84 CommentsVisual Novels / By Scamp /

Saya no Uta: Visual Novel Review

I like Steins;Gate a lot. It’s an anime with strong emphasis on good writing and engaging characters. What I found surprising was that it was based off a Visual Novel, while previous visual novel anime adaptations I’d seen had been notable for insipid writing and bland characters. Interest piqued, I asked my readers what visuals novels out there I should try. I settled on Saya no Uta, for the duel reason of being produced by Nitro+, the creators of Steins;Gate, and written by Gen Urabochi, the guy who wrote Madoka Magica. There are slightly less…intimidating introductions to visual novels than Saya no Uta, given some of its plot elements, but I might as well start with the guys who got me interested in the medium in the first place.

It was…an experience.

Saya no Uta is primarily a horror story. It’s about a guy called Fuminori, who is saved from death after a car crash using an experimental medical procedure. The only problem is he now sees the world as covered in guts and tentacles and glowing pustules, as though the world has been taken over by a slightly redder version of The Flood from the Halo games. His friends now look like red demon monsters that bare no resemblance to humans in any way, shape or form. The only person in the world he doesn’t see as a horrible tentacled monster is a young girl called Saya. All this is shown is graphic, horrific detail. The opening sequence of the game sure throws you straight in the deep end. It’s really nauseating stuff, although you do get used to it as the game goes on. Which is quite clever on the part of the game, because it matches up well with how Fuminori himself also gets used to this world.

I could start calling the story Lovecraftian, but I’d be talking out of my ass seeing as I’ve never read any Lovecraft. Rather, I’d prefer to simply stick to the classic horror genre comparisons. Some of the characters certainly act like they’re in a horror movie, what with all the wandering around decrepit houses with monsters in them. It gets a bit silly when lines like “she knew she should leave but something kept drawing her forward” keep appearing, the trappings of the genre more overpowering than something as minor as common sense. But, to be fair, Saya no Uta is genuinely scary. It doesn’t rely on cheap scares either (not that they don’t exist, like the aforementioned wandering around decrepit houses thing). The main character becomes such a deranged monster by the end, some of the scenes where the other characters start to discover how low he has sunk are fantastic. One of the best moments in the game was a little connect the dots moment in my mind where I suddenly realise “he’s been having sex with that!?!”.

The centre story at play here is certainly interesting and very well written. I can’t exactly say the same about the plot progression though. Some of the complaints I’ve seen against Madoka Magica is that the plot twists were telegraphed. While I marvel at these peoples’ powers of clairvoyance, each plot twist was obvious in retrospect. There’s a very deliberate way the story unfolds. Saya no Uta, on the other hand, introduces plot twists that felt totally arbitrary. It’s as though they simply wanted to shock the audience rather than introduce these plot twists naturally. This is compounded by the fact that these twists, given the nature of the story, are often stuff like monster rape, monster rape of little girls and…well, more monster rape. Introducing what should be shocking scenes in such a haphazard manner robs them of any effect. Once you get over the original premise, Saya no Uta stops really scaring you from a surface level, because of the poor introduction of new elements. It mainly comes down to connected the dots horror as you unearth more of what the mystery behind the story is.

And then there were the sex scenes.

When I first asked for recommendations on what VNs to play, I quickly assured people that I wasn’t bothered by the presence of sex scenes. Not quite true. What I wasn’t bothered by was a regular old sex scene introduced for the sole purpose of wank material. I was also prepared for the gore and monster rape that Saya no Uta held, figuring the ending of the Berserk anime had mentally steeled me against whatever this game could throw at me. What I wasn’t prepared for were the two combined together. Saya no Uta’s sex is central to the story, and some of the scenes are demented, gross and repulsive. The problem is, the game was presenting them as though I was supposed to be getting off to them. Really now? Forget the fact I’m meant to be turned on after viewing the previous nightmare fuel. Now I’m supposed to be turned on my monsters raping little girls, mind-breaking slave ex-girlfriends and all sorts of awful stuff? Yes, it’s an adult game in a medium that relies on porn to shift sales, but I’m in here for the story and the writing, and the presence of these scenes hamper that exact element.

As an example, Saya no Uta generally has no problem showing you awful horrible monsters. Now I know there’s a rule in horror that what you don’t see is scarier than what you do see, but there are key scenes in Saya no Uta where showing us the atrocities would have had far more effect. Without spoiling, there’s a scene towards the end where a character, who had previously found it impossible to believe some of the stuff he had read, shines a flashlight down at his feet and sees one of these monsters down there. Yet the game doesn’t show us this monster, when it really should have. It would have been the combination of seeing what made this character break down, as well as what that monster had become (there being a slightly longer story behind this monster). Yet the game shirked that task.

There are a couple of other moments too, such as one at the end where seeing a character in half-monster form in the mirror would have been a fantastic parting shot, but again the game decided against. Yet it had no problem showing the human rape scene and the mind breaking sex slave scene, when showing neither would have had far more effect. The chuckle of the character with the sex slave on the phone would have been far more chilling if the game left what he had been doing with her to our imagination. The reason why they show these scenes is obvious. The games need porn to sell. But I’m reviewing this from a writing standpoint, and having these sex scenes in full graphical detail, while not holding the same approach to scenes where showing the details would have had more effect, detracts hugely. Instead of being horrified by events, I’m mainly just being disgusted at the game itself.

One thing that struck me as odd was how little user interaction there was in the game. It’s not a big complaint, but it felt like they were ignoring the one big point in favour of visual novels. There was a grand total of 2 choices for the player in the game, and one of these was based off chance rather than you defining the character. The one time where they did allow you to choose was an excellent use of the visual novels mechanics, because you define how far gone down the path of madness the lead character is through your actions. I found it kinda funny that I automatically chose the option that I thought would lead to less sex scenes, which led to the story ending really abruptly. In fact, I think that ending was the best of the 3.

Spoilers for the shortest ending. Show ▼

Did I enjoy the experience though? Well, in the end, yes I did. It’s far from being a masterpiece. It’s incredibly flawed, the sex scenes totally turned me off, didn’t really use the strengths of its medium very well, and has hardly got me leaping up in anticipation for playing more visual novels. But I also couldn’t stop pushing through the thing in sheer fascination, wanting to unearth more of the story. It’s well written for the most part, and did set me thinking. It also made me afraid of shutting my eyes at night, but I’m not sure whether I’d class that as a good thing. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to anyone in great faith, but I don’t regret playing it either. It was an experience. A fucked up, freaky, demented experience, but an experience I definitely enjoyed.

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83 Comments

  1. Posted July 17, 2011 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Are you ready to play full length VNs now? Namely, Ever17.

    • AdventCirno
      Posted July 17, 2011 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      If you are looking for something that really flexes what can be done in the context of VNs, it is without a doubt Ever17.

      It has flaws to be sure, but it is one of the only VNs I have ever read whose story could not conceivably be told using another medium. It can only exist as a visual novel.

      • Random
        Posted July 17, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

        You surely did not read Cross+Channel.

        Also, I suggest Scamp to read Phantom of Inferno, most people regard it to be the best out of Urobuchi’s works.

      • Scamp
        Posted July 17, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

        I’m more interested in trying out more Nitro+/Gen Urabochi than venturing into other territories, seeing as they’re the reason I’m in here. Baby steps

      • Aerxes
        Posted July 17, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

        In terms of Gen Urabochi, another short Kinetic Novel written by him is Kikokugai. While less known than SnU, it’s also very well recieved, some stating that it was better contained than SnU. I’ve yet to read it, though, it’s next on my list. Phantom is also good, but it was horrendously butchered by Hirameki (a deceased translation company). They ported it to a horrendous DVD-format and removed many scenes, which is why I have yet to read it also. It still might be worth a shot, as it is also very popular.

      • Posted July 18, 2011 at 2:53 am | Permalink

        Having played Kikokugai myself, I think it had a pretty solid cyberpunk setting with clear kung fu movie vibes throughout, though I’d definitely say it’s rougher around the edges compared to Saya in just about every department (which makes sense, seeing as it was written first). The writing is still quite good, though there’s less time spent on the characters other than Taoluo and more on the eponymous slaying.

        What I noticed most is that Kikokugai tries hard to be cool in the same way that 90′s anime did – by doing things way over the top with a straight face and book of supposedly poignant lines. In places it pulls it off, while other times it comes off as overblown and silly. It’s the Dante (of Devil May Cry fame, not the poet) of Visual Novels.

        Finally, there weren’t a great many H-scenes, and thank god for that. Of the two or three that were present, all were awkward, off-putting sadism/rape fare which once again the game clearly expected you to enjoy. Weirdly I didn’t mind most of the ones in Saya, but these just seemed jarringly in-detail and out of place, either there for cheap shock value or as actual fapping material for a very select audience.

        Whatever pays the bills… I guess?

    • Posted July 17, 2011 at 10:27 am | Permalink

      This, man. THIS.

    • Posted July 17, 2011 at 10:39 am | Permalink

      Damn this looks interesting.

    • Scamp
      Posted July 17, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

      le sigh

      Maybe I will. Depends how long this budding fascination in this new medium lasts

  2. Posted July 17, 2011 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    All right, now I’m pumped for playing this. After much fuss about moving my files to a new computer, I can now download more useless junk like Daemon tools, etc. needed to play this.

    I tend to enjoy sick, twisted, disgusting things (Franken Fran, Alien Nine, N.H.K., and I’ve been able to read things like Tokyo Akazukin and Mai-chan no Nichijou), so I hope this lives up to my expectations!

    • Scamp
      Posted July 17, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

      Kinda surprised someone could be pumped for playing this after that review, but hey. Whatever you’re into I guess

      • DesuSexual
        Posted July 19, 2011 at 11:16 am | Permalink

        I kinda sorta went and played this too.
        I just got to the looney house. sigh :c
        I thought fixing his brain would lead to a happy ending…

    • Posted August 3, 2011 at 6:21 am | Permalink

      AAAAAAaaaaaaaAAaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaAaAaAaAAaAAAaAaaaaa

      I played it.

      It actually wasn’t that bad. The only part I thought was pretty gross was Kouji seeing the fridge.

  3. Posted July 17, 2011 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    I was considering playing this but I might get nightmares. Most of the stuff I’ve seen/read of it frightens me.

    I think you should try Aiyoku no Eustia once the English patch is done. The web trial has been translated. I just hope its eventual anime adaption won’t be shit like Yoake Maesdjfxkfsomething.

    • Scamp
      Posted July 17, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

      …why do so many VN covers and artwork look the damn same? At the very least, Saya no Uta looks on the cover to be very different from all these other ones

      • Posted July 17, 2011 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

        Only Six Faces. Still worse with light novels imo.

        At least it’s not in a school setting.

  4. Posted July 17, 2011 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    I also became curious about Saya no Uta because of Madoka. Before, I never even entertained the idea picking it up. And yes, I share the exact same thoughts as you.

    The overall experience was positive for me. How the characters went down the path to insanity was quite fascinating, to be honest, and that is the highest praise I can give Saya no Uta. However, the rest of the elements were pretty weak for a visual novel. I’ve seen a lot of better stuff.

    I think you should have started with some of the higher profile games like Ever17, Fate/Stay Night, Remember11, Sharin no Kuni, or G-Senjou no Maou. Those are some of the visual novels that rely more on the writing and plot than the H-scenes, and Ever17 doesn’t even have H-Scenes.

    • Random
      Posted July 17, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

      Remember11, Sharin no Kuni are certainly not as famous as Saya no Uta.
      The only game you stated that surely surpasses Saya no Uta in fame after Madoka was aired would be FSN.

  5. Posted July 17, 2011 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    I would recommend Clannad and the Sono Hanabira games, but seeing that you dislike both drama and yuri, I’ll leave it to you to decide whether you want to try them out or not.

    • DesuSexual
      Posted July 17, 2011 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      Does Clannad have the damned english patch yet?

      • Posted July 17, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

        I would assume so – I downloaded it with an English patch about a year ago, and while I haven’t finished the game it said ‘full’ and I haven’t come across any untranslated stuff yet.

      • luffyluffy
        Posted July 17, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

        Go read Planetarian you fool.

        Do it.

        DO IT.

        Maybe if more people read it we’ll finally get that Ova adaptation.

        …. ;3;

      • Posted July 17, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

        I played Clannad in English about three years ago. :\

      • Posted July 17, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

        @LuffyLuffy: Planetarian is one of the greatest short stories ever told. It jjust doesn’t get enough love for some reason. :(

      • Scamp
        Posted July 17, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

        >Game by Key

        lol no

      • luffyluffy
        Posted July 17, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

        it’s only 5 hours long bro, what have you got to lose?

        IT’S NOT WRITTEN BY MAEDA

      • Random
        Posted July 17, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

        5 hours is enough to chomp through another one of Gen’s works

      • luffyluffy
        Posted July 17, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

        Well, thinking on it, I suppose Planetarian isn’t a VN.

        I think it’s actually called a Kinetic Novel.

      • Scamp
        Posted July 17, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

        Kinetic novel? As in what, you wave it around to go to the next line?

      • luffyluffy
        Posted July 17, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

        WAGGLE TO PET TIGER

        No, as in it doesn’t choices. It’s legit five hours of a sweet girl, ambient music, and an awesome protag.

        There’s no romance.

      • luffyluffy
        Posted July 17, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

        I suppose explaining the plot would help wouldn’t it?

        The game is set in a post-apocalyptic world.[2] It is said that due to the depletion of natural resources, overpopulation, and the failure of the Space Exploration Project, humanity has virtually eradicated itself through biological and nuclear warfare, turning a once prosperous civilization into complete ruin, cast in darkness and poisoned by constant rain[3] from nuclear fallout. One military invasion in the past was at Mare Nectaris. The bloodshed continues 30 years after the war in a dystopic world via automated war machines, which kill anyone trespassing into their territory. Of the remaining humans, there are those known as “junkers” who go around scavenging for anything in order to survive; the protagonist in the story is one.[2]

        Copied from wiki because I’m lazy.

      • DesuSexual
        Posted July 18, 2011 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

        Hmm. Idk if anyone will help, but my searches are coming up empty. Does anyone know where I can get the english translated clannad vn? the few torrents I’ve found are dead :c

      • anon
        Posted July 25, 2011 at 8:36 am | Permalink

        http://www.mcanime.net/foro/viewtopic.php?t=73035

        pretty much every Key VN here, Clannad with its english patch too

  6. @aogu
    Posted July 17, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    You have two recommendations here….

    Im a big VN fan- and Ever 17 is one of the best ever (good luck
    getting “acquiring” it though… It manageable though)

    And then someone decided to recommend Sono Hanabira. Which is unspeakably shit. Clannad VN is poor, (but I do love the anime). But Sono Hanabira?! What are you thinking…. I dont mean to flame- but it is boring, lacking believable interesting story; Sono Hanabira never manages to even aspire to be more than a yuri porn game.

    • Posted July 17, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

      Well, Sono Hanabira requires the player to be a devout yuri fan, which I am.

      I understand that the games have a very niche audience, but I just put it here as it is the most famous series of yuri games. I have played all of them (except the ninth), and it does have a cohesive world and the ultimate subversion of typical yuri stories.

      • Scamp
        Posted July 17, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

        From everything I know of Sono Hanabira, it does anything other than subverse any yuri tropes

      • Posted July 17, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

        Typical yuri stories before the Sono Hanabira fame are quite dark, saturated with serious issues, and sometimes even NTR. Also, most yuri manga are not purely romantic. Sono Hanabira was made as a defiance to the common tropes used in yuri manga back then, and has been the template (but was never surpassed) of most current yuri-related works ever since.

      • Scamp
        Posted July 17, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

        I find it difficult to believe that the yuri genre as I know it was created by Sono Hanabira.

        However even if it was, it still exemplifies exactly what bores me about yuri

        (well, I guess on the upside, it does have porn)

      • Posted July 18, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

        I wouldn’t recommend any of the SonoHana games to Scamp. I like them, but they’re not what he’s looking for at all. Although the third game does avoid that ‘girls being insufferably nice to each other’ thing he hates.

  7. mcm38
    Posted July 17, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    I only ever played one VN (Shuffle!), so I’m not to confident in my VN knowledge. But I tought eroge’s were mainly focused on giving you the feeling of acquiring sex scenes. So most of the buyers don’t give a shit about it’s writing quality being topnotch. So, it’s only natural you’d get disappointed with all the porn. (Not like I experienced many sex scenes, only 2, in Shuffle!)

    • Posted July 17, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

      An eroge is typically any game with sexual content. It can be a VN, apuzzle game, or an arcade style game for that matter. What makes a VN stand out depends on the kind of VN you are playing, and it may or may not have H-Scenes. We have the Nakige or “crying game” like Clannad, Utsuge or “depressing game” like Saya no Uta, Moege at which the game focuses on character appeal like iDOLM@STER, Nukige or “extraction game” where the main selling point of the game is the H-Scenes like those games made by smaller game companies, among others. Steins;Gate counts as a Sci-Fi game, much like Ever17.

      • Scamp
        Posted July 17, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

        Someone on twitter brought up the point that the biggest genre in visual novels, after Nukige, would be mystery games, like Steins;Gate and Higurashi. From what I can tell, Ever17 falls into that category

  8. superfid2006
    Posted July 17, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Another one you might want to try is the Umineko sound novel series. Sure, the anime was shit, but only because they focused on the wrong things.
    Especially since the guys from Witch-Hunt are working on the eight and last episode right now, which is already 50% translated. In other words: you could play them all without having to wait and stuff.

    • Jhiday
      Posted July 17, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

      One problem with Umineko is that there’s absolutely zero player interaction, except in the traditional mystery sense of “try figuring out WTF is happening before it’s explained !” (well, at least in the first 7 ; I haven’t gone through the 8th yet).

      Also, the first novel starts with a humongous piece of bad writing (everyone meets everyone on the way to the island and makes some small talk ! for hours !) that could easily discourage Scamp. Heck, I didn’t start really enjoying the series until the 5th, where the point of the story is finally made clear (and which is clearly the most entertaining of the first 7 sound novels).

      • luffyluffy
        Posted July 17, 2011 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

        Scamp could always start from the Answer arcs, seeing as he’s seen the mangled question arcs.

      • anon
        Posted July 25, 2011 at 8:47 am | Permalink

        umineko is not suposed to be fun and giggles. If we are to compare VN’s to books, i’d say Saya no Uta would be Lovecraft material, any Key would be your typical romantic novel, Type-Moon stuff would be fantasy novels, kinda like Harry Potter or someyhing like that. But Umineko wouldn’t be there for sheer enjoyment of the public on a matter of just reading and enjoying the story, no Umineko would be something like Agatha Christie, where you are not supposed to sit back and enjoy the ride, rather you must be always on the look for clues and anything that allows you, the reader, to solve the mistery that is presented. You say the story is just made clear ’til 5th episode, but the thing is that by the point you get there, you yourself should’ve already have an idea of whats going on.

    • superfid2006
      Posted July 18, 2011 at 12:03 am | Permalink

      Well, I guess you’re right about that. When I started reading VNs, I tried reading Umineko and soon stopped afterwards – the introduction IS pretty boring.

      One of the first VNs I read was Tsukihime – though due to it being quite old, it might be not THAT appealing… maybe he could try out Fate/Stay Night?

      That, or CROSS†CHANNEL.

  9. Posted July 17, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    I’m kind of curious, because I love horror, but I’ve also got a bajillion other games I really should be playing. (Not to mention, uh, anime.)

    • Scamp
      Posted July 17, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

      If there is one thing it is undoubtedly good at, it’s horror. Had me freaked out far more than any anime I’ve seen

  10. Posted July 17, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    Oh, and did I mention that there’s an ongoing Steins;Gate translation project? http://vn.shourai.net/ if the link doesn’t work, try this one: http://myanimelist.net/forum/?topicid=302124

    • Scamp
      Posted July 17, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

      …I did link to that in my last Steins;Gate post

      • Aerxes
        Posted July 17, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

        In related news, the S;G translation has 30/175 scripts translated! I was doubtful that the project would last, but if it’s not machine translated that is definitely decent progress.

      • Posted July 17, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

        I didn’t get to read your S;G post since I still have to watch episode 15… sorry about that.

  11. Aerxes
    Posted July 17, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    After reading MLA, I’ve kind of shifted my opinion on VNs to something akin to “Every VN you read has the sole purpose of giving you the patience and ability to trudge through the Muv Luv series so you can experience the greatness that is Muv Luv Alternative.” Mind you, I’m not suggesting for you to read MLA now – it’s far too soon for that, but it is truly my favorite work of fiction.

    • Scamp
      Posted July 19, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

      I guess it’s the top rated game on vndb for a reason. Then again, I have difficulty bringing myself to read something with the word Luv in the title

      • Aerxes
        Posted July 19, 2011 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

        That difficulty is well placed- Extra, the first in the series, is absolutely dreadful. It is perhaps the most generic, dragging highschool harem that I have ever read/watched. While it does have it’s funny moments (one scene that parodied Initial D had me utterly incapacitated with laughter), it’s largely full of the bullshit “walk in on girl, get punched” ‘humor’ that seems to pervade the genre. Trust me, you WON’T have fun reading Extra. Most of the characters seem utterly two-dimensional and completely stereotypical.

        Unlimited (the ‘second’ in the series) is only marginally better. It genre-shifts to Sci-fi/mecha and becomes slightly less generic and slightly more interesting. However, it never truly escapes the grasps of mediocrity, contenting itself with following the same tired lines that many mecha series have pounded time and time again. Unlimited’s focus is on building the setting that is the basis of the greatness that is Alternative. Overall, though, it has its fun moments and it is possible for it to be enjoyed.

        These two parts are the real clinchers that stop people from experiencing Alternative. They require a huge amount of patience and personal investment. Together, MLE and MLU are about 35-40 hours long (whereas Alternative is 50+). However, it is this very investment that punctuates Alternative. As a stand-alone, Alt is no doubt a good story – with the series, it is a spectacular story. In addition to having an amazingly self-contained plot, it also has a full 40 hours of character and setting development. For this reason, Extra and Unlimited should not be skipped.

        I’ll just repeat that for more emphasis.
        Extra and Unlimited should NOT be skipped

        Even through all of the hate I threw at them, they are essential to the Alt “experience.” Which is why it is extremely painful for a ‘newcomer’ to finally be able to read. It isn’t that I want to make it seem like VN’s are something only meant for the elite, it’s just that only those who have read several truly have the patience to finish the series. It’s almost like you have to be able to warp your sense of time completely in order to finish them.

      • Aerxes
        Posted July 19, 2011 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

        Argh forgot to put forward slashes after my italic and bold tags

  12. Anonymous
    Posted July 17, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    I could start calling the story Lovecraftian

    People call Saya’s Song (you refuse to call Bunny Drop ‘Usagi Drop’, but you have no problem writing out romanized names of this game? Dear hypocrite, check your pulse) also ‘My Girlfriend the Shoggoth’ for a reason.

    Also, go read some fucking Lovecraft you dweeb.

  13. Anonymous
    Posted July 17, 2011 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    Now read Chaos;Head. I haven’t seen the (apparently) horrible anime adaptation, but the game is really mind-bending stuff, especially when you play through the 3 main paths simultaneously.

  14. Kate!
    Posted July 17, 2011 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

    Well, seeing as you semi-enjoyed Saya, and you’re looking for more Nitro+ works, I think Chaos;Head would be a step in the right direction. Don’t judge by the anime, it was a poor adaption.

  15. Posted July 17, 2011 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    Curiousity piqued. Kind of want to check this out now…….

  16. kero92
    Posted July 18, 2011 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    just finished the “good” (or bad, depends how you see it) ending…. f*cking awesome stuff..

    Tho the sex-slave scene did get a little annoying. The other sex-scenes had at least a purpose

  17. Posted July 18, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    I could never really decide if the sex scenes in Saya no Uta were intended to be arousing or not. They seem to be if you just take them by themselves, but they were just disturbing in context. I’m inclined to think that was the idea because of the rest of the story, but it did come from Japan, so all bets are off. The plot twists seemed less and less random the more I thought about them (the bit with the neighbor really pushes it, though). I probably agree with your idea that some scenes would have been more effective by explicitly showing what was supposed to be so scary, though.

    I will be astounded if you can make it through all of Ever17 as your second visual novel. I’ve been working on that game for six months just because the writing is so freaking tedious and extraneous sometimes. The story is good and it uses the visual novel format in a really creative way, but it really does not need to be as long as it is.

    • Scamp
      Posted July 19, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

      The monster rape was perhaps not meant to be taken as arousing (I still think it was, but it could be argued otherwise), but the sex slave scene most definitely was just for fapping purposes

  18. romulus
    Posted July 18, 2011 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    I only played Katawa Shoujo so I don’t think I have an insight to the VN world, but I still wonder why isn’t that mentioned here. It should be more known. Not like it’s the best VN ever (technically it’s not even completed) but it’s a unique project which deserves attention.
    As an introduction to VNs it was fairly good. The characters were not tropes but still a bit shallow (probably I should say not yet explored, full version comes this year maybe). It is a bit short, but even at this lenght it has 5 friggin’ storylines to explore and they don’t really have anything to do with each other. Of course the game heavily relies on the players’ choices. The only deterring thing could be the school setting, but it’s a special school so they use it to their advantage in character describing. Interesting artwork, semi-independent protagonist.

  19. Posted July 19, 2011 at 3:49 am | Permalink

    I’m kind of shocked you even chose Saya no Uta as your first VN, but I guess Urobuchi’s name is what did it. As you mentioned before, Saya no Uta’s strongest aspect is it’s horror. Seriously, just thinking about what the heck Saya actually is makes things totally creepy and disgusting, though at the same time I felt their romance was oddly poignant.

    If you ever do continue with VNs, I’d stick with my original suggestion of G-senjou no Maou’s true heroine route (ignoring the rest of the heroines would probably be best). I think it would fit your tastes, but it’s also a rather long read with tedious bits.

    I don’t know why everybody seems to love Ever17 so much; it was a decent VN, but it didn’t really get good until you finished practically every single route. Until then, I thought the VN was pretty tedious.

    • Posted July 19, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

      Hrm, I’m seeing people mention Tsukihime, FSN, Kara no Shoujo, and Sharin no Kuni. All Key VNs are indeed overrated, though some are fairly good.

      Tsukihime is considered the better of the two type-moon VNs amongst some fans, but FSN has popularity on it’s side. Both are overhyped, but the VN counterparts are still miles better than their TV anime adaptations.

      I recently played Kara no Shoujo, and while I do think it’s very well written, I have two major complaints. One is that the notebook system it uses is sometimes extremely difficult to work with, but I guess it does add a different spin to the traditional VN setup.

      As for the heroines, I despise how almost all of the routes are practically the same, with only slight differences based on which heroine’s route you’ve taken. I got the true end as the final route I managed to unlock, and knowing that I read 95% of the “true route” in the other heroine’s routes made the true end lose a ton of impact, and is my biggest regret about the VN. If you play this VN and get a good experience out of it, gun for a couple of the bad endings, and then go straight for the true end.

      Sharin no Kuni, well let’s just say it’s more consistent than G-senjou, but it’s story is less captivating. The social system in Sharin no Kuni is interesting and unique, but at the same time feels gimmicky at points. For the most part though, it’s well executed.

      And biggest thing worth noting about all of these VNs: They’re all pretty darn long. Not sure how a newcomer will handle such.

  20. Posted July 19, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    Nobody mentions Tsukihime. Why does nobody mention Tsukihime? I found it better than Fate in every conceivable way, though admittedly it was also the first VN I ever read. It remains to date the one with the most actual use of player choices I’ve encountered, with a wealth of branching arcs that make subsequent playthroughs (or saving/loading a whole bunch if that’s your thing) actually entertaining.

    By comparison FSN was dozens of times more linear, with almost every choice funneling down to the same outcome after a minute or two of reading. I didn’t like the characters nearly as much as Tsukihime either; most didn’t even get respectable development, as the story was less of a thriller/mystery and more of a typical shounen battle premise.

    The real reason for my disdain is something altogether different, however. Since Fate made them famous, what has Type/Moon (or more accurately, Kinoko Nasu) done directly that wasn’t a reboot of an old work or another halfhearted non-plot-centric Fate spinoff? Nothing. It’s been seven years since they’ve produced another truly original story.

    • superfid2006
      Posted July 19, 2011 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

      I mentioned Tsukihime in an earlier comment, though…

      But I agree, Tsukihime > F/SN. Though, the thing which makes F/SN more accessible is pretty simple: it looks and sounds better. There aren’t many other VNs out there which can compare (except MLA, for example).

      If only they’d release the Tsukihime remake…

  21. ubiquitial
    Posted July 19, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    Ah yes, Saya no Uta. That fucking disgusting shit. Though, I will say this. I enjoyed it more than ANY other visual novel EVER. For one thing, the premise is exceptionally creative, and the fact that the game shifts back and forth between the perspective of fuminori and his friends is really clever as well, as it portrays two separate, subjective realities. One, where Fuminori is a cannibal monster, and another, where he’s solely a confused soul thrust into a living hell. I think that contrast really helps push the story forward, and gets you thinking all existentially and shit.

    Case in point, when he eats his dead friend Yoh. To the observer, Koji, it’s abominable and disgusting, not to mention insane and evil. But to Fuminori, Yoh’s body is the only thing palatable in his world, with everything else tasting like flesh and blood, and the corpse he’s eating from bears no resemblance whatsoever to his former friend. When he’s trapped in this nightmare for eternity, how can you deny him a little meat? Or the titular Saya – Koji blames her for turning Fuminori into an aberration, but to Fuminori she’s the only reason for him to live, his Saviour from all this madness .

    In the end, none of the characters have bad, evil, or even selfish intentions, they’re just doing their best, trying to cope with reality, however freakish it may be. That’s the real, tragic beauty of Saya no Uta. IMO, the horror is only a distraction, meant to put you into a state of mind capable of comprehending these things.

    To me, that is enough to justify a few questionable sex scenes. And as for the spontaneity, it’s actually better than most VNs.

    G-Senjou no Maou is a really confusing VN. It’s a brilliant premise held down by the constraints of the medium and the writer’s inability to, you know, actually write a plot. And the artist’s inability to draw. And the composer’s inability to compose.

    If you can suspend your disbelief, and ignore the numerous plotholes, (So damn many) the first chapter is great, and so are 4 and 5, but the other chapters felt like little more than excuses to advertise the side heroines. The game would have been more consistent, better focused, more dramatic, and more complete if 2 and 3 were taken out entirely.

    The main heroine’s route, (my favorite from any VN ever) is really the only reason to play the game. Her development in 1, 2, 3, and 4 is pure gold. But when her story starts, in 5, the writer decides not to give her any further development, and instead tosses in some childhood friend shit. That ruined the game for me.

    The MC’s personality has the same problem. It’s all “I hate her, I hate her, I hate her, oh wait we met twice in 3rd grade, I LOVE her.” Really, I bet the writer was just tired at that point, and wanted to finish the game as quickly as possible. So, sadly, Usami Haru never got the romantic treatment she deserved, which is a shame, cause her character’s just so unique and interesting.

    Haru’s ending is the best part of the best route of an okay game. Sappy, sentimental, and dumb. I mean, no spoilers, but at times you just want to go “What’s wrong with that? People listen to the Enema Man and Snoopy Doopy Poop Dog all the time!”

    Sharin no Kuni has similar faults but they’re not as prominent because the game doesn’t take itself too seriously, and has a much more interesting and eccentric protagonist. Plus, unlike G-Sen, you have genuine moments of dread, due mostly to Wakamoto’s booming sonic castration. On the other side, none of the heroines are near as fun as Haru. And the art is even worse.

    Personally, I’d recommend the recently released Kara no Shoujo or the old, poorly translated SWAN SONG. KnS has some of the best art ever in a VN, a setting that doesn’t strike you as contrived, characters that aren’t Mary Sues, and some really good suspense. Swan Song, despite it’s bad, bad localization, has a lot of things going for it. A post-apocalyptic setting, but one that strikes you as realistic and has more in common with “The Road” than Evangelion. A myriad of characters provide their own perspectives and narration… their development is a highlight of the game. Sex scenes are not spontaneous and flow naturally together with the plot, and though the MC isn’t at all sympathetic and seems kinda boring at times, the
    True End is one of the best ends I’ve ever seen, better than G-Sens, with it’s scope, music, and art derivative of Edvard Munch.

    Nasu isn’t a good author but F/SN and Tsukihime are worth checking out. All key games are nakige crap, and Ever17 is overrated.

    • ubiquitial
      Posted July 19, 2011 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

      >>Usami Haru never got the romantic treat­ment she deserved, which is a shame, cause her character’s just so unique and interesting.

      Note: When I say unique and interesting, I mean it. She’s as unique and complex as Shiki, Horo, or any of the Bakemono girls save for Nadeko and the slut.

    • Scamp
      Posted July 19, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

      On the equal portrayal of Fuminori to his friends, yes it was certainly like that at the start. But on halfway point where you make that decision whether to stay as you are or be healed, he turns straight down the path of comicly evil. I suppose it fit the story, but his sniggering on the phone about the sex slave, and the scene right at the end with the axe, shows he’s far beyond our understanding through normal human rational thought. He’s the straight up villain by that stage. Yes, we see why he’s become that way, but he’s still comicly evil

      Although I will say, for the ‘good’ end (where Saya is killed) there’s that fantastic shot of Fuminori where his entire world becomes meaningless. They don’t show you what Fuminori is thinking at that stage, but through everything we know about him, we don’t need to see. It’s fantastically done and one of the highlights of the game

      • ubiquitial
        Posted July 19, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

        The sex slave thing I didn’t see so much as evil as desperate, the axe thing is in the context of “They’re gonna kill Saya.” So not comicly evil, I’d say, but comical.

      • Posted July 19, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

        The part with the axe seemed perfectly appropriate to me, though I’ll give you the sex slave bit. Not only was it just too far over the top to be taken seriously, but it seemed like a scene done just for the cheap shock value.

        It’s like writing about your villain going around un-ironically stabbing pregnant women in the gut and setting puppies on fire just to show how evil he is. Yes, it’s reprehensible and vile, but it’s also so totally ridiculous and sensationalistic that it comes off as comical rather than alarming. For the majority of Saya no Uta Fuminori was not like this, but here and there a scene would try to push his depravity too far, too hard, and too quickly to fit, and this was the result.

  22. fathomlessblue
    Posted July 21, 2011 at 2:30 am | Permalink

    Perhaps a little late to this, but thanks nonetheless for such an interesting post. I’ve been tempted to pick up a vn for some time, with Sata no Uto on the top of many lists.

    Still, I’m a little reluctant based on the excessive gore and sex in the series. Watching 80′s dodgy anime has never been an issue, but after being encouraged to check out the Tokyo Red Hood manga (dont, just dont…) I don’t think I’ve got the stomach just yet. A good mystery on the other hand…

  23. Posted July 21, 2011 at 4:17 am | Permalink

    Characteristically late to the party here.

    Many consider Saya no Uta to be a masterpiece of the genre, but I don’t. I will laud it for its novel concept and unflinching portrayal of the grotesque, but I think that its extreme popularity is a result of its unusual subject matter and its status as one of the first VNs to show up on the English VN community’s map.

    I’m wondering what you think the “strengths of the genre” are. I think of VNs not as games, but as audiobooks with pictures. If games have choices, then cool. If not, they can still be great works in their own right. Naturally, the “decision points” interactive format of VNs adds replay value and greater choice than traditional novels, but I don’t consider them to be a defining characteristic of the genre.

    If you want something nicer than Saya no Uta, Cross+Channel is a great game. Naturally, you should give Steins;Gate a spin after the English translation finishes (currently slated at Christmas.) In addition, for an example of (pretty good) storytelling, you can also check out Narcissu. They’re all better choices than Saya no Uta, in my opinion.

    • Scamp
      Posted July 21, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

      Why I say it’s a ‘strength’, I mean that it’s the one thing it can do that novels/anime/comics/live action can’t do. Hence I’d like to see games actually use it, in the same way I like to see anime muck about with what animation is capable of doing, as Shaft and Shinbo do.

      I did say it was a minor problem anyway

    • ubiquitial
      Posted July 27, 2011 at 7:31 am | Permalink

      Narcissu, not a big fan. Kinda contrived.

  24. ARQ
    Posted July 21, 2011 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    As another Ever17 fan, I am only too happy so many others suggest this, as it is a brilliantly written VN. Only thing is, to get the real reason why people love this novel so much, you really need to complete all 5 endings, since they come together in the very end. For someone who isn’t super fond of VNs, it may be a bit of a chore.

  25. Elysium
    Posted July 21, 2011 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    http://deja-vu.mangasos.com/projects-noose.html

    As this is the on VN I’ve ever played, I can’t comment much. XD

    -wants to play Saya no Uta now-

One Trackback

  • By Saya no Uta: Short, Overrated | Slackiance on July 17, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    [...] Just like Scamp, I kept waiting for the reveal that never happened. The grossest thing you see in-game is tentacles in one sex scene. Talk about hype. [...]

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