Favourite Games by Ebi-Hime

2 Sep

I should have a review of Cage’s Matchstick Men (2003) coming up soon, but in the meantime, I thought I’d bring to your attention some wonderful games by my friend Ebi-Hime. I know some of you readers who know me in person know that she makes games, while other Cageaholics won’t have heard of her before. Anyway, for those of you who have wondered where to start with Ebi-Hime’s prolific output and for those who have never even played a visual novel before, this post will put things bang to rights!!

A magical shrimp princess

So. A visual novel is a story-game you read on your computer. Sometimes there will be choices, sometimes not. Visual novels are like comic books in that they combine words with images and like films in that they often use music and tend to be dialogue based. They are like games because they involve interaction and sometimes choices and rules. They are generally very simple to read though, so non-gamers will not have a problem. Generally, the mouse is used to click through dialogue screens / pictures and occasionally a choice of two or more options might pop up and you choose the one you prefer (or feel is the most appropriate for the character). They tend to be written in first or second person. The player / reader occupies the mind of a character and experiences the things the character experiences. A lot of visual novels are quite light and some are erotic, though none of the ones Ebi-Hime makes include any sexual or explicit scenes. For those of you who get a taste for the medium, I would recommend Umineko: When They Cry, which is a mind-bending magical murder mystery investigation into the nature of truth; Chaos;Head, which is a gritty and atmospheric conspiracy theory horror; and G Senjō no MaōThe Devil on G-string, which is a wonderfully involving story about a young man whose father is a Mafioso. The latter two are a little adolescent in tone and contain some eroge elements, but are certainly worth a look. The singular nature of the visual novel medium (and the fact that they can often rely on slow pacing to achieve deep character development) can mean that they translate very badly into the medium of anime. Frankly, the Umineko and Chaos Head anime should both be avoided.

uminekoAnyway, this post is not about the visual novel medium per se (which I have limited experience with) but Ebi-Hime’s best games. I’ll start at the top, but I’d recommend all of the below and suggest you take a look at whichever piques your interest.

1.) Lily of the Valley

A short game with only one choice at the end, perfect for those who have never experienced the medium before. Lily of the Valley puts you in the shoes of a man in his early 30s stuck in a dead-end call-centre job, travelling back to Wales for the funeral of his mother, where he meets a young girl, who identifies herself as one of his mother’s students. The game is a subtle, but quietly searing portrait of male entitlement. Tonally, the experience is melancholy, but not without humour, like the most low-key episodes of Peep Show. The male character is a well-written man from a young, female writer, who is sketched sympathetically, if not positively. The narrative is simply, but the episodic, chapter style keeps things propulsive. The music is very well suited to the game and the backgrounds are minimal, but pretty. It may come across as overly critical of the depressive / melancholic mind-set, but I think it is more critical of the inability of many men (including myself) to see things from other’s perspectives… or at least, to de-centre oneself from the narrative of life. One of the psychological effects of patriarchy is that it allows men to see themselves as ‘neutral’ i.e. when a woman of colour looks into a mirror, she is trained by society to see a woman of colour reflected back at her. When a cis, able-bodied white man looks into a mirror, he sees a human being. The game remains the player that their life is not simply their own and that one cannot escape the inter-connectedness of existence, nor our reliance upon other human beings. It is a harshly compassionate work. The equivalent of a Kurt Vonnegut epigram.

lily

Download it here:
http://www.mediafire.com/download/7gy62h6bsnseqti/Lily+of+the+Valley-1.01-all.zip

2.) White Box

A sad, small story about a girl who is dying in hospital and wants love and attention from an older, male doctor. The narrative is pretty straight-forward (although I certainly can’t think of enough examples of the same story to justify calling it clichéd) but the characterisation is keenly observed and the moral issue at its heart – what level of intimacy / friendliness is appropriate for a doctor-patient relationship? – is carefully handled and does not veer into exploitative territory. The story is morally nuanced and the doctor is never characterised as a villain, even as he steps over lines of ethical practice. In fact, it feels like a very morally sober, even distanced work, which probably displays the influence of Ryū Murakami upon Ebi-Hime’s writing. The story contains aspects of melodrama, yet the tears it brought to my eyes felt earnt. It is a non-choice based visual novel, so it functions less as a game, than as an immersive story. The experiences of the author in hospital (as briefly related in the author’s notes) provide emotional authenticity to the depiction of hospital life. A well-balanced sentimental thing to make you sad, but with a realistic, all-too-human pair of leading characters.

white box

Download it here:
http://www.mediafire.com/download/ar4geat1mowi08l/White+Box-1.0-win.zip

Or listen to and watch it read online here (albeit in somewhat silly voices):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6V1zLXORyA

3.) The Way We All Go

This one is an epic. You play a short, shy and generally amicable young lad back for the holidays to the small town here he grew up. You haven’t been back for two years. Unfortunately, the last time you left, you didn’t exactly tell everyone that you were leaving. Your tendency to avoid conflict is not your most flattering trait. Even more unfortunately, you have friends with what might be called ‘yandere’ tendencies. Try to let friendship shine and romance blossom! While not getting yourself killed! In many ways, The Way We All Go is a gleefully dark game since there is a perverse pleasure in seeing your rather hapless protagonist bumped off. However, it also has genuine emotional heft and the tragic back-story of one of the characters is portrayed with convincing brutality. Tonally, the game is a curious mix of the breezily light and the gloomily dark, but it all comes together in a very pleasing, coherent fashion. It is also remarkably ambitious, sporting twenty different endings and a myriad of branching paths. As such, it is highly interactive, but some useful built-in systems such as the ability to skip text you’ve already read and a screen that saves a list of the different endings, ensures that it has high replayability value. If you like goofy jokes, light-hearted romance and a bit of the ol’ ultraviolence (although nothing very explicit or gory, just some rather bloody descriptions) I’d thoroughly recommend The Way We All Go. I’d probably give it an age rating of 12 or 15, depending on your mileage.

wayweallgo

Download it here for whatever price you choose:
https://gumroad.com/l/cUlx

It is far longer than most amateur visual novels, with some very cute art (as pictured!) and some gorgeous photoshopped backgrounds. It probably deserves a couple of pounds or more.

A complete walkthrough for the game is here:
http://lemmasoft.renai.us/forums/viewtopic.php?f=55&t=28135

4.) Schoolgirl x Squid

Probably the game that Ebi-Hime is best known for and certainly the goofiest. Anyone who has criticised the game for being too clichéd is missing the point that it’s a light-hearted parody and relentlessly silly. That said, one of the ending still made my friend Peter cry and brought me close to tears, so it’s not all laughs! In short, it is a game in which you date a squid. I like this because it rescues squid-human relationships from the unpleasant and squicky realm of hentai to the world of pure heroine romance. It is also a very educational game in which you will learn fun facts about squids and their uptake. The story doesn’t make a whole bunch of sense and it is important to remember that the main character sometimes sees her pet squid as a teenaged boy (but then, she is lonely and bullied and she is in love with her squid). It’s sort of heart-warming and sort of head-shaking and mostly very entertaining. I certainly enjoyed the experience of getting to date a squid. The art is bright and cheerful C.G.I. and ms paint drawings. It doesn’t look as slick as The Way We All Go, but neither is it meant to. It is however a great deal of fun.

squid

Download it here:
http://www.mediafire.com/download/mndvvxfaru29d6o/Schoolgirl+x+Squid-1.0-win.zip

Be amused by some people on a forum playing it here:
http://brokenforum.com/index.php?threads/lets-play-schoolgirl-x-squid-a-tentacle-romance-for-all-ages.6450/

5.) Mahou Shoujo Žižek-chan!

Goobier and goobier! Mahou Shoujo Žižek-chan! is a game in which you play the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek as a cute 14-year-old magical girl. If you want to know how and why Slavoj Žižek transformed from a cute maiden into a bearded grumpy intellectual, play this game (clue: it’s mostly Jacques Lacan’s fault). Ebi-hime does a good job at making her heroine talk like Žižek, with Žižek’s popular catch-phrases “And so on” and “Whatever whatever” both in use! In truth, this game is not quite the educational master-work of Schoolgirl x Squid, although one will learn the basics of Žižek’s philosophy and pessimistic, misanthropic outlook on life. It is probably 2 parts magical girl to 1 part Žižek. However, it is a game in which you play Slavoj Žižek as a magical girl. This is clearly something that needed to exist and I am glad that Ebi-Hime made it and I am proud to be a friend of the creator of such an illustrious work.

lacan

Download it here:
http://www.mediafire.com/download/vv4u0rgp3xfc74a/Mahou+Shoujo+Zizek-chan%21-1.0-win.zip

For some reason, Mahou Shoujo Žižek-chan! crops up on Steam’s online community. It clearly has some devoted fans… as well it might!!
http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=289787688

So, that about round up Ebi-Hime’s best games. Her new work in the making looks to be as huge and epic as The Way We All Go, but with a fantasy setting. We can but hope there will be slime girls!

Of course, being friends with Ebi-Hime, I have been somewhat biased in my write-up above. But I genuinely people her game-stories are a lot of fun, which a great balance between silliness and emotional weight. Lilly of the Valley in particular hit me hard (I get the impression it was somewhat intended for me, though apparently I’m not quite as bad as the main character, albeit just as melancholic and neurotic… at the very least, the customers who insult him at his call-centre job have been lifted from my own experience!) and I think The Way We All Go is a very impression achievement. I can’t wait to see what someone so prolific and talented produces over the coming years.

Ebi-Hime’s game Tumblr is here:
http://ebi-hime.tumblr.com/

 

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17 Responses to “Favourite Games by Ebi-Hime”

  1. MissHawkline September 3, 2014 at 1:15 am #

    From what you’ve written about her in this and previous posts (and from what you’ve posted on Facebook), Ebi-Hime sounds like a really lovely, creative person. 🙂 I really wish I could move to England so I could know you and all of your friends in person.

    I don’t know much about visual novels, and I usually get them confused with light novels. I’ve heard of ones like “Hatoful Boyfriend” and “School Days”, but so far have never played any. (I’m quite paranoid, so I’m always a little worried I’d click on the wrong thing and end up on some creepy porn site. xD)

    These all sound great- even their names make me want to play them. The artwork looks nice, too, and I love the idea of “Schoolgirl x Squid”. (I wish I’d thought of that.) I’ll definitely take a look at these, when I get over my internet paranoia. 😛

    I read one of Ryu Murakami’s novels, “In the Miso Soup”, a few months ago. It was good, but scared me to death. I’m still eager to read “Coin Locker Babies”, though. I’ve become quite interested in Japanese art and culture recently. I love manga and haikus, and some of my favourite artists (Richard Brautigan, William Gibson, Robert Smith, Angela Carter) were influenced by it.

    • cagewisdom September 3, 2014 at 10:16 am #

      She is ace! And quite astonishingly creative and prolific 😮 I’m sure I’ll be around for some years yet so one day if you’re in my part of the world, you could maybe meet me and Ebi-Hime and Peter 🙂 I mean, with the internet it’s stay enough to stay in contact… if the Residents documentary gets a commercial release, maybe we’ll see each other then! 😀

      I wouldn’t worry about being exposed to anything dodgy with her games since the links are direct to places like mediafire and gumroad, rather than to anime / visual novel sites. Ebi-Hime hates that kind of stuff too (and I’m not keen!) and finds it upsetting that it crops up so much on Tumblr. It’s certainly weirdly present in visual novels, compared to other mediums. There are exceptions to the rules, like her own work and ‘Umineko’ (which she loves) though.

      I found ‘In the Miso Soup’ really disturbing, though it was very vivid and sometimes funny in a really grim way. Personally, I preferred ‘Piercing’, though it’s certainly got a lot of dark material also. ‘Popular Hits of the Showa Era’ is a little more light and silly and I think ’69’ is based on the author’s experiences in that year as a high school student (which didn’t include any murder).

      • MissHawkline September 7, 2014 at 12:12 am #

        Hopefully, that will happen someday. 🙂

        Thanks for the reassurance! 😛 There are times when I get extremely cautious about what anime/manga I watch/read, because I’m afraid it will turn out to be perverted in some way. (Mostly because when I was younger and incredibly gullible, I’d hear all of these stories about the two.)

        “In the Miso Soup” had a great sense of atmosphere, but it was pretty twisted. 😛 By the way, have you ever read “The Book of Tea”?

      • MissHawkline September 7, 2014 at 2:05 am #

        By the way, I’m thinking of renaming my blog. Man Behind the Curtain, isn’t accurate anymore, and Behind the Curtain is taken. Do you have any suggestions? I think Girl Behind the Curtain might be nice, but I feel like it sounds kind of pretentious. 😛

      • cagewisdom September 7, 2014 at 4:24 pm #

        I’ll have a think! I certainly don’t believe ‘Girls Behind the Curtain’ sounds pretentious though!

        Also, I somewhat had that association back in school… Peter was one of the only people I knew who was into manga and anime even back when we were 14 / 15 and it took me a while to get into it. I think ‘Perfect Blue’ was probably the first anime I watched, when I was about 16, and then ‘Akira’ shortly afterwards.

      • MissHawkline September 13, 2014 at 8:37 pm #

        Thank you! 🙂 I’ll change it to that for the moment, anyway.

        I’ve been meaning to watch Perfect Blue for ages. It sounds so good. Even the name is perfect. I started reading Akira recently, but haven’t gotten very far yet. 😛 I also really want to read/watch Ghost in the Shell.

        At the moment, I’m reading Aku no Hana and Xxxholic. Both are great, though the former is quite disturbing. I also finished watching the series Hell Girl recently, and have started Paranoia Agent, which I think is made by the same person who did Perfect Blue.

        By the way, I really recommend the book Tokyo Cyberpunk: Posthumanism in Japanese Visual Culture. 🙂

      • cagewisdom September 18, 2014 at 12:00 pm #

        Hee ‘Paranoia Agent’ is a lot of fun… I found it kind of disturbing, but in a goofy way! Rachael really liked ‘Aku no Han’ as I think she enjoys things with corrupt protagonists in which the tone is somewhat distanced and non-judgemental! She said that it is disturbing though!

        ‘Perfect Blue’ is very good. It’s very atmospheric and engaging. ‘Akira’ has wonderful set-pieces, but I don’t know if it holds together very well. Peter has read all the manga and says that the anime is radically compressed and that really you have to read the manga to understand its ideas and themes.

        Posthumanism is always interesting so thank you for the recommendation!

  2. MissHawkline September 21, 2014 at 12:02 am #

    I find Paranoia Agent quite similar to Western animated shows like The Simpsons and South Park in some ways. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the art style.

    I find that the most disturbing thing about Aku No Hana is that it shows how easy it would be for somebody to completely ruin their own life, as well as the fact that they’re all only teenagers. I really do love dark, psychological stories, though, especially ones that keep a lot of things ambiguous.

    I’m also a fan of Watamote and Pandora Hearts. The former is a cringe comedy about a girl with zero social skills who thinks that acting like an anime character will make her popular. (It doesn’t.) The latter is an extremely well-plotted mystery series, heavily inspired by Alice in Wonderland.

    By the way, I came across a page on TV Tropes for a (nonexistent) Lain fanfiction that I thought you might find interesting:

    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/DarthWiki/NominalExperimentsLain

    • cagewisdom September 26, 2014 at 5:03 pm #

      ooh thanks for that! I’ve seen a little ‘Watamote’ and it made me laugh, though it was incredibly awkward! Pleasing to see a mal-adjusted and not wholly nice female protagonist though… though she’s not as bad as Jill in ‘Nighty Night’ (one of Rachael’s favourites)

      • MissHawkline October 5, 2014 at 2:48 am #

        I really need to see Nighty Night now. It sounds pretty funny, in a pitch black sort of way.
        Mokocchi is one of my favourite comedy characters. I can see a lot of my own negative traits in her. xD There’s one scene where she believes someone has stolen her umbrella and starts thinking vengeful thoughts, only to find the umbrella five seconds later, which is something I do all the time. 😛 Also, any scene where she has to order something in a restaurant or cafe.
        It’s kind of nice to have a series that doesn’t portray social awkwardness as cute, too.

  3. Tsukimi Yomino July 22, 2016 at 3:22 am #

    I come to this website expecting some normal game recommendations and I can’t even get past the first entry.

    “the inability of many men (including myself) to see things from other’s perspectives… or at least, to de-centre oneself from the narrative of life. ”

    This is not a “male” thing, it is a human thing. As individual people, we have a limited capacity for empathy due to the fact that we can never truly experience any perspective but our own, and it is a necessary conscious effort to remind oneself the one is not actually the center of life and the universe. It may surprise you, but non-straightwhitecisetc males are humans just like you, and the basics of the human experience tend not to differ much from person to person.

    “One of the psychological effects of patriarchy is that it allows men to see themselves as ‘neutral’ i.e. when a woman of colour looks into a mirror, she is trained by society to see a woman of colour reflected back at her. When a cis, able-bodied white man looks into a mirror, he sees a human being. ”
    What kind of logic is this? When a woman of color looks into a mirror, she sees a woman of color reflected back because that is what she is, just as you see a white man reflected back at you, because that is what you are. Are you implying that people who are not straight white males do not see themselves as human beings? That people who are not straight white males see straight white males as the center of the world, rather than themselves? When I see people of any race or gender, I see human beings. If you do not that is your own problem, and I hope you can do something about it for your own sake.

    What’s hilarious everything you’ve said is that despite claiming to go against the “otherification” of women/nonwhites, you are making them into an other more that most people. The irony is lovely.

    • cagewisdom July 22, 2016 at 10:51 am #

      “non-straightwhitecisetc males are humans just like you”

      Why do you assume I’m straight?

      “Are you implying that people who are not straight white males do not see themselves as human beings?”

      No, I am not implying this, but that white men are not generally coded and labelled by Western society specifically in terms of their race and gender – a specific example being how they’re/ we’re often figured as the ‘neutral’ avatar in creative mediums – esp. old school interactive fiction.

      I was paraphrasing Michael Kimmel at the time – probably his TED talk. This feministing article refers to his bit about looking in the mirror:

      “When a woman looks in the mirror, Kimmel said,
      they see a woman. But when a man – a white straight middle class man, at
      least – looks in the mirror, he just sees a person. The assumption of
      white straight middle class man as standard and objective, as the norm,
      in our culture, means that white straight middle class men have no
      reason to think particularly hard about race, class or gender, since
      everything around them confirms that they are normal. Women, people of
      color, queer people or poor people, those who don’t see themselves
      depicted as average members of our society, are aware of that dissonance
      every single moment of the day.”
      http://feministing.com/2010/07/16/michael-kimmel-on-male-entitlement-anger-and-invisible-privilege/

      I wasn’t trying to say that trans* individuals, women and people of colour can all magically see things from outside themselves, but that narcissism is more common among men, probably esp. white guys. For instance, I don’t know if a non-white, female version of Donald Trump could exist currently.

      • Tsukimi Yomino July 23, 2016 at 2:57 am #

        I can’t agree with this. I’m a woman, and when I look in the mirror I see a person, I feel no dissonance in my day to day life and neither do most people I know. I am myself, so to me I am default. That is how it is for everyone. Besides, I take issue to the “default human in the mirror” concept itself. Everyone is an individual and thus different, and I think very few people would see themselves as nothing but an “average person”, and if they did they’d likely be incredibly dull.

        As a white woman I don’t feel like I’m not depicted as the neutral average. To bring race into it, people of other races will never be depicted as “average” in a white majority country because they are not the statistical average. White people aren’t the norm in China, Chinese aren’t the norm in Sudan, and they’ll never be depicted as such. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be racial variety in American media, as we are quite a racially diverse country, but what is most common is most likely to be seen as average by people in their day to day lives, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.The same goes for economic class. I also don’t think it has as nearly much of an influence on people’s psyches as you seem to be implying.

        I would also disagree that narcissistic tendencies are more common in one gender than another (not necessarily talking about Narcissistic personality disorder here, just general self absorbed-ness). A nonwhite/female Donald Trump is definitely more unlikely to exist, but that has more to do with money than it does narcissism

      • cagewisdom July 23, 2016 at 7:16 am #

        Thanks for keeping it civil. You make good points and have given me quite a lot to think about. I should have just kept the reviews strictly about the games tbh because Ebi-Hime is a good writer and friend and I respect her work and don’t want to distract from it.

        Also, the article is really out of date now cause she’s so prolific! :p

        I think my favourite of her stuff is actually Strawberry Vinegar.

      • Tsukimi Yomino July 23, 2016 at 7:45 pm #

        I thank you forgive it civil as well. And yep, she’s made so many, and I’ve enjoyed most of them quite a bit. My personal favorite is Asphyxia, but I liked Strawberry Vinegar too.

    • Tsukimi Yomino July 23, 2016 at 7:46 pm #

      for keeping it* not forgive

      • cagewisdom July 23, 2016 at 8:46 pm #

        It is definitely true that people are just people at the end of the day!

        Asphyxia is very impressive – maybe Ebi’s most literary (?) but personally I missed the humour. In terms of my enjoyment of her VNs, what I enjoy best is the way they wrong-foots you – cute one moment; kind of sinister the next… characters phrasing things in slightly odd ways… or surprisingly dark/ cynical jokes that take you by surprise. Plus, I love that her stuff is both kinda light and fluffy but also melancholy and morally serious all-at-once. It’s an unusual combination.

        Plus, she’s very good at characterisation.

        And she’s so dang prolific I think and hope she’ll just keep on getting better (and more well known!) She’s good people.

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