Estimated reading time: 30 minute(s)

In 2005, a group called Insani, which translated both commercial and doujin (think indie) visual novel video games from Japanese to English, founded and coordinated the first al|together translation festival. At al|together, the team at Insani along with other talented translators translated many interesting doujin visual novels from Japanese to English with the consent and approval of the original creators. The festival was such a success that it was also held in 2006 and 2008, with many more visual novels that would have otherwise been little-read outside of Japan becoming available to English-speaking readers.

Here at The New Leaf Journal, I plan to review most of the visual novels that were translated for the three al|together festivals. With the exception of Narcissu, most of the visual novels are mostly forgotten here in the United States. All of the visual novels that I have looked at thus far are well-translated. A few are outstanding stories in their own right.

Screenshot from True Remembrance, a classic doujin visual novel translated into English by Insani in 2008
Screenshot from True Remembrance – arguably the crown jewel of the collection

In this post, I will go into more detail about the history of Insani and the al|together festivals, offer some context on Japanese visual novel translations over time, and list each of the impressive translations that came out of the festivals.

As I write articles about individual visual novels that were contributed to al|together, I will add links to this post pointing you to the new content. You can see the running series of reviews in our series category. I have also included a convenient list of completed reviews in this article.

What is a Visual Novel?

I will start with the basics for those of you who may not be familiar with visual novels. If you are already familiar with visual novels, you may gloss over this section.

A visual novel is a type of video game. Most visual novels feature still images of characters on backgrounds with dialogue. Consistent with the name of the genre, visual novels are something like books in game form.

Visual novels come in many forms and flavors.

Interactive vs Kinetic Visual Novels

Many visual novels involve player input beyond reading the story. The player may be called upon to make choices, complete mini games, click on-screen elements, use items, answer or not answer a phone, or gauge how much he or she trusts one character or another. Those are just some examples that I have come across over the years.

Other visual novels are kinetic. This is used to classify visual novels that invite no interaction from the player other than reading. Kinetic visual novels take the “novel” half of “visual novel” most seriously.

Among the al|together visual novels, we will encounter examples of both interactive and kinetic visual novels.

A Note on Sound Novels

Some visual novels are called sound novels. To be sure, I have never been entirely sure what constitutes a sound novel and how it is distinguishable from other visual novels. According to the video game site Giant Bomb, sound novels place a focus on reading over problem-solving and have a minimal visual presentation. That certainly describes the first visual novel I saw described as such, the Higurashi series – referenced once before here at The New Leaf Journal. With that being said, the Giant Bomb article notes that the sound novel category is not well-defined outside of Japan. A few of the al|together visual novels are described as sound novels by the translators, and I will note all such examples. However, for our practical purposes, I am more than comfortable placing the sound novels within the ambient of the broader visual novel category.

Branching Path Visual Novels vs Linear Visual Novels

Some visual novels have multiple paths, much like a “choose-your-own-adventure” story, while others have a linear, definite story. It goes without saying that kinetic visual novels are linear. Interactive visual novels may fall into both categories.

Many interactive visual novels have what are effectively linear stories. For example, the popular Danganronpa series (at least the first two entries) invites plenty of player interaction and puzzle solving, but they are ultimately much closer to being linear stories than branching path stories.

Others fall somewhere in between. For example, I reviewed Bad End here at The New Leaf Journal for Halloween 2020. Bad End technically has a large number of “endings” – but nearly all of these endings involve early deaths. The objective of the game is to avoid all those bad endings en route to the game’s true ending. Another visual novel that I reviewed, LoveChoice, presents multiple endings for each story, with one being clearly better than the alternatives.

Some more ambitious branching path games allow the player to see dramatically different stories based on his or her choices. Clannad, well-known and available on Steam, is a good example of a branching path visual novel wherein the player’s choices cause great variance in how a given play-through will transpire.

Many visual novels with more than one path include a “true ending.” That is, by completing certain conditions, a player may unlock the game’s true ending (usually the best of the endings).

The Meaning of “Doujin”

The term “doujin” is Japanese and refers to “a group of people who share an interest, activity, or hobby.” In the visual novel context, it generally refers to a visual novel created by an individual hobbyist or a small circle. For our purposes, you can think of a doujin visual novel as something similar to an indie video game in the United States. The idea is far from unfamiliar here, many American visual novels are effectively “doujin” projects.

Doujin visual novels are distinguishable from visual novels created by professional game studios, although some individuals who develop and write doujin visual novels may be professional in one respect or another.

All of the al|together visual novel translations were of free doujin visual novels from Japan. Furthermore, all of the translations were done with the consent, and in some cases cooperation,of the original creators.

Insani and the History of the al|together Festivals

Insani translated its last visual novels as a group in the autumn of 2008, closing the final al|together festival. Most of Insani’s website is still live, as are the websites for the three al|together festivals. With that, all of their translations are still available to download, although downloading some of the files can be an arduous process. Before examining the games that they translated and the significance of those translations, let us take a brief look at the history of Insani and the al|together festivals.

About Insani

Insani described itself as “a small unit focused on translating both commercial and doujin visual novels.” Insani translated both commercial and doujin visual novels. Its website includes several translations of commercial visual novel trials mixed in with complete doujin trials.

The Insani team organized the inaugural al|together festival in 2005, and it was the largest contributor of visual novel translations to the 2006 and 2008 festivals. In addition to translating visual novels, the team at Insani focused on mentoring less experienced translators in order “to give rise to a generation of ethical visual novel translators.”

Insani discussed its translation philosophy on its FAQ page. Insani stated that it did not focus on delivering “literal” translations. Instead, it sought to hew closely to the original spirit and structure of the Japanese while making it read naturally in English.

Below, you will find the Insani team-members as of 2008, listed on the Insani website:

  • Seung Park (co-founder)
  • Edward Keyes (co-founder)
  • Lee Massi
  • Irene Ying
  • Chris St. Louis
  • Erik Sjoberg
  • Nanatuha

About al|together

The al|together festivals were doujin translation festivals organized by members of the English-visual novel translation community. Although the About Page specifies “eroge translation community” – “eroge” refers to visual novels with sex scenes – the vast majority of al|together visual novels are not eroge. The About Page for the inaugural festival stated that the idea was prompted by Insani’s successful translation of Narcissu – which is today the only visual novel from the project that is available on Steam.

2006 produced the most translations of the three festivals. Insani itself was responsible for all of the contributions to the last al|together festival in 2008.

In going through the visual novel translations below, I will sort the contributions by al|together festival.

al|together Festival Home Pages:

Why Am I Doing This Project?

Screenshot from Flood of Tears, a 2001 Japanese doujin visual novel that was translated into English by Insani in 2006
The protagonist of Flood of Tears (see al|together 2006) asks Hina, the girl on screen, a question – what is it with whyever in the localizations?

These days, popular commercial visual novels from Japan are officially translated with regularity into English. Just a decade ago, Steam and other mainstream video game distributors and platforms had very few Japanese visual novels. Now there is no shortage.

The al|together festivals came at a time when officially translated Japanese visual novels in English were still relatively rare. Insani and the other translators who were involved were in the vanguard of Japanese-to-English visual novel translations.

Rediscovering an Important Project

With the exception of Narcissu, most of the al|together visual novels are little known in the United States today. This is unfortunate on two levels. For one, all of the visual novels submitted to al|together read very well in English – better than many contemporary commercial efforts. Secondly, while the visual novels themselves are of varying quality, much like visual novels released subsequently, a few of them are genuinely excellent and well-worth reading. Of the few that I have already played, I must single out the truly unique Crimsoness and the wonderful True Remembrance as visual novels that all visual novel fans, and many non-visual novel fans, should try. Thirdly, all of these visual novels were ethically translated with the full consent of their original creators, and they are sitting online for free waiting to be downloaded and read/played.

Through this project, I hope to introduce readers to a unique project from quite a few years ago and highlight some terrific visual novels that more people should read and enjoy.

If anyone involved with Insani or al|together sees this article, I hope that there is some way to make many of the games easier for people to find and download. What do I mean? I explain in the my upcoming section on downloading the stories..

Clearing My Own Backlog

Furthermore, I have been meaning to play many of these for years. Let this project be my excuse to stop procrastinating.

A Note on My Reviews

At the moment, I plan to review most of the visual novels listed here. I may opt not to review some that I listed for one reason or another. Furthermore, I have not tested all of the visual novels to ensure that I can run them without any issue through Wine (a Windows compatibility layer for Linux), so some attempts at reviews could be held up due to technical issues. One example is the three visual novels from al|together 2006 that require a Japanese-language environment to run, despite being fully translated into English.

Downloading the Visual Novels

Before finally listing the visual novels, I ought to insert a note about the process of actually downloading them.

All of the visual novel translations contributed to al|together are still available for download for Windows, and some are also available for Mac and Linux (I will note, as a Linux-user, that Wine handles all of the Windows versions just fine).

Some of the visual novels are still available as direct downloads. By this I mean one can click on the download link for the version that he or she wants and download the game directly from Insani or the applicable al|together site in seconds.

Other visual novels are available for download as torrents. This means that one downloads the torrent file for the game. That is step one. Step two is using that file to actually obtain the game files through a torrent client.

The torrent downloads are, to say the least, a bit hit-or-miss. One problem is that the amenability of a torrent to downloading depends in part on how many others have downloaded the full file. Many of the files were likely not oft-requested in the mid-2000s, and time has not improved the situation. I found that a few of the torrents downloaded almost instantaneously while others took me days, if not weeks, to download.

All but two of the al|together 2006 games are available as direct downloads, and a few of the 2008 games are as well. The rest are torrent files, and obtaining some of those games may require persistence. For those who are interested in any of the direct download games, I would recommend downloading them expeditiously to hedge against the chance that the al|together 2006 and 2008 sites go down at some point.

Listing the al|together Contributions

In the following sections, I will list all of the visual novels contributed to al|together, sorted by festival year. For each visual novel, I will note the original creator, the translator, and some brief facts about the game, as well as any personal notes or experiences downloading the games, as applicable.

Over time, I will review many of the visual novels here at The New Leaf Journal. Whenever I review a game on the list below, I will add a link to the corresponding article. In that way, this article will become something of an index to my content about the al|together visual novels in addition to a directory in and of itself.

Visual Novels Contributed to al|together 2005

The inaugural al|together festival, titled “Synaethesia Everywhere,” included nine visual novel translations. One of the translations included files for a Japanese version of the game. The other eight are the full games. Below, I will list each of the games. The full list as well as links to the download files are still available on the al|together 2005 website. The coordinator for the first al|together festival was Seung Park.

Screenshot from I, Too, Saw Dreams in Air, a doujin visual novel translated by Insani for the 2005 al|together visual novel translation festival
This striking gentleman is from I, Too, Saw Dreams in Air

Narcissu

Narcissu is without a doubt the most well-known of all the al|together visual novels in the United States. It was a success at the time as well, launching the first al|together festival.

Interestingly, there are two versions of Narcissu – each with a different translation.

I have been meaning to read Narcissu for years and have never quite gotten around to it. That is somewhat ironic in light of the fact that I decided to embark on this grand project. Well, let the project be my prompt to stop procrastinating.

Narcissu is a kinetic visual novel, and a dark one. Mr. Kataoka described it succinctly:

The modern day. Dark. A protagonist and a heroine. Both of whom die.

Narcissu is downloadable via torrent file. I obtained the exe file for Windows almost as soon as I started looking for the torrent.

Subsequent Narcissu Events

Narcissu has had a history beyond al|together. Two follow-up entries were released in 2005 and 2007. The first and second entries were licensed in the United States by Sekai Project, and are available on Steam. Sekai Project is also selling additional add-on content and is planning to remaster the first three entries in the series as well as a fourth entry in the United States.

In Japan, Narcissu was released for the Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable.

Until We Meet Again

Until We Meet Again is a very short kinetic visual novel. Its festival description notes that the backgrounds consist entirely of black and white photographs, against which the hand-drawn characters stand. All of the music and sound effects was drawn from free repositories.

Mr. Park began work on the translation at noon on September 5, 2005, and completed the translation 15 hours later.

I have not yet read Until We Meet Again, but I will review it in the near future here at The New Leaf Journal.

A Winter’s Tale

The festival page for A Winter’s Tale describes it as having “traditional ren’ai plot elements” – referring to “dating sim” visual novels. With that being said, however, A Winter’s Tale is a short visual novel with a single heroine, rather than with multiple. According to Visual Novel Database, the story does have brief branching paths, making it the first of the al|together 2005 entries to invite player input.

The festival description describes it as one of the “anchor” pieces of al|together 2005 and the first of the translations to be completed within the festival’s actual duration. In the assessment of the translators, the art and music were well done. “The characters are charmingly written enough, and the plot is pleasant if predictable.”

I have not yet played A Winter’s Tale, but I look forward to working through it and reviewing it here at The New Leaf Journal next winter. I managed to obtain the install file through my torrent client without too much difficulty.

A Midsummer’s Day’s Resonance

Mr. Park describes A Midsummer’s Day Resonance as “the most atypical piece” he had translated at that time. How so?

“I mean, any story that can mix broken cellphones, parallel (or was that barrel?) universes, a female protagonist (yes, they exist! really!) and a delicate tale of coming-of-age has got to be worth something, right?”

Mr. Park praised the original creator for her characterization and art work. Regarding the translation, he noted that the game posed an interesting challenge in that it was written in a very feminine voice, distinguishing it from most visual novels produced at the time.

Unsurprisingly, it comes with a “highly recommended” rating from Mr. Park.

A Midsummer Day’s Resonance is a kinetic visual novel that simply tells a story.

I have yet to play A Midsummer’s Day Resonance, but in light of the fact that my favorite anime film director is Makoto Shinkai and my favorite film is 5 Centimeters Per Second, Mr. Park’s description sounds interesting. You can look forward to my review this summer.

I do not recall having any great difficulty obtaining the install file for Windows.

The Poor Little Bird

The Poor Little Bird review published on May 5, 2021.

Described as the shortest of the al|together 2005 festival entries, The Poor Little Bird apparently tells the story of “a boy, his bird, and golden fruits.” Its page at Insani provides the following synopsis: “A little songbird goes on a journey in search of his friend who abandoned him…”

Its festival page praises its background images, noting that they look as if they come out of a picture book.

I recall that it took me some time to obtain the Windows installer for The Poor Little Bird.

Plain Song

The festival description for Plain Song describes it as “a piece about a lonely (and apparently unpopular) young musician and the quiet girl who listens to him every day.” The description praises the game for its minimal presentation, pleasent characters, and good soundtrack. This is the second of three Eno visual novels from al|together 2005, and the translators suggest that it may be the best of the three.

Plain Song is the oldest of the games translated in al|together.

I did not have any exceptional difficulty obtaining the Windows install file.

Plain Song Christmas Special

The festival page for Plain Song Christmas Festival notes that Eno was known for empathetic, subdued pieces. What then was this game? I quote from its festival page:

Imagine that one fateful winter vacation, this hitherto docile author snapped, and that from his furor was born a piece that is 90% self-parody, 100% slapstick, and 110% quick to play through.

That is nothing if not a description.

Io[ChristmasEve]

The festival does not include a full file for Io[ChristmasEve], but rather a patch for the original game. That means that in order to enjoy the translation, one had to download the original game in Japanese separately and then install the patch. At the moment, the site for the original game appears to be gone, so my prospects of being able to play and review this one look to be not the best at the moment.

I do, however, have the patch, so I will investigate whether it is possible to find the original game somewhere.

The festival description explains that the game is told from the perspective of one man, one woman, and one girl, and uses Beethoven’s 8th piano sonata as a backdrop. It is another kinetic visual novel.

If I manage to get all the parts together, I will definitely review this one here at The New Leaf Journal.

I, Too, Saw Dreams Through Air

I, Too, Saw Dreams Through Air consists of not one, but two short visual novels: The Caged Vagrant and Plumerai. While these stories are completely independent of one another, the festival page notes that they focus on the same theme. It praises the game for its dreamlike dialogue and art.

For those of you who download it, please note that installing the game creates a folder that contains within it files for running Plumerai and The Caged Vagrant. It was not the most readily available torrent for download, but with some time it is still there and accessible without too much difficulty. Although I missed the sixteenth anniversary of its release, I may make this story one of my earlier reviews for the project.

Visual Novels Contributed to al|together 2006

The middle al|together festival, “lumine claro,” was the largest of the three – featuring sixteen visual novel contributions. Perhaps of significance to today’s readers, fourteen out of the sixteen visual novels are still available as direct downloads – making them significantly more user-friendly than the torrent downloads for the 2005 stories. You can find the full list of thranslations on the festival page.

I will note that while the download situation for the al|together 2006 festival is significantly better than the situation for the 2005 festival, the descriptions of the games are far shorter.

Screenshot from Adagio, a Japanese doujin visual novel translated into English by Insani for the 2006 al}together translation festival
Screenshot from Adagio

A Dream of Summer

A Dream of Summer is a multi-path visual novel that takes about 3-4 hours to complete. Unlike most of the simpler entries submitted to the 2005 festival, it apparently includes mini games. How fancy!

The story is set in the third and final year of high school for the protagonist and features a boy who keeps his distance from close friends and a girl who is a loner in general.

A Dream of Summer is available for direct download and as a torrent file for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Most interesting, however, is that the game is available to play in web browsers at Freem (see link in the list above). Although Freem’s website is in Japanese, the browser game allows users to toggle between the Japanese and English versions at the start.

A Dream of Summer sounds like an interesting project, and the prospect of my reviewing it this summer is more than a dream.

Adagio

Adagio review published on June 9, 2022.

Adagio is described as a very short kinetic visual novel. We are told little more in the description than that a composer passes by an auditorium, and he sees a dancing performance in the audiorium that changes his life.

In an additional note, the festival page for Adagio expressly describes the story as “a short sound novel.” The very minimal visual presentation is in line with what I would expect from a “sound novel.”

Adiago is available as a direct download and as a torrent file for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

I will make Adagio one of the early reviews in this series.

At Summer’s End

The festival page for At Summer’s End describes it as follows:

A summer’s end, we move into new classes; the season changes into autumn; the leaves change color; but what of our friendships and our loves?

The description had me at the changing of the season from summer to autumn.

Visual Novel Database notes that At Summer’s End has brief branches but an ultimately linear plot. It, like Milk Cat’s A Dream of Summer (above), is set in high school.

I cannot help but note two things in the description. For one, the protagonist has quite the hair color. For two, while many of the other games with a seasonal-theme were originally released during the correct season, At Summer’s End was released in December. I notice these things.

I do plan to review At Summer’s End, but you will never know when to expect it.

Collage

Collage, unlike most of the visual novels thus far, features an adult protagonist. It has brief branches but in the context of an ultimately linear plot.

The festival page for Collage describes it as three people who are thrown together talking about events from their own perspective. The translator wrote a bit of a poem about the project:

Authors love stories – that’s why they write them. Translaters love stories – that’s why they translate them. We love stories – that’s why we’re sharing them. If you love stories too, here’s your chance to read them.

There is one note about reading this particular story. Collage is available as a torrent and direct download for Windows. However, it is the first of several 2006 submissions that requires a Japanese environment to run. Windows users can look up instructions for setting a Japanese environment to read the story.

If I can figure out how to configure Wine (my Windows compatibility layer) in a way to play Collage, I will review it here at The New Leaf Journal.

Insant Death! Panda Samurai!

Instant Death! Panda Samurai review published on May 27, 2022.

Some names for work of art are not meant to be taken literally. Others are. Panda Samurai is clearly meant to be taken literally. It is, in fact, about a panda samurai.

Panda Samurai is available as a direct and torrent download for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Panda Samurai appears to have a very unique visual style. I will certainly be reviewing it as part of my project.

Midsummer Haze

We are told that the protagonist, Kasumi, is a lazy schoolgirl who just wants to go shopping with her friends. Yet, for some reason, her friends are acting nervously around her. Mysterious. It would be more mysterious, perhaps, were the genre not described as “school romance.”

Midsummer Haze is apparently very short, but it nevertheless has unlockable routes and multiple endings.

It is available as a torrent and direct download for Windows, but it requires a Japanese environment to run. I do plan to review it after figuring out how to run it in Wine – perhaps during the middle of summer.

My Black Cat

My Black Cat is a story told from the perspective of a talking kitty, Don-kichi. Don-kichi, apparently, makes a discovery about his owner, Aki, that threatens their life together. Ominous.

The screenshots available at al|together and Visual Novel Database evince a very interesting-looking visual style to accompany the talking-kitty content.

My Black Cat is available as a direct download and torrent for Windows, Mac, and Linux. I will review it as part of my project.

Night of the Forget-Me-Nots

Night of the Forget-Me-Nots review published on October 29, 2021.

Having written about the history of how the forget-me-not flower earned its name, I could not help but be intrigued by the title of this contribution to al|together 2006. The description, however, suggests a less-than-flowery story.

Night of the Forget-Me-Nots is a horror visual novel set in a school trip in the spring. It is longer than most of the contributions to the al|together festivals, it seems, and has many endings.

Night of the Forget-Me-Nots is available as a torrent and direct download for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

OMGWTFOTL

Victor V. Gurbo has explained that The New Leaf Journal is a family site. For that reason, one need only survey the Visual Novel Database page for OMGWTFOTL to understand why I will not review it in the hallowed leaves of your favorite perennially virid magazine.

OMGTOFTL is described as a “lunatic visual novel” game featuring extreme violence and innuendo, not appropriate for persons under the age of 18 or those with delicate sensibilities. Nevertheless (and perhaps unsurprisingly), it does appear to have been one of the more-played entries in the al|together festivals.

While we will not review it here at The New Leaf Journal, it is available for those with more extreme tastes as a direct download and torrent for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Shooting Star Hill

Shooting Star Hill review published on March 3, 2022. Follow-up analysis article published on the same day.

The description for Shooting Star Hill sounds not at all unfamiliar to anyone familiar with anime and manga. The game features a quiet, aloof, girl who happens to be a loner. This loner, however, captures the attention of a young man when he discovers that she is a fan of the same British science fiction films that he loves.

It is available as a direct and torrent download for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Summer, Cicadas, and the Girl

Summer, Cicadas, and the Girl review published on June 19, 2022.

Summer, Cicadas, and the Girl is the third and final of the al|together submissions that require a Japanese environment to run. Like the first two, it is only available as a direct and torrent download for Windows. Did someone say cicadas?

Summer, Cicadas, and the Girl is a very short visual novel that apparently has multiple endings. We are told in the description that a boy arranges a date with a girl, but the girl fails to show up. The boy finds the circumstances peculiar, and he decides to investigate what happened.

I recommend viewing the festival page for the game for some interesting thoughts from Shii, the translator.

The world to reverse.

The festival description suggests that The world to reverse is one of the more unique contributions to the al|together festivals. It features two short stories, both of which sound quite dark and deal with psychological problems. The visual style, from the screenshots, is also quite unique.

The world to reverse comes with a 15+ age advisory, but I expect that I will review it at this time, pending my actually playing it.

It is available as a direct download and torrent for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

The translator, satsu, noted that he or she had no interest in visual novels generally, but came away quite impressed with the twisted World to reverse.

Visions from the Other Side

The thumbnail images for Visions from the Other Side feature Japanese priests and priestesses, crying, and just a bit of blood in one instance. The festival description errs on the vague side: “Here a dream, there a dream, and the shades of an otherworld that spreads beyond the gate of death.”

The character drawings look quite good. I am not too sure what to make of the limited descriptions. It is, unlike most of the 2006 crop, a kinetic visual novel dedicated exclusively to telling a story.

I will review it at some point as part of this project.

Wanderers in the Sky

The festival description for Wanderers in the Sky tells us that the game features a lost protagonist, forgetting what exactly it is that he is missing. The people in his life help him gradually remember. Lest one thinks that this is an inspiring story, however, Visual Novel Databse suggests some dark undercurrents. It does, apparently, have multiple endings.

Wanderers in the Sky is available as a direct download and torrent for Windows, Mac, and Linux. I will review it as part of my project.

Red Shift

Red Shift was one of two precursor submissions to al|together 2006. For that reason, it does not have its own distinct page on the festival site.

I played Red Shift many years ago, and although I remember it only in broad strokes, I do recall liking it well enough at the time. It is a bit longer than the shorter al|together submissions and is a kinetic visual novel.

It is touted as starring the most selfish boy and selfish girl in the world, and it does have some unexpected twists toward the middle and end of the story.

Red Shift is available as a torrent download for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Although al|together 2006 lists direct download links, they no longer work. This was perhaps the most difficult torrent for me to download, and it requires a good bit of patience.

I will re-read Red Shift and review it as part of my project this upcoming autumn.

Flood of Tears

Flood of Tears is the second precursor submission to al|together 2006, explaining why it does not have a designated page on the festival site. Like Red Shift, the direct download links no longer work, so it is only available via torrent. It was neither the easiest nor most difficult file to obtain for Windows.

I had planned to review Flood of Tears over the winter, but I changed plans and decided to fold it into a larger project. I have already played through one complete route and a good part of another.

Insani’s introduction to Flood of Tears intrigued me by comparing it to Kanon, a popular visual novel in Japan that was never officially localized in English. The two anime adaptations of Kanon are licensed in English, and the 2006 version is one of my favorite anime series.

While Flood of Tears certainly is not Kanon, I can see the comparison and I enjoyed the dialogue and character dynamics in the first of the two paths I completed. I agree wholly with Insani that it has great heart, and that heart makes its flaws forgivable.

Flood of Tears is very much a seasonal piece, so you can look forward to my review next winter.

Also notable: Flood of Tears is the second oldest of the al|together games (and one of only three that were originally released in 2001), having been published three months after Plain Song.

Visual Novels Contributed to al|together 2008

After having no 2007 festival, the translators came together for one final al|together in 2008, titled “Cross the Rubicon.” The final al|together was coordinated by Seung Park.

All six of the 2008 entries were submitted by Insani. Most of the 2008 entries are available via direct download. The festival site includes more commentary about the translations than either the 2005 or 2006 sites, making it an interesting and valuable resource. I will reserve discussion of the ancillary resources for when I cover the games here on site.

Title screen for Crimsoness, an incomparable 2007 Japanese doujin visual novel that was translated into English by Insani for the 2008 al|together festival
The title screen for the indescribable Crimsoness

From the Bottom of the Heart

From the Bottom of the Heart review published on August 22, 2021. Follow-up analysis article published on August 24, 2021.

I played From the Bottom of the Heart many years ago. To call it a short visual novel is not at all an overstatement – it lasts only a few minutes. It features a young man who only just left the hospital after being treated for a serious illness. He meets a young woman, and so goes the short story.

Crimsoness

Crimsoness lasts for three minutes. You, an enraged young lady in school, set out to destroy the world. But you only have three minutes. There is a running timer.

The entire game is drawn in red.

What can I say?

Crimsoness is a masterpiece. It defies all explanation. All one can do is applaud.

Despite the developer’s name being “Porn,” I can happily report that there is no porn at all. Only rage. In any event, Visual Novel Database reports that the developer’s name is “Pawn.” Perhaps a later change to alleviate confusion?

It goes without saying that I will absolutely review Crimsoness. I have been waiting to do so for nearly a decade. You can obtain it as a direct download for Windows.

The Letter

The Letter is a short, minimalist visual novel with brief branches and an ultimately linear plot. Its festival page describes it as a piece on “family” in a fragmented world – and states that it takes about an hour to read from beginning to end. Its visuals consist entirely of blurred stock photographs and free music, but Mr. Park had an overall favorable impression of the novel.

The Letter has been on my to-do list for many years, and I look forward to using this project as a prompt to finally read it and collect my impressions.

Moonshine

My impression from about 8-9 years ago was that Moonshine was one of the better known stories to come out of al|together among American players.

Moonshine is described as a story of two people who do not readily fit in Japanese society. Mai, an individual with some degree of gender dysphoria, and a protagonist, who loses his job and his means of supporting himself due to factors outside his control.

The story is described as having a linear plot and coming in at under two hours of reading. The production values seem impressive for a free visual novel project.

Moonshine remains available as a direct download for Windows and Mac.

Moonshine is another visual novel that has been on my to-do list for a while, and I look forward to reading it and most likely reviewing it here at The New Leaf Journal

May Sky

May Sky review published on May 31, 2022.

May Sky continues with the theme of societal misfits started with Moonshine. The festival page for the game states that it features a beginning salary-man who is riddled with malaise and cares little about anyone around him, and a young shrine maiden who is a bit depressed underneath her bubbly facade. Although the visual novel features choices, none affect the course of the story.

LEAVEs

The festival page for LEAVEs describes it as one of Insani’s most difficult translation projects, going through three translation attempts over four years. Thematically, it continues with the theme of societal misfits from Moonshine and May Sky.

LEAVEs is the second al|together visual novel that I will definitely not review for the project, in light of the fact that we are, as Victor V. Gurbo is wont to remind us, a family website. Those who are interested, however, can download LEAVEs directly for Windows and Mac, and the festival page for the story has plenty of content about what is a bit of an odd duck among the al|together entries.

Insani Translation of True Remembrance

One Insani doujin visual novel translation was not part of the al|together festivals. That translation, True Remembrance, is one of the finest visual novels that I have read, Insani or otherwise.

True Remembrance

True Remembrance is the only Insani translation that has its own website, so that is something. It is also the only free visual novel listed other than Narcissu to receive a console release – being made available for Nintendo 3DS in Japan in 2012.

The story exists against the backdrop of a mysterious depression pandemica, and its events take place within a city designed to isolate and ultimately cure sufferers. The protagonist, a high-level Mnemonicde who goes by Blackiris, is assigned to help a young woman named La.

I played True Remembrance years ago and still remember it fairly well in a broad sense. The story is quite humane and well-written, and the production values for True Remembrance are outstanding. It is an entirely kinetic visual novel, but it takes a few hours to read through.

I will review True Remembrance here at The New Leaf Journal in late 2021 or early 2022.

The direct download link on the True Remembrance site does not work at the moment, but the torrent download is still available.

The Insani Demo Translations

Visitors to Insani’s website may note that there are a number of translations listed other than the al|together submissions and True Remembrance. For the most part, I will not be reviewing the demo translations. There are a few that I will single out for additional mention.

Insani’s website has a trial translation and retail edition patch for Planetarian. Planetarian is a beautiful tear-jerker of a visual novel by Key, the team behind Kanon, Clannad, Little Busters, and more. I note it here because Planetarian is today available on Steam and for several consoles (I know that it is downloadable for Nintendo Switch). I highly recommend it, and I may discuss it here on site someday.

The one demo that I do plan to discuss in some detail on site someday is True Tears. True Tears, as I understand, is a relatively traditional (and non-adult) multi-path dating sim that never received a full English localization. My interest in True Tears is not the game itself, but rather its anime adaptation, which I understand did not really adapt the underlying source material at all so much as go in its own direction. Down the line, I will do a project on different ways of adapting source material from visual novels and video games into another medium, and I will include a discussion of True Tears in that piece.

Completed Reviews

Below, you will find a running list of links to all of my completed reviews and essays on the visual novels (listed in alphabetical order).

Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed my lengthy introduction to the al|together festivals and Insani. I look forward to actually discussing the individual visual novels here on site over the next few months. While I will update this post as I add entries to the series, the best way to stay on top of my project is my referring to the series archive.