Terrible writing (spoilers)

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#1 by hollowdelusions
2018-08-10 at 01:44
I don't usually do this, but the writing in this game was genuinely one of the worst I've ever come across that I am actually going to rant about it here, in hopes that I can save someone else the wasted time of playing this game.

The premise of the game is that the protagonist is essentially coerced into joining the student council (despite the fact that he constantly rejects the president's invitation) by the president effectively stealing his entire social circle, and leaving him with the choice of "join the student council, or be without your friends". She is genuinely one of the most hate-worthy characters I've ever seen in a game - and yet the protagonist doesn't bear her any ill-will at all? I can suspend my disbelief that a protagonist can be an "all-loving, all-forgiving idiot" if that's what his personality is actually like (prime example: Hase Hiroshi of Tsujidou-san no Jun'ai Road); but it's established that the protagonist is quite smart and practical, and in fact his short-comings are centred around the fact that he's fairly socially-reserved and has no interest in love. Even if he does want "everyone to smile" (this game has a weird fixation on smiles), there's a limit to how courteous people can be.

Without further ado, let's talk about the routes.

Ann. I felt nothing but anger about the fact that you're then FORCED to play through Ann's route in order to unlock major parts of the rest of the game (some H scenes for Konami, as well as Tina's route in general). Despite the fact that Ann is a completely unlikable character (not just in my view - the game actually tells you in the narration that people find her "hard to deal with" and that she's "fine as long as she keeps her mouth shut"), you have no choice but to play her route as it gives information about the Shinigami and sheds light on the protagonist's back-story (about the fact that she was best friends with the Shinigami who gave her life to revive the protag, and Tina is the younger sister of said Shinigami) - hence why Tina's route is unplayable beforehand. The drama of the route is semi-believable, but the fact that Ann decides "whelp, my split personality is also in love with the protagonist so I guess I'll just disappear entirely" was beyond moronic - especially when she herself set up the scenario which led to it.

Mio's route was fairly horrible as well. I can understand her being traumatised by the protagonist getting hit by the car when he was a child (right in front of her), but having that result in her crying at even just bumping into a male is ridiculous (not to mention annoying - the crying gets REALLY old, really fast). The drama in her route is ridiculously forced - effectively she asks the protagonist on a date to a 1-day-only exhibit, but he has to wait for a package to be delivered at home that day, so he calls his sister (Konami) and asks if she can wait on the package instead, which she's fine with because she was going to be home all day anyway. Mio finds out after-the-fact and LOSES HER SHIT to the point where she yells at the protagonist in the school hallway and tells him she hates him - which is completely unreasonable. Yet rather than being (understandably) angry at Mio for how she acted, somehow the protagonist feels HE'S at fault? Then Tina - the eternal moron that she is - gives Mio (who is distraught about the protagonist being angry and possibly hating her) the worst possible romantic advice in history: ignore the protag for a week (i.e., not speaking to him at all) and give him a present on his birthday to hope that somehow resolves everything. On the day that the protagonist meets with Mio (who, unbeknownst to him, is preparing to reconcile and give him his gift), he's nearly hit by a truck, to which Mio freaks out due to the childhood accident, and manages to tackle him out of the way and save him, but injuring her head in the process. When she wakes up, suddenly her severely inhibiting androphobia is cured. Because magic I guess?

Yuuri's route is genuinely the only saving grace of this game. It was almost perfect aside from the forced drama. It evolved well, going from a point of her being an acquaintance/friend-of-a-friend to the protagonist, to being a fully fleshed-out love interest. I also feel that due to their respective personality types, the protagonist and Yuuri were the match that made most sense (both are serious, smart, and hardworking, while also feeling negative about the prospect of love). I also enjoyed the backstory about how in their first year, Yuuri and Hanako (her older twin sister) were leered at by guys which led to both of them being disgusted with men as a whole, and after Yuuri and the protag start dating, Hanako was dubious about him so she "tested" him to see if he truly liked Yuuri for who she was, or just her looks - it made sense from a story perspective. If that was the extent of the drama I'd have called it a perfect route. But it wasn't. For some reason, Hyberion (an offensively-stereotyped gay Shinigami who has the hots for the protag) shows up to Hanako and telling her she's going to die soon (but hey, they reason was never revealed because lazy writing) and that he would extend her life if she got the protag and Yuuri to break up. She refused and sat around moping in the dark a bit, then the protag and Yuuri decided they'd break-up on their own because they got too absorbed in each other and neglected those around them. Except not really because aside from just not having sex for like a week they never actually acted much differently aside from being more conscientious of those around them. But this apparently was good enough to save Hanako's life, which makes you question why it was in the game at all. Also Yuuri then goes back to modelling despite hating it because reasons?

Konami's route was...well...it's fairly typical of a blood-related sibling incest route in a VN. The typical hesitations from the protag, but heroine pushes for it, and for some reason their friends have no real objections to their relationship (which is weird and unrealistic but whatever). Kudos though to the fact that their (step)mother actually was vehemently opposed to it - but mostly due to the fact that she felt she was letting her deceased husband down for being a failure of a mother. Conveniently Hyberion somehow still had their dad's soul despite him having been dead for at least 10 years because I dunno he's lazy and doesn't follow through on work? So he brings it over and their dad basically says he doesn't mind because he's dead anyway, so their mother decides that they'll have to separate for the time that they're in high school (three years because Hanako is a first-year student) and if they felt the same way about each other upon graduation then apparently their mother would approve of their relationship, which is a weird plot-point. But through those three years the protag and Konami never contacted each other because apparently Konami one-sidedly decided she wanted to "harden her resolve" or some garbage.

Now we get to Tina. Yeah, I genuinely couldn't finish Tina's route. She was an annoying presence throughout the game in general, but that annoying-ness was strengthened 10-fold in her own route. She decides on the protag's birthday that she also wants it to be her birthday because she saw him getting presents and a cake and such. She later says that the reason is because she wants to share his happiness or whatever but honestly she just comes off as childishly selfish. After the protag confesses his love to her (which comes out of nowhere), his friends actually give him MORE grief for being a lolicon than they did about the fact that he was dating his sister in Konami's route. Tina then starts sleeping more and more to the point of worrying others (but her familiar Kotarou won't give any information so he makes the protag chase Ann/Eleonora up about it for no reason), to which it's revealed that she will eventually die/fade away without doing her Shinigami duties because apparently they need memories of the souls they reap to function. But Tina refuses to resume her Shinigami duties, even if it means dying and fading away - with no apparent care about the fact that it would make everyone (especially her new boyfriend) horribly sad. Stopped playing it there but yeah.

All-in-all, one of the worst games I've played. I didn't care at all about the Shinigami aspect (and it wasn't even well thought-out or explained - especially how it was that the protag was somehow the reincarnation of Rina, yet the reason she gave her life was to put his soul back in his body?) and the drama of the game felt forced and - at times - outright offensive as to how the protag reacted to it.

I gave this game a 4/10, but even then I feel I was being somewhat generous.
#2 by kominarachromer
2018-08-10 at 02:09
nice trolling. i almost believed for a second that you had never read a single visual novel before
#3 by pendelhaven
2018-08-10 at 02:13
@2 for the most part I actually agree. this VN was very forgettable and imo Konami alone saved the entire VN.
#4 by kominarachromer
2018-08-10 at 02:22
#3 I'm not going to argue that SakuSaku is some sort of masterpiece. The game's drama does feel forced at times, and the Eleonora sub-plot feels like a mix of "we need more h-scenes" and "we need a diabolus ex machina to rake in the nakige fans". This review, on the other hand, gives off vibes of naivety towards the genre, lack of empathy towards the characters, and lack of understanding towards the genre. SakuSaku is nothing special for moege standards, but it's not particularly offensive either. It just kind of exists. The only reason I gave it above a 5 or 6 is because I have a soft spot for supernatural elements and I really liked the art.
#5 by siliparion
2018-08-10 at 05:21
@3 Konami is definitely the highlight of the title.
#6 by aprilia1k
2018-11-02 at 18:59
Konami is the my fav too - and she got even better on a 2nd reading six months later... waifu fsure

tl;dr - I personally hold Saku Saku in pretty high regard, and think it's a cut above average for the genre. The writing is far from terrible - just be sure you like moege and aren't ridiculously angry whenever a story deviates from your expectations and you'll do fine. I read a review that complained about the Konami ending... and I'm really glad that I didn't let that deter me from reading what has become one of my favorites. I am as discerning as anyone, but I do keep an open mind and try to "get" where the writer is coming from - I don't feel Saku Saku is overly contrived or hastily produced - the presentation, the translation, the voice-acting, artwork, _definitely_ the music are polished and mostly cohesive. Touching, funny, and at times even poignant. I happen to enjoy stories that require me to re-think what I initially consider "ideal" - ending, scene, whatever it is... the endings, esp. for Konomi, Ann and even Tina - are good imho... coming from a romantic, btw...

** obscure possible spoilers **

Apologies in advance for the length - it reads fast though :-)
I've read many VNs, most of them probably moege - and while it is a matter of taste, I've read the rant... Some novels -- no matter the format, require a certain level of _awareness_ or patience, as well as sophistication -- that is, the ability to understand beyond the simplest of concepts and situations. Kominarachromer - you said it quite succinctly (and more diplomatically). Sensitivity, empathy (or just "ability to grok!")... are pretty much requisite for many such titles... But I think that even _your_ critique (albeit just a couple lines in comment) is maybe a tad harsh - just my opinion. I want to be clear - I'm definitely not looking to argue or convey that "I'm right"... about what are mostly matters of taste and opinion, and definitely not with someone who is clearly a reasonable, thinking person... In fact, I consider us already mostly "comrades" - we are part of this subgroup who have been "seduced" lol by this medium they call "Visual Novel", and regardless of our varying tastes - our likes and dislikes - we may have more in common than not, and are probably "of like mind" on a good many issues, like the desire to see the industry do well and prosper - that we'll have more titles to.. ahem... discuss and enjoy. So don't think that I don't respect or understand the reasoning behind your viewpoints @kominarachromer (and @pendelhaven as well). My defense of this title is just a reflection of my increased enjoyment on a subsequent reading, and it may be that my objectivity may have backed in to a defensive posture by the initial post - so please bear with me, heh. For ME, Saku Saku _is_ something pretty special in the genre (I should say that the music really helps as well) - I think Konomi's route is a cut-above, but I enjoyed both Tina's and Ann's routes as well. I think the subplot with the dying girl and the MC's best friend, and Tina's often deadpan innocence juxtaposed with moments of mature insight (and even "mature echi-ness", lol)... were pretty fun; or Ann's underlying selfless and virtuous personality, beneath and behind an irreverent and insensitive "joker persona"... (and I'm not referring to the shinigami, just Ann).. I just mean - "there's more than meets the eye" in Saku Saku - a lot more, in my opinion. Hell - the music alone... OK - I admit, I don't look for literary excellence in a Visual Novel (a bit tongue-in-cheek, you understand I'm sure) and I am quite forgiving overall, as I've found that it enhances my enjoyment to disregard some of the "warts and blemishes" - but compared to the _average_ that I myself have indulged -- it's way above, seriously. I'm really interested in finding out what I've been missing - if you guys are right and I've just set the bar too low...

Hell - just to find an MC that is not just a ridiculously clueless, spineless, (insert other "-less" adjectives) dufus... where "getting the girl" isn't already totally immersion-breaking, since the MC's designed to placate or pacify the "average", overweight-slob otaku Japanese teenager (they _are_ supposed to be 18+ VNs but...)... well - the MC from Saku Saku is already a welcome and refreshing change from the norm... there have to be a few of us out here who have a smidge of pride, to at least say "I clean up nice"... or "decent" even, lol. I know that there is a lot of criticism over most VNs in which the MC is even _close_ to attractive -- but, on the other side of it - it is really frustrating to read so many VNs where the first thing we have to swallow is that our "avatar".. the protag, whatever - is either a loser or SO below-average in looks or intelligence or both.. that it's absurd to think he can score a semi-pretty girl.. I understand the argument, but there is an equally valid counter-argument imho. Sorry - spent too much time on that.. Point being - if one is already fantasizing (immersing oneself in a VN) why not, at least _occasionally_, have the fact that "girls are chasing you" be something close to believable, rather than just absurd? Give me a decent protag and I'll put up with plenty, lol.. Back on point... ->

Yep - I think it was pretty well-done, honestly. I mean - it's not perfect... I haven't found the perfect moege, personally - but... if this is nothing special, I wonder what VNs I've missed that qualify as "special" to you guys. I mean - when you're talking about Shinigamis, or sibling love-stories within a mostly comedic wrapper -- well, one could argue that all plot twists are pushing one "ex-machina envelope" or another. Also worth mentioning is the soundtrack - an important factor, for me. I think the SakuSaku soundtrack is excellent. Maybe not perfect, but where it shines it really shines, to my ears (to mix metaphor or simile or whatever). More matters of taste, of course. For me, the emotive, often beautiful melodies reflect the mood most of the time, and they're memorable and definitely cut-above the norm. I think they up the re-playability.. and speaking of that - as often happens upon subsequent readings, I've gained greater understanding and ... thus, empathy and appreciation, of most of the routes. Especially Konomi's - that rant is so completely opposite of my view - and since the spoilers were fast and furious, even if presented through a dark-and-negatively-biased lens, let's just say that I realize the ending is a completely happy ending for the MC and Heroine, even if the gratification was seriously delayed. Realism is not something that you see a lot of in VNs, regardless of genre - and the focus on the cultural and societal pressures was hardly overdone or overplayed imho... and as far as Tina, the Loli and the "grief" given: the grief and opposition that was given was not that harsh at all -- it was nothing to whine about and it didn't impact the MC or - in my case - the player/reader. No detraction from enjoyment whatsoever - and in fact, all parties were sufficiently "on board" and supportive when the time came for it.

It blows my mind that someone would call this "terrible writing". Wonder just what constitutes good writing then. Here's a different viewpoint on the writing - I feel that it is better than maybe 90% of the VNs in this genre, least the ones I've read. An MC who's actually popular, yet is completely apathetic about it - i.e. could care less, pretty much. Mostly solid artwork, fairly humorous at times, decent ichaicha that's, overall, not "in the way"; very solid translation, by someone who clearly knows the English language... I guess you could say that I liked the VN for the most part. ;-) I think Saku Saku IS pretty special, personally. It is definitely in my permanent library. I really wish there were an FD, or a sequel or something. Terrible writing? HARDLY... As long as you are not so angry a person that you rage whenever a story deviates from your expectations or preconceptions, you'll be just fine. KNOW YOUR GENRE. If you hate moege and demand that a plot go point-for-point exactly as you would have it go -- you may want to consider... knitting? instead... Definitely not reading...Last modified on 2018-11-02 at 19:00
#7 by aprilia1k
2018-11-02 at 19:58
Addendum -

OP mentions that in addition to Tina's route, that Ann's route unlocks additional H-scenes in KONAMI'S route?
After multiple playthroughs (including fresh installs), and reading a handful of published reviews, as well as walkthroughs -including translating the original Japanese walkthrough - I have never seen any mention of all this additional content that was locked by Ann's route, so angering OP...

Anyone else know of this?

To the best of my knowledge, from sources and personal experience mentioned above, Tina's route is unlocked by Ann's route- and that is the only locked or hidden content.

The OP review - while written with a decent command of the language, read like propaganda from a rival company or something... I'm serious. It contains just enough truth to raise a suspicion, and then -- seems to take a hard and hateful "left turn" (toward extremely negative bias). I'm surprised that anyone would agree. Well - I'm glad that my perspective and experience was so vastly contrary to that... really sounds rough man. Ummm... have a nice day? ;-)

Like Ann being this most hate-worthy Heroine - she is intentionally annoying at the outset- I didn't like her either, not many would - but the VN was obviously telling us to do that during the early/mid common route (that's, umm... a clue... just maybe? that there's more going on than we're privy to at that point.. but, to actually adopt and maintain that "hate" viewpoint as one's own - I don't want to be insulting... but - I'm glad that I noticed that it was a setup, foreshadowing etc.. and didn't hold on to it . And, as far as the self-sacrifice she was trying to make at the end of her route -- moronic? Girl's lived for hundreds of years - while the only real friend and companion, in her eyes - the closest one to family, best-friend, etc... has had to be almost entirely a spectator, with no life to speak of -- for HUNDREDS of years... So - for Ann to decide to let this beloved "other" finally have a life.. ... is "moronic?"... not the word I would use... I don't even get such an angry, umm.... I'll stop here. Wow. Not the VN for OP, obviously....Last modified on 2018-11-02 at 20:04
#8 by kominarachromer
2018-11-02 at 20:07
#6 The "generic McHaremdude protagonist" is one of those tropes that seem weirdly omnipresent in VN criticism, yet doesn't actually come up all that often. Nearly every moege protagonist nowadays has at least a couple of quirks to make him stand out, and because of the growing number of protagonists with faces, we can also see that nearly every single one of them is ridiculously bishounen. It's only in really old eroge/dating sims or nukige that you really get the sort of bland protagonists that everyone's always complaining about. I'd say it's more of a problem with harem anime than with modern eroge.

Mind, I don't think SakuSaku is bad, by any means. I managed to derive quite a bit of enjoyment out of it, and I think that it's decent by moege standards. The driving conflicts are fairly interesting, the heroines are cute, and the comedy is alright. Honestly, I'd probably really like this game if I were a bigger moege fan.

But, as it is, it doesn't really do anything too special. Sure, it's pretty on point in the presentation department, though I think the original translation fumbled quite a few times, and there's nothing wrong with the story technically, but there's nothing that absolutely blew me away, either. Ann's ending was pretty good, I guess?
Again, I'd say that this is definitely worth a look for anybody who's into moege, but I doubt that this'll do much for you if you aren't already a fan of the genre.
#9 by aprilia1k
2018-11-03 at 06:07
edit - tried to clean this up a bit without rendering the replies useless.

#8 Bishonen - looks almost synonymous with yesteryear's "metrosexual" ("beauty transcending gender?")... so - not sure I agree over all. The complaints I've conveyed were about protagonists from games the last five years perhaps at most... and I really haven't seen all that many protags with face as of yet - are you talking about untranslated VNs? Really not trying to be disagreeable, just curious what some of those titles might be - like what constitutes "modern eroge" for you?

I ask because you do sound like you know what you're talking about. I mostly stick to 18+ VNs - perhaps what you're describing would be more obvious to me if I read some AA, or again, if you are reading untranslated VNs. Maybe I've just let a couple of them really get to me. There _have_ been one or two VNs where different writers handled the routes, and the contrast in protag characterization has pushed a few buttons. Damn - now I'm wondering if I've just been overly critical of the protag in a few VNs, and perhaps even contributed to what you're describing. Nah, I don't post often, obviously I guess. But the way you describe industry trends, protagonist characterizations, genres - you seem to have your "finger on the pulse" as they say. Incidentally - despite preferring 18+, I almost always skip, or just look in disbelief. It's honestly just that I feel that a romance is missing something if the "intimacy" isn't there, and at times it's done right - not often - but, it almost enhances the experience just knowing it's there, even if I don't watch it, heh.. in other words, the 18+ VN is not what I consider "fap material", regardless.

I'd totally agree that SakuSaku's appeal is very much predicated upon the reader's appreciation of moege, for SURE; and for those that go for the imouto/sibling, 恋愛 ...

I've been trying to understand/explain for myself why _my_ impression - from the titles I've played over the last 16 months or so - is somewhat different from the reality you're informing me about, i.e. that the "spineless, clueless, slow, naive, etc.." protagonist doesn't really appear that often in "modern eroge". I have to admit that I probably haven't quite read 2 dozen titles, completed less than half (and then purchased) and likely a third of those were released 10 to 15 years ago. The rest have mostly been moege I guess - but... damn, I may have let just a few incidents, coupled with so many forum posts describing that "typical idiot protag" - color my impression of the VN landscape.. like some giant, virtual straw man for me to perpetuate - just as you say. Well - I've also probably limited myself by ... hell, almost fearing the more serious titles - since I've realized that I _really_ do immerse, and thus can get ... embarrassed to admit it .. pretty depressed (like I know "Kana, little Sister" is highly regarded - but I just don't want to "go there", ya know..). Look -I appreciate that calling me a Molly Brown was the extent of your uh.. constructive feedback. I mean that. Not surprisingly, I guess, I'm adhd and not always as mindful as I should to be.

Not sure if any of these count as "modern", but - a lot of people say FSN is a must-read classic, um... G Senjou no Maou (Devil on a G string), Shinigami no Kiss... it seems a bit darker than moege, and has the supernatural elements. Hey - cheers, thanks for your thoughts there. -- I'm sure you're right about the MC thing - I'm still working on a bit of a backlog, along with a few "more current" titles. The string of wimpy protags I've encountered recently may well go back 10+ years anyway. ... but I do like to see the proactive tag, and wouldn't mind seeing a few less "donkan". Anyway - appreciate the info. I'm going to start paying much closer attention to this site, definitely.Last modified on 2018-11-04 at 01:57
#10 by ramaladni
2018-11-03 at 06:17
#9 Paragraphs please, I'm begging you. Not trying to be rude or anything.Last modified on 2018-11-03 at 06:18
#11 by kominarachromer
2018-11-03 at 06:48
#9 To restate #10’s point, your posts are getting a little too Molly Bloom for my taste. No offense intended, but please try to tone it down and segment out your points a little a little.

I don’t play an awful lot of untranslated moege; again, not really my speed. But looking at trends in the industry overall, I think that the awfulness of the moege protagonist is a bit overstated. Sure, they’re generally pretty cliche and underdeveloped, and they can occasionally display donkan traits, but none of those are really a significant factor in most moege unless the writer goes out of their way to make them annoying.

When I say “modern eroge”, I’m generally referring to commercial bishoujo titles made from 2009 onwards. By that point, most of the framework had been laid down for future titles, and the general tropes of the medium were basically set in stone.

I’m not sure what you were going for by bringing up those VNs. F/SN is pretty good, from what little I’ve read of it, and G-Senjou has a ton of utterly useless filler routes but is pretty fun regardless. That’s all I can say on that matter.

The bishie protagonists generally aren’t too bad; it actually shows more effort on the part of the eroge studios to develop their protags past the faceless blank slates that dominated the industry for so long. It doesn’t always succeed, of course, but Sturgeon’s Law is still alive and well. You’ve got to wade through the shit to find the gold: or you could just hope that some rando on EGS will find the gold for you. Either way works.
#12 by aprilia1k
2018-11-03 at 23:46
#10 --- You are totally right.

I'm embarrassed. The entry window is tiny and I neglected to mess with re-sizing it.. but - you are very right. I appreciate you going easy on me! :-)

I tried to clean that up a bit, without just deleting...

I mentioned those other titles because you said moege wasn't so much your genre - and these are a couple that have been on my radar, thought one of them might represent what you were referring to (then again, FSN is hardly new, is it.. lol) .. I should have come straight out and asked you for a few titles that you thought were good - regardless of genre. Man.. molly.. heh.. that like a "Ulysses" reference? heh.. anyway - damn embarrassed. Almost went stream-of-consciousness back there.

Thanks for your time and thoughts.

:-)Last modified on 2018-11-04 at 02:06

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