be so bad if the world map hadn't fully opened at the same time, giving me countless opportunities to get desperately lost. And yes, I did check walkthroughs once or twice because hey, I have metric tons of other games waiting to be played and I cannot decently waste precious hours scouring every pixel of a game world.

In a nutshell, I mourn the loss of the game's initial simplicity. DQV feels a bit less magical since its map opened up, and the concurrent ramp-up of the narrative stakes doesn't help its case. I loved being a kid busy with discovering the world and saving his own hide; but now, it seems that we're headed towards yet another case of Saving the Bloody World. Mind you, I like DQV's story, and I really enjoy the way it's told special mention to the stone statue episode, which made me feel genuinely desperate as a spectator and as a player worried for the future of their party. It's just that I had this crazy hope that maybe, just maybe, the game was going to keep things domestic and treat me to a family epopee while giving the world a break. Oh, well. We'll see how the whole thing plays out, I guess. I'll see you soon for more DQV tidings, dear fellow gamers; and as usual, thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!


Dragon Quest V: Dreamy early stages

The mention of the Dragon Quest series makes me feel all mushy and nostalgic, despite the fact that I became acquainted with it as late as 2012 when I played DQIX. That legendary playthrough means a lot to me: not only was DQIX my first DQ game, but it was also my first turn-based RPG ever, the first of many solo runs and, last but not least, my longest run of any game, clocking at a good 212 hours. I loved DQIX to pieces, and subsequently bought every single DQ entry released on the DS and 3DS, as well as the Gameboy Colour remakes; and yet, weirdly enough, my gaming instinct didn't feel like touching any of these games for the last six years. I guess the memory of that formidable DQIX run was still too fresh in my mind, and it needed to fade away a bit before my gaming instinct craved the series again. It seems that I have indeed forgotten my happy times with DQIX enough, for my gaming instinct suddenly urged me to play DQV. And so I (happily) complied.

I fully expected to be reunited with all the beloved staples of the series in DQV, and I was not disappointed. My breath caught in my throat when meeting my first Metal Slime, and finally killing one after many a try made me feel ridiculously happy happier than vanquishing a bunch of pixels should ever make me feel. I could feast my eyes again on the gorgeous fighting screen backgrounds that had enchanted me so much in DQIX; this seems to be something that the series masters perfectly, and it makes me feel like a lone wanderer more than any open world ever could. I quickly got reacquainted with those oh-so-DQ-esque habits of rummaging through peoples' drawers and warbrobes and checking for fresher and better gear in every new town. Last but not least, I grinded, grinded and grinded in fact, I'm still grinding.

One feature that failed to pop up was the class system of DQIX: and, well, I must confess that I was relieved by that absence. Although I can work my way around class systems in turn-based RPGs, the truth is that I don't like them much: I prefer my chosen one's progression to be simple and straighforward and to rely solely on the power of levels and brute force. Having to choose between classes generates ponderings and hesitations that I simply don't need in my RPG, and I'd rather make do with what I'm given. That being said, DQV offers a replacement for classes in the form of monster recruitment. I was initially planning to give that feature a pass and to focus solely on my given party; but then, I crossed the path of a lovely jailcat that was willing to join my crew, and there was no turning back. Although that new feline recrue could do little more than scratch foes at first, a couple of playing hours molded her into a formidable fighting powerhouse. There's no way I'm letting go of her now, and she'll definitely be part of my team till the final boss.

Talking about my party, DQV offers the most perfect mix of solo run and party run I've seen this side of Trails in the Sky. My titular hero has been the only fixture in my party so far, aided by a number of extra party members that come, fight by my side and go as the story unfolds. I really love that setting that allows me to enjoy the best of two worlds: I get that extra oomph in battle thanks to those guests, yet I can still lavish stat-raising items on my MC without a second thought. This also gives me the opportunity to try different fighting strategies, which is something lazy me probably wouldn't have bothered to do otherwise.

I just love how straightforward and heartwarming DQV is. The game world is charming and welcoming, just like DQIX's world was; it has an quintessential and intemporal quality that can probably appeal to any RPG fan or at least not ruffle anyone's feathers, unlike very distinctive RPG settings such as FFVII's steampunk world and it somehow manages to capture the very essence of fantasy RPG. You know what to expect right from the start: set foot in a town, talk to the locals, agree to solve their big problem (there's always a big problem going on), go to the nearby dungeon, solve the big problem, collect your reward rinse and repeat until the end of the game. And then you have the mandatory grinding, which may be stifling to some but is also quite soothing and reassuring: no matter how strong the foe, it can always be ultimately defeated with a healthy amount of grinding. No complicated strategies to master, no luck involved: just grind enough and you're set. In an RPG landscape full of increasingly outlandish fighting systems, such simplicity and predictability are a breath of fresh air.

I have 10 hours under my belt already; and while I'm pretty sure that my DQV run won't ever be as long as my DQIX one, I still think I have a good number of hours of enjoyable play ahead, if only because I'm grinding so, so much. But hey, I can't help it: battles flow so swiftly with the maximum text speed that I find myself stuck in an transe and unable to stop; and the battle backgrounds are so gorgeous, I just want to gaze at them over and over again. In a nutshell, I'm hooked, and I love being hooked. See you soon for more DQV tidings, dear fellow gamers! Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!


Nurse Love Addiction: The route report

Nurse Love Addiction offers four love interests and nine endings. I have no qualms about admitting that I resorted to an FAQ to land all the endings, and for good reasons: unlike its fellows romantic VNs Norn9 and Amnesia:Memories, NLA doesn't provide any clue to help the player figure out if they're on the right track. On top of that, the relevant dialogue choices are often quite random, and you cannot really figure out the 'right' answer by yourself despite all the patient character development present in the game. Last but not least, most of the bad endings (and some of the good ones as well, for that matter) come completely out of left field and clash vigorously with the story's overall sweet and heartwarming tone, leaving you gaping at the screen in sheer incredulity. Having said that, on with the show! (Giant SPOILERS included!)

Itsuki: My least favourite route by a very long shot. On top of disliking Itsuki's design, I was left totally cold by her character (non)development and relationship with Asuka. We're basically dealing with two people that are initially in love with someone else rather than with each other, and it takes an awful lot of crafty storytelling to make such a setting work storytelling that NLA sadly doesn't display. Itsuki and Asuka find themselves in love with each other out of the blue, and they don't even seem to enjoy it that much in fact, they seem rather reluctant to be with each other, which certainly doesn't encourage the player to root for them. The big reveal about Itsuki posing as a bold and brash girl when she's actually a shy introvert was interesting; however, the writers made a serious disservice to her and to her story by not letting her switch back to her initial personality when alone with Asuka, which would have made her character much more nuanced and touching. Instead, she keeps her bratty facade on at all times, and comes across as utterly unconvincing in the process: as a reader, I simply cannot believe for a second that she managed to overhaul her own personality so thoroughly and maintain that change for ten-or-so years. And if she does switch back at times, well, she's just insincere for not doing it in front of Asuka. At the end of the day, Itsuki is a painfully one-dimensional and superficial character, and her talking mannerisms (i.e. "uso da yo" repeated ad nauseam) and clichéd otaku-ish hobbies really don't help her case. Another thing that doesn't help her route at all is her bad ending, which is so ridiculously improbable that you might miss what's actually happening here at first (I sure as heck did). Prior to this event, there is absolutely nothing in the story that hints at the fact that Asuka could become a cannibal-meets-necrophile upon losing her lover, and the tone shift is so brutal that it kinda fails to register and leaves the player more incredulous than shocked.

Sakuya: As the game's resident 'hime', Sakuya gets a route that fits her personality to a T: mysterious, dramatic and romantic, with a super-duper plot twist to crown things. This could have been one of the best routes, if not for the story's excessive reliance on the whole 'destiny' theme. The premise goes as such: Sakuya and Asuka were in love with each other as kids; and that love, far from being your usual puppy love, was a fated romance bound to transcend time and space. We're dealing with the most overused romantic cliché of them all here; and unfortunately, NLA doesn't manage to make the most of it. The main issue is that interactions between Sakuya and Asuka at the nursing school are few and far between; and when said interactions occur, they are usually cold and superficial. Because of that, the game relies overly on Sakuya and Asuka's shared past to craft a romantic vibe between them; but since we, the player, never get to see that shared past with our own eyes, we just cannot get involved and feel the love. This is a classic case of telling instead of showing, and it makes the route quite flat and unbelievable. To make matters worse, the writers pushed the 'fate' thing as far as they could up until the point where it becomes utterly grotesque. Sakuya's route is the only one in which the bad ending is actually better than the good ending: having Asuka hold a mariage ceremony on the hospital roof with a dying (or freshly dead) Sakuya is just a thousand times more romantic and touching than seeing Sakuya reincarnate as Kyoko's and Asuka's daughter and state in no uncertain terms that she's gonna make a pass at Asuka as soon as she's sexually mature, which makes Asuka giggle in delight. Seriously, game? You wanted to shove in your fated love story so much that you had to dabble in incest? And sure, maybe that new Sakuya is genetically related to Kyoko rather than to Asuka; but the whole thing is vomit-inducing nonetheless.

Kaede: This is by far the most grounded route of the bunch, a perfectly normal love story involving normal people doing normal things; and it's also the only romantic route that doesn't mention Asuka's past at the Center at all. Since there is no pre-existing relationship between Kaede and Asuka, the game has to focus on the stakes of their current interactions; the result is an engrossing and subtle piece of story that deals with the perils of romances involving an age gap. As a young and inexperienced girl, Asuka dates Kaede out of admiration and lust, and focuses solely on the entertaining aspects of their relationship rather than on Kaede as a person; Kaede, on the other hand, is a full-grown woman with romantic experience that longs for a deeper and more serious relationship and is not quite sure that Asuka can provide it. From that situation emerges the only remotely predictable crossroad in the entire game: it either leads to the good ending, where Kaede and Asuka end up together, or to the bad ending, where Kaede goes back to her lover yet keeps bonking Asuka on the side. Not giving the letter back to Kaede confirms that Asuka is indeed just an immature brat with no morals who only cares about her own happiness, and leads Kaede straight back into the arms of her former lover and the player straight into the arms of the bad ending. On the other hand, giving the letter back to Kaede shows that Asuka cares about Kaede's happiness first and foremost and is mature enough to renounce her if need be; such a display of selflessness melts Kaede's heart and secures the good ending. If I had to point a flaw in that route, it would be its overall mundanity and occasional corniness: this is a route that's more likely to induce yawns and embarrassed giggles than to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Nao: Lovely Nao-chan was my favourite character by far, both in terms of looks and personality. I had thus a mighty big bias towards her route; and well, I was not disappointed. Nao's and Asuka's love story is by far the deepest and most fleshed-out of the bunch: not only do Nao and Asuka have the greatest amount of interactions, but their romance starts in a really subtle way little touches that feel more erotic than they should, double entendres that sound a tad too serious, declarations of love that are a little too intense for sisterly love, and so on. You can really feel the love between those two, and this is the only route that actually made my heart flutter and made me root for the pair in earnest. It's also nice to get a plausible explanation for Asuka's weird personality change over the years: although it's never fully confirmed, we can infer that Nao's repeated tampering with Asuka's memories also messed up Asuka's personality, transforming her into the scatterbrained girl she is nowadays. Nao's constant dotting on Asuka is motivated by a mix of intense love for her sister and gnawing guilt over what she did to her; and those conflicting emotional forces get to shine in the good and bad ending respectively. Not getting Asuka's forgiveness and redonning the role of the younger sister who takes guidance from the older one allows Nao to atone for her sins and let go of her guilt, ultimately leading to a fulfilling relationship with Asuka. On the other hand, being forgiven by Asuka increases her guilt so much that she starts somatising and cannot physically stand to be near Asuka; this leads to the most twisted outcome of them all, in which Asuka has to beat Nao repeatedly in order to quell Nao's extreme guilt and self-hatred. The only flaw I could find in Nao's route was the spoilery quality of the whole romance: since it's obvious that the game is not going to show genuine incest on screen, we can guess pretty much right from the start that Nao and Asuka are not biological sisters. Of course, this also generates a modicum of suspense, so maybe it's not that much of a flaw after all.

Asuka: Miss Jellyfish has her own dedicated 'owner of a lonely heart' route, which happens if you fail to romance anyone. It shows Asuka dutifully pursuing her daily life and her studies; upon graduating, she reflects on the past three years and gets a bittersweet feeling, commenting on the fact that she didn't "find her star". As uneventful as it is, this route is actually one of my favourites: it maintains the sweet, heartwarming and comforting vibe of the story all the way through and spares us all the gruesome stuff present in the other routes. It's kinda refreshing to experience Asuka as a perfectly normal girl, with no traumatizing past or twisted relationships to worry about; in a way, that somewhat dull ending is a perfectly happy one.

NLA apparently has no true route; however, I fancy thinking that Nao's route is the true route in disguise, if only because of the intensity of their love for each other. Nao's relationship with Asuka is ten times the 'fated love' Asuka's relationship with Sakuya ever could be, with them meeting as children and ending up in the same family without ever being separated since. Also, look at the picture above: Nao and Asuka are the same size and basically glued to each other, while the other girls' heads are bigger and kinda float in the background, like larger-than-life fantasies that have no real chance of ever becoming true. If we want to go really wild, we can postulate that Nao only manages to rescue Asuka from Kyoko's stabbing in her own route thanks to the strengthening of their love bond, and fails to do so in other routes because of the converse weakening of said bond; consequently, all routes bar Nao's are just the twisted dreams of an Asuka stuck in a coma. Of course, it's probably just my own fondness for Nao speaking; but in the absence of any officially anointed true route, I can let my imagination run the show. And these, dear fellow gamers, are my final words about Nurse Love Addiction. Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime! 


Nurse Love Addiction: I'm on the fence

I'm slowly but surely getting bolder when it comes to romance games; and after cutting my teeth on your regular Otome game, I'm now ready to navigate more treacherous waters and broaden my romantic horizons in the process. And it so happened that Limited Run Games unknowingly supported those new endeavours of mine by releasing a physical version of yuri VN Nurse Love Addiction. The thing came with a hefty price tag of $ 50, which should totally have deterred me from purchasing it given that I was not even sure I would like it; but somehow, I was ready to take the risk. Fast-forward a couple of months, and NLA is now done and dusted. Did I like it, though? Well, kinda although the things I liked about it were not what you might think of: I went in expecting a lacklustre VN with stellar romance, and what got instead was a stellar VN with lacklustre romance. Without further ado, let's get to the nitty-gritty of my NLA impressions, dear fellow gamers! (No spoilers involved, so feel free to read to your heart's content!)


That "nurse" in the title is more than just show: Despite (or maybe because of) both my parents being MDs, I have little interest in the medical profession beyond occasionally bingeing on Mystery Diagnosis episodes; but oh boy, did NLA make me wish I had given the medical field a go in my younger years. Kogado Studio went above and beyond the call of duty when it came to giving an accurate and faithful image of the nursing profession, and it's pretty obvious that they had an advisor all the way through. The game features lengthy lectures about the mundanities of being a nurse and doesn't try to sugar-coat anything, which means that unglamorous subjects such as hospital hygiene or the use of a bedpan will be touched upon. I found myself really engrossed by these well researched segments, so much so that I totally forgot that I was supposed to be here to woo cute girls and was genuinely surprised when romance suddenly popped up. Which leads us to...

The build-up is out of this world: There's a rock-solid story at work there, a story that stands on its own even without taking the romance into account. I wouldn't step as far as to say that NLA is a VN first and a yuri game second, because getting to know the full extent of the story requires romantic entanglements; however, the game really takes its sweet time to establish things and make sure that we know the characters we're going to pursue. The nurse training setting is no mere excuse to bonk girls in white uniforms, indeed; we get to see plenty of the characters' routines and daily life long before the wooing process starts, which gives the whole story a homely and cosy vibe. Another excellent point is the fact that there is no true route and that all routes coexist without invalidating each other, which is no small feat given the number of plot twists involved. There's even a route solely dedicated to MC Asuka, in which she pursues her studies and ends up on her lonesome; and while this is not the most fascinating outcome of them all, it still stands up as a perfectly valid piece of story as a matter of fact, it's one of my favourite routes.

The production value are stellar: I'll admit it, I purchased that game first and foremost because I absolutely loved the art. I didn't even care about the story's quality or lack thereof: all I wanted was to feast my eyes on these adorable girls and drink in those splendid soft colours. What I hadn't expected was to be swept away by the stellar voice acting and the gorgeous music, and to simply fall in love with the whole atmosphere of the game. The developers even took the time to refine the presentation and slide in lovingly crafted details; one such detail is the fact that each time you clear a route and go back to the title screen, the game's title is read aloud by the very character you ended up with with a cheerful voice if you secured the good ending, or a dejected voice if you landed the bad ending.


It's too yuri for its own good: How can a yuri game be too yuri, you may ask? Well, simply by taking for granted that all characters are lesbians and by eschewing any reference to anyone of the male persuasion. A reviewer for Gaming Age described NLA as "the tender story of a young woman coming to terms with her sexuality"; and as lovely as that description sounds, it couldn't be further from the truth. Asuka doesn't come to terms with her sexuality at all, because the game treats lesbianism as the default sexual orientation: the characters never display a shred of confusion, surprise or embarrassment at the mention of lesbianism, and they all pretty much act like girl-on-girl action is the most natural thing in the world. Even worse, the writers went out of their way to avoid showing males or even mentioning them: characters have sisters, female friends and 'parents' (supposedly both female) but brothers and fathers are nowhere to be found. Now I can imagine nursing schools not exactly brimming with men; but are you trying to sell me an hospital without a single male MD or patient or an anime convention devoid of male otakus, game? Does this game take place in our world, or in an all-female dystopia? If the latter is true, then it should be stated; and if the former is true, then the world and the characters' actions should be more consistent with what we're used to. Now don't get me wrong, dear fellow gamers: the last thing I want to find in my yuri VN is a social commentary on lesbianism. What I do want to find in any VN, on the other hand, is narrative consistency and NLA painfully lacks some. No matter how you look at it, that game's story reads like the wild fantasy of a lesbian teenager who just cannot come to terms with the fact that 99% of humanity remain out of her bonking range. For 50 bucks, I certainly expect more than a slice of immature yuri fanfiction that can be found for free on the eponymous website, thank you very much.

L'amour is just flat: One undesirable consequence of NLA's all-encompassing lesbianism is the total absence of any sort of tension in the love stories. Since romancing a girl is such an obvious thing in NLA's weird parallel world, there are no barriers to overcome in order to win the heart of your beloved and secure a happy relationship: no personal mental hurdles to conquer, no prejudices to fight against, no opposition from parents just nothing. To say that this sorry state of affairs makes NLA's take on l'amour dreadfully boring is an understatement. This utter lack of stakes in the romance department is further worsened by the fact that characters seem to accept any sort of deviant relationship in a perfectly good-natured way. Incest, adultery, S&M, teacher-student relationship? Hey, no big deal! What matters is love, right? Heck no, game. Having my sister, my teacher or my classmate who already has a girlfriend make a pass at me is a very big deal indeed; and if you want your bloody romance game to be any thrilling, you should make sure that it comes across as such. Because the way things are, I simply cannot be bothered to root for all those vapid relationships that flow as effortlessly as a bunch of arranged marriages.

Too much shock value: NLA is a game that tries way too hard to be clever and edgy, and it often comes across as gross or corny or both. Like, I'm fine with the notion of Asuka giving mouth-to-mouth to her love interest right after said love interest vomited I mean, this is a life-or-death situation and the characters are nurse trainees, right? What I'm not fine with, on the other hand, are lovingly detailed descriptions of how Asuka laps up in every sense of the word her love interest's vomit just because well, she loves her. Now that's disgusting, and utterly unrealistic to boot. Then you have those embarrassing scenes where Asuka and her lover du jour look each other in the eye and chant each other's names with increasingly breathless voices, complete with cheesy close-ups right, I get it: you're getting horny and you're gonna bonk, okay, now stop it please. I won't quote any more examples to avoid treading on spoiler territory; but suffice it to say that NLA is a game that can ruin the mood in a single scene or sentence like no other VN I've read.

At the end of the day, would I recommend NLA? Hard to tell, really. There's some good in this game, but there's also an awful lot of bad. In the end though, I still like it more than I dislike it; and I'll certainly replay it one day, if only for the enchanting atmosphere, the lovely chara design and art, the engrossing segments about nursing and the few endings I enjoyed. I'll see you soon with a route report brimming with spoilers, dear fellow gamers. Thanks for reading, and be m guest anytime!