Also available on PlayStation Portable, PlayStation Vita, and PlayStation 3
Despite being the first game in the "Trails" sub-series of Falcom's Legend of Heroes series (which itself started as a sub-series of their Dragon Slayer series), this was not my first exposure to the series. This is actually the third game in the series that I've played. I had started off doing a replay of Trails of Cold Steel and Trails of Cold Steel II since I just got Cold Steel III and Cold Steel IV, but a friend of mine was like "Dude, no, you need to play Trails in the Sky before you play Cold Steel III; you'll appreciate the characters more." So I was like okay, sure, I have time to play a trilogy of 40 hour RPGs in the middle of my tetralogy of 60 hour RPGs, no problem. Since I have no life, it's actually not a problem.
Trails in the Sky takes place in the Kingdom of Liberl in the southwestern corner of the continent of Zemuria with the Erebonian Empire to the north and the Calvard Republic to the east. The story revolves around Estelle and Joshua Bright, two up-and-coming junior members of the Bracer Guild and siblings (although Joshua was adopted five years ago at the age of 11, so they're not *really* siblings). Their father is the legendary hero of the Hundred Day War against Erebonia turned S-rank bracer, Cassius Bright. Cassius leaves on Bracer business right as Joshua and Estelle become Junior Bracers and begin their journey across the kingdom to become full-fledged Bracers. To do this, they'll have to do something worth getting a recommendation from each of the kingdom's five Bracer branches. Of course, as their journey progresses, international conspiracy and potentially civilization altering plot events occur.
Having been spoiled by Trails of Cold Steel, it took me a while to get into Trails in the Sky. The characters here are very well developed, but there's no voice acting in Trails in the Sky, and the characters are all 2D models rather than 3D sprites, both of which made it a bit harder for me to really connect with the characters. It's also a very slow burning game; the story doesn't really pick up speed and get really good until over halfway through. Once it does get some momentum and get going, though, the story gets extremely interesting. In that respect, it does feel a lot like a more primitive Trails of Cold Steel as that game also took a while to really get going but really sank its hooks in you once it got that momentum built up.
The combat is pretty standard JRPG fair. You begin combat by touching an enemy on the overworld. If you touch them from behind, you start the battle with the advantage and get a couple extra moves; if you hit them head-on or from the side, you start the battle without anyone having an advantage; if the enemy touches you from behind or one of the characters trailing behind your first character, the enemy gets the advantage, giving them a couple extra moves and having them surround you. This really makes your party members a huge liability on the overworld and makes me extremely glad that Cold Steel only has your first character on the overworld. Once you're in combat, it's standard turn based fighting with each character's turn order being based on their speed. You can use physical attacks or Arts (magic) depending on the quarts installed in your orbal device and your EP. If you lose, you can either retry the battle or go back to the main menu. There's also a turbo button you can hold to make the battles and overworld movement go faster - something I made frequent use of - but it's super buggy and can cause problems ranging from minor inconveniences like not registering that you passed the boundary to load the next map to major issues like outright crashing.
According to Steam, it took me 48 hours to get through this game; I probably could have done it in 40 hours (maybe a little less) if I'd been able to keep focused, but like I said, the beginning is REALLY slow, and my attention span isn't what it used to be. That's really my only major gripe with the game. The fact that the turbo mode is still so buggy even in 2021 is a pretty big bummer, but it's not really a deal breaker as long as you make sure not to use it during special S-Craft attacks (some of them will have their damage negated if you use turbo) and save often. I was kind of on the fence about whether to give this one a three or a four out of five, but the game finished so strongly and has me excited enough to start the sequel that I'll say it squeaked out a four. It hasn't aged particularly well when you directly compare it to Trails in the Sky, but it's still a very solid RPG especially if you like 2D games.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on PlayStation 4, Switch, and Windows
This was a bit of an impulse buy for me from Play-Asia years ago. I honestly wasn't sure if I was ever actually going to play it - I usually like my 2D girls with a more distinctly unrealistic anime look - but on my second day of being stuck in a house with no electricity and my Vita among my only gaming devices left with a charged battery, my options for entertainment were becoming limited. I saw that this was a pretty short game and looked pretty easy to Platinum, so I figured that was the pick-me-up that my spirits needed as I froze in the aftermath of an ice storm.
The premise of the game is, frankly, pretty stupid; you're a university aged guy who's trying to find love. The way you find out about girls is by stealing their panties. Seriously. This is your window into their souls and personalities for you to determine your credibility. You set yourself up as a "jack of all trades" kind of handyman and get into their homes to fix their internet or fix their VCR at which point you find way to steal their panties without getting caught. The game is played a point and click (mis)adventure separated into four levels. There are over a dozen endings for the first three levels (one of which is the "true" ending for each) along with like half a dozen panties to steal for each and five endings for the last level. Honestly, none of it is all that fulfilling.
The games visuals are done in a very nice hand drawn artstyle that's very reminiscent of more realistic looking 90s anime, so it fits the setting well. The background music is nice, too, although the voice acting leaves a lot to be desired. The game's biggest problems, though, are that it's too short - it took me probably four or five hours to get every trophy - and that it's just not that interesting. That's absolutely a personal preference thing; I'm sure degenerates who are really fond of early 90s anime will adore the style, but I'm much more of a 2000s blue hair magical girl anime kind of degenerate, so this just didn't resonate with me the way the artstyle in Sunrider or Criminal Girls did.
So that's basically it. You go through four girls' homes (two of whom are sisters and live together, so three homes), navigate dialogue choices, creep through to steal their panties, get a bunch of different endings, and that's it. That's the whole game. It lacks the character depth of a visual novel like My Girlfriend is a Mermaid, it lacks the story and world depth of a visual novel like Muv-Luv, it lacks the puzzle depth of a game like Ace Attorney, and it lacks the length of a game like Sakura Wars. It's solidly and perhaps painfully okay. It's certainly a fun little collection piece of have on your shelf for the sheer horny absurdity, but the game honestly isn't all that compelling. I wouldn't bother unless this is specifically your thing.
My Rating - 2 Neps
Also available on PlayStation Vita and Windows
If you've ever wondered what Earth Defense Force would be like if it were clunky, stupid, and horny, then I have good news; I've found the answer. Gun Gun Pixies is a third person shooter where you play as a couple of tiny alien soldiers sent to Earth to study interpersonal relationships among Earthlings in a dorm setting so you can figure out how to save your home planet's society from collapsing under the weight of its own narcissistic introversion. It's a dumb story full of cute anime girls and far more upskirts than is necessary. In that aspect, it's your typical Idea Factory/Compile Heart game. What's not so typical is the egregious lack of quality control. Compile Heart games are usually mid-tier in terms of quality. This is solidly below that.
Visually, the game looks fine. You can tell that it was originally a Vita game that got bumped to Switch, but it looks totally fine. It runs decently well, too. You'll notice parts where the frame rate dips and other parts where it suddenly feels way smoother than before, but all in all, it stays acceptably near 30 fps. The problem is the controls. They're horrendous. The jumping feels horribly imprecise, and while that doesn't matter in most third person shooters, there's an infuriating amount of platforming that you need to do. They'd be no big deal if the jumping controls were even decent, but they're downright awful. The camera controls are just as bad, too. At the default sensitivity, they're jerky as hell, but if you lower it enough so that they're not frustratingly jerky, they suddenly start to feel like they're submerged in glue. There's no middle ground. Way overly sensitive, or not nearly sensitive enough. This game may not require Sniper Elite levels of precision, but you need to be able to hit specifics parts of your targets' bodies, so it requires enough precision that these controls make the game a lot more challenging than it would normally be.
The other glaring problem here is even less forgivable than the controls and jumping. Those are just bad technical design and coding. The more unforgiveable flaw in my opinion is the translation. It's as if literally no one proofread the translation a single time before shipping the game. It's not just translation errors although there were a few sentences so awkward that they couldn't possibly be anything but a translation error. No, the game's dialogue is RIDDLED with typos. Simple careless typos that any random person off the street would likely catch if they proofread it. The fact that this made it into the game and remains in the game nearly four full years after release is just astounding to me and shows utter negligence on the part of the allegedly existent QA team. Things like "one the topic of" instead of "on the topic of," "fan faction" instead of "fan fiction," "put you to the rest" instead of "put you to the test," "partnet" instead of "partner," and "I don't they'd suit me" instead of "I don't think they'd suit me;" and those are just the ones I remember off the top of my head. You'd think having Neptune, my goddess, and Noire, my Neptunia waifu, make cameos in chapter 4 would redeem the game in my eyes, but not even they can redeem this disaster of a game. If they weren't here, my rating would be even lower.
The game is also just needlessly horny. I mean, it's an ecchi bishojo game, so that's to be expected to a certain extent, but that's basically all the game is; the rest was built around that concept so the game could have an excuse to exist. At least Senran Kagura games have fun gameplay and at least halfway decent stories; Gun Gun Pixies has neither. I'm an ecchi lord of the highest caliber, and even I was like "Dude, why is this game so damn horny?" It honestly went from fun to kind of creepy about a third of the way through. I've certainly played worse games, and I don't regret having this on my shelf, but I'd be hard pressed to recommend this to anyone except ecchi lords who are even more of a degenerate than I am because this was just too much. It's funny at first, but it plays like a Dane Cook stand-up show; after a while, you realize it just does the same things other games do except worse.
My Rating - 2 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.