‘The Arcana’ Developers Cast a Spell Over Fans & We’re So Here for It

When it comes to mainstream gaming, being late to the party is not usually considered a badge of pride. Although attitudes are thankfully shifting, it can sometimes feel as though the flurry of initial engagement has waned for players who discovered an older title too late. Reviews, livestreams, Easter eggs, entire walkthroughs of each and every ending — they’re published with such immediacy that the impact of all this content can bleed into the expectations for a game way before the player has even reached for a controller.

By contrast, The Arcana welcomes latecomers with a gripping episodic storyline, enchanting setting, and gloriously enthusiastic community of fans. And that fandom is still going strong for one very important reason.

The development company is Nix Hydra, which is based in L.A. and founded by women. They are committed to “making magical, colorful, bold products for young women and anyone else traditionally ignored by the gaming industry,” as per their Kickstarter. One of the team’s latest ventures is The Arcana, which is an otome-inspired visual novel for iOS and Android that flirts with a sinister mystery beneath its rich illustrations.

The player character is an adept magical apprentice, honing their natural gifts in fortune-telling. The wandering, secretive Asra is your mentor, and while packing up to leave on another mysterious journey, he entrusts his prized tarot deck to you. Whether you challenge Asra’s repeated disappearances or defer to his judgement, he becomes dreamy and melancholy, tangled up in thoughts of words he should have said.

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Diversity in ‘Brilliant Shadows’ Challenges Conventional Fantasy

Brilliant Shadows

There are a lot of people who don’t see visual novels as “real” video games, and to be fair, I guess I fall into that category, too. I mean, for it to be a game, there needs to be some sense of gameplay, right? Even walking simulators have a world that you can move through and explore, but with visual novels, however put-together they may be, there are only so many ways that you can go. When you try to move outside of the very set pattern that exists, you’re immediately reminded of how restrictive visual novels can feel.

Brilliant ShadowsPart One of the Book of Gray Magic is no exception to this rule. I had funded the project on Kickstarter, mostly because I was drawn in by the description, which stated:

“Overall, there is an astounding lack of variety and diversity in the world of mainstream gaming. Gender, race, and sexuality are often not present in modern games or eroticized when they are.”

Brilliant Shadows seeks to address that lack by having a story where the main protagonist is a lesbian with supporting characters who are of different sexual orientations and ethnicities. Does it make it? Yes, I suppose. There definitely is a lesbian protagonist, but at first, Brilliant Shadows was slow to win me over.

Perhaps it was the lack of gameplay that had me trying to do something more than just scroll through text screens, or maybe it was the sudden switch between voice acted dialogue and silent prose. Whatever the case, I wasn’t interested in the story like I probably should have been. I found myself wanting to skip through the setup in order to listen to the characters talk more.

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You Wouldn’t Download a Date: No Strangers to Love

Love Is Strange

[PART 1] [PART 2] [PART 3]

Welcome back to “You Wouldn’t Download A Date!” Last time, I talked about Harvest Moon: True Love Edition, small towns, and the value of unheard stories as I wrapped up my portion of this column. To round out the series, I went a little off-script by deciding to pull back the curtain and give the floor to some incredibly smart creators of a new fanmade work that hasn’t been released yet, but is worth your attention (and more than likely right up your alley)!

I’m talking about Love Is Strange, the slated-for-2016 visual novel that takes the cast and characters of Life Is Strange and transports them into a dating sim. Playing as Max Caulfield, you’ll get to progress through five days of a “normal” universe (i.e. no time travel powers or supernatural happenings) and romance either Chloe Price, Kate Marsh, Rachel Amber, or Victoria Chase. Each “route” has two endings and takes roughly a half hour for one playthrough, based on the team’s current estimation, which means a total of about two hours to experience every route on a first playthrough and four to get all of the endings. You can check out the team’s blog right here and give the demo a try over here!

Because there are fourteen people working away on this labor of love, I couldn’t interview every single one of them individually to feature every answer here (as much as I really, really wanted to) so I shot them a list of questions to divide amongst themselves to make sure everyone got to answer the ones they had thoughts about! Head on in to get to meet some of these folks and hear what they have to say.

Continue reading “You Wouldn’t Download a Date: No Strangers to Love”

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