Friday, July 5, 2013

Game 104: Rance: The Quest for Hikari (1989)

Alice Soft (developer and publisher)
Released in 1989 for PC-88, PC-98, Sharp X68000, and MSX; 1990 for FM Towns and Windows 3
Date Started: 2 July 2013
Date Ended: 3 July 2013
Total Hours: 5
Difficulty: Easy-Moderate (2.5/5)
Final Rating: 17
Ranking at Game #402: 82/402 (20%)
In trying to figure out how I was going to talk about Rance, I was reminded of Roger Ebert's 1980 review of I Spit on Your Grave. I've never seen the film, but I know enough from Ebert's review that I would never want to. It's a film about four men who rape a woman three times, and the woman gets revenge by killing all of them one by one. Ebert's review describes his disgust with both the film and the audience members who were hooting and commenting at the screening he attended.

The key line in Ebert's short review comes towards the end: "I have never condemned the use of violence in films if I felt the filmmakers had an artistic reason for employing it." His condemnation of the film is not so much that it contains rape and murder--after all, he gave Sudden Impact three stars three years later--so much as that "it is made artlessly...there is no reason to see this movie except to be entertained by the sight of sadism and suffering."

Going into Rance, I knew that it was an eroge game and that there would be sex and nudity. I was prepared to not care about that if the gameplay was any good. But Rance is not a game about sex. It is a game about rape. Lots of it. And like I Spit on Your Grave, it's made artlessly. There's no reason to play this game except to be entertained by the sight of sadism and suffering.

To take a glaring example, Rance has a magic-using "assistant" named Sill Plain, who is actually a slave. He "purchased" her from an "amoral warlock" and "she has a spell on her that makes her obedient to [his] orders." To increase his own magical abilities, Rance is invited to engage in various sexual behaviors with Sill. All of them are clearly non-consensual. During one act, she says "Please stop" and his response is "Like I would stop doing something so fun! Take that...and that!" The player is of course treated to an image during this scene; I will not be showing any such images from the game during this review.

When Sill complains about these repeated rapes, and the pain they cause, Rance says, "if you do it lots of times, it will start to feel good." Still, Rance has a momentary pang of conscience in his inability to bring pleasure to his slave and wonders if he's doing something wrong, but fortunately he quickly concludes that "no, Sill must be frigid."

Literally every major plot point in the game involves a sexual assault of some sort, whether molesting a maid to get her to give up a key, extorting sex from a castle worker by threatening to turn her in for theft, sexually torturing the queen's handmaiden to find out where the queen has gone, or raping the game's putative villain as a manner of "justice." In between these events, the player has the option to "assault" literally every female NPC he meets (and essentially all NPCs in the game are female, almost always scantily clad even when it doesn't make sense), including battered and traumatized women that they're theoretically there to rescue. That this game was a major commercial release in any country, spawning a whole series of RPGs right up to 2011, is simply jaw-dropping.

Rance rescues the ghost of an innocent girl. Note that he still has the option to "assault" her.

It took me a while, and a conversation with Irene, before I could put into words exactly why this game is so vile. If you think the answer is obvious, I would ask you to consider that we just left a game in which the murder of families, children, and police officers is possible. We are about to talk about a game in which the player can choose to become a bloodthirsty space pirate. How many of you, repulsed at my description of Rance, have joyfully played the Dark Brotherhood quests in Skyrim or have reveled in the kills of Assassin's Creed?

From killing the jester in Ultima I to wiping out a village in Wasteland to running over pedestrians in Grand Theft Auto to burglarizing houses in Hero's Quest to committing serial assassinations in The Elder Scrolls games, all games invite us to revel in violence and crime. Let's not pretend otherwise. Almost every modern RPG offers an "evil" path; some of us don't often play it, but let's not pretend that we regard those who do with horror. Let's also not pretend that we're concerned that people who play games like Rance will go on to commit real-life sex offenses. We don't have to read formal research to quickly assess that violence against women has been decreasing in the western world at the same time that pornography--including violent and bizarre pornography--has exploded in quick and easy availability. We can easily note that the areas of the world with the most disgusting and barbaric attitudes towards women are the same areas of the world in which games like Rance, as well as most other forms of published pornography, are banned.

I originally read this as "points from the goodness." That there is a goddess in this world that awards experience points is a heck of a revelation. Why is Rance not Level -130 by now?

So why should I condemn the rapes of Rance but not killing Vittoria Vici at her own wedding in Skyrim? I think the answer is this: Skyrim offers us escape into fantasies that we don't actually have; Rance indulges fantasies that some people do actually have. Skyrim invites us to imagine what it's like to play an evil character; Rance invites us to open a door to evil in our own character.

Violence and crimes in most games are a matter of suspension of reality. Whether we're playing "good" or "bad," we are engaged in unmistakable fiction. We may join the Dark Brotherhood and kill innocent people, but we do it without hate. If, in contrast, the Dark Brotherhood quests all involved killing minorities, or elderly people, or women, or children, it might reach Rance's levels of disturbing content; it would play to hate, and prejudices, and disturbing urges among a minority of the population. But as it is, you can enjoy the quests without necessarily enjoying the idea of killing innocent people in real life.

I do not, in contrast, think that you could enjoy Rance without enjoying the idea of raping women. There is, after all, no internal reason for rape in a game. Enemies you kill in games are obstacles to overcome; items you steal are steps towards wealth and power. But there is nothing that you can accomplish, no puzzle that you can solve, no quest that you can achieve through rape that you could not also achieve through not raping.

And Rance makes no secret about expecting the player to enjoy the rapes. It graphically describes them. It provides anguished, pleading dialogue for the victims. What disturbs me more than the idea that someone made such a game is that there must be players who enjoy it--who molest and sodomize their way through the quest with smiles on their faces.

Rance's own reactions and statements are tailored to such players. He isn't some brooding anti-hero, some modern-day Tamburlaine who simultaneously fascinates and horrifies us with the way he employs his strength and will to satisfy his desires. The annals of classical mythology and modern literature are full of dark protagonists who take what they want, whose rapes are presented as half-crime, half-blessing upon their victims. Such stories are offensive in their own right, but Rance can't even aspire to this level of complexity. He's juvenile and crude, pompous, arrogant in his belief in his own sexual prowess. One of my commenters argued that "he was intentionally created as a counter to the standard Japanese RPG protagonist of being a really nice guy who's oblivious about the opposite gender," but Rance is just as oblivious, except in a far worse way.

Rance's reaction to essentially everyone.

A disturbed player could make a game like Skyrim as disturbing as Rance. He could reload and kill Vittoria Vici over and over again, shouting misogynistic comments at the screen after each kill, stopping to pose her body before making his getaway. He could download a mod that enables him to kill children and make an effort to wipe out every one of them in the game. He could kill every Redguard that he sees, shouting real-world racial epithets as he does so. Perhaps that the game allows for such gameplay should be a cause for concern. But Rance exists solely for such gameplay, which makes it a cause for even greater concern.

The plot is piffle. Rance is a private investigator commissioned by his guildmaster to find Hikari, a Paris College student who was kidnapped from her room. Through the course of exploring the city, Rance learns about a gang of thieves who have been kidnapping beautiful young women. He eventually comes to find that the kidnappings are being orchestrated by the queen, who periodically sends her handmaiden to the college to identify a beautiful, smart young girl to become the queen's sexual slave. After freeing a ghost of the queen's previous victim from perpetual torment, Rance confronts the queen and, with the help of Sill, rescues Hikari. He chases the queen down--raping her handmaiden to find out where she went--and then rapes the queen to exact justice for the victimized girls. At the end of the game, literally bathing in the reward money, Rance finds out that according to the laws of the land he must marry the queen. He gathers his money and flees with Sill into a series of sequels that you couldn't pay me to play.


The game tries to have it both ways, with Rance expressing horror at the actions of the queen. But since he does so much worse in the course of solving the quest, we're left with the impression that he's just horrified at the thought of lesbianism.

Actually, the game is rather explicit about that.

Aside from its breathtaking perversion, Rance isn't even a good as an RPG. It's far more an adventure game than an RPG, with progress determinant upon hitting particular plot points and finding certain items. All action is controlled from the menu on the right side of the screen, including navigating around the cities, talking to NPCs, buying equipment, and fighting combats.

The main city area at the beginning of the game. This is literally the dumbest excuse I've ever seen for having to grind for money and equipment--though I suppose it may be a joke about common RPG tropes.

The game is painfully linear. To take an example, in the thieves' lair, you find a closet in one of the rooms. If you search the closet, you find some healing medicines. If you take them and search again, you don't find anything else. But if you try to go up a set of stairs, get a message that your steps are too loud, then return to the room, and then search the closet again, you find some "thieves' shoes." This means a lot of backtracking as you try to figure out exactly the right sequence of events to move forward. There are some places that you have to execute the same command multiple times to get a result. Still, there are only a limited number of commands, and only a few "walking dead" scenarios, so if you have the patience, you can ultimately figure it out through--just like everything else in the game--brute force.

Rance gets access to a room by breaking the wall down with a hammer. This is the same hammer that the game insisted he didn't need the first time he tried to pick it up; he had to keep clicking on the option.

Combat is extremely basic and offers only a few options: attack, cast a spell, use a healing herb, or flee. Combat never occurs with any key enemies--all of them, Rance rapes--but rather with wandering foes in certain plot areas, primarily the thieves' lair and a haunted house. None of the areas are very large or difficult to explore; if not for backtracking, you could hit all of the game's areas in less than an hour.

I'm not saying the graphics are great in the rest of the game, but they didn't even try with the combat portraits.

From the moment you have about $600, which is very easy to obtain, you can buy the best weapons and armor, and combat isn't even remotely dangerous for the rest of the game. Outdoors, you can deliberately "look for monster" to grind for gold and experience, and with a series of fast clicks, rise 5 or 10 levels (far more than you need) in a matter of minutes.

This GIF isn't speeded up; I'm actually clicking that fast to build gold and experience.

If there's one redeeming thing about Rance, it's that it occasionally has a sharp sense of humor. "How tragic it is to be a guy," it muses as Rance allows himself to be seduced into an obvious trap. He makes a comment on the Rube Goldberg nature of adventure games where one item leads to another to another, often nonsensically. A female NPC taunts him as he dumps money into a gambling game with horrible odds just because she's offered to take off some clothing every time he wins. The end joke about bathing in gold is reasonably funny.

But on the whole, this is the most vile game I've ever experienced--a record that is unlikely to fall unless I decide to play Super Columbine Massacre RPG in 2006.

I'm not going to bother to explain my full GIMLET. As you've seen, the RPG elements are scant. The only things it has going for it are a theoretically good dialogue system (the mechanics are good; it's just that everything out of Rance's mouth is contemptible) and a reasonably quick pace. I gave the largest negative bonus I've ever given (-5) for the content, bringing the final score down to 17, one of my lowest ever for a post-Bronze Era game. But I suppose if the content doesn't offend you, you'll like the game about as much as a natural 22. In such a case, please feel free not to comment on my blog.

If you do comment, I don't want to hear any nonsense like "LOL it's Japanese, what do you expect?" Analyzing the cultural attitudes that created such a game is fine, but let's make sure it's analysis, and not simple repetition of stereotypes.

I also want to stave off the idea that I'm just a victim of a poor translation, and that in the original Japanese, the sex was portrayed as consensual and Rance's comments were less juvenile. While I allow that there might be some nuances to the original Japanese dialogue that didn't make it through in the translation, the images make it abundantly clear what's happening even without the dialogue. I've also read enough online about the Japanese version to believe that the English translation was more or less faithful.

Before I go, I should comment on the fact that I played the game to the end despite how I felt about it. Irene was a bit aghast at this when I described it to her. I was motivated by two things. First, having decided to play it at all, I didn't want this game to be responsible for my first "no" in the "Won?" column in a year. Second, I felt some perverse quasi-journalistic responsibility to document the entirety of the thing. I didn't want some apologist for the game to show up and claim that Rance redeems himself in the end or that the worst of the game is in the first half.

But I wish I'd listened to those of you who told me not to play it at all. I'm deleting the rest of the series from my game list, and I will not be playing any more games that feature sexual assault as a primary game element. The only time I ever want to see Rance again is in a game in which I--preferably playing a female PC--get to kill him.
This would have been a nice happy ending.


  1. I hope I'm avoiding the 'LOL Japan' here...

    It is interesting to note that like art, video games are very colored by the culture which creates them. Nudity, rape, and sex in Japanese video games has always been a thing. The first game to feature graphical sex is Night Life, a Japanese game, though the first adult game at all is actually a Sierra Online game, but only text.

    The first-person shooter as we commonly know it today originated in the USA and eastern European games are nearly always grimdark and brooding, such as the STALKER series or The Witcher.

    I don't know, maybe I'm simply generalizing too much. Thanks for taking the time to post about Rance, now on to the next game!

  2. Japan, home of the most bizarre and depraved pornography in existence, but it's okay, because they censor out the genitals.

    Next encounter with this should be Knights of Xentar, if I read your list right. I tried it back in college, but the gameplay couldn't justify the effort to get to what titillation the game had to offer. On the plus side though, the hero isn't a rape obsessed maniac, so there's that.

    1. Curiously, this game had "XXXXX" appear wherever the name of a body part or sex act would have normally appeared. I'm not sure if that was in the English translation alone or whether some other nonsense characters were in the original Japanese. It seems a weird thing to be prudish about given the game's overall content.

    2. Japanese law requires the censorship of those words, and they're censored in a really specific way. So yeah, it's in the original and an attempt to try to translate that.

    3. "That this game was a major commercial release in any country, spawning a whole series of RPGs right up to 2011, is simply jaw-dropping."

      This game was never a major commercial release in Japan. Eroge is basically an underground genre. They are sold in closed off porn sections of stores that otherwise specialise in geek culture. 99% of the population doesn't even know this genre even exists because regular people never go into those areas.

      That is a large factor in how it has been able to survive so long. Japanese laws tend to be very old and are difficult to modernise. People tend to try to stay out of the business of others which means no one really notices these kind of sub-cultures. As long as they don't gain mainstream recognition no one will make enough noise to actually have the government come down and get strict on them.

      These games do not represent Japanese games or gamers in general any more than the indy rape and murder games in the west represent Western gamers. I really disagree with the choice to review this game as part of the CRPG history being documented on this site. It would be much like reviewing international fantasy films and then deciding to include Edward Penishands in there as one of Americas foremost films...

    4. I'm sorry you disagree, but it's not like I picked and chose. This just happened to be a game that showed up in chronological order in my playlist, which is after all comprehensive. We've seen non-porn Japanese games on the blog before, like Sorcerian and Ys, and we'll see plenty of them again. I never claimed that Rance was a "foremost example" of Japanese RPGs, and I didn't make any comments about Japanese people or Japanese RPGs in general during the review.

    5. Knights of Xentar, at the very least, is a more comical thing. It's not a particularly good game (I recognized as much when younger, where I'd considered it quite illicit for me to be playing) but there's no horrible nastiness about it.

      Thank you for this review though, Chet. I think that it's important to be able to look at things like this when push comes to shove. Taking a more level headed approach than those who would use an atrocious game like this as an excuse for game by instead examining it in a levelheaded manner shows what the actual problem with this sort of depiction of things is, instead of just dismissing it as a 'horrible porn game' off of the bat. (Yet in saying that, it clearly did fit that exact bill.)

    6. All he needs is to play FF6 to see the dichotomy. It could not be more different; It is literally worlds apart. Even FF4 was spectacular, the 1st game to draw out genuine emotion from me. The twins.. Good story telling and good all around.... and that's what it is. And seeing how many of the Addicts condemnations of recent games rest on the stupid storyline or lack thereof, it could be refreshing.

    7. Because, you know. Not enough people have written about the unfairly neglected Final Fantasy franchise.

    8. Oh Jebus. Insert Ultima. Neglected is not a variable here.

  3. Just out of curiosity (or in desperate search of redeeming values), would there have been a chance to complete the game without raping everything in sight?

    1. The game is linear. Future games are less linear, but you still can't try to roleplay him as a saint in most of them.

    2. Davzz is correct. The rapes are unavoidable to progress in the game, with the exception of Sill (the first one I described); you could simply go without any magic powers since they're unnecessary anyway.

  4. Eroge aren't really commercial releases in Japan the way we think of commercial releases in the US. You can't walk into the Japanese equivalent of Walmart and buy them off the shelves or something.

    Same with cultural attitudes. The thing about Japanese videogame is that outside of games for children, everything else is ultra-niche targeted. The "cultural attitude" about sex and nudity displayed in videogames and other pop culture aren't really shared by the general populace which tend to be more conservative.

    The game is poorly translated, but yes, the sex isn't consensual in the original version either. I think it does kind of lose the tone that the series is what TVTropes states as "Refuge in Audacity."

    Man, you picked a really terrible time to try to add Japanese RPGs to your playlist. The next game, Phantasy Star 3, is considered one of the worst in its series. I think the first good JRPG on the list is Warsong (Langrisser 1 in Japan)

    1. Coincidentally, the final half of the Langrisser series of games were illustrated by a hentai artist, though to my knowledge the games are strictly strategy RPGs, no adult themes. Go figure.

    2. They were all illustrated by the same guy, actually. It's just that you can't tell in the earlier games because the conversion to low-powered hardware sort of erased his style.

      Yeah, for Japanese artists working in pop culture media, drawing pr0n isn't really an intentional career choice but something you got to do to pay the bills, which means it's not really some kind of stand-out if someone does.

    3. Phantasy Star III is totally bleh. It's sad that he'll never play the true classic JRPGs, like FF6 or Chrono Trigger. Hell, I'd be glad to see Phantasy Star IV. I'd just love to see his response.

      Warsong is a great game, but it's barely an RPG, JRPG or otherwise. It's true that their artist (for the whole series, as Davzz noted) is a Hentai artist, and some of the artwork for the games is.. a bit scandalous. But, by the same token, how many western RPGs have women with chainmail bikinis? Personally, I think his artwork for the Langrisser series is quite good, even if his talent has also been used for other means. Hell, Sly Stallone started his career in a porno. That doesn't mean I think less of Rocky (which he wrote) or hold that against the rest of his career. And he had -sex- in a porno, he wasn't just drawing pictures.

    4. I don't see why Langrisser wouldn't count as an RPG, other than perhaps linearity issues (but starting from 2 there is at least branching paths).

      It fulfills criteria 2 and 3, and unlike games like Romance of the Three Kingdoms, there's a "set" campaign with a definite start and ending. If Warlords 3 counts as an RPG, I think Langrisser does as well.

    5. Addict has already played the first YS and Sorcerian, so it's not like this is the first JRPG (even though I suppose Sorcerian is somewhat untypical for the genre)here.

      Technically, Wibarm has also originated in Japan, but from what I've read, the RPG elements seem to be rather rudimentary there, so maybe it won't qualify for playing.

      Before Phantasy Star III, there is II on the list, should Chet really feel inclined to check out these releases, which I assume are just emulated versions anyway.

    6. Following up on Davzz's original point, if you want to know why PC games are still incredibly niche in Japan, well, here you go. The PC games market has always been the place where porn games and other things no serious publisher would touch go to languish for eternity, and that carries with it a stigma that's tough to get away from.

      There are exceptions - Nihon Falcom were PC-focused up until just a few years ago - but generally speaking "PC Games" in Japan means "freaky otaku shit for freaky otaku," and boy, good luck getting around that. PC games are a rack in the back of Animate with a bunch of visual novels (porn), touhou and homebrew games based on other companies' IP. Niche all the way down.

    7. there is also the fact that Japan's adaption of personal computers was much slower that the rare in Western countries. Even at the turn of the century it was quite rare for even young Japanese to have email addresses. A lot of people's first regular exposure to email and the internet was via the more advanced Japanese feature phones available in the early 2000's. Around that time the laptop boom went off and Japan started to catch up but Japan pretty much missed the PC gaming boom of the 80's and 90's. Consoles were, and still are the main form of gaming.

    8. I have yet to play Phantasy Star III, but I found II far worse than the first. I've heard the series goes down hill until being redeemed by the final one.

    9. "I don't see why Langrisser wouldn't count as an RPG, other than perhaps linearity issues (but starting from 2 there is at least branching paths)."

      I think it actually meets the Addict's criteria, and I can't wait until he tries it. I -love- the Langrisser games and am always hoping for more awareness.

      Still, it's not a JRPG. It's a strategy game with (light) JRPG elements. In Japan, it's clearly classified as a Simulation game (which doesn't really mean the same thing as here), and it would fall far short of most Western RPG enthusiasts' definition. Only Western JRPG fans really put it in the RPG classification and only, then, because there are somewhat similar games with more RPG elements (Shining Force, FF Tactics, even the latter Langrisser games).

      Still, it meets the minimal criteria offered by the Addict, so I expect it will warrant an entry here. It's certainly more of an RPG than, say, the Romance of the Three Kingdoms games or the other grand strategy titles that the Addict has rooted out.

    10. "there is also the fact that Japan's adaption of personal computers was much slower that the rare in Western countries."

      Wait...what? The Japanese NEC PC-88 and PC-98 were released in 1981 and 1982 respectively and were huge players in their day. The PC-88's graphics and sound were pretty impressive and the initial PC-98 was a bit more capable than the IBM PC released in 1981.

      PC gaming might not have been as big of a thing in Japan in the eighties, but they had a respectable market and plenty of PC games.

    11. Both platforms were very successful in Japan, true, but not fully IBM PC compatible.
      In fact the PC-88 isn't compatible with the IBM PC at all as it uses a different CPU (Z80-based instead of x86).
      The PC-98 on the other hand uses a x86-CPU but other parts of the hardware (graphics, for example) are different so Western software needed to be adapted to be able to run on it (AFAIK this was rare).

      So, yes, Japan had plenty of PC games but they were NEC PC games and not IBM PC games - which is what Westerners mean when they are talking about PC-compatible games (no disrespect meant).

    12. and how many of the general population actually owned an NEC PC? They were found in some schools and companies, but outside of computer enthusiasts they were pretty rare among the general public as a whole. For a lot of people windows 98 was their first real PC experience.

    13. Is there a reason that Phantasy Star III is on the list but not the first two games?

      And I'd have to disagree on III being the worst of the series. I really enjoyed it, and found it a hell of a lot more accessible to my 16-year old self than PSII and it's unending mazes. Seriously, the mazes in PSII were so insane they released the game with a map book!

      But then, I'm one of those JRPG players that enjoys just about anything. But I do love those 4 games. It's a pity Phantasy Star Earth never went anywhere.

    14. PSII is on his list and coming up at the end of the game year. The first doesn't have a PC release at this time, so I believe that's why it was skipped.

      At least here's one vote of confidence for PSIII. Hopefully it won't be as bad as the naysayers purport.

    15. While there are a lot of pornographic visual novels, it's a format that includes a wide variety of other sorts of content, and even some of the pornographic ones have only a few apparently pro forma sex scenes that are typically removed for console ports, anime/manga versions, etc. For example, one of the very best visual novels ever written, Fate//Stay Night, takes dozens of hours to read even one of the three paths and there's maybe one or two (awkward, hilarious) sex scenes 80-90% of the way through each path. It's not something you'd go to for titillation, and it's omitted in other versions of the story. (Hilariously, the anime version of the one path that received the anime series treatment elides that particular scene with a very, uh, symbolic dragon breathing flame.)

      Part of the reason that Westerners tend to associate the format with porn, I suspect, is that for whatever reason (possibly the expense and difficulty of translating long, complex narratives to a suitable standard of quality rather than a cheap and dirty translation that gets one to porn scenes without completely descending into gibberish) that seems to be the majority of what's actually been translated and put up for sale in English until fairly recently. Fate, say, was fan-translated and has never been available commercially in English. Same goes for other classics like Yu-No, Chaos;Head, Steins;Gate, Tsukihime, Muv-Luv Alternative, etc.

      That said, there's been a few VNs or VN-ish games released recently on console systems that people may be more familiar with. Stuff like the PSP's Corpse Party or Hakuoki, or the DS's 999, or Vita/3DS's Virtue's Last Reward. Or the Ace Attorney series.

      Anyway. They're not all porn, and some of the ones that do contain sex are still mostly about telling a good story. They're worth a look, if you can get hold of the right ones in English, or speak Japanese.

    16. Back up. There's computer releases of Phantasy Star 2 and Phantasy Star 3? Contemporary to when the games were originally released on the Genesis/Megadrive, or the recent re-releases as downloadables by Sega? Because if the Addict's adding console games later ported to PC, Phantasy Star 4 needs to be on there. Moreso than the first three, which have not aged well at all and are probably best skipped.

    17. It's the latter. And Phantasy Star 4 is already on the list.

    18. Bladed Edge: [i]"Moreso than the first three, which have not aged well at all and are probably best skipped."[/i]

      If not aging well was grounds to skip a game, the Addict would have played maybe five games so far. Phantasy Star 1 is also historically important because it's honestly pretty damn advanced for a 1984 game, regardless of platform.

      I do agree that 4 is the best of the series and 3 utter trash.

    19. Phantasy Star I was released in1987.

  5. If there is no other intelligent life in the Universe, tha Japanese is the closest we (westerners like me) come to "aliens".
    The extreme formulaism of artwork in Japanese game, and the sheer vileness of it, with every female looking like some half (un) dressed 12 year old, is disturbing and utterly sucks out any desire on my part to even _try_ a Japanese game, no matter how good its game mechanics may be.

    1. There are plenty of great Japanese games (as well as other pieces of entertainment). I'm sure other cultures could look at the West and decry our sexualization of women and glorification of violence as well. It's really easy to judge an entire society while apparently having never even tried the very products you're judging.

    2. I have Japanese family and I take offence to your comments. Japan has some strange stuff and a small minority of perverts do partake in vile behaviour but don't pretend that shit doesn't occur in Western countries too. It would take me a few seconds on Google to bring up countless videos of women being pissed on, forced to eat shit, physically abused and humiliated. There are plenty of indy Western games that involve rape and murder too. Does that mean that all Westerners are into these types of things? No it doesn't and the same applies for Japanese people too.

      Japanese art is different to western art. You don't have to like it and I certainly have no real preference for it. However hentai art does not reflect the majority of what is produced for the mainsteam. If you really want to push the argument I could post side by side comparisons of Japanese and western art to prove that your comments are invalid but I think it you weren't so narrow-minded you would work that out for yourself.

      OMG my daughter was playing Zelda on her DS today. She will be ruined for life from the sheer wickedness and vileness of the artwork depicted within. If only I had of known earlier.

    3. I base my comments on the fact that 99% of screenshots I've seen of Japanese games (most of them not porn or Hentai games) have excactly the same artwork, with excactly the same faces and hairdoes on the characters. So my comment on formulaism stands.

      Yes, I've never actually played a Japanese game, but then it's hard to find an interesting Japanese game that does not have that revolting, formulaic anime art style.

    4. Oh, and I'm not judging an entire society, only the video game and manga industry.

      My comment about "aliens" was more of a general, neutral observation. But I see that it was misplaced, so sorry about that.

    5. So you have never actually played a Japanese game and you are perfectly willing to condemn an entire culture and the products they produce? I might not be the brightest person but I think that may be a tad narrow-minded and bigoted.

      This is what a couple of minutes of google produced in response to Japanese game artwork;

      As you can see that is some pretty vile digusting stuff there. The designers must have all been boy hungry paedophiles. They obviously can't be as unique as western designers who never choose to use generic looking characters as heros for their games...

    6. after reading your last comment, I do apologize if I am pushing too hard to be insulting. Like most fathers I tend to get a bit riled up when my daughter is referred to as a freak but people who know little of her culture.

    7. then it's hard to find an interesting Japanese game that does not have that revolting, formulaic anime art style.

      Er...that's a pretty bizarre comment there, dude. The Japanese videogame industry is huge, and--as Benj notes--only a small percentage looks like Sailor Moon or whatever the hell it is you're so revolted by.

    8. Petrus, honestly, it's hard to take you seriously when you simultaneously claim to know that all Japanese games are identical.. and that you've never played a single Japanese game in your life. It's seriously the -height- of pompous ignorance.

      I'm not a huge anime or manga guy, but I've dabbled a bit here and there. I used to play a lot of Japanese games, but I definitely play mostly Western games now. But, regardless, I know enough to say this with confidence: there is a wide diversity in Japanese media and entertainment of all forms, and there are definitely amazing achievements in all fields. Just because there's a lot of crap, that doesn't mean that everything is crap. And, if you haven't experienced the games, simply don't act as if you had.

      Here's a major recent RPG from Japan: Dark Souls. Yep.. pretty much looks and plays like everything else. **facepalm**

    9. This is utterly the kind of conversation that I didn't want to see. In terms of the artwork, I'm guilty of having said similar things in my posting on Sorcerian, and I understand where Petrus is coming from. I think such artwork is less representative of Japanese graphics as a whole than Petrus suggested, but I think it's more representative of Japanese graphics as a whole than Benj suggests in picking and choosing alternate examples. We should also be clear that we're partly dealing with era differences here, with most of Benj's examples coming from the recent decade, and what Petrus and I object to coming from the 1980s and early 1990s.

      In such discussions, it's probably best to stick to specific examples instead of trying to make generalizations about an entire culture or genre. Scroll up to the posting and look at the images of people there. I don't like the way they look. They repulse me. None of the women depicted in those graphics appears sexually mature. I do not want to play games that have graphics like this, regardless of where they come from.

    10. Petrus your comment seemed needlessly offensive, and ill informed. You have the right to your opinion, but I think you're confusing opinion with fact.


    11. Chester, it's a game about rape. No one should want to play games like that.

      However to say that Japanese games in general have disturbing/disguisting art is reaching more than a little. It really seems like your are trying to find things to hate about Japanese games/artwork in order to justify your own pent up feelings. I felt the same thing when I read your sorcerian review. Despite your general intelligence it seems like you do become very stubborn/pigheaded about certain topics. Would you wife or real life acquaintances disagree with me on this?

      This is some of the artwork that accompanied the Japanese release of Sorcerian.

      I'm not really seeing much substance to your claims that the artwork is so off-putting/disgusting that these games are unplayable. Japanese artwork isn't for everyone and yes the characters tend to be youthful looking (note I used the word youthful not child) but that is because these products are intended for children. Do you have similar grievances with Disney's artwork?

      I much prefer the modern style of artwork of both Japanese and american games as they were designed with an adult audience in mind. However the fact remains that the main players of games in the 80's and 90's were kids and teens and hence the artwork reflects what was popular with them at that time.

    12. one more addition, this is the box art from Bard's Tale II released in 1987 the same year as Sorcerian. Compare that the art I posted above.

      Honestly to my untrained eyes it would seem that Sorcerian has the higher quality and more mature art style yet it was the one you chose to rant about in terms of it's graphics.

      In-game Sorcerian didn't look too hot but neither did many other games of the same era. This is one of your pics of phantasie III. A game which is actually newer.

      Again is Sorcerian really so terrible to look at in comparison?

    13. To enrich the discussion I would suggest people read this book

      It's extremely illuminating on aspects of Japanese culture that as of the last 10 years the internet west is also adopting. This is a complex issue that can neither be handwaved away nor simply be solved by demonising Japanese culture.

    14. " I think such artwork is less representative of Japanese graphics as a whole than Petrus suggested, but I think it's more representative of Japanese graphics as a whole than Benj suggests in picking and choosing alternate examples. We should also be clear that we're partly dealing with era differences here, with most of Benj's examples coming from the recent decade, and what Petrus and I object to coming from the 1980s and early 1990s."

      There are -tons- of Japanese games even from that era that do not have anime-style graphics. Super Mario Brothers. Legend of Zelda. Hell, pretty much anything from Nintendo during this era (which is saying something). Shit, neither did Sega really. Mega Man was sort of an anime style chibi, but you have to stretch a bit to get there. In terms of RPGs, Final Fantasy never really embraced typical manga/anime style, especially under Amano ( All the Mother/Earthbound games were pretty much explicit rejections of typical RPG tropes.

      There are a fair number of games with the classic Japanese art style, but I'd argue that -most- high profile games didn't in the 80's. The biggest exception is probably Dragon Quest, which had Akira Toriyama as a character designer. He's better known as the illustrator/writer of Dragon Ball (which includes Dragon Ball Z). He also worked on Chrono Trigger, which is why Crono looks a bit like a red-headed Goku.

      Once you get into the 16-bit era, you see more anime/manga inspired artwork, but it's still nothing like an overwhelming majority. You still have all of Nintendo's work, most of Sega's, and the Final Fantasy series still solidly within their own realm.

    15. Benj, do point me to wherever I said that "Japanese games in general have disturbing/disgusting art." I deliberately avoided saying such things in this review. In fact, I didn't say ANYTHING about the graphics in the review, and just above, I said, "In such discussions, it's probably best to stick to specific examples instead of trying to make generalizations about an entire culture or genre."

      Linking to promotional artwork that has nothing to do with in-game graphics doesn't prove anyone's point. Neither does linking to examples of Western artwork that I don't have to contend with in games. No, if Ariel showed up in a CRPG, I wouldn't like it the style. If the characters from South Park showed up in a CRPG, I wouldn't like the style. If Beavis and Butthead showed up in a CRPG, I wouldn't like the style. But I haven't encountered them yet.

      Killias, many of your examples of non traditional-anime-style graphics come from games that are too graphically primitive to really show ANY features, but overall, your point is taken. My comment really didn't serve any purpose: whether 80% of Japanese-released games have anime-inspired graphics or only 10% do is a bit irrelevant. I simply don't like the graphics in the ones that do. If anyone wants to regard it as "Japan-bashing" when I say that, I suppose that's their right.

    16. It's totally fine to say that you don't like manga/anime style graphics. I just think that the ratio is a lot less than seems to be implied here. I mean, Japanese companies -dominated- the 8 and 16 bit eras, and I think relatively few gamers ever witnessed more than a few anime/manga style flourishes.

      It's true that -some- of it is the lack of technical ability, but the source artwork for, say, Castlevania or Final Fantasy or Metal Gear or Mario/etc. wasn't anime/manga style either. And these aren't minor games. These are pretty much the central games of the generation.

      But yeah, I wasn't trying to imply that you were engaged in Japan bashing. I'm just pointing out the greater diversity.

    17. @ Chet here is trailer of South Park CRPG game :D

  6. My biggest gripes against non-porn games the Japanese have is the linearity and I don't like a bunch of people shoved at me who are to be my characters. I could care less about these people; let me make my own, and make my own choices. I know there it's more about using a game to tell a story, but still.

    Given what I just said, Rance tells a very disturbing story, indeed.

  7. I think this is one of your better pieces.

    The rape-and-revenge genre of exploitation films certainly contains some of the lowest brow cinema in existence. It's not that such themes necessitate irredeemable movies, (as anyone who has seen Kill Bill or TGWTDT would know) it's that movies like 'I Spit on your Grave' and 'Death Wish' were intended to be precisely what they are; violent pornography.

    Rance is the same. It's porn, plain and simple. Unlike the rape-and-revenge story, I doubt it's even possible to construct a thought-provoking, socially responsible piece of media featuring a protagonist who rapes his way through life. Certainly not one that anyone would want to experience.

    1. But that doesn't settle the argument. There is porn and there is porn. What does porn set to achieve? Tillitation at any cost? Are there fantasies that it won't entertain? Is it just a pure capitalist market force that designates its limits or do pornographers have moral limits themselves? Is Rance (and other games like it) even pushing the limits of its creators and public or is it considered par for the course? What does it say for a culture when depictions of sexual abuse are glorified as 'pornography'?

  8. [i]The only time I ever want to see Rance again is in a game in which I--preferably playing a female PC--get to kill him.[/i]

    This is a fantasy a lot of people have. It's the reason I (and others) saw [i]I Spit on Your Grave[/i]. Are you sure you wouldn't want to watch it?

    [i]Skyrim offers us escape into fantasies that we don't actually have; Rance indulges fantasies that some people do actually have...But as it is, you can enjoy the quests without necessarily enjoying the idea of killing innocent people in real life.[/i]

    I don't really know about this... I think a lot of horrible acts in real life are motivated by game/novel/movie or quest-type thinking. When George Zimmerman goes out and accidentally shoots an innocent man he thinks that he is Dirty Harry, going out to clean up the streets, the last good guy left to stand up to those f***ing punks.

    When men blow up buildings (and themselves) for political reasons, they might see themselves in the same light as the soldiers at Thermopylae, early Christian martyrs, William Wallace being drawn and quartered or what have you. Sacrificing themselves to stop some evil, monolithic political/military force.

    Everybody fantasizes about being a lone hero standing up to a great evil. It is our vanity. That is why there is so much evil and carnage in the world.

    1. "When George Zimmerman goes out and accidentally shoots an innocent man he thinks that he is Dirty Harry, going out to clean up the streets, the last good guy left to stand up to those f***ing punks."

      No, when George Zimmerman goes out and intentionally shot a dude, it's because that dude was bashing his skull against the sidewalk and explicitly threatening to murder him.

  9. Huge long-time anime fan here, and yes, I've seen a LOT of anime pr0n over the years. Most of it is pretty rape-y and does not float my boat. I will only point out a particular relevant japanese linguistic quirk: In Japanese, during lovemaking, "no" LITERALLY means "yes." Its not a "no" as in, "stop" or "don't do that," its a "no" as in "I can't take it!" But its the same word nonetheless. Relevant? Maybe.

    As to I Spit On Your Grave: If you are curious at all, The Cinema Snob reviewed this for his 200th episode, so you can learn about it and its history without the 40+ minutes of rape. Famed feminist Julie Bindel picketed the film on its release, but after watching it declared it a feminist film!

    In any event, the links:

    (As its a "special episode" they divert into a stupid sketch, so feel free to skip 16:00-26:00 of the first part)

    1. It's not just the Japanese, I think, that trope is very prevalent in women's pulp romance novels (English/Western ones).

      I think the psychological/sociology explanation is as follows: In societies where gender roles are still extremely traditional and conservative, it's not socially acceptable for women to enjoy sex, lest they be looked down upon as women of low moral standing. However, if the man "takes her against her will", her ethical purity is retained than if she had just said "yes" immediately.

      It's really wonky and has been criticized for setting dangerous precedents. Actually, the entire Romance genre tends to be problematic at times because what makes for dramatic storytelling is exactly the sort of thing you DON'T want in your real life relationships.

    2. ". I will only point out a particular relevant japanese linguistic quirk: In Japanese, during lovemaking, "no" LITERALLY means "yes." Its not a "no" as in, "stop" or "don't do that," its a "no" as in "I can't take it!" But its the same word nonetheless. Relevant? Maybe."

      I can tell that is not correct. The word you are refering to is "iya" which does not translate as no (Japanese actually lacks the words yes and no; true and false is closer to what they use). "Iya", which is the word I believe you are referring to, indicates reluctance to do something because it's undesirable or embarrassing. Asian cultures are in general conservative, and some Japanese girls still feel embarrassed to admit that they enjoy sex. Therefore it can be seen as "ladylike" to express shyness or embarrassment in these situations.

      Why the hentai genre (as opposed to regular porn) exists has a lot more to do with the education system. The theory is that a lot of Japanese kids lost their teen years due to the huge amount of pressure on them to study and pass entrance exams. The entire education system is built around this. A lot of guys miss out of developing relationships when they are young and some experts believe that the frustration they feel is expressed in the comics (and games) as they get older. That's why so many of these revolve around high school situations.

      It's very likely that nearby Asian countries with similar high pressure education systems also suffer from the same problems. It's just that Japans culture has been far more publicised in recent years.

    3. I was referring to both "iya" as well as "dame."

    4. Whatever the linguistic nuances, it's clear from the other dialogue that Rance's sexual activities are a) painful, and b) non-consensual. It's not just a bunch of "nos."

    5. Japanese does have no: "iie", which is not quite the same thing as "iya" even though it sounds similar. "Iie" is more of a flat, formal "no", whereas "iya" is a more casual "ugh, no way" type of sentiment. It's rather against Japanese culture to straight-out say "iie" most of the time except in a very clear-cut yes/no situation (and even "hai" doesn't have the same cultural implications as "yes" does in English), but I think it's inaccurate to say that Japanese doesn't have "yes" and "no".

  10. For those who haven't seen it, High Plains Drifter is a movie about a gunfighter who goes to a town full of wicked people to punish them; he rapes one of the women, he is the protagonist and it is actually a really good movie.

    1. High Plains Drifter actually crossed my mind as I was writing this. I think the rape in that film serves a legitimate narrative purpose, establishing that the Drifter isn't a hero, and highlighting the folly of the townsfolk in putting their trust in him. If he'd committed more than one rape, it just would have been exploitative.

  11. This is a great write-up, honestly, one of your best posts.

    I shan't contest any of your points, the only redeeming point of nukige (subset of eroge that deal mostly in quick sex without context, mostly fetishistic things) is music scores.

    Seriously, feel free to check some of Rance VI tunes:

    (no adult content in the movies as far as I can see).

    1. I would have no problem with nukige or eroge in this context. Heck, if Rance simply HAD SEX with a large number of women throughout the course of the game, I'd have no problem with that. I'm not saying I'd deliberately seek out the games, but I wouldn't decline to play them if the gameplay was any good. It's solely the sexual assault aspect that turns me off. I could be wrong, but I don't think Rance has sex with any woman in this game in a way that doesn't involve coercion or force.

  12. This was a depressing read, but I think you made the right call in posting it.

  13. I have next-to-zero familiarity with Japanese porn, but I'm a bit aghast at the "holier than thou" mentality regarding Japanese cultural standards, as if they had a monopoly on misogyny within their porn. So much heterosexual American porn is informed by rape fantasy that I can hardly stomach any of it. The problem is a bit larger than one group or one nation, y'allz.

  14. Skyrim offers us escape into fantasies that we don't actually have; Rance indulges fantasies that some people do actually have. Skyrim invites us to imagine what it's like to play an evil character; Rance invites us to open a door to evil in our own character.

    Thanks for this -- pithy and articulate!

  15. Excellent post. It is about the game, but also about the entire genre. You used this as an opportunity to touch on some of the more challenging questions related to playing the role of a character that performs immoral or amoral acts.

    One of the most interesting (and perhaps unexpected) things about people is that killing is not directly linked to psychopathy. Torture and cruelty are VERY directly linked to psychopathy.

    Think back to childhood: How often did you kill a bug? Quite often, and yet this is not a sign of imbalance. But it would never occur to most people to torture the bug before killing it, and that is good.

    Overall, my point is that there is a psychological basis for making a distinction between killing and torture in role-playing games. Killing is actually less disturbing and there is a sound psychological basis for that. More specifically, we (as an alpha species) perceive killing a trivial entity (mosquito or computer construct) as a morally acceptable means to an end. But if you give that computer construct enough personality to be able to interact with it and you then choose to abuse, assault, and torture it then this is unquestionably morally wrong.

    For anyone who enjoys giving or receiving that abuse, you need to trust your instincts: It is wrong, and if you engage and foster it then it is clinically proven to lead you toward darker, self-destructive behavior, and sometimes towards violence on others.

    Enjoying such abuse is a control issue, usually an indication of feeling out of control in other areas of your life. Look for ways to remove yourself from the situations and people who are creating this loss of control in your life. Do not repeat the pattern of abuse and control on others. It is your choice whether or not to abuse others as you were abused. You have control over that, and can be proud each time you make the right choice. Over time, a series of right choices will rebuild self-esteem and make you feel good about yourself again.

    Good health to all.

    1. The difference between killing and torture is another good way to look at it. There are plenty of games that allow you to kill, but few that allow you to deliberately inflict pain.

    2. Have you ever thought that a quick death "wasn't enough" for truly evil villains (fictional or otherwise)? It's an interesting question, I think most people have at at least one point in their lives.


    3. As odd as it is to write this on a site dedicated to CRPGs, I actually find most of the killings, especially in CRPGs, to be very problematic. I just think people are more desensitized to the concept of murder in general.

      Richard Garriott saw the signs and that's why he made Ultima 4, but the industry as a whole has chosen to ignore it which leaves it as this curious standout of history. Is there really a justification for the armed robbery of mobs when a game has already been created where you're encouraged to only defeat the enemy until their morale breaks and they flee? (That would be Ultima IV)

      But that's a story for another day.

    4. Sorry as a rare contributor to jump in, but this thread peaked my interest. When you think of human life, we are a bunch of electrical signals that somehow resembles intelligence, much like the AI creations we make in our games. When I was young, I never thought of these creations as "living" things as often it was just a scripted sequence, but in games like Skyrim, with much more freedom, I wish I had alternate ways to at least attempt to deal with foes. I have actually begun to think that if we are going to give our creations intelligence, we should also be able to incorporate mercy, empathy, understanding, and plain old guilt into our interfaces.Anyway, sorry to interrupt. I had a girlfriend that I loved very much that was never able to overcome her brutal rape and I watched it destroy her, so I don't want to get into that, but the idea that we have a responsibility to the simulations we create is THE most interesting topic to me.

    5. Davzz,

      Richard Garriott saw the signs, and then made a game whose manual included the phrase "Would that every Orc had been destroyed ..." I guess that sentiment is part for the course in fantasy, but seeing an explicit pro-genocide message (but the entire race is evil, it's OK!) in a game that has pretensions of moral complexity was pretty jarring. And I'm pretty sure that it's OK to slaughter fleeing enemies as long as they're of an "evil" race.

      The game that made me cringe (without trying to) was the early Might and Magic games, where you kill hoards of lepers.

    6. Yeah, the Orcish race is one of those really problematic stay-overs from old D&D. The whole "Orc = Always Evil" disturbs me a lot because I've always seen them as a metaphor for minority races, especially black people (I apologize if this is the culturally insensitive phrase to use). Tolkien reportedly regretted how he handled Orcs in LoTR.

      I suppose Warcraft helped a bit by turning them green and making them not all evil... uh, why am I talking about representation of a fictional race?

    7. Whereas I do agree there's qualitative differences between murder in RPGs and torture and rape in RPGS, we shouldn't be blind to that it isn't as if there is one or two violent situations in a normal rpg. There are instead, usually uncountable numbers of encounters, and the kill tally reaches genocidial numbers at the end. That we as a society and as video game players have found a way to normalize this isn't exactly a badge of psychological well-being, I don't think so.

      At such times it is best to step a bit outside ourselves and ask 'who benefits' from this normalization of violence against dehumanized mook armies and the answer is pretty plain, in western societies that have for most of our histories engaged in conolization and foreign soil wars. I don't mean to get too heavy, but it's staring us in the face. RPGs are about the domestication of wilderness, about imposing Order on the Other.

    8. Bloodstone (prequel to Magic Candle) has an in-joke about that, with one NPC accusing the player of being a serial murderer of "innocent monsters with families and children" ;)

      But I plead self-defence: in most games these innocent monsters do attack you first ))

    9. Before you start to delve too deep in the popularistic notions, have a look at this research:

    10. Helm "imposing Order on the the Other" very interesting way to look at it. The way killing and war in general are portrayed in games also strikes me as sanitized, whitewashed.
      By contrast, depicting torture without suffering seems like a contradiction in terms.
      I think it's clear how Addict means it, but look at what he's written above:
      "plenty of games that allow you to kill, but few that allow you to deliberately inflict pain".

      This also makes me think of debates around vegetarism based on ethical reasons for example.

    11. @BelatedGamer: "Have you ever thought that a quick death "wasn't enough" for truly evil villains (fictional or otherwise)? It's an interesting question, I think most people have at at least one point in their lives."

      Despite a strong "punish" streak in my personality, where I sometimes seek to "get back" at people who have harmed me in life, I've never raised the bar anywhere near this high even in my internal dialogues. My instincts for "revenge" are usually to treat them the same as the treat me, or simply cut them out of my sphere of communication entirely.

      The idea of raising this to actually causing physical harm, death, or something "more than" death is entirely foreign to me. I don't think this is a reaction rooted in instrinsic feelings but a learned cultural statement, empty of true comprehension. "Deserve worse than death" is a concept that seems to have no anchor in my universe. Deserve for what? How? What would the point be? The only cousin of this I can possibly imagine is "Deserve to live to know what you have done".

  16. If you are interested for descriptions of early japanese CRPG-s here are good links:

    1. Very informative. The Addict should def. check this out. It's crazy they beat even Garriot to the punch in some ways.

    2. Oh my god. the dungeon maps... Hilariously large... I can't see anyone doing that. something like 500x700 on 'Dungeon' (If the grid paper map is accurate). Imagine that.

    3. I may get to some of these eventually. I have a long list of non-PC/DOS games that I skipped, and these are on it.

    4. Not sure you could 'play' them. They seem to be all in Japanese, without recourse. The author of this site also seems at least somewhat fluent in the language, permitting him to do such things as rate and categorize them. So.. unless you plan on learning a new language in order to play 5 or 6 games, ... i dunno, I wouldn't.
      None seem to be groundbreaking in terms of gamplay. They are slightly fascinating in terms of evolution.

  17. Oh. Oh, dear. I feel like I should congratulate you for sticking through the whole game, but I'm not sure why.

    Rance may well be more offensive than the Columbine game. There's at least some basis to claim that the latter is making a statement (which needn't make it okay), and failing that, it belongs to a genre that's exceptionally badly suited for depicting its atrocities. I'd peg it a few notches above Modern Warfare 2's No Russian, though it's been a long time since I saw it.

    1. I confess to not having played Super Columbine Massacre RPG, but I've read enough about it suggesting that it's actually significantly more sophisticated and well-meant than the initial knee jerk reaction to the idea of making a game where you play real world mass murderers enacting their deeds would suggest, but a lot of people never get past that initial reaction.

      Of course, it also doesn't really sound like an enjoyable way to spend my time.

    2. Super Columbine Massacre RPG isn't a game that genuinely has anything to say about Columbine, it just wants to be. The creative process appears to have been some guy with a morbid (but not unhealthy) interest in Columbine sitting down and thinking about how edgy and challenging he would be if he made a video game about it. I'll give it points for not indulging in pornographic revelry at the slaughter of innocents, but then I will take those points away for using a real world tragedy in an effort to inflate the creator's ego. All in all I'd say it's every bit as bad as Rance, but for different reasons.

    3. The only other *computer* game I know of that can compare to this are the Jack Thompson games, which were made based on a comment he made that he'd donate a very large sum of money to the charity of the makers choice, if they could make a game that met a few specific qualities. Google will tell you more.

      In tabletop RPGs Racial Holy War, the white power RPG is the only one I can think of that is this ba, though FATAL is playing in the same league.

  18. I find it rather unfortunate that a game of this ilk was the one that spawned a discussion regarding Japanese culture and art design.

    It's all to easy to think that, just because certain fringe aspects of Japanese culture have "earned" coverage in the Western world, they're somehow representative of Japan/the Japanese as a whole. For example, the Internet seems to be filled with images of "tentacle porn" and comments that basically boil down how f**ked up or, at least, how weird those Japanese must be.

    Back in the 70s and 80s Italy had a very healthy industry producing "cannibal films" and other exploitationist crap. Imagine how it would be if large swathes of the Western Internet would discuss those crazy Italians and their apparent love of watching people eat other people. Of course they don't, because we know Italians aren't that weird. However, in a sense, that's what happens with the Japanese. (BTW, despite my nickname, I'm not Italian).

    Leaving this aspect aside, there's the not so small matter of art style in Japanese media that crops up more than on occasion. I'm no expert on the subject, but here's my two cents' worth of (disjointed?) thoughts. I'm sure I'll probably make some mistakes, so if anyone knows otherwise, feel welcome to correct me.

    Japanese games tend borrow heavily from anime in terms of art style. No surprise there, as they tend to be aimed at the same market. Anime, in turn, borrows heavily from manga (and vice-verse).

    Character design may appear formulaic to some, but it is so by intent. There is a rather strict iconography that graphic artists generally adhere to, particularly when it comes to faces, eyes, mouth, nose, facial expressions and hair. Also, the large eyes have been adopted/adapted from Disney characters.

    The fact characters often appear young, with nearly impossible to judge age, and somewhat androgynous features (particularly male characters) is a byproduct of Japanese modern culture and should not be viewed through "Western" sensibilities. I wouldn't know how to explain its origins, but there is a definite obsession (maybe not quite the right word to use) in modern Japanese culture with neoteny and cuteness. Look up "kawaii". Think the ubiquitous Hello Kitty. Most likely, in Japan, liking this sort of (near) juvenile cuteness doesn't carry the same sort of stigma as it does in Europe or North America. It's OK to love pink bunnies and images of exaggerated doe-eyed girls without actually being, you know, a girl.

    I'd add, and this is more speculation on my part than anything else, that the facial style commonly associated with Japanese games and anime is just an exaggeration of something that psychologists are already touching upon and researching: men tend to find certain "baby-like" facial features appealing (large round eyes, relatively small noses, small chins etc.)

    I also remember seeing a similar study, though I can't find it, claiming that Japanese women also prefer men with somewhat more feminine features than those in the West. Basically we're talking less masculine men; this might shed some light on the rather androgynous look some male characters have in Japanese games. Again, it's just speculation.

    In the end, the art style used in many Japanese computer/video games is the sort of take-it-or-leave-it thing (and, for the record, while I don't mind it, I'm not a big fan of it either). The only thing I'd stress is that judging it according to Western standards isn't really productive.

    1. I appreciate your thorough analysis, and I tried to take pains to avoid using this as an excuse to bash Japanese culture or art--I just reviewed the game as a game. I suppose I was naive to think that the conversation wouldn't go there.

      It's not so much that I mean to take either art or games and "judge them by Western standards," but on the other hand, it would be dishonest of me not to judge a game as a Western player. Naturally, I have no problem with anyone who likes this style (I'm talking about the art, you understand; I do have a problem with anyone who enjoys a game about rape), but I don't think I deserve any condemnation for saying that I don't like it. If I don't like it because of "Western standards," fine, whatever. The point is, I don't like it, and I'm the author of a blog that discusses my reactions to games.

    2. I hope you didn't take my comment as some sort of criticism directed at you or your article. I found it an enjoyable read and I agree with your analysis of the game itself.

      My thoughts were directed rather at the sort of discussion Japanese games (and other types of productions) usually spark and it was just an attempt to perhaps shed a tiny bit of light on the subject, as best my knowledge permits.

      The art style, yeah... of course no one should be condemned for not liking it, in general, not only in the case of this game. I just qualify the idea that many people in Europe and in North America don't like it not because it is bad per se, rather because it's simply culturally alien. That's what I meant by viewing it through "Western standards".

  19. "He isn't some brooding anti-hero, some modern-day Tamburlaine who simultaneously fascinates and horrifies us with the way he employs his strength and will to satisfy his desires."

    I looked up Tamburlaine on Wikipedia, and read about a play based on the life of Tamburlaine, also known as Timur, the conqueror of a short-lived empire during the late Middle Ages. Then I read the Wikipedia article about Timur/Tamburlaine.

    Tamburlaine engaged in multiple, genocidal slaughters of civilian populations. He repeatedly targeted populations for mass execution due to their religion or ethnicity. One (unverified, "impossible to prove") estimate on Wikipedia suggests that he killed 17 million people. A "modern-day Tamburlaine" would quite literally be Adolf Hitler.

    So there's my cultural literacy for the day. I hope your next game is less depressing.

    1. I realize that was a bit of an obscure reference, but I guess I was hoping people would do what you did. I was referring specifically to the character in the Christopher Marlowe play. The entire point of the play is that Marlowe has created a horribly evil, bloodthirsty conqueror--a Hitler of the time, as you say--who nonetheless fascinates us through the entire work. Audiences of the time--especially women--are reported to have absolutely drooled over this monster of a man as he conquers both territory and women through the sheer force of his own will.

      We see the same type of character, less bloodied, in figures like Darth Vader, Vito and Michael Corleone, and perhaps even Don Draper. They do bad things, but they seem like heroes because the world bends to their will. If Rance was intended to be this kind of anti-hero, he fails miserably. Imagine how far Darth Vader would fall from his pedestal if, while coldly choking a subordinate, he instead was saying, "Take that...and that!"

  20. For what it's worth, I just wanted to thank you for taking a look at it. I think one of the most valuable aspects of your documenting these games is that you examine those which many of us won't ever play. It's history, and like most history that means elements of our past which we might wish didn't exist. But ignoring the bad often does a disservice to the good, and in general whitewashing history within anything is a bit worrisome.

    In the end, this is exactly what I'd have hoped for. We were able to get a look into the series, see it in both a cultural and gameplay level, examine some questions about the nature of story and art, and then move on.

    I think you're doing a great job, and thanks for suffering through this so others don't have to!

    1. I appreciate that. That's precisely why I wrote about it.

  21. A truly horrid game resulted in a very well written look into the fine line of "playing a game to escape into a fantasy world" vs "playing a game to fulfill a fantasy".

    The game is of no value in itself, but I think the perspective you got from it is valuable in your study of CRPGs. (It's a game though that I will never play.)

    Outstanding writing!

    1. I concur with your conclusion. Short, sweet, thoughtful, and well said. You should frame that first sentence. This is absolutely my favorite site on the web and I cannot wait until we get into games that tackle serious themes more aggressively. This blog is just getting warmed up.

  22. This entry, however entertaining, seems to have influenced your ads to some degree. There's an ad in your sidebar which features a woman with rather huge breasts. She has a pretty face and all, but I have no idea
    why others find breasts that size to be desirable at all.

    A note on your second screenshot from this game: The text speaks of "points from the goddess," not "goodness."

    1. I noticed the ads, too. I just went in and blocked some more categories so they would no longer appear.

      Thank you for that second clarification! I had completely misread that. I changed the caption accordingly. The idea that there is a "goddess" who awards experience points in this world is a bit odd.

    2. I think the implication is that experience points and levels are something the characters are aware of within the game world.


  23. A few people have mentioned Phantasy star 3 as the next jrpg on your list, but if you are going to review that then you've missed number 2 in 89. There is no 'real' PC version for either - it's an emulator + Genesis ROM on steam (released 2012).

    (I think I've mentioned this before, but Chet was considering consoles.)

    In defense of Japanese rpg 2d graphics;- In my opinion they were far better at the non-verbal aspect of communication for characters than the functional but characterless western versions. Rather than just relying on text and portraits they built characters with via emotes and custom animations.
    How a character stands, walks, or fights defines them as much as any wall of text.

    1. I didn't miss II. It's on my master list, coming up in a few games. I don't understand why someone took the time to do that for II and III but not I.

    2. I think I know what's up -- Sega sells the old Genesis backlog on Steam but never bothered to put up their Master System games, which includes Phantasy Star I. I guess they wouldn't sell well enough to be worth doing the work on a new emulator.

    3. Yes, that is exactly the case
      Phantasy Star (the first one) was a Sega Master System game, the 2nd -> 4th were MegaDrive/Genesis games
      These (to pick the one that happens to have phantasy star 2, 3 & 4 in it):
      are just repackaged megadrive/genesis games with an embedded emulator - being released officially
      they have been released in numerous forms over the years for other consoles too
      there is no such official thing for master system games (not for dos / windows anyway)
      if you're going to play those, then realistically you'd be playing emulated console games, and if so, then why not just go for the master system and megadrive/genesis emulators themselves?

      yes, I know, it's a predicament

    4. Or why not eliminate them from my list entirely? If I was going to start emulating console games, would THIS series really be the best one to do it for?

    5. That's a tricky question....

      The problem is that if you do one console rpg (series) people are going to expect you to do them all because everyone has a favorite they'll want to see get the CRPG Addict treatment. Do you want to add 100s of games to your list?

      If you keep the genesis steam stuff;- A lot of console rpgs were format exclusive. Nintendo\squaresoft dire-hards will not be happy because you'll miss 'classics' like Chrono trigger and FF6.

      If you abandon the emu stuff then you limit your exposure to console rpgs to only those popular enough for dedicated PC conversions in english (FF7-9, Grandia2, BOF4, etc).

      Ultimately Chet, it's going to down to how you feel about your personal challenge.

    6. Breath of Fire 4 got a PC port? What a strange choice.

    7. Also, I think it's easy enough to say, "anything with an official release on PC," to exclude [b]all[/b] console RPGs. I mean I wouldn't mind you reviewing them all; it'd save me time doing it myself while at the same time increasing the quality of the reviews.

    8. BoF4 was only Europe+Australia. It's not that odd when you consider that: a. It's not a Square-enix title. and b. there was already a translation.

      It's kinda nice to have it safely in the list, because I'm struggling to think of another English PC conversion with heavily stylized 2d animation.

    9. "If I was going to start emulating console games, would THIS series really be the best one to do it for?"

      It might be. I haven't played any of the Phantasy Star games myself, but Oleg Roschin made a good point in his reviews that it was really this series that started the JRPG genre as we know it now.,6226/

    10. @Vic: What I find odd is they chose to port what I've heard described as the worst entry in the series. I haven't played the game myself, so I can't say for certain if that's true or not.

    11. Hardcoregaming by any chance? It's far from awful (83 metacritic), it just suffers from a combination of series bias and idiotic attempts to copy the Squaresoft formula.

      In reality; BoF1-2 were too old and 3 missed the boat - Japanese developers didn't really consider the windows pc market until post FF7.

    12. Quite possibly from that source, but also a few people online echoed it.

  24. It's too bad that you might miss Phantasy Star I, since it "feels" much more like a CRPG and less like a JRPG than the other Phantasy Stars. It has first-person perspective dungeon mazes, and a fairly organic/nonlinear plot.

    If you or anyone else here decides to try it (and it is a classic worth trying for any player who loves old-school RPGs), the easiest way to get it is on Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection for the Xbox 360 or PS3, which have all four games in the series; Phantasy Star I is an "unlockable bonus game".

  25. Wow. I am appaled by the existance of such a game... A great post indeed as some said above, thank you for the insights. I really couldn't believe what I was reading, and how such a game could be made or enjoyed.

    Utterly disgusting and depressing.

    And by the way, I don't like Japanese anime visual style either. I'm not saying it's not good. There are masterpieces in the genre. I'm saying I don't like it, and am not attracted to JRPGs because of that.

  26. Rance 光をもとめて does have one redeeming aspect, it's only humor. If there was equally much rape in real life, as opposed to some fiction, then that would be bad. I guess you can play this game and laugh at Rance and his silly escapades, a little bit like the Trailer Park King games and the sequel Cherry Poke Prison. Rance sounds like he's a little bit like Glenn Quagmire, and I laugh all the time when I watch Family Guy. So I think I would have a laugh playing this game too, but no, I don't usually rape people in real life or anything. Nor am I a brainless moron, but brainless morons, like Peter Griffin, still entertain me. There's something funny about the forbidden, dark humor, and sex is always an interesting topic. Combining those two gives us rape jokes. Family Guy also has some rape jokes in it, but I don't see many people having a problem with Family Guy, why not view this game in similar "light"?

    On an unrelated note, I see in a Japanese dictionary that 光, or hikari, means light. I wonder why the game developers decided to name her that.

    1. People do have problem with Family Guy if you'd care to look for media critique on that and absolutely there's scrutiny over rape humour which I do not think the 'humour' part redeems. You can take things as light as you like because rape isn't a real concern for you as - presumably - male. For one in three women in the western world that has been the victim of abuse from a person she is involved with, be it sexual or otherwise, these 'jokes' might not feel so light. In fact, they might trigger traumatic memories. Do you think that's a fair price to pay so we priviledged male consumers can have our humour at any cost?

      If anything, that this game is trying to be humourous about rape makes it worse.

    2. If one in three women are abused you say, and the abuse doesn't even have to be sexual in nature but we are instead talking about the rather broad category of "otherwise abused", then I think it's nothing particular to complain about, because I myself have been "otherwise" abused and I don't complain about it. Furthermore, the mere act of making fun of something doesn't exacerbate the original issue, Glenn Quagmire, a fictional character, doesn't rape any real women, nor is it reasonable to assume that people are being enticed to rape by watching a crude cartoon with non realistic graphics, perhaps you would rather have pictures of naked women banned. If I may suggest, in your line of reasoning, we should ban women from dressing scantily, after all real women showing actual flesh is far more dangerous, as far as provoking rape goes, than crude cartoon graphics. Sounds a little bit like a caliphate to me, I suggest you go live in one, because then you wouldn't have to deal with rape jokes, and you could join the brainless masses who always get upset about anything.

      You say that humor makes it worse, but may I ask, worse than what? Worse than actually instructing people to commit rape? Or worse than documenting actual cases of rape? Or worse than simply assuming that rape is normal and not humor? You say that it's worse, but you don't even bother to specify what it's worse than, you just want to be upset about everything without even thinking about it.

      Some proponents of free speech claim there's no right to not be insulted. I dare to hold otherwise, you do have a right not to be insulted. Please feel free to exercise that right while I'm playing ランス 光をもとめて

      You don't need to be a mighty crusader for the "rights" of women, women can take care of themselves, and especially then if you are confused about what the rights should be. Plenty of women watch Family Guy, or entertain themselves with other forms of fantasies that would be bad in real life. But then again, maybe you are about to again claim that the fact that it's a fantasy only makes it worse.

    3. I have some issues with your response to Helm.

      It's not women dressing scantily that is the problem. It's the fact that some men find that an excuse to rape a woman.

      What I think Helm meant, and I agree, presenting rape in a humorous manner implies that, at best, it's something to be taken lightly. At worst, something that is funny as hell.

      I appreciate Helm for being an ally for women's rights, and it makes sense for him to do so. His mother, sisters (if any), aunts, friends, etc., are women. Caring for their well being should come naturally.

    4. I'm sorry to read that you're a victim of abuse. However, so much in your reply is remarkably worrying. I will reply not in hopes that this will be a fruitful conversation, but for the benefit of third parties that might be reading this. I do not think that from the stance you have shown in your reply there is hope for us to reach a middle ground.

      1. I do not think that whether you complain about your own abuse or not has any bearing on whether as a society we treat rape and violence on women as a given.

      2. As to whether a culture that makes fun of rape casually exacerbates the issue, there is debate on the matter. From my point of analysis, rape culture promotes rape and it covers it up and it makes it seem like no big deal. A fictional character in a tv show never raped anybody, but a culture full of these messages will help create an environment where people will rape and will not be found out. As I said, one in three women is a victim of domestic abuse and sexual violence. I don't think we should be laughing about fictional rape, not because it is real rape, but because it is like real rape and that's worrisome enough.

      3. I do not suggest any bannings of media, just a critical analysis of culture - which is what Chester did in this posting. I was one of many who urged him to write the post on Rance, for example.

      4. I do not blame the victim of rape - I do not think we must teach women to not dress 'provocatively' but teach men and boys not to rape.

      5. I do not subscribe to your Islamophobic concept of what a caliphate is like either.

      6. I think rape humour makes our culture worse. I do not think rape humour is worse than rape, that is your own fabricated argument.

      7. I am not insulted when you play - and defend - Rance. I am just worried - and not about you, about rape culture. Hence, critique.

      8. That you feel entitled to your entertainment at any cost is the real issue. That even the possibility that rape humour as a normalized part of our culture might make it easier for people to rape and cover up their tracks even just a little bit doesn't make you worried, and then it's back to Family Guy and Rance should tell you a lot.

      9. Fantasies of rape are an altogether different concept to actual rape and that you think rape humour is excused because people have fantasies of it, which are usually carried out after an agreement of consentual adults is also telling.

      10. Art can show ugly themes and the horrible side of humanity. Just as long as it's aware of what it's doing and the subtext of the work. There are great pieces of art that are about rape. But Rance is not it. I do not want rape to be an issue that doesn't pop up in culture, I just want it to be treated with the gravity it deserves. That's what I meant that it's worse to have a humourous videogame about rape than it is to have a serious videogame about the same subject (like, for example "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream").

      10. Finally, I don't need to be an ally to the women's rights movement, I choose to be one. I am in a very privileged position because I can read posts like yours and just turn the computer off and go have a beer with friends and just stop dealing with discrimination because I'm a white, cis male. However women and other underprivileged groups do not have that option, they can never 'turn it off'. I feel an obligation to help bring visibility to the issue.

    5. I'll address those issues.

      I don't have a problem with scantily dressed women, but since he stated that humor comes at a cost (presumably the cost of more suffering for rape victims), I suggested something that is at least a little less ridiculous. That's why I said "in your line of reasoning", in other words it's something I'm suggesting based on his logic, not mine.

      Actually I was asking him what he was comparing the humor to, not what humor made it to.

      Nobody's well being is being compromised by playing a game, or watching a tv show. Do you believe there's some kind of invisible demon that watches what kind of jokes you laugh at, and then makes it real, or what? Where's the connection between entertainment products like movies and games, and actually causing the things depicted in them. I watch science fiction sometimes, does that make time travel real? I watch Conan the Barbarian, or The Running Man, does that make real life more brutal somehow? Also, speaking about women's rights, he characterizes manhood as a "privilege", if you so easily take offense I suggest that you take offense that he's essentially implying that women are somehow inferior, or "unprivileged". But again, that's based on the logic that we need to be upset about everything, a logic which I don't subscribe to. To me it suggests that he's a guy who's prone to make assumptions about people, maybe especially based on their sex.

      In my opinion it's ok to make jokes about anything as long as it's not a serious issue. For instance making jokes about Jews during the 30-ties in Germany would be a serious issue, and you should consider the consequences. But a Quagmire joke in Family Guy is not serious, we don't have proponents of rape the same way Germany had anti semites. Nobody is going to watch Family Guy and actually rape someone. The people who get upset about mere jokes forget about real issues.

    6. The only thing I have to say is that the terms, "privileged" and "inferior" are two very different things. Men have a privilege over women, whether they like it or not, and whether they are aware of it or not. I know a lot of women who are hired less, paid less, promoted less than most men are. These women seem every bit as capable as a man to do their job. They're not inferior at all, but rather less privileged. Thus I am not offended by Helm saying that, but I find myself nodding my head. A lot of men don't realize how privileged they truly are. That goes for just about any demographic, by the way. I'm sure a black Jewish lesbian could make it painfully obvious of the day-to-day differences between her life and the life of a white Christian male.

      Here's some good reading on the matter:

    7. I didn't see your post, my earlier reply was to the earlier reply. Btw, you used the number 10 twice, I'm gonna relabel the second 10 as 11 in my response.

      1. and 11. You don't see how men also sometimes being abused has any bearing on the argument, yet you keep hammering down the point that women are somehow "underprivileged". Well my point was that it happens sometimes that men, too, get abused. We all have rough experiences from time to time.

      2. I don't think anybody could use, say, a cartoon for instance as an excuse for raping someone. I don't see how humor can be used to cover something up. I just don't see it.

      3. Well, arn't you at least for a personal ban? Do you allow yourself to play Rance? I understand you may not be for an actual law banning something, but you're against it at least personally I presume.

      4. I misunderstood you there, I thought you wanted to generally prevent rape. But it seems you rather more specifically want to prevent rape through one specific method.

      4. and 5. You don't want to oppress the women, but you have nothing against a caliphate. Have you ever spoke to people who are proponents of caliphates? For instance some of the rebels in Syria want to turn Syria into one, uhm, I'm not being islamophobic, but don't you think that your 5 would disagree with your 4? Bikini in Iran anyone? Women's rights in the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan anyone? Caliphates always had rules about how women are allowed to dress, and the issue about rape would be the rationale. I'm no Islamic scholar, so you may disagree.

      6. and 10. I would agree that the issue of rape deserved to be taken more seriously if I had agreed with you on point 2.

      7. I enjoy the arguments too, I'm glad you're not supporting an outright ban. But if you're not supporting a ban, then what are you arguing? If someone were to voluntarily agree with all your criticisms about Rance, then they probably wouldn't be prone to rape anyone anyway. Yet if someone disagrees with you, absent a ban, then they could still play the game and then presumably (2.) become rape monsters armed with good excuses to rape people from the world of fiction and fairy tale. My point is that if you manage to convince someone that Rance is a bad game, because it can lead to rape, then you might just as well just convince them that rape is wrong instead.

      8. If there was some real additional women who got raped for every time I played Rance, then I wouldn't play it. So I'm not arguing that it's ok to play games, because the bad things that end up happening in real life don't matter, rather I'm arguing that games are harmless fun.

      9. I was trying to make the point that something is mainstream. The argument is that if you're against something that's mainstream you have a bigger burden of proof, since you have to convince more people than just me. You mentioned that there's criticism against Family Guy too, so I'm guessing there's some efforts towards fulfilling that burden of proof. What is this "telling" you?

  27. Thank you for your considered response.

    From how you misunderstand 'privilege' it is clear to me you have never come across basic feminist theory. I sincerily urge you to read up regardless of whether you agree with me on Rance or rape humour in particular. Amy K. above offers you a wonderful resource above.

    The fundamental tools of discussing privilege, patriarchical constructs, hegemony etc will be useful to you for communicating with actual people who live very different lives to you.

    That being said, I will spend the time because you spent the time.

    1. "Do you believe there's some kind of invisible demon that watches what kind of jokes you laugh at, and then makes it real, or what?"

    I believe that capitalism is cannibalistic and that we are sold what is easiest to sell us and we shall be divided in the way that makes the most sense for market forces. Hence, patriarchy is a perfect fit for capitalism. Give most of the spending money to the man of the house and cater to their tastes. The little that's left for women, make them eternally preoccupied with their appearance (in fact, make them *not exist* if they do not toil for their appearance constantly) and get that too.

    Capitalism doesn't look at what we laugh on TV and makes it real. It makes the horrors of real life unreal so we can laugh at them. Then it sells us those laughs too.

    1. "We all have rough experiences from time to time" This equalizes vastly different life experiences. How men and women experience rape and violence in our culture is different, the support structures are different, the rate at which these incidents occur are different and the psychological fallout of an underprivileged person being at the receiving end of such violence versus a privileged one are vastly different. Instead of equalizing and saying 'oh, well, if I could deal with it, why can't they?', think of how you would deal with it if you were a woman and you were under potential assault every day of your life and you had nobody to tell you that you're not crazy, nobody to tell you it isn't your fault. Would you find rape jokes funny then, or would they trigger a trauma that is never left to heal?

    2. People use fictitious examples all the time to narrate their real life experiences. If I had a nickel for every time someone said "Oh god, you're just like(character from tv show)". Politics is all about manipulating the narrative. There is no access to 'the real' in life, everything we do we must explain to ourselves through narratives.

    3. I have played a Rance game, yes. I will look at the rotten underbelly of entertainment if there is a point to it, and for me it wasn't 'to have fun and enjoy the rape jokes'.

    4. You didn't effectively reply to the issue of blaming the victim for being raped. Women not dressing provocatively does not reduce the occurences of rape (feel free to do your research). Most rape does not occur against the most beautiful women and it's not done by strangers on the street. It occurs against women in the family that are for various situations helpless. Telling the victim they should have not been raped does not decrease the number of occurences, otherwise there would be no rapes because boy, do we ever tell women what they should be doing all the time!

    And even if full-bodies burkas prevented rapes (they do not), the issue is not to make women invisible so the male gaze overlooks them, the issue is to make women 100% visible and to have the systems in place in our society to prevent rape. This is about awareness and education foremost. This is why we're having this conversation.

    5. I have no opinion on the caliphate because I do not live in their society and it's not my place to judge them. There are active radicals in these countries that are striving for social change and they have my support if they need it, but they will tell me what that is, I won't tell them what's wrong with their country and morals.

  28. We - in the West - must stop using Islamic examples to say 'see? It's worse over there! Shut up, you have it so good! So what if one in three of you is raped, at least you get to keep your clitoris! and deal with our present problems in our own societies. Leave the rest of the world to deal with their own problems.

    6. Look, man. The issue of rape has to be taken seriously just because so much of it is occurring. When it's such a wide occurrence, every aspect of dominant patriarchical culture is complicit. You don't have to take ME seriously to take 'one in three' seriously.

    7. I am arguing for an ever-vigilant critical eye towards culture and a constant, visible discussion on what culture is doing and what attitudes it is 1. reflecting and 2. prescribing and for whose benefit.

    The first step in this is to not stand for silencing the argument, for trivializing the argument.

    8. That there are more links in the chain between you playing Rance and someone getting raped instead of just one link shouldn't be good enough for you. And again, the issue is not playing Rance, it is this rape humour apologea. Culture is not trivial, 'fun' is not just fun, the power of narrative is daunting. We are being sold stories every day, we must filter very aggressively.

    9. Absolutely rape is mainstream in a rape culture. Most of the messages young men get are how they must overcome obstacles to have sex, the will of the woman often being one of these obstacles.

    That said there are a lot of contrasting voices to this mainstream. If you want to follow media critique from a pro-feminist point of view, you could do worse than start reading, say, . It's nice and light and often funny, and it'll unlock a few doors.

    1. Just wanted to plug a guy's blog I have read now and again who had some deep thoughts about grape culture and himself. I think you will appreciate his genuiness as I do:

      Actually, the posts following that one are pretty good as a progression (specifically the "Check your privilege" and "Cloud Atla" ones).

    2. Sorry, I meant "rape" culture but my Kindle Fire's auto-correct is quite hungry.

  29. This comment has been removed by the author.

  30. And there I was wondering if you would ever touch those eroge...well question answered. I'll admit it right away, I think some of those are pretty much allright, those without raep or other extremes. Well, at least I think they are ;) Hey, don't look at me that way, I'm a man and I like porn sometimes, I think I'm a perfectly normal human being :P

    1. That raises a question: What is the first eroge game Addict will hit *without* rape in it, assuming such exists?

    2. Well, I remember Knights of Xentar to be comparatively harmless.

  31. I'm wondering if you have tried Legends I and II on the TI(Texas Instrument) I guess calculator:

    I love the old games but I'm actually even more fascinated about the reverse engineering of the games as some people do and remaking them with construction sets to make new games (sometimes with better engines). Sure graphics are great but sometimes nothing captures the spirit of the old games well, like the old games.

    1. No, I haven't played much outside the DOS/PC platform. I never even heard of these games; MobyGames doesn't have an entry for them, and the name is pretty generic to find any good information online.

  32. From a observer standpoint after reading the review and going through a lot of the comments I'm curious on why a great many of you completely abhor the rape aspect of the game yet find something like the acts you can perform in say Grand Theft Auto games to be ok.
    It's pretty obvious that neither game is made for children and they shouldn't be playing them (yeah I'm aware tons of kids have and will play GTA games). If you say only adults can play each game, both games contain acts that you really only could perform in a fantasy setting (without getting arrested or being a psychopath). So why would someone who likes the fantasy sexual violence of Rance be worse than someone who enjoys murdering police officers in GTA games.
    This kind of acceptance really doesn't make sense to me and no, I'm obviously not someone who is okay with any of these things happening in real life, it just seems pretty hypocritical to me I guess. Also I guess this question is partially because I noticed quite a few people saying things that indicate if you like a game like this you must be a completely sick person, which again based off games I see every day doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

    1. I don't know if you read my post fully, but I struggled with this very question. My best conclusion is that in games like GTA, you don't HAVE to perform evil acts; they're just possible. It's up to the player to describe what kind of character he wants to be.

      I haven't played GTA, so I don't know for sure, but I've played other Rock Star games, and I suspect that it's similar in that the violence is somewhat impersonal. Yes, there are probably blood spatters and screams, but you probably don't get nude hookers pleading for you to stop as you brain them with a crowbar. Rance takes this depravity and violence and puts it right in your face, with graphic images, anguished pleas from the victims, and juvenile retorts from Rance.

      It's a similar question to why a rape scene in Irreversible or The Accused is considered artful film-making, while the rapes scenes in I Spit on Your Grave are exploitative trash. Perhaps we're fooling ourselves that there really is any difference, or perhaps there are subtleties to the way the viewer perceives and internalizes the scenes that make all the difference. The same dynamic is happening between Rance and games like GTA.

  33. Well, murder is objectively worse than rape, yet, rape in games feels more vile. Maybe games "about" rape are deep in the uncanny valley, while games about killing are definitely just games and less real.
    The word "alien" describes Japanese pretty well I think, "alien" not in the extraterrestrial sense, but in the unfamiliar sense. To the western eye, japanese culture looks very different. For several decades, they were the only non-western country to go through industrialization. They arrived at the modern age with their old traditions barely faded away. And it seems that one realizes the own "otherness" easier when faced with the "alien", like, you'd never think about your skin color if you were surrounded solely by members of your own "race". But as soon as someone with a different color arrives, the difference is there.... I guess that's why there's such a strong reaction to japanese culture. The West has just the same kind of pulp as the japanese do, but the interaction between the cultures is too vague to let any other impressions than the most memorable ones through.

  34. The various tirades in Michael Crichton's "Rising Sun" were less Japanophobic than most of these comments.

    Funny how the same people who take every opportunity they can find to bleat about Social Justice in media are often the ones most prone to slip into convulsive, reactionary bigotry.

    To paraphrase a great writer, "methinks they doth protest too strong"...

    1. Actually, no, they're usually NOT the same people. Not everyone who disagrees with you is a monolith.

    2. Yeah. Probably obelisks, but monoliths? That's pretty harsh.

  35. So after reading all of this, the only question I have is, how is it that a movie review from 33 years ago was close enough to the front of your mind to be used in an analogy, however apt, to open this piece? Granting a couple of years for our age difference, I'm trying to imagine a scenario in which, say, I might not only have identified the worst novel of 1982, but also knew the phrasing of the New York Times review of said book well enough to refer to it.

    1. Y'know what? I watched that show when I was 5.

      I still remember the scene where the female protagonist slices off a guy's balls in the bathtub and the guy is oblivious to the pain until the bathtub turned red.

      But you're right. I remember it because it traumatized me in a way that would have me never sharing a bathtub with anybody and hoping that my genitals will never be insensitive enough to feel blades shredding it up.

      But a review? I don't know what kind of shock factor Ebert could cook up to ingrain that thought so deeply in Chet's brains for over 3 decades.

    2. I didn't read the review when it was new, of course, but I'm a huge Roger Ebert fan and his review of I Spit on Your Grave is one of his most famous. I've quoted him several times in the past when I thought his reviews helped illustrate something I wanted to say.

      I was devastated when he died. I nearly posted a huge eulogy on my blog, but I decided it wasn't the place for it. I've only seen a handful of films since he died, mostly because I can't find another reviewer whose reviews I trust as much as Ebert's.

  36. It's commendable you for actually playing this (and to the end no less) before criticizing it. It seems that very few of those who criticize media actually look at the media before criticizing it.

    I do, however disagree with your ideas (in short: human sexuality is driven by fantasy, and people consensually "act out" rapes, but this is not the same as a literal rape, and what happens in a game is just as much a fantasy as what happens in one's mind or what people choose to roleplay, if not moreso.)

    1. My thesis--which deserves a much longer post--is that art shapes attitudes. If we're going to argue that video games are an art form, then we have to sometimes confront the fact that they influence thinking and behavior for better or worse.

      I'm not arguing something as banal as "violent video games make people violent." It's much more complex and nuanced than that. I do think that violent video games DESENSITIZE us to violence, for instance. And by the same token, I can't help but believe that video games that encourage sexual abuse of women and overall misogyny must shape player's attitudes towards women. Not in a direct way, as in players of Rance go out and rape, but in other harmful ways that manifest themselves more subtly.

    2. Even if you don't consider video games art, they still inform our attitudes. It's an inescapable facet of human minds: We're influenced by language, imagery, associations - no matter the source. Experiencing Rance won't do much on its own, but it reinforces that the value of women is determined by their erotic characteristics. Given that attitude is A) popular, and B) dysfunctional, it seems reasonable to criticise media that perpetuates it.

    3. In over 20 years of seeing controversy over video game violence (It sounds as though you're comparing Rance and similar pornographic- and yes, from reading your descriptions, it sounds as though it's pornographic- games to violent games) this is probably the closest thing I've seen to a reasonable argument that such things could actually be harmful. I still don't think I buy it (the misogynistic attitudes have to be there in the first place, so long as one is old enough to distinguish fantasy from reality, and psychologists say that nearly all people develop the ability to do so long before reaching adulthood- and if said attitudes were there in the first place, the problem is more fundamentally with the player than the game) but if anyone's going to make a reasonable argument that violent/misogynistic/etc. media have negative effects, that's certainly the angle that holds the most water.

    4. If you want a personal example of social programming, try an Implicit Association Test like this one:

    5. You all raise good points, but why get so angry about violence against women? Men are much more likely the targets of most nonsexual violence.

      And why is sexual violence so much worse than nonsexual? Most criminal codes treat murder as more severe than rape...but we have few games with rapist protagonists, whereas most protagonists engage in murder outside of, say, puzzle games. How many orcs did you kill in Pool of Radiance, 'clearing the block' of ethnic undesirables?

    6. What makes you think people wouldn't have an issue with Rance if he killed the women instead of sexually assaulting them? That sounds even more sociopathic, especially if the player was invited to enjoy the act of killing them!

      It's a problem whenever a message perpetuates negative attitudes.

      Generally speaking, computer games feature enemies that consist of 'willing participants'. They're bandits, invading soldiers, xenophobic cultists, predatory monsters etc etc. In these instances it doesn't appear to matter much whether the foes are man or woman.

      In the instances where the enemies aren't willing participants, it tends to receive commentary here - be it seemingly innocent royal guards, people in the wrong place at the wrong time or even prehistoric animals.

      If clearing the slums in Pool of Radiance was framed as removing ethnic undesirables, then it'd certainly be an issue. However, these 'ethnics' are warring tribes living in occupied territory - likely some of the very tribes that sacked the city 50 years prior. It's not like you're wiping out a group of orcs who are keeping to their own little village! When the PCs wander the slums, they are regularly attacked without warning - and if the player wishes, they can let the non-hostile groups flee.

    7. I tried the implicit association test for gender, and it said too many errors. Oh well.

      It's completely true that men are more likely to be targets of nonsexual violence, and that's something that our society likes to conveniently ignore, but that's not the core issue here. (I hope that anyone who finds Rance offensive would find it equally offensive if the genders were reversed- real sexual violence against men may not be as common as sexual violence against women, but that doesn't make it any less unacceptable.)

      The issue is the fact that sexual violence is (supposedly) being glorified, and the protagonist isn't in any way redeemed. (I would argue that only the fantasy of sexual violence is being glorified, but that goes back to my first post. And considering that there are many healthy outlets for this fantasy, including such pornography or a consenting partner, that's not a bad thing at all.)

      Would you say that Ultima III glorifies real theft because you can steal from innocent shopkeepers, and the game rewards the player with gold? How about the fact that an effective leveling tactic once you get a Wizard with 70 INT is to pick a fight with a bunch of guards, cast ROT (or whatever the 70 MP Wizard spell is, most of my experience with U3 is the NES version, which is mostly faithful but gives the spells English names) to reduce their HP to 1, and then let whomever needs the EXP pick them off for a total of over 200EXP, giving you two levels?

      Computer games do tend to feature enemies that are either willing participants, but we all know that reluctant or unwilling soldiers have been drafted to fight in real wars- how we you know the enemy soldiers aren't similarly unwilling? And many Gold Box players have gleefully tossed Fireball spells into hordes of enemies- the fact that the game encourages this glorifies a power fantasy.

      This is only anecdotal, but I would like to add that every single person I've known to enjoy these types of games- not only pornographic, but violently pornographic towards women- has been female. Men I've known tended to like more raunchy games.

    8. I don't know where you live, but in Australia, alcohol-fueled street violence (of which the majority of victims are male) gets a lot of media coverage and political attention, arguably moreso than domestic violence (of which the majority of victims are female).

      You'll note that neither Chet nor I referred to 'glorification'. The contention is that media informs and reinforces cultural norms and mores - which in some ways, is the founding theorem of the field of social psychology.

      Whether something perpetuates negative stereotypes or not has as much to do with the presentation of the story, as it does the details of the story. Despite the fact that theft is mechanically rewarded in both Ultima 3 and GTA 3, it would be hard to argue that they are presented in the same light.

      As for the 'unwilling soldier', yes, there have been plenty of unwilling soldiers throughout history, but that's a bit of a red herring. The relevant detail is how the soldiers are presented by the game, and what attitudes the conflict with the soldiers are reinforcing. Interesting games, in my opinion, are those that are conscious of these questions and use them in the narrative: The BioWare/Black isle family regularly forces players to examine some of the ethically questionable RPG tropes.

    9. I live in the US, and never having so much as visited Australia know it may be different there. As long as we can accept that violence against men and violence against women aren't fundamentally different as problems (the problem is that it's violence against people) we should be on the same page about it.

      And neither of you referred to glorification- it sounds as though you're referring more so to what could be termed normalization. I still think, that to a mature enough player to understand fantasy (and one who can't shouldn't be playing CRPGs or video games at all, let alone pornographic ones,) works such as this only normalize the fantasy of violence. In real life, there are lots of well-adjusted people who daydream about, say, punching people they don't like. I think the thing about art, is that you can choose what to take away from it. And if a game leads to you taking away negative attitudes about women... again, you're not mature enough to be playing said game.

      Having spent a good amount of time with both U3 and GTA3, In Ultima 3 theft seems to be somewhere between a gameplay contrivance and a necessary evil. GTA 3 is in my opinion, a satire of overconsumerism (and to a lesser extent crime and the whole "gangster" life) plus an excuse to let you basically do whatever you feel like, with whatever you can find.

      Also, when playing RPGs that will let me get away with it, I do like to try to rob and kill innocent people because they're there. The reason is because I find the entire idea to be so ridiculous (stalking NPCs and killing them for 3 gold pieces and 2 experience points- that's crossing the line twice!) not because I'm living out anything I'd want to do in real life, even if it were consequence-free.

      Also, I do fully support the addict's decision not to play the rest of the Rance games if he finds them offensive. Just because this one is a CRPG, doesn't mean it's not pornographic, just as just because a film is pornographic, doesn't mean it's not a film- but I think one attempting to chronicle film history can be forgiven for not wanting to be exposed to it, beyond than noting that it does, in fact, exist.

    10. Rance series is actually a very sad thing as the game world and gameplay do actually get really better in later entries to an incredible level considering how bad Hikari is. The world, were the supreme god ia a sadistic whale like thing which has created the world just to entartein himself and would destroy it if there is no war (cause world peace is boring), is actually pretty original and the lore strangely complex for an eroge game. Also the story in games likes rance 6 and sengoku is pretty good. But you have to put up with a main character who never grows behind being a total asshole and worse a rapist, who thinks that he can do anything he wants because "he is the hero". And worse still the girls usually fall in love with him after being raped.
      There is just one good japanese eroge rpg that I can think of that dosn't have rape in and has a very good story: it is kamidori alchemy meister, an hybrid shop management strategy rpg with three distinct paths and a lot to do. Sex scenes are sometimes a bit strong for my taste, but always consensual, as long I can rememember There is an english patch to it.

  37. Why delete my last comment, Don't like a dissenting opinion?

    Why get worked up and outraged over what happens to fictional characters made of pixels? They aren't real.

    1. I'm not "outraged." I was disturbed, and writing about my own reaction to the content. Notice that I didn't call for the content to be banned or advocate for any "solution" other than to not play such games myself.

      What happens to "fictional characters made out of pixels" isn't important. What is important--or at least interesting--is how art reflects societal attitudes and exposes things about us. If I Spit on Your Grave becomes a blockbuster and no one goes to see, oh, Schindler's List, that says something about our culture. It's worth talking about. If you don't want to read discussions of game content and my reactions to that content, you're on the wrong blog.

  38. I don't like Rance the character either, and I say this as someone who has looked at quite a few taboo and rape-y hentai. In my case it's the tonal dissonance; Rance is both presented as the sympathetic good guy and a rapist. When Rance rapes girls in the series it's comedy, when the villains rape girls in the series it's tragedy... In rape hentai the rapists are normally unambiguously scumbags or beasts, and I think this helps me feel emotionally removed from what's going on. It's sort of like they're dehumanized, they are zombies who instead of having an uncontrollable desire for flesh have an uncontrollable desire for sex. In that sense I am not looking at a human inflicting pain on another human, but a zombie devouring a victim carnally. In the case of beasts they are literally not humans but monsters and animals gone mad. Rance however is humanized... And personally when I see the humanity in someone acting inhumane my emotions flare up - anger, sadness, disappointment, frustration, conflicted feelings, etc. like finding out the parent you loved and trusted as a child did something horrible, breaking your childhood innocence or in this case the instinctual idealism that good people are good and bad people are bad and that's that. Of course as you would expect these emotions distract from the porn, or well, "expect" - I don't like feeling emotions while looking at porn, don't know about other people.

    It is interesting to note that I have met several women who are fans of the Rance series - they actually like Rance and wouldn't mind being a part of his harem! Adding to that, I remember reading that the Rance series from the 1st entry to the 7th was written by a woman?!

    Lastly perhaps you may find solace in the fact that in the epilogue of the Rance series, Rance X: Part 2, the children of Rance across the world unite to defeat Rance who had become a Demon King originally to protect humanity but turned evil in the end...

  39. That sounds so utterly unenjoyable... Kudos to you for toughing it out and not letting it break your winning streak!

    This is not intended as a slight against Japanese culture as a whole since I enjoy a lot of what they have to offer. Mainly old samurai movies by Kurosawa and Lone Wolf & Cub and such stuff as well as quite a bit of anime. But the amount of disturbing storytelling in Hentai is pretty noticeable, I'd say.

  40. It’s neat seeing someone who doesn’t like the game still take Rance critically, rather than going for the generic stuff that you explicitly mentioned you avoid. I also greatly respect that you acknowledged the whole murder that people revel in in games while condemning this specifically, given that the typical reaction is to get defensive. Gave me some things to think on.

    Rance, the series, gets far, far better as it goes on, and this one is widely considered terrible in terms of gameplay. Though Rance, the character, is still pretty horrible in the same sense he was here, so I wouldn’t tell you it’s worth it if you couldn’t put up with him. Just something amusing. Equally amusing is that these games are written by a woman. Not remotely what you’d expect for this.


I welcome all comments about the material in this blog, and I generally do not censor them. However, please follow these rules:

1. Do not link to any commercial entities, including Kickstarter campaigns, unless they're directly relevant to the material in the associated blog posting. (For instance, that GOG is selling the particular game I'm playing is relevant; that Steam is having a sale this week on other games is not.) This also includes user names that link to advertising.

2. Please avoid profanity and vulgar language. I don't want my blog flagged by too many filters. I will delete comments containing profanity on a case-by-case basis.

3. NO ANONYMOUS COMMENTS. It makes it impossible to tell who's who in a thread. If you don't want to log in to Google to comment, either a) choose the "Name/URL" option, pick a name for yourself, and just leave the URL blank, or b) sign your anonymous comment with a preferred user name in the text of the comment itself.

4. I appreciate if you use ROT13 for explicit spoilers for the current game and upcoming games. Please at least mention "ROT13" in the comment so we don't get a lot of replies saying "what is that gibberish?"

5. Comments on my blog are not a place for slurs against any race, sex, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or mental or physical disability. I will delete these on a case-by-case basis depending on my interpretation of what constitutes a "slur."

Blogger has a way of "eating" comments, so I highly recommend that you copy your words to the clipboard before submitting, just in case.

I read all comments, no matter how old the entry. So do many of my subscribers. Reader comments on "old" games continue to supplement our understanding of them. As such, all comment threads on this blog are live and active unless I specifically turn them off. There is no such thing as "necro-posting" on this blog, and thus no need to use that term.

I will delete any comments that simply point out typos. If you want to use the commenting system to alert me to them, great, I appreciate it, but there's no reason to leave such comments preserved for posterity.

I'm sorry for any difficulty commenting. I turn moderation on and off and "word verification" on and off frequently depending on the volume of spam I'm receiving. I only use either when spam gets out of control, so I appreciate your patience with both moderation tools.