9 -Nine- Haruiro Harukoi HarunokazeProduction quality in this installment is insane (and that's saying something, from an already above-average production). The music went from decent to really good (ED song is a banger). In terms of plot, more of the central mystery is revealed; I'm very excited to see how it'll culminate (that reveal...). The character in this route, Miyako, is affable, but she feels a little too manufactured (suspension of disbelief only goes so far). Nonetheless, she's gotten the most development out of all the heroines (so far) by a longshot. The average reader will probably really appreciate her.
9 -Nine- Kokonotsu Kokonoka KokonoiroI guess Kazuki Fumi has firmly established himself as writing folklore mystery -- This is a genuine prologue (if even) chapter. The actual plot presented so far is pretty meh. Miyako's characterization is pretty generic/thin; the romance made no sense (imagine falling in love after 2-3 scenes).
9 -Nine- Sorairo Sorauta SoranootoCompared to the first installment, the plot & world develops substantially more (and consequently, the central mystery (?) of the work). I was ambivalent towards the romance in this arc, primarily because I don't like incest as a trope - but there were pockets of touching moments. Sora's an infinitely more entertaining character than Miyako.
9 -Nine- Yukiiro Yukihana YukinoatoA fulfilling ending (?) to the series. I'm impressed by how polished 9-nine- feels; the characters (for better or worse) feel manufactured, but in an intentional, planned way (Palette knows their target audience & accordingly write the characters). I do lament that the characters aren't really well-developed (they're easily likable + act really cute, but there's no depth). The actual plot developments were great; the visual novel medium was really used to its fullest potential, which as a fan of the medium, is something great to see. The overall pacing of the work was really good too.
Aiyoku no EustiaThe quintessential ensemble work -- Eustia has an above-average plotline, but executes this superbly through its colorful character cast and its insane production quality (visuals + godly soundtrack). Not a groundbreaking work by any means - but super easy to read through because of how well-paced and consistently engaging it is.
Akeiro KaikitanWork has a more compelling central mystery than Nanairo, but is worse paced. Character routes aren't as repetitive as the predecessor, but are not really that important to the plot (the true route is for the most part, self-contained enough that you could get the whole plot without paying too much attention to the side routes). Nanairo felt more original & unexpected than Akeiro, which felt more "ordinary" (structure and storytelling wise). Lacks the charm of its predecessor.
Ano Harewataru Sora yori TakakuSurprisingly educational (rocket science for dummies) -- the actual themes underlying the work are executed well (and it's for this reason, that I really enjoyed the work). At the core, it's a work about youth & the steps they'll take to achieve their dreams. It's aspirational.
Ao no Kanata no Four RhythmFor better or worse, this is like watching an anime - it feels pretty tame/generic at some points, but it's executed stunningly.
AstraythemFocused on a pair of "star-crossed lovers" - the work itself explores what that phrase actually means (both its positive and negative connotations). Has a well-structured, fleshed-out (albeit convoluted & vague at times) world/plot and a standout central heroine.
ATRI -My Dear Moments-A short, albeit poignant tale. Boasts high production value, and has Matsumoto Fuminori as its composer (this itself should be reason to read). Heroine is extremely affable. The plot itself is predictable - not quite the fault of the writer as much as it is the inevitability of its length. The antagonist was unconvincing, making some dramatic scenes dull (arguably work could have been better if this 'conflict' was left out entirely). An easy read that never felt like it "carried on too much."
Baldr Sky Dive2 “Recordare”Baldr Sky is just a genuinely fun, engaging game supported by a great soundtrack, a unique setting (the type you wouldn't get to develop in a mainstream JRPG), and a detailed, intriguing plot/storyline. It's a wild ride that you don't really want to get off of.
Boku no Hitori SensouA game so mediocre that it caused its parent company to only produce nukige after the fact (joke). Not Looseboy's finest work - not a fan of deceiving the audience, especially when the pay-off is so lackluster. The concept of the work was interesting (the King's game), but the execution itself was dumb (a commentary on interpersonal relationships through symbolic combat). The message was there -- but it was unconvincingly expressed.
Boku wa Kimi dake o Mitsumeru ~I Gaze at Only You~A work that develops its entire cast - but, the work itself lacks significance. The plot itself is fairly forgettable and while the characters are developed, they aren't developed meaningfully. Storytelling left a lot to be desired. Work is well-paced and boasts an impressive production value that increases the readers' immersion into the work. Has the spirit of CSG46+1 in that there are some deceptively similar sprites - and that it focuses more on the ensemble than any one character.
CarnivalA wild tale of humanity, in all its good (and often bad); an optimistic utsuge of sorts. Setoguchi is one of the best authors for writing convincing, psychologically-complex characters - he develops his characters through extensive monologue in a way that makes empathizing with them natural (even when the characters are 'irregular'). The actual plot itself serves primarily to develop the characters' psychological portraits, and is in itself, nothing special (but it does cover the gamut of dark plot devices). Work suffers mildly from repetitive route structure (but not completely), and some superfluous side characters (a good chunk of the side characters are written convincingly well -- not as stereotypical as you'd imagine). Game is dated, but soundtrack stands the test of time.
Chrono ClockTwenty hours, forever gone. If only I had a clock that could give me back my twenty hours. Rather generic character cast with a poorly-conceived plot. Despite the title of the work, time travel wasn't a major part of the work (it was naturally discussed during the common + the true, but entirely forgotten in the side routes; where it is utilized, it's done rather uninterestingly).
ChuSinGura 46+1Surprisingly, this is a work that actually teaches history pretty-well from an analytic perspective; it presents history through numerous varied perspectives, as you would find when reading through a primary source, then offers commentary on those accounts as a historian would scrutinize. On level of the work itself, each heroine route is meaningfully developed (there is no true heroine so to speak; it's an emphasis on the ensemble). Once the reader gets "into" the novel -- i.e. immersed into the rhetoric, the societal attitude, and air of the time, reading through the work feels like a breeze; I imagine the barrier would be syncing up with the work itself.
Cocoro@Function!This game feels nostalgic to me (writing this years after finishing it). It basically brings me back to my college days.
Cross†ChannelI once read this in English -- which is to say that I've never read Cross Channel.
Daitoshokan no HitsujikaiArguably a work with one of the worst structures (over 7 endings; each heroine has their true ending, to get their true ending, you have to play through their rather lackluster normal endings. The true endings themselves were pretty mediocre/identical; context of some of them went against the development in the previous normal routes). The slice-of-life in this series ranged from pretty good to kill me. The execution left a lot to be desired within the heroine routes themselves (a singing heroine who "sings" in the backdrop of generic slice-of-life BGM; a stuttering heroine whose route culminates in a 4-5 line forgettable speech; an artist whose victory is summed up in a line of "she won btw"). The music in the work was good; the heroines themselves were also good (August is good at writing a meaningful ensemble cast -- i.e. no true central heroine, and thus, every heroine stands out). Work's biggest flaw is its breadth - had it narrowed itself, it would've been much better.
Eden* They Were Only Two, On The Planet.Similar to Planetarium; you'll love it, or dislike it entirely. A little too lachrymose/heavy-handed for me; in minori fashion, an oppressive soundtrack supports plot developments that give rise to the utsuge mood. Despite being a "short" novel, I felt that it carried on way too much. Production was good, albeit direction was not.
EvolimitTo transcend humanity, is to transcend the limit of evolution. A rather impressive work; it poses profound themes without being didactic/preachy; supported by a strong character cast with strong chemistry. Plot itself is engaging - reader unravels the mysteries of a multifaceted storyline; it's consistently good on the micro level (what happens within the arcs themselves), but suffers on the macro level (arguable dei ex machina due to uncertainty surrounding the conclusion). Not groundbreaking, but enjoyable for what it strives to do.
Gensou no Idea ~Oratorio Phantasm Historia~A chuunige written comparatively simply for its genre. The work moves quickly and takes the reader on a fun ride. It boasts impressive production value, which contributed greatly to its immersive storytelling. It executed its most dramatic scenes extremely well. Character cast was both memorable (i.e. original) and affable. At times, the speedy storytelling worked against it (some characters weren't developed as well as they could have been). Suffers from occasional infodumping and/or what feel like in-the-moment dei ex machina; enjoyment not substantially affected. Would be better if work took itself more seriously overall.
Golden MarriageCharacters themselves are good -- issue is that it's kinda tacky. Marriage is used as a means of progressing the plot without meaningful development; heroine route development is inconsistent at best (idk how 6 heroines can meaningfully be developed in 10-15 hours); and it's a slice-of-life game with an unnecessary central antagonist (???).
G-senjou no MaouI wish I remembered more about this to comment on it -- but personally, it was the "gateway" work that really got me into the genre, and propelled me to read more. That in itself provides it some added sentimentality. Probably overrated (by my modern standards).
Hatsuyuki SakuraNiijima Yuu's magnus opum (thus far) in my opinion. He's a master at setting the "fairy tale" mood. Yuu works are remembered less for their plot points, but for how they make you feel while you read them in the moment; ephemeral, yet profound reveries.
Hikari no Umi no ApeiriaThis plot is so absurdly dumb that I find it difficult to get invested in the characters & continue. I feel like this is primarily a comedy series at the start, but I'm trying to look at it as a plot series. Also petty reason, but Kuon's VA is ear grating.
Hikoukigumo no MukougawaA moege (?) which seeks to illuminate the nature of love - it does this successfully in some respects. Enjoyability of the work is contingent on how much the reader likes the heroine, who matures substantially throughout the work (code: annoying at times) -- and how tolerant they are of the protagonist (who is "passive" at times). Side heroine routes were pretty bad, which is a shame since the characters themselves are likable.
HimawariThis is a grand work with heart - and a work that shouldn't be as good as it actually is. What it lacks in production value, it makes up for in its storytelling, plot, and soundtrack. This is a work that is good on its surface, and perhaps, brilliant underneath it. At its core, it's a character-driven drama set in a sci-fi setting. Largest weakness is that at times, it's hard to "tie" together all the plot points conclusively (does not have the usual true route - or an ordinary route structure at all for that matter; this, for the bulk of the work, contributes to its strength).
Himawari no Kyoukai to Nagai NatsuyasumiA tale of time - with time, pain ceases, and happiness pervades the empty. Amazing soundtrack & atmosphere. Character cast as a whole is affable, all the routes (with the exception of one) were meaningfully written and excelled either emotionally or thematically. This is a work without an "evil" -- essentially reality with a sprinkle of something "more." Work's biggest flaw is its seemingly pointless slice of life (albeit you actually forget all of that years after the read -- this is a work that ages really well).
Hoshi Ori Yume MiraiThe best character game - I think. It has insane production value, a great cast of heroines - each with a fulfulling arc & a mini after that actually feels impactful/meaningful, a stand-out soundtrack (accompanied by a character song album that captures the feeling of the ensemble), and a protagonist that isn't completely glue. No pure character game comes close, I'd argue.
Inochi no SpareAlluring concept, but rather poor execution. Characters remain caricatures -- affable, but as deep as smooth granite (see discussion post on VNDB). Enjoyment of work contingent on attachment to plight of heroine and protagonist. A solid read for beginner readers because the prose is terse and simple.
IslandThe strength of this work lies in its world - ever-so complex and cryptic. Tells a grand tale - but as a result, alienates the reader who desires a down-to-earth conclusion. Lacks the emotional draw that its predecessor Himawari had - while also lacking the "linchpin" that holds everything together.
J.Q.V Jinrui Kyuusai-bu ~With Love from Isotope~Heartfelt beauty in its writing and scope - this is a multilayered, oft complex work that manages to balance the "human" with the extraordinary. Features a "central" mystery so to speak, offbeat (at times absurd) humor/writing, and manages to shine when it matters most. Work itself doesn't feature an awe-inspiring philosophy or storyline (some bits felt a bit trite, if not dated). Nonetheless, work manages to enrapture the reader through its prose and presentation -- and that in itself is a noteworthy feat.
Kami no Ue no MahoutsukaiMediocre production value (no OP song is a travesty) - but sports an enticing plot & mystery. Presentation (in writing & in visuals) left a lot to be desired at points; but its substance made up for it. Game excelled at throwing the reader off -- the prose itself was nice too. Game isn't groundbreaking, but pulls off far more than what it should have.
Kara no ShoujoA mystery game with an alluring atmosphere (accentuated through its fantastic soundtrack). Difficulty kind of hard without a walkthrough.
Kara no Shoujo - The Second EpisodePlot aside, the atmosphere was something else -- I felt like I lived in some rural Japanese village. Probably Innocent Grey's most beautiful game - both visually and musically; I didn't love the characters as much (for who can really top Touko?) -- but, the central mystery + the final revelation makes me anticipate the next installment.
Koi de wa Naku - It's not Love, but so Where Near.Hands down, the most infuriating work that I've ever read. But in the name of love -- in the end, it was worth it. Ultimately, takes on a different type of 'love,' making it a pretty engaging read. OP (and honestly, general OST) suited the work perfectly, and were so good.
Koisuru Natsu no Last ResortI translated this work in college; looking back at it, it wasn't a great work. I did appreciate the fun atmosphere + a college-aged protagonist, though.