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cue5c

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A member registered Jun 07, 2020

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Ramblings always welcome. I'm especially curious about what you think about Pervader. The more I've let it sit, the more I really love it.

[Major Echo Spoilers] 

|Don't even skim Tazogor lmao|


I think this is going to come down to a difference in what you want to prioritize. The way I listed is based on having a full understanding of the story at the expense of learning some twists early, which I think the writing is more than strong enough to withstand. Most of Flynn and Jenna's routes were written post-TJ's ending so I feel even more comfortable about that.

The thing I mention with TJ is everything post car crash. TJ can't undo his seatbelt and almost drowns. Chase eventually saves him, but he immediately asks Chase about Sydney. Chase ignores him. From that point on he can't bring himself to talk to Chase. He just stares at him like he's not even human. Sam brings it up while they're in Kudzu's trailer, talking about how water was different from that point on. How he understood the fear others felt. However, all of this is written so that you can misconstrue it as this group mourning a friend and the trauma from it rather than the direct action that Chase took. Also, you miss out on what is objectively the funniest joke in Echo.

https://twitter.com/burner_flynn/status/1400941006363631616?t=YOWaw_rV-1tIC1RWf1...

Leo's route shifts the most depending on what knowledge you have. There's everything with TJ. This even shows up before the car crash, as Chase will have throwaway lines about how cute TJ is and in general has a weird protectiveness about him. (The shift in Flynn's route only happens when TJ is directly confronted.) There's the knowledge that Chase has secretly been flirting with Leo over texts that he deletes out of guilt. There's the tulpa Leo created, who is constantly threatening Chase and likely appears in front of Duke to get Chase killed. There's everything to do with Sam, which has a very different feeling if you've read The Smoke Room. And this is more of a personal theory, but I think that the Flynn that saves Chase is the cursed one. Sam at first sees red eyes and thinks it's a creature of the mines. Only after Sam recognizes him as Flynn does the scene shift and Flynn starts existing, with no red eyes to be seen. When Chase asks him how he knew about the mines he gives a very basic non-answer. With how many timeline shenanigans that exist within Echo, I really feel like Leo's is the true ending to this specific cast. That's why I suggest reading it a second time after finishing it once. There are so many small details that come together.

The reason I say Flynn and then Jenna is because of the reveal of the wendigo at the end of Flynn's route. That way when it shows up in Jenna's, you have a lot more context for it. There's a lot of emotion behind moments like it starting at Flynn when Jenna is trying to save Heather from herself and the town, or when Chase calls it Jenna's guardian angel after it saves them from Brian. Instead of being just a freaky moment, it's incredibly cathartic. Flynn has always been one of the most caring characters so his control of the town to instead save people is a moment of triumph after an ending that is very cruel.

Chase is complicated. He's a liar and he has no problem withholding things from even himself, like the texting. However, that texting confrontation is one of the most revealing moments. Far more so than that he killed Sydney. At that moment, he feels guilt, which shocks Sam into saying something along the lines of, "this is what you feel guilty about?" As he says when he's free of Sam in Flynn's route, he's glad he killed Sydney. That means he is not the one causing everything that's happening in Echo. It's actually mostly Flynn and (to a lesser extent) Leo. It's why killing Flynn delays the madness, as his guilt is cut off. It might have ended because he realized Chase did it and decided he wanted to live more than kill, but we can't know for sure. Either way, with Flynn either killed or changed, things shift. So Chase is more of a catalyst for others. I have to wonder if Chase being affected in TJ's route is because he's confused as to why TJ is doing this, since in his mind, killing Sydney was the right thing to do.

All of this is to say that despite Chase being an unreliable narrator, his motivations for doing so aren't really tied to anything deeper than basic teenage shit. It's not sinister in nature. If you don't go along with Flynn in the club, you find out Chase hasn't slept with anyone since leaving Leo, so Leo is still the only person he's been with. Chase is extremely sheltered and an awkward as fuck person. I think he should feel guilty about what he did and why Jenna's route is a little too easy for me, but it's better for the town if it's seen as a good thing so everyone can accept Sydney's death and move on. That's why I prefer Leo's ending. People move on, but nothing is washed over. TJ finally understands the weight of what happened and Chase is with someone who can help him, but is also someone Chase can protect, fulfilling both of his needs. Leo has finally taken off the damn anchor and rejects giving Chase his new number. (Again, more meaningful knowing what Chase was doing in secret.)

I'll say that Leo's route is also the one that is most directly linked with Adastra. The dream when Chase is hit by Duke has text that is almost word for word used in Adastra when describing The Other. I agree that Leo's feels the most standalone, but I really think it benefits more than any other from being read a second time.

(This was a lot so sorry if some of my thoughts are kind of scattered!)

I think Carl and TJ are fairly interchangeable as first plays. The problem I have with saying to do Leo before TJ is that Leo's has major emotional resolutions to TJ's route. And Flynn before Jenna also helps deliver an emotional climax to the characters. Jenna's route has the most closure out of all, although Leo's feels far more realistic. I personally started with Carl's but I've had people bounce off because of how they felt about his story. It's one of the weaker stories despite having some of the most lore in it. 

I've played through a couple times so I've seen the added context, and I find the ideal route to be Carl - TJ - Leo/Route 65 (Flynn) - Flynn - Jenna - Route 65 (TJ route) - Leo. But considering how much that is and how people can bounce off Carl, I tend to compromise and say TJ-Leo/65-Carl-Flynn-Jenna. 

Starting with TJ is usually a good first choice. Flynn, the lizard, is easily my favorite character, but his story is probably better as one of the last two, just because of how many revelations it has that may not make full sense without context from the others. Without spoiling anything, at the very least I would read Leo's (the wolf) story before Flynn's. Unlike a lot of VNs with multiple character routes, they're all unique stories while also each containing major revelations for the overall mystery.

Yay! I'm 50/50 on the prolly, but it does stand out and is often cute.

I'd definitely suggest Pervader next. It's extremely promising and I'm going to assume by your dragon that you like magic. :P It does an amazing job selling you on its magic system and world, as well as just being utterly gorgeous. I adore Echo. It's still my second favorite VN, but it's a lot. Hopefully, it's not too much for you. Luckily both other stories in its universe go down a bit smoother and the finale of Jenna's route is a satisfying palate cleanser.

Oh hi!

I don't think it needs to be a priority if you've got other things you're working on, but it just stands out as the "easiest" barrier of entry to fix. I use quotes because it's a lot of work to go back in and coordinate what the expressions should be, even if they already exist. I do think it'll work wonders for someone just starting. Like there's so much that makes the work special and it's one of the few areas that reads "still in development" when the rest absolutely does not.

Anyway, thanks for a wonderful weekend experience. It captured the spirit of traveling extremely well and was something I've needed for a while. I guess I should hit up the discord at some point. I'm Feign on there. (I somehow went from everything cue5c to like 5 different usernames over a year lol.)

Yep. I wanted to play Fuga: Melodies of Steel but found out it was part of a series. I actually had Solatorobo but hadn't really played it so I figured I'd go through that first, even if it's not necessary for understanding the story of Fuga. 

And god, yeah, I dislike about 3/4 of the character designs. So many look like slightly melted humans wearing cat ears. This game has made it very apparent I'm not a huge fan of animal characters with human hair. It can be done well and Toby Fox is fairly good at finding the right balance, but god it looks jarring here. That's part of why I love these two dogs. They're not obnoxiously overdesigned and their hair doesn't clash with their fur.

The story isn't great. I'm maybe 2/3 done and I just got a big revelation that I probably would have appreciated more when the game first came out. It all feels fairly Xenoblade-lite. The dialogue is kind of a mess, too, but it has moments and it's gotten better the more I play the game. Some of the sidequest character interactions feel like Gravity Rush and in that way, it's a very comfortable game. Still, even if the story isn't hitting the notes it wants to, you can tell how inspired the world-building is. As you said, the backgrounds are incredible and tell more story than the writing could. I kind of like that they don't call attention to how weird some of it is. Basset is probably my favorite because of that:



It's an orphanage built on the decay of military weapons and the hermit crabs you fish wear warships instead of shells. Some of the worlds hit Final Fantasy 9 levels of charm, which is a feat few games manage. I wish the characters lived up to that game, but hey, I'll take what I can get. At least Paper Mario: The Origami King hit some of those highs.

Interesting you bring up the tetris-like upgrade system. It's something a lot of DS games use and I'm really fond of it, but I've found most don't feel that way. Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days is another game that uses it and it would be my favorite Kingdom Hearts game if not for the awful stealth missions it sometimes throws at you. I love how level-ups are tied to it, so you have to choose what to prioritize. It's a similar thing in Solatorobo, but with how simple the gameplay is it doesn't have quite the same impact.

Excuse the terrible and jittery gif, but I just need to explain how pleasantly jarring it was to play a game that normally looks like this:

Only for some environmental artist to decide to show off some characters in the foreground on this 256x192 pixel screen so we could fully soak in all the details of this:


God bless you, unsung hero of CyberConnect2, and god bless Pickaxe Street.

Yeah, I think you're spot on. I'm going to shamelessly repost what I wrote in another thread that's focused on the tablets, because I hadn't connected a lot of specifics that you've found. 

I've been waiting to read the tablets until I collected all of them. Having done so, I think it does indeed point to his thread being restored. 

This is all my interpretation based on the tablets and the ruthless route, but it seems Asterion was given two options to escape. The first would be to take freedom for himself given to him by those who pitied him or regretted their actions. The second would be to right the wrong he was accused of by actually fighting an opponent who wanted to defeat him. The result wouldn't matter, but he absolutely could not back down. However, he would need enough freedom from a master in order to fulfill this, which is why he's never been able to until now. He needed to stay a prisoner of a labyrinth in order to gain freedom and have his ember rekindled from nothing, essentially, and the rules were created to stop that from happening.

I think Poseidon's gift, which relates to what he sees as a moment of weakness when he questions whether he should escape by sea, is a backdoor. A failsafe. I also think the master situation is a cruel repurposing of his refusal to leave without permission from Laomedon, along with his eventual crime.

Your analysis of the specific meanings is great and it's making a lot of things click that I hadn't caught on to. 

I don't even think it necessarily feels like it's written for adults. It's just set in a fantasy world and commits to fully exploring what that means instead of using it as window dressing to pander. It's the exact reason I ended up loving Minotaur Hotel so much. Like I adore Adastra. I think its world-building is extremely interesting and everything to do with The Parents is cosmic horror in the best way. But it also has scenes where Amicus has sex with an ambassador to save the MC's life and you walk in thinking it's cheating but not before watching the whole scene play out. It's written for a specific audience, rather than written for the story it's trying to tell. (It does mostly work in context, so it's better than a lot in blending the pandering.) We haven't even started a relationship in Pervader and it's so much better for it. 

I also think the more subtle expressions aren't a bad thing for this story. Especially with Jymsar needing to warm up to you. It works and helps make his arc feel special. It's more that it took multiple hours for Alen to get a second expression despite him having a plethora of them already done. If you're just starting it may give a false impression about how much work has been put into it. It stands out in scenes like the jail cell where it's talking about Alen being worried about your wounds and it's that static image of him smiling. Admittedly the side characters mostly only having a single expression is noticeable, but it's also a case of being understandable because the effort that would normally go into that has been spent on backgrounds instead, which is where Pervader truly stands out. Echo didn't add a lot of side character expressions until multiple years into its development, so that could always be done later as a finishing touch. 

The simulacrums were great. We have, of course, new background art not counting CG's. A little bit more of the dreamer. Elden Ring? Eldon Brooch.  A wonderful send off to Jonah.

Final verdict: amazing VN. Wondering why no one recommended this to me on their itch page. 

But for real, my only suggestions: I think updating the Alen scenes with multiple sprite expressions in the beginning of the game would be beneficial. It takes until Jymsar shows up to get a character with more than one sprite. Alen has a lot of sprites to choose from, and you could limit it to a few basic ones like with Jyms, who takes forever to get his first smiling sprite. It just doesn't show off what 90% of the experience is actually like, instead seeming overly static despite the damn strong artwork. It also would probably be good to replace the one or two photo backgrounds that are right outside at the start of the game since that never happens again. But since I started with Version 11, that could be happening and I have no point of reference!


But yeah, seriously amazing with what's there with so much promise. The foreshadowing is strong. (The off-hand witch comment suddenly being referenced) I'm so glad I got to experience this. It really is unique in the genre.


Okay, sleep time.

No dreaming, but god, Alen's route was amazing. Love a cool white and blue mountaintop atmosphere. The architecture was great. Severin was hot and taught Reamus how to go green. Plus we got to lean on Alen. (Who I keep mistyping as Anel, thanks Giga.) 

Was totally on board with Drobeta until the memory thing and now I am very suspicious of her. Like, honestly, I think it would be kind of cool if someone could read my mind and I knew. We could have secret conversations and if they seemed upset I could ask them directly with no one noticing to see if I should help. Like that person has probably heard it all so I don't thing I would mind. Just... Man, I'm scared Drobeta is going to use his memories to find Jyms. Also we have the conversation with Alen after she does the memory trade and I don't like the timing, even if it's ultimately nothing.

(Also the capitol city lake looks suspiciously like a heart with blue veins coming out of it. I'm just saying.)

Glad to be caught up. Happy to understand what that horrifying nanoff star trek cats picture was about months later. Very excited for the continuing adventures of Anel and Ysamar.

Time for simulacrum. Which apparently stars my boy Jonah finally getting some time with Reamus. Very, very up for that.

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Ooookay, finished Jymsar's route. He's grown on me quite a bit and is currently my favorite character. I don't think we've hugged yet and I really want us to simply hug. Really liked Everwind, too. I'm always 50/50 on the player character, but I love Reamus. He has an interesting story and god I want to learn more about the dream spirit. The lore in the whole story is really interesting. I suppose more may happen in Elysium since that was apparently the last 3 updates of content, but we'll see. Build 12 seems like it'll be super spicy if that's the convergence line. 


Again, can't get over how many damn backgrounds there are. The way things are written don't stick with me too much. Like there aren't sentences that just knock the air out of me. However, this has managed to really feel like an adventure and is utterly transportive. The imagery in the writing paired with the many different backgrounds between each destination really sell the scope of the world. Everything feels lived in and tangible. It's just an astonishingly polished presentation and absolutely unique in the world of VNs. It deserves way more success than it currently has, but it's not as far along as I originally thought so I have no doubt the audience will come as relationships start happening and the stakes keep rising. 

On to Alen's route and then the simulacrum.


ETA: Of course giving Jymsar a hug is the first thing that fucking happens if you choose to join Alen lmao. But also fuck yeah! About time.

Also I keep calling Jymsar "Ysamar." I should really just call him Jyms.

Pervader Thought Thread

(Spoilers!)

I'm going to use this space to post my thoughts on Pervader, so just avoid this comment chain and you should be fine.

I will have more detailed thoughts later, but I need to just say christ, GigaSaddle. These backgrounds are breathtaking and constantly changing.  I am about to get to the Sanctuary and it's just putting me in a similar state to Reamus. 

I like the characters so far. I was a little worried at first since Alen seemed to be a major character but he had the same sprite for hours, while Jymsar had multiple unique expressions. However, the day after we got past the small village with the husky spy, suddenly Alen got all those unique expressions. 

So far the story is fairly laid back, but I really enjoy the vibe. There's not too much music it seems, but the tracks have ended up being perfect for the mood of this story. I can't wait to read more. GigaSaddle's doing an excellent job at making me feel like I'm performing the magic and that's not an easy task.

And yeah, Alen is hot. Jymsar is growing on me. He put on his shiny green jacket and I may have swooned a bit. Matte black and reflective jewel green is a good combo, what can I say? Alen is hiding nothing from the world with those pants, but I mean... I can't blame him. Jonah was the hottest, though. I hope he comes back at some point, but I can move on now that Alen is moving around inside of us. Magically. With his light. Look, it's not weird, okay

ANYWAY. 

I do really hope we can get Jymsar to use magic and stop drinking his vervain so we can go inside him too. "I luminously entered da boy" lmao. Also, I know it's not the vampire diaries anti-magic flower and is etheline or something, but magic sapping flowers will always be vervain for me.

Alen is staring at me on my TV while writing this. It's very intense.

That's a monkey's paw waiting to happen on the speedrunner route. 


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oh god, there's even a phone in Minotaur Hotel. Is Nikos Kheness's* dad? Is that why Lucas has a rope snake?? I want to stop but it keeps getting dark, darker, yet darker. Nanoff, WHY?

*Also known as a Snake-a Kheness's. That's a bad joke but I'm not erasing it.

Is Khenbish the Ness from Earthbound after growing up?

He's a sensitive boar. 

Peach, plum, pe--

Is that a bad thing? He looks so cute when he's mad...

Speaking of sex with Asterion:

Early on in the new lounge, each route gets a personalized conversation related to their background. However, it's the math route that has the one with Asterion asking if there are guides to sex on the internet. This is not long after Asterion talks about a mathematician friend he was especially close with. Very good, very fun, very slip of the tongue wikihow to slip in the tongue clipart.png.

We're about 600,000 words in if the pre-release update is to be believed and we've only just had our first kiss in Chapter 18 right at the end. I get worrying over something you like, but if anyone should get the benefit of the doubt it's this team. Like this thread only exists because the amount of work and attention to detail being put into this has come at the expense of whatever shorthand you'd usually use to get to the sex. I watched someone stream the game thinking the armband and consequence of breaking that promise was going to be sex lmao. It's just not that type of story. 

(Holding my tongue a bit about a story that definitely set up those expectations because it does work for that story but it was also undeniably a quick way to escalate things.)

Too many big shots, Ralsei!

Ralsei is the type of person who would play carmelldansen downstairs and lock himself in his room just to pretend there were people downstairs he was trying to avoid rather than admit he's alone.


...


Look, I'm sorry. 

It's okay, though, because we're dating in Deltarune so long as we're not so secretly family in anagramatic ways. Otherwise the hugs and blushing and telling Susie we'd take him the festival in that way were just things friends do. Definitely. Ignore the tunnel of acidic love boat ride on a swan. *coughs*

(Also I literally loaded up this page right after rereading the Undertale alarm clock text that seems relevant to Deltarune and was tearing up from Asgore and Flowey. I'm not heartless! Mino...)

This thread is wild.

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Thinking about how much this song reminds me of Storm while worrying about not being able to find my debit card with most of my money is a mood. 🙃

Edit, many hours later: I'm the biggest idiot lmfao

I didn't lose my card, I misrembered the last 4 digits and thought the card was my old one all because I put it as the first card in my wallet instead of the last.

Just as a general addendum now that I've gotten some rest:

I meant to include this when discussing the mechanical way the story expressed Asterion's reversion. It's clear the purpose was to show Asterion withdrawing and disassociating. What I wanted to conclude was how both this and the master are succumbing to spiraling thoughts and how it manifests further pushes the other away. The master, lacking time, is impatient. Asterion, having nothing but time, turns to contemplation to avoid upsetting the master. This makes the master more impatient and less kind, which causes Asterion to have to think harder on how to please him which results in a longer time between responses. It's an ebb and flow that is pushing things to their inevitable conclusion

Lol, pleaaaaase don't worry about credit with me unless I'm posting like an actual work. That was a comment I wrote specifically for you in regard to something you posted to make sure you got what the route was about. (Without revealing too much in case you decided to play.) That you remember the idea says more than enough.

The game wouldn't be complete without it and I'm happy to see it was effort that didn't go to waste.

To Justice.

oh yeah, are we the interloper or is that Nikos? Hm

That breaking things bit was me, heh. I've been thinking more about that and ruthless in general.

The title of the route is extremely relevant. It's not the "ruthless" route, it's specifically "The Ruthless Master". This means many different things at once. It's your part in this story. It's the actions taking place. But more importantly, it's one of the sacred roles the labyrinth was built around.

Whether it's gradual or harsh is fairly irrelevant. It can be either depending on your choices. Are you withdrawn immediately and justifying your bad decisions the entire time or did you accidentally "slip" and break your promise to never send Asterion to the valley? The reason goodness can exist is because of the Gods and their lack of imagination. "The Ruthless Master" is almost like a fast food training video or an infomercial. They take things to their worst possible conclusion to get the point across, regardless of how realistic it would be for you to get in those situations. This is how Gods saw human nature. The labyrinth was constructed to give a human the power to gain could ever want except one: Time. No matter how gradual or suddenly the shift to Ruthless Master is, no matter the excuses or motivations, it's all just a reverberation of the past playing out again. What may seem like once to you is something Asterion has lived through more than an unforgivable amount of times.

I haven't mentioned it until now, but Act 1 of The Ruthless Master is titled "Time Demands His Due". Chapter 12 pre-TRM is very different from Chapter 12 normally because of how much work is done to establish how stark our leads perception of time is. This comes through the dance between Asterion's thoughts and Nemesis's offerings. This of course happens throughout the good route, but there are a few distinctions. Nemesis no longer filters her words to be approachable by the reader and is instead focused on the timescale of someone who has lived multiple thousands of years. She likely knows we could be listening, but at that point, it is too late and wants to emphasize that no matter how important and rational we view our actions, we are utterly insignificant to the two of them.

Then there's the brilliant mechanical shift. Asterion talks about the delay between action and reaction. Likewise, there are stops inserted mid-sentence to punctuate the unnatural rhythm as well as emphasize the cruelty of endless mundanity without having a will. It's a dance between Asterion and those writing and coding. Probably the cruelest sentence is uttered here: "Reign yourself." How easily a false freedom from submission could be misappropriated into a slogan of self-power.  It occupied both and considering it's said of a prince, there are many layers at play to make two words put together sting. 

This repetition, odd rhythm, and self-torture to cope with physical torture all work in tandem to highlight how non-existent your voice is at this point. It's almost been entirely removed from what should be a shift into Asterion wanting to trust you. You are a blip. Your words aren't new. They're not unique. They're not special, and in the blink of an eye in the grand scheme of things, you'll be gone. This really highlights what helps the main story work. Part of why the romance is so special between you and Asterion is that it forces Asterion into a human timeframe. A good master to Asterion may be akin to a good month to us. The timescale is so vastly different that he knows there will eventually be another person to take your place. So while a romance with Asterion may be akin to a life well-spent, something eternal and sacred to your identity and experience, Asterion has to cope with knowing how finite that time is. However, because of that mortal fear he gets a chance to experience humanity to a fuller degree than he's previously been afforded.

As for Nikos and his actions, I think the fifteenth tablet is likely the most relevant thing here. There are a few things that stick out, but there's one line I want to point.

"A price must be paid to do what is right, all men know."

In a tablet titled "Folly". The right thing only requires a price when there is injustice attached, be it personal or societal. In many ways, The Ruthless Master is allegorical using figures we will understand*. It feels very ritualistic. Nikos sees the old gaining power and thus uses that opportunity to play by old-school rules. "An eye for an eye." Justice was something entirely different then and Nikos, through Nemesis, can exploit that way of thinking at the cost of harm done to at least him, possibly others.

*God, I'd love for Nikos to put on a one-person stage play iteration of this. Using a stripper pole from Luke to ascend as everyone watches on in dismay lmao. Maybe Khenbish and his die would appreciate it. :P I low-key ship them but that's neither here nor there. I just want Khenbish to be happy and I think Nikos and his oiled and burnt optimism would stick with him.

-------

Okay, I really need to get sleep. I just have a couple of thoughts while writing this and replaying some of The Ruthless Master route. Wish I had more energy to more into the allegorical aspects, but I don't know if my train of thought will be there tomorrow. Anyway:

Really cute to have the Fake Argos snake say the master is peacocking about.

I find it interesting that Asterion plays the Lyre. It so heavily emphasizes the strings over other material. Considering the imagery of the fates, it feels like Asterion taking some control over the strings in his life. It also brings to mind the labyrinth and yarn, also a part of "Folly'. Folly itself isn't inherently negative, more just unrealistic with an undercurrent of foolishness. Interesting that Folly is a tablet with no ornamentation that also mentions the potential of a surprise rekindling.


God, I hope even a fraction of this makes sense lmao goooooodnight

Oh man, I love Darius's route. It's not finished but it's like Day 33 of 35 at this point. I won't say if he gets it, but it's EA sooooo

I think you'll enjoy Adastra. It's a fairly quick read, too. It has two endings and I find the second one considerably more interesting just for all the worldbuilding implications.

It was such a fun surprise. Druid is what I picked, too, even though it resulted in like half of my party dying the first time at the first boss.

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also posting this from extracurricular activities for no reason in particular

And yes, I named my D&D character Zidane after I saw Spencer name himself Dagger. How could I not add some Final Fantasy IX love? It backfired later, but that's because the story went place I didn't expect. Good night for real. :P

Edit 10 seconds later: Fine it's because Chester is a cute ass bull. 

I don't think any of these are going to be too surprising, but:

I think you didn't read through the Ruthless route, so I don't know how much Echo will appeal to you, but it's what started me reading furry VNs in the first place. Despite being fairly popular, it's a bit of a hard sell in general. The main cast are all fairly unlikeable at times, including (especially) the main character of Chase. However, I do think it's fairly special. It reminds me a lot of Twin Peaks: The Return. If you haven't seen any of that, I will just say that it is slow, but filled with moments of electricity that stick with you. It's haunting and it's haunted. You need to play through each route to fully grasp the story as each route is completely unique content. Rereading it after finishing all routes was a very different experience as sometimes emotional climaxes to one route are hidden in another but without context it's easy to miss. 

I think TJ->Leo->Route 65->Carl->Flynn->Jenna->Leo (2nd read with the full context gained from the other routes) is the way to get the most out of it. 

This game has the least amount of sexual content, too. It is hyper focused on the central tragedies and how that has changed and still affects this group of friends who are only friends because they were the only kids in their dying town. It has at least two happy endings, but they are not going to be what you expect. This can disappoint some people but it's the most mature decision in both cases. Flynn's route in general is amazing, but it was one of the last two routes worked on so there's so much context built in from Leo, TJ, and Carl's route to really get all of what makes it so special. Still, Leo's is my favorite for how wildly different it is if you read it a second time after the other stories. 

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Adastra is what I read next. It's from the same team as Echo (the next couple are) but it is very different tonally. I thought it would be a decent cleanse after how raw Echo got, but while it mostly was, it's also emotionally complex. A lot of Echo Project works really nail a sense of uncertainty and touch on aspects of depression but filtered through scales much larger than the human experience. It's the easiest to recommend and the one most analogous to Minotaur Hotel (although MH touches on so many things I desperately wanted Adastra to touch on but never did. It's my current favorite for a reason.) The artwork is appealing, the setting is great, and the political drama is a lot of fun. It should be mainstream, but nudity and sex are unavoidable and I think that limited some of its audience. I'm being very vague because the less you know going in the better it is, but I will just say: political Space Wolf romance.

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Arches is the sequel to Echo, although you could hop in and read that without reading Echo since it has a different cast. The main characters have by far the healthiest relationship in any Echo Project game lol. It'd communicative and mature, but it will eventually be tested. Still, it's very early on. So far it's retaining Echo's focus on character over sexuality, which I can't say for:

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The Smoke Room. It's the prequel to Echo, but again you don't need to read Echo to enjoy it. It's set 100 years in the past and is actually written by a different team of people. It's very sexual. The main character is a prostitute after all. However, the cast is considerably more likeable than Echo's with just as much depth and mystery. It's good and I am basically in love with Murdoch because he made me cry lmao.

Okay, we're done with Echo Project works.

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Password by Grizz is currently my number 3 after Minotaur Hotel and Echo. It hits all of my sweet spots with a mystery house, light sci-fi used in a more fantastical sense, basically Scooby doo exploration of a single setting, and very sweet main character and interesting cast. There's one path that's been sexual, but its a major plot of that characters route and the main character coming to terms with it. It's does some very clever things with the format of a VN and also has one of my favorite soundtracks. A lot of the music is by Civ Valian, who did some of the original music for Minotaur Hotel! It's very chill and makes the story fairly cozy despite everything that's going on. It always feels like coming home.

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Finally there's Extracurricular Activities by Dynewulf. This is a weird one. It's ostensibly a tennis VN, but like Echo, each route takes on its own story and events, although unlike Echo there's not a greater narrative to weave in the background. It's by far the most sexual game, but it also earns that sexuality. Each route is 35 days long and it usually takes almost half that to get into the romance of whatever route you're on. It's one of the most consuming VNs I've read and I've yet to fully catch up. Like each route takes multiple full days of playing to get through, but they're often worth it. I've been so-so with Chester's route, but every other one has had something that's made it special. Whether it's exploring the considerably more intimate relationship with your best friend or the absurd addition of a full on D&D simulation in the relationship with the coach, this is a game bursting with creativity and joy of life. Because of how long each route is, they can be incredibly emotional. There's cliches and tropes, but there's so much more than that to balance it out. It's kind of separate from my rankings because of how attached I am to it despite it not being as easily recommendable as the others.

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I am going to bed now. I'll proofread whatever mess I wrote later lmao

I don't think there will be any surprises, although I can give a basic idea on why I like them. I guess my other question would be how okay are you with sexual content because there's a spectrum from text only and very rarely to like 30% of the content (although that one has over a million words so it's both more and less than you'd think.) None are exactly natural jumping-off points from Minotaur Hotel, although I have a feeling I could connect the dots since they eventually led me here. :P

Oh god, yes. Especially with the alternate route shit. But it also felt like a more complete chapter so I'm fairly happy with what we have right now. I'm so glad the cast is being expanded, too. I imagine we're going to be exploring everyone in that classroom at some point.

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Most of the VNs I follow are either taking breaks for November or on housecleaning chapters bringing routes up to the same page. I really want something meaty (yeah, yeah, phrasing) so I think I'm going to jump into Pervader in the next couple days and post thoughts here. I am very excited. 

Deltarune Chapter 2 was a considerable leap over Chapter 1. The amount of content was kind of ridiculous for being released for free, something certain developers here may know a bit about. It looks like it's going to be episodic, though, as Chapters 3-5 are releasing at once, but there are 7 chapters total. Still, it should go faster now that there's a team. The amount of spritework in the game was likely the result of having a team, too. It's so damn charming.

I think it's both entering the name and figuring out what's going on with Argos, but with how many playthroughs I've done trying different options I can't remember. It may be just entering the name.

Also it's unclear from your post, but if you haven't done the ruthless route yet I'd highly suggest checking it out. It's not what it seems and quite good.