Archive for the Yuri Visual Novel Category

Introducing Yuri VN Creators Studio Élan

August 4th, 2017

This past weekend, Yuri VN Highway Blossoms creator Josh Kaplan announced the creation of a new studio, Studio Élan, specifically to work on Yuri VNs.

I asked him to tell us a little bit about it. Here’s Josh’s response:

…I started the group early this year specifically dedicated to making yuri games, and particularly yuri games for girls. I’m still proud of Highway Blossoms, but I decided I wanted to do more in that vein. Alienworks, the group with which we made HB, is still alive and I’m still part of it, but Studio Élan is like… my main thing for the foreseeable future. Most of the team are girls, and so far I’m really excited about what we’re doing in a way that I’ve never really been before. We have two projects right now, both of which will be announced at Anime Weekend Atlanta in September. I hope that people will like them. 

The folks at Studio Élan are tweeting backgrounds, character designs and screenshots like crazy now, with credits to the folks who are working on the art for the VNs (a touch I quite like.) The first two game announcements are slated for September, but check their Twitter account regularly for teasers! In the meantime, we’ll wait with bated breath for the first releases!

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Yuri Visual Novel: VA-11 HALL-A Guest Review by Louis P.

April 12th, 2017

It’s another Guest Review Wednesday and another welcome Guest Review by our got-VN reviewer, Louis P. (I am so thankful to those of you who review VNs for us here, truly.) Today’s review sounds genuinely exceptional, so get yourself some bar nuts and a drink, and get read to read! Take it away, Louis…

VA-11 HALL-A (pronounced Valhalla) is a cyberpunk bartending game/visual novel focusing on the eponymous bar located in Glitch City, a place that sometimes feels like it is just some big playground for exploitative tech companies. But it is still a place many people have to live in. Our protagonist is Jill, one of the bartenders at the eponymous establishment: VA-11 HALL-A, her job is to mix the right drinks for the right clients and offer a sympathetic ear to people who come in after a long day of publishing, assassinating or, perhaps the most dangerous job, running a corgi toy company.

A good eighty percent of the story of VA-11 HALL-A is told at the bar from Jill’s perspective as through her shift clients arrive, drink, chat and then leave. It does not take long for a cast of regulars to form and for us to get to know them, both their stories and their drink preferences. The main mode of interaction in VA-11 HALL-A is mixing drinks for Jill’s clients. Most of the time you are just supposed give a customer what they ask for or describe but eventually, as you get to know them, the game calls on you to make a judgment on what to serve or even to outright ignore what you are told and pick a drink you think is more to their taste to get the best reaction. Mix the right drinks and Jill generally gets more informative, more intimate dialogue out of her clients and when your clients open up to you more they end up the better for it.

Just listening to a supremely likable cast talk to each other is easily the main draw of VA-11 HALL-A. By the time I had finished the first of the games three chapters I put the rest of my visual novels on hold to finish VA-11 HALL-A as I had fallen in love with the whole cast. It also does a brilliant job of capturing the feeling of living in a dystopian society where stability is uncertain and events way beyond your ability to influence end up interfering with your day to day life. While this starts off with snippets of dialogue hinting at the harshness of a city outside of the bar or Jill’s flat; turn into something else by the end of the first chapter when Jill ends up having to spend one night sleeping in the bar to avoid a dangerous riot and then spends the next day in her flat looking out over the still rioting city watching everything slowly simmer down… and then head straight back to work the day after that.

It should not be surprising to find out that the games developers are from Venezuela where only last year a state of economic emergency was declared, there were close to two hundred prison riots and Colombian border crossings had to be temporarily opened to allow Venezuelans to purchase food and basic household items in Colombia. Communicating the feeling of what a bar such as VA-11 HALL-A means to people, as a means of escape and community, in societies like these was one of the major focuses of the designers.

There are a lot of customers to talk to in VA-11 HALL-A, one of your more hard drinking regulars is Beatrice “Betty” Albert. Betty is an in-house veterinarian for the aforementioned corgi toy company and often turns up with her co-worker and best friend Deal and together they form a fantastic comedy duo. Betty is a lesbian, and while Deal is more than happy to rattle off all of her exes and all the reasons she gives for breaking up with them, she has no romantic arc. In fact the only relationship trouble Betty has is trying to avoid being set up with someone and as the matchmaker knows she is gay she cannot drag Deal into being a beard for her.

While Betty is easily the louder and more rambunctious of the duo she makes with Deal don’t think that she is the constant silly boke to his grim tsukkomi. Deal has plenty of silly moments too for Betty to be cynical about and one of her most deadpan lines in the whole game actually got me to laugh out loud. So while Betty and Deal’s story is light on romance it is heavy in a fantastically platonic chemistry between the two of them. Betty and Deal also become a relieving presence later on as their story lacks the heavy drama that other characters end up dealing with. Seeing these two arrive comes as a great relief more than once.

But it is the main character Jill who stands out in VA-11 HALL-A. Jill makes reference to having past boyfriends and girlfriends throughout the story but Jill has one major crush right when the story begins and that is her boss Dana Zane, the coolest woman in the history of visual novels.

Dana is Jill’s boss at VA-11 HALL-A and we really get the feeling of what a dependable boss she is when it is Dana who looks out for Jill during the riots at the end of chapter one, helping her get back to her flat without incident and staying with her though the day. Not only Jill but Dana also helps Gillian, Jill’s co-worker, stay clear of his dark past and clients such as the assassin Jamie have second hand stories about her past exploits that only get more ridiculous as the game continues. Even more so when it turns out that a good chunk of these ridiculous stories are true. She at the very least is an ex-cop with a cool ex-police detective girlfriend who you can meet if you play your serve the right drinks.

Dana also gets her head stuck in things… a lot, from hard suit helmets to spicy chicken buckets, keeps a metal bat that somehow has nails in it, is an ex-wrestler with the ring-name of ‘Red Comet’ and keeps finding excuses to add the Jill’s pay check like a doting grandmother. Dana is both a rock of stability in a scary and unstable world and an utter goofball who hires a talking, sunglasses wearing, dog as your co-worker. Someone who has the capacity to keep their life so together while at the same time being so ridiculous (as well as ridiculously cool) would be rationed out in another game but VA-11 HALL-A lets you enjoy Dana’s company nearly every in-game day!

So if the last two paragraphs are not obvious enough I also have a massive crush on Dana and it is a fantastically rare treat to have the point of view character’s romantic desire so perfectly align with my own. This will not be the same for everyone but it was a fantastic gentle reveal as it became more and more obvious over the game that Jill is so obviously interested in Dana you feel bad for not working it out the moment you see Jill’s tablet’s lock screen.

But sadly the only person that does not notice Jill’s feelings for Dana is Dana herself, and even though it is cute, Jill’s infatuation with Dana is not really the focus of Jill’s story however much I wish it was. Jill’s story in VA-11 HALL-A is not about Jill ending up in a relationship with someone but instead about Jill getting over a previous relationship with another woman three years ago. It is a break up that still looms over Jill and is the reason she is working at VA-11 HALL-A in the first place.

I don’t want to spoil any more, but this is what elevated it from very good visual novel to exemplary peace of contemporary art. VA-11 HALL-A inverts the usual devices used by visual novels. Usually following the characters day-by-day is used to highlight the increasing drama of the plot, VA-11 HALL-A instead emphasises the difficulty and drama of the day-to-day. While most visual novels have the main character somehow ‘solving’ other characters problems and developing themselves as a stepping stone to them ‘earning’ a relationship. VA-11 HALL-A has Jill listen to her clients problems only occasionally offering advice if anything and her personal improvement as a person is the goal itself. By the end of the story Jill is a person who perhaps will end up with Dana, but it was Jill becoming that person that was the point of VA-11 HALL-A’s story.

VA-11 HALL-A also never makes a big deal out of how much it subverts the usual procedures of its genre. There’s no point when the story just stops to congratulate itself insufferably on the codes and conventions it breaks, no stopping and winking at us so that we know how clever it is being. Instead it has a quiet confidence in the risks it is taking and what it is trying to achieve with them.

Art – 9 Pixel art at its most gorgeous.
Story – 6
Characters – 10 Best visual novel cast in a long time
Service – 1 The framing makes it difficult after all
Yuri – 7
Overall – 9

Erica here: Well, wow. This sounds almost like the old text-based games of my youth that, when they worked, were amazing, (but they almost never worked. ^_^)  If you ever want to do a Twitch channel and play this for me, Louis, feel free! I’d totally watch you play this. ^_^

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LGBTQ Game: Ladykiller in a Bind, Guest Review by Louis P

March 1st, 2017

It’s Guest Review Wednesday and it is my very sincere pleasure to welcome back Guest Reviewer and Okazu Superhero Louis P for a very exciting review!

You should remember the name Christine Love. She’s an indie game dev who has made a pretty big splash with her games,  Don’t take it personally, babe, it just ain’t your story (which has been reviewed here on Okazu), Digital: A Love Story and Analogue: A Hate Story, at Love Conquers All Games. Today we’re going to get a look at her newest game! You have the floor, Louis!

A game about a suave and cool lady who gets pulled into over the top intrigue on a high class cruise, and it is written by Christine Love! This ticks all of the boxes in this list I just wrote! What is its name?

‘My Twin Brother Made Me Crossdress as Him and Now I Have to Deal with a Geeky Stalker and a Domme Beauty Who Want Me in a Bind!’

Or Ladykiller in a Bind for short.

Our ‘Ladykiller’ in this case is The Beast… or the Hero or really whatever you want. Everyone is referred to by nicknames that you can pick or make up yourself. But to keep things simple here we will use the names on the game’s website.

The Beast, as we shall call her, is a fantastic protagonist, cool, sexy, but still dorky and genre blind enough for it to be understandable when she is caught off guard by things the player will see coming long before she does. It is also hard to get a full grasp of her right away as we really are dumped into events running but, luckily she shares narration duties with her brother who is her equal in backtalk. You learn a lot about both of them from how they jostle to get their views in.

The Beast has volunteered to take the place of her twin brother, known as The Prince, at his graduation celebration. In return, The Prince will take The Beast’s place at summer school and pass her failed classes for her. Because of the cruel actions of their farther, The Prince goes to a different school, one that holds its graduation celebration over a week on a giant cruise ship. Not only that, but, a mysterious third party announces a simple and way too easily accepted social game where the students trade votes between each other. The student with the most votes at the end of the cruse gets five million dollars. However as everyone only has one vote it very quickly becomes a contest amongst the most popular movers and shakers in the school. Who just so happen to be The Prince’s classmates.

Said classmates are what you get when you blend equal parts ‘Dallas’ with ‘Gintama’. Over-wealthy, sharp-tongued socialites who are also an endearing, goofy and fun to learn about.  The Beast talks to them and slowly gains and understanding of what is going on, as The Prince did not care to tell her much, The Beast must be careful to not arouse suspicion that she is, in fact, not her brother. If The Beast breaks character too many times, the game just ends, perhaps too abruptly, and you must load a save. The trouble is that The Prince has a public persona of being selfish and blunt so almost always if you want to do nearly anything benevolent or exciting it will draw suspicion.

Cue the first of the games two ‘heroines’; The Beauty (get it?). The Beauty is the only person amongst the students who knows The Beast’s true identity. At night The Beast can visit The Beauty who will offer to use her standing to explain away all of The Beast’s suspicious actions. In return The Beast will help The Beauty act out her fantasies of tying up and dominating a handsome woman like The Beast. The Beast herself, after pretending to be someone else and lying to people for an entire day, finds incredible catharsis in allowing The Beauty to take complete control for the time they are together.

While the narration does to a fantastic job of showing The Beast’s headspace in these scenes, very useful if you are a neophyte to this kind of play, I was even more impressed with what we learn about The Beauty in these scenes. There are moments such as when she stops and consults her phone to make sure she has tied a knot correctly or when she makes sure The Beast takes an anti-inflammatory after their session that show the care and planning she has taken to enact her fantasy bleeding through for us to notice. This might be all very new to The Beast but this is a rare and important time for The Beauty too.

The Stalker (just a nickname!), however, has a completely different dynamic with The Beast. While The Beauty knows what she likes and has a list, mood music and a timer, The Stalker is really only sure that she likes The Beast. The Beast then ends up being a partner who can guide her though exploring what she likes – making sure she never feels overwhelmed, until she wants to feel overwhelmed. But it is not just incredibly adorable sex, there is also incredibly adorable dossing around and talking about frivolous things like The Stalker’s bad taste in music or her absolutely huge family. The Stalker and The Beast have some of the best chemistry I have seen in two leads for a long time.

But, if you want to see all of The Stalker’s events you had better be good at pretending to be The Prince during the day as you will need to keep your suspicion low the whole week and this can force you to make some tough choices. Conversely, sticking to The Beauty’s events means you can rack up the amount of suspicion you would need to save over the week in a day and everything will be fine tomorrow provided you crawl back to the Beauty.

This is what makes Ladykiller in a Bind more interesting than your usual erotic visual novel.  The main game element of visual novels, that is making dialogue and event choices, becomes tied to the romantic and erotic encounters with the two main heroines.

Don’t go thinking this is a binary choice, either. Choose your events right and there is even a third route involving The Beauty, The Beast and The Stalker all together in easily the best multi partner route I have ever read. This genuinely caught me off guard, as events change way ahead of time to account for these actions. Never, in my experience, has a game changed the ending to a scene so that one character can compliment another on that cool love bite she gave another. It is great to have a main character in a visual novel whose endless flirty charm is a strength that adds positivity to the story, rather than something used for a cheap bad ending.

Normally after I have read all the endings to a visual novel I shelve it, but with Ladykiller in a Bind I find myself eager to go back and read scene variations the moment I have finished with this review something that has not happened in a long time.


Art – 9 (Everyone gets a different outfit every day)
Story – 7
Characters – 10
Yuri – 10
Service – 10

Overall – 9

I highly recommend also checking out Christine Love giving a talk about narrative design techniques she and her team learned during the process of developing Ladykiller in a Bind.

Erica here: Thank you Louis! When I saw the announcement of Ladykiller, I have to admit, I was really glad to see an adult game for mature adults, as opposed to most of the adult games which seem to favor a immature and inexperienced audience.

Ladykiller is also available on Steam, as well as from Humblebundle.

So thank you for this review. If I enjoyed games at all, I would definitely give this one a try!

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Yuri Visual Novel: A Little Lily Princess (English) Guest Review by Brian T

October 19th, 2016

It is my very sincere pleasure to welcome a brand new Okazu Guest Reviewer to our ranks today! Happy Guest Review Wednesday and welcome to @NetbrianT, a long time Yuri-fan and all-around hoopy frood.  This seemed like a perfect way to celebrate the opening our our new Yuri Games& Visual Novel page on the Yuricon store. ^_^

So please give him your attention and take it away, Brian!

Note — this review has spoilers for The Little Princess:

The VN A Little Lily Princess is a Yuri adaptation of the 1905 novel The Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, put out by Hanako Games. Before playing this game, I was not familiar with the original story (I’ve since read the book) — my first exposure was the anime Souko no Strain, a rather broader adaptation involving giant robots and time dilation.

The main character of A Little Lily Princess is Sarah Crewe, a refined British girl sent to a boarding school, but is forced to work as a scullery maid for the school when her father dies and leaves her with nothing. Part of the game is a verbatim retelling of the original, and then it’s expanded on by adding in fleshed out arcs for the original characters. Each character has their own set of scenes, which are chosen via a time management mini-game (the minigame is easy enough that you effectively choose the desired result.) After you view enough of their scenes, you’re locked into that character’s route and ending.

The game works as Yuri in interesting ways. Some of the character routes develop romantically, though the majority time you spend is on the friendship side of the relationship. More uniquely, the Yuri genre as a whole was heavily influenced by fiction of this era, such as Secret Garden or Anne of the Green Gables. In fact, this was my favorite element of the game — it tickled me pink to see how much of the book was practically Yuri already! The original story, which the game brings out wonderfully, functions as a Yuri prototype — between the foundations of the genre in things in “a place meant only for us” or specific enduring tropes like secret tea parties, it fits perfectly.


One of the best points of the game are the character-specific routes, and how well the VN added real depth to the foundations the book gave. Lily Princess does an excellent job reworking the story, and is especially good at matching the prose style of the original. The tone, too, is carried over — visual novels are well-suited for the introspective style that emphasizes an inner monologue. The melancholy of the second half almost works too well, as my tastes are firmly in the camp of the happier and more upbeat. The artwork was adorable, and the soundtrack fits the story perfectly.

The game’s biggest flaw is in the time management mini-game. It works fine during the first half, but once you have locked in a route, there’s no further decision-making, so it’s just busywork. After the first playthrough, it’s even more cumbersome, which hurts in a game that assumes you’ll replay to see different routes. Storytelling-wise, the area I’m most torn about is the ending — the game compresses much of the buildup from the source material, so it ends up overly abrupt.

You select activities for each week, which raise different attributes. Those attributes are spent viewing individual character routes

You select activities for each week, which raise different attributes. Those attributes are spent viewing individual character routes


Overall, I liked the game quite a lot — if you’ve read the book, your enthusiasm for that will almost certainly carry over to the game! The game took me about three to four hours to complete for a single route, and six hours total for all six routes.

Art: 7
Story: 8
Characters: 8
Service: 1
Yuri: 4
Overall: 7

Erica here: Thank you Brian for the excellent review. I’m so pleased you enjoyed the VN. 

And thanks to Hanako Games for providing us a review copy. We’re much obliged!

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Yuri Visual Novel: Flowers -Le volume sur printemps- (English)

September 27th, 2016

flowers_dvdIf you like — or would like to like —  Flowers -Le volume sur printemps– the newest Yuri Visual Novel from Japan available in English, you may wish to re-read the fantastic review of the Japanese language version by Jye N. Before play, I re-read it myself just to be prepared.

With that said, I began Flowers-Le volume sur printemps- with no expectations. It is available on Steam, directly on the JAST USA website, or as a physical edition on J-LIST.

Immediately I realized that I had been thrown into a tale that was being marketed completely, utterly wrong. It’s not a Yuri VN. It’s a lesbian VN – with a lesbian main character suffering from crippling social anxiety and PTSD from an abusive family situation, put into a world so strange and incoherent that it’s a bit like a nightmare scenario.

Suoh has, we learn very quickly, no social skills, because of circumstance, a painful past, a bad home life and plot needs. But it becomes immediately apparent that “poor social skills” is not nearly sufficient to describe the excruciating pain and suffering this girl goes through to eek out a “Good morning.”

I was prepared to not like Suoh, but, when a week into the story, she was making minor progress, I decided to keep at it a bit longer. I played her straight, that is to say, I chose paths that fit the character we were given as a written and thought I was doing well when the game came to an end. ??? So, I went back and made a different decision. And then another. All of them ended in one of two ways, either, I screwed up or ruined everything. So I backed up again, and serially replayed every possible combination of the two questions …and there was no way forward. At which I grew bored and stopped. I consider it the story’s job to compel me to continue. As I has yet to feel anything other than pity for Suoh, and mostly to very much disliked everyone else, I did not feel so compelled.

Apparently I needed to have backed up to an earlier decision and changed my methods, but my nature doesn’t allow me to play characters out of character. A girl with crippling social anxiety is not going to suddenly be rude or forward. It makes no sense, and if the game requires me to act out of character for the character to proceed, they did a crappy job of writing, I say. ^_^;

Jye wrote that the art is beautiful. It is – if blandly but prettily realized imaginary westernish Christianish schools and schoolgirls is your thing. It’s a reasonable assumption if you read my blog, you know that, for me, it is not, in fact, my thing. ^_^ Again, if St. Miator appealed to you in a way that Lillian did not, you’ll probably like the art here at Saint Angraecum.

Technically, the game was relatively simple. The window-size made it impossible for me to access the controls, but once I shifted my configuration to fullscreen, there was no further difficulties. Jye noted that choices were colored red or green to indicate suitability, but all I noticed was green – even when I hit my dead end oubliette. All the choices were green and they were all wrong. And the negative ending didn’t honestly make all that much sense. But oh well…

The voices are pleasant but, as so often with VNs, randomly distributed. Clearly I missed some important memo about having every fifth line voiced…and never particularly important ones, but always every “…” and “ah” and breath. I apologize if I sound peevish here. This makes no sense. At all. I expect the important things to be voiced. Not the unimportant ones.

Which leads me to the translation. It was pretty good. The dialogue is stilted, and the writer had an odd obsession with throwing in “current” movie titles, which will quickly date the game, but in most cases, I felt that the translation was decent. There was even a surprisingly interesting conversation about the sexism and Christian themes in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series. I would have liked the story so much more if it had more of that, and less of the fetishized ballet lessons and stressing about being partnered with one or another character. The only problem with the translation was that there was something in the original that made the language puzzles make sense that were lost in translation – or, to be fair, I just completely missed them. But usually, I’m pretty good about that and the obvious connections did not work, so I don’t know, ultimately what I missed there. The kanji might have been more evocative than the English. (After research, I find that my initial choice was, in fact, correct. I have no idea why the game didn’t let me move forward.)

If you enjoy the stylized narrative of a impossible Christianish school in which girls act like no humans actually act and speak in mysterious ways, in order to pair them up as romantic and sexual partners, then Flowers is definitely for you. Not so much if, spoiled by the ridiculously well-written characters of Kindred Spirits, you were hoping for something similar.

In short, if Kindred Spirits is the Maria-sama ga Miteru of Yuri VNs, with compelling characters and decent dialogue, then Flowers is very much the Strawberry Panic! of Yuri VNs, with unreal, overblown dialogue, characters who function as types, rather than people, designed to be viewed with suspicion and distrust until proven loyal.

I want to come back to Suoh one more time before I wrap up. There is nothing at all that reads more like a character who is a closested lesbian written by a guy than a hyper-oversensitivity to touch and sight of any portion of another girl. Suoh spends so much of her first week averting her eyes from even so much as glancing at a classmate in the changing room that I imagined her walking through her days, peering carefully through a hand over her eyes. Clearly, her painful past included a confession, although I never got that far.


Art – 7
Story:  6 I agree with Jye, it’s not very tight. It’s trying to be too many things at once.
Characters: 7
Service: I’m going to quote Jye here directly: “5 – I bought it as demonstrating the girls’ attraction to each other.  Bump it up if you really like skinny sixteen year-olds?” I’d add sixteen year-olds with oversensitivity to being seen as lesbian.
Yuri:  5, as I couldn’t find the apparently appropriate route.

Overall:  6

None of this is to say it’s a bad VN. It’s targeted to a portion of the Yuri audience that does not include me. If you’re an avid VN reader, and like the challenge of bringing Suoh out of her shell and into the arms of a partner who will love her, you will probably enjoy Flowers-Le volume sur printemps- very much.

Many thanks to JAST USA for the review copy!

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