Goodbye, Class of 2005!
By mikey
Sunday, January 1, 2006

The following is a small round-up of all the titles released in 2005. Only free titles are included, which are complete and originally developed in the English language. In addition to that, they should feature a story, if not ren'ai content. But before we look back at all the games, there were also several other events and releases that are related, or of interest to the community.

As for other projects that weren't yet completed as 2005 drew to its end, there were several titles from new and established authors. Some of them were just announced, some were text-only and some had demo versions completed. None of the known long-time in-dev projects were completed this year. Two commercial games have successfully been released by Hanako Games, the campus story Summer Schoolgirls; shown at left; and the all-round great Cute Knight.

The development tool scene was also making steady progress, with translation team Insani making available NScripter, the tool of choice for Japanese game-makers. The game engine Ren'Py also saw improvements and a new project called ALICE was started to make free doll-style characters available for developers.

Related events this year included the September translation festival al|together with 7+1 one-path Japanese doujin visual novels released after the initial success of the famous Narcissu story earlier in the year. The Flash scene was also active in 2005, with some well-meant projects of non-offensive sim date games which nevertheless still lacked a story.

And now, a brief description of all the games released this year.

January 1st, 2005 (ATP Projects)

This was a project that took just two days from idea to finished build. This said, it is really very much based on a single idea, how to marry an anime character. The title is to date the most popular ATPP download and even though various paths do not make a difference in the outcome, fans started to consider this playable shrine a game. Later in 2005 as not to harm the popularity of the idea, ATP Projects cancelled the sequel and released Idol/TYPE instead.

January 25th, 2005 (ATP Projects)

This title is possibly the only one to depart from ATP Projects' relatively strict non-school policy, as not only the setting, but also the characters are of teen age. Although ATP Project's designer is adamant that Milk Swim is only about failing, it's also interesting to see that the main characters don't wear glasses or contacts. The game has a relatively heavy atmosphere, it uses an omipresent fog as a visual element, it lacks a textbox and choices are paragraphs of thoughts. And even though they are nebulous as to their effect on the story, the fact remains that with only one true ending, the point of the game is not the destination, but the journey itself.

January 26th, 2005 (American Bishoujo)

The game that not only brought Ren'Py to life, but also showed once again that a NaNoRenO one-month game is possible, Moonlight Walks has everything set just right. The story is simple, but not trivial, the length is appropriate and at the time of its release, the play comfort of the new engine was very noticeable. Moonlight Walks is also the first fan-made game to have an anime feel not only to its characters, but also to backgrounds and subsequently to the whole game, as it's not cheating on colors like some of the earlier releases. Overall it hasn't got any extremely significant elements, which is why it's very likeable for just about anyone.

February 8th, 2005 (Allugic)

This project marked the beginning of games shorter than the small game standard of Tales of Lemma and Moonlight Walks. Based on Inu-Yasha's character Sango, it's a light story and Allugic's first project aside from the planned Vigilante game. Notable for its quality graphics, it will probably work best with fans of the anime it uses its characters from (and lonely men). There are many facial expressions and special graphics which Allugic was going to become known for.

February 28th, 2005 (Ren'Ai Games)

The newly created Ren'Ai Games quickly established itself with this title. Atmospheric setting and a very refined narrative were things one would notice very quickly. However Amgine Park also featured quite a lot of special effects, screens and a multitude of mini-ideas nicely implemented into the gameplay and it's one of the reasons the game feels rich, even though the lack of music was source of criticism. The title became very popular among female fans, but the reason wasn't as much that it in fact was the first free English bishounen game as it was the fact that Amgine Park simply was a joy to play as a game.

March 28th, 2005 (ATP Projects)

The first NaNoRenO game, Transfer Teacher is in essence two stories in one. ATP Projects say because of all the lessons learned with their previous games, it was their best and smoothest development process ever, slightly topping River Trap's length and having less than 1/3rd of its development time. Some fans disliked this title because of the unnecessarily complicated password and path system, but it retained a typically ATP-ish story/plot for those who got past its defences. For the first time an ATP game was in full color, it featured a main theme in its soundtrack and this one was particularly notable for its use of "Engrish".

March 29th, 2005 (Ren'Ai Games)

Possibly the best all-round English fan-made ren'ai game, The Garden Society: Kykuit is the essence of fan creativity and improvising of NaNoRenO. Focusing on romance rather than love, Kykuit explores it in an art-like atmosphere. It doesn't have any breakthrough features, it wasn't anything influential in terms of game development and it doesn't deliver anything specific other than just ren'ai. But the wealth of character detail, diversity and the way in which black and white photographs underline its mood is just one of the reasons why this game has so many affectionate fans who will agree that this game could not have been done any better.

March 31st, 2005 (Chronoluminaire)

A very refreshing point of view and game as such. It may not seem like it from the title, but this game has a very romantic idea all through its story. It's hard to decide whether this is bishoujo or bishounen, as the characters one interacts with are male, but then again, it's always been Selena's story. She has been chosen by a secret organization and the time when she will emerge as the world ruler is near. Great writing and interesting use of full-body characters as well. The only thing that suffers is the perspective at times. This story is one of those that perfectly fit the one-hour game format, being serious, being funny and with a good replay value.

NaNoRenO projects

Amatire by Gloranor was a successful NaNoRenO 2005 entry, a ren'ai game, but without character graphics. It was completed as the last project, just hours before the deadline closed. Also a successful project was Reconstruction 01, which in its original version was one of the five NaNoRenO games. Because Allugic released a more complete version later in the year, the full game is mentioned below.

April 30th, 2005 (Grey)

A month after NaNoRenO ended, Heikou was released as the only project that failed the deadline, but wasn't abandoned completely. Its specialty was in the sheer number of endings and paths. It's not exactly a strict visual novel, because it has RPG features - your character develops with time, there's mazes and there is a battle mode with items, attacks and specials. The hybrid gameplay works well though, and you can play this game many times over. The story isn't ultimately the carrying element, because it's overshadowed by the gameplay fun, genuinely different path types, and 2 girls to like.

July 1st, 2005 (Tall Tales Productions)

Starting out as a 2004 Lemma Soft title-to-be, the project picked up the pace as it was moved to the Ren'Py platform. The newly-founded Tall Tales Productions, featuring members of the Love Revolution team, appointed a new director/programmer and the game was finalized in a few weeks. Even though the game's name was all too well known by the time of its release, its content wasn't letting anyone down. Arguably more philosophical than ren'ai, but undeniably atmospheric with excellent music, the title found immediate fandom for its polished story, a clear game system, an unusual headshot approach to character graphics and a slightly dark undertone.

July 29th, 2005 (ATP Projects)

This title's figures include a full wave OST, 100,000 (or 230,000 respectively) words, 250 backgrounds, 20 characters and up to 20 hours playtime and a fully customized Ren'Py, making it the first full-length free fan production. The downside is that it is a no-choice kinetic novel, it has no color and line-art graphics style, it has a translated nature of the text, a plotless story and no dialogue at all. But it its main idea and concepts that date back to 2001, fans who accepted it and the complete focus on emotions make this without question the most important ATP title to date, and for a long time to come.

July 31st, 2005 (Allugic)

The long-anticipated full version of space story Reconstruction 01 was released. Once again, raising more questions than giving answers, the project closed one of its chapters and it remains to be seen whether there will eventually be sequels. Reconstruction 01 certainly has lots of potential to build on, and apart from the story it is the great graphics the game will be known for. One of the notable design elements is that Allugic completely omitted the standard BG-Character approach and all of the game's graphics are in fact more or less event CGs.

November 6th, 2005 (Hanako Games)

This mini-story is an unofficial release from Hanako Games, an atmospheric small romantic game. There is more romance than love and more girl's feelings than shoujo-ai, nevertheless it's that indirect style that will hold the key to enjoying this piece. Even though the game is very small and one playthrough can take less than 10 minutes, it's possible to get different endings and given the length, there are several choices to make. On a design note, the game was completely done in one week and is externally editable.

November 10th, 2005 (ATP Projects)

This game was inspired by the original non-English fan title Mr.Typer from 2003 and ATP Projects were able to cooperate with its original developer. The game had an inconvenience bug fixed the day after it was released and even though a typing gameplay may not be the easiest, it showed that there are more than two ways to make a ren'ai game. The letters themselves convey the story and the game is branched with different outcomes according to your replies. A disappearing picture as a timer was a notable feature, as well as the fact that one path has almost all the special graphics.

November 16th, 2005 (Radical Dreamers 2002)

The impact of the Narcissu type of project shows in this kinetic novel. Even though the similarities end with the graphic design. This is a very thougtful and almost philosophical piece with a touch of metaphore to it. It has also been remade and rewritten a few months after the initial release, and even though its ending may be ambiguous, the emotions portrayed aren't. They will not always be ren'ai, but certainly related. The two major versions that exist differ in graphics and parts of the script.

December 28th, 2005 (Radical Dreamers 2002)

The second visual novel release by Radical Dreamers 2002 follows the no-choices path of the Wings project. As a whole, it's hard to talk about this story without mentioning its potential. A kinetic novel, richly illustrated and with many hints at what could have been if this were longer and bigger. This is not to say that it's incomplete. Slightly romantic, but more focused on the story, Dual Hearts is a self-contained, if condensed, futuristic story with one or two interesting surprises for its readers and a lot of special graphics on top of that.

And that's the games. In short, 2005 was probably the most active and productive year for English fan ren'ai game development yet. Several teams have already confirmed their NaNoRenO 2006 participation and as every year, there should be hope for long-time projects or a few surprise releases. There's much to be looking forward to in 2006, but first...

Goodbye, class of 2005!

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mikey runs ATP Projects, has released several English bishoujo games and maintains the
English Bishoujo Games Encyclopedia.

"Goodbye, Class of 2005!" © 2006 mikey. All rights reserved.
Contents of this article are purely the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect those of Ren'Ai'ai

Content© 2005 &, unless otherwise specified. All rights reserved.