Land of the Setting Sun

a Horror by TheChef

Commended by mizal on 12/14/2019 10:37:27 PM

Player Rating5.60/8

"Too few ratings to be ranked"
based on 16 ratings since 11/19/2019
played 132 times (finished 13)

Story Difficulty6/8

"wandering through the desert"

Play Length5/8

"Not going to lose any sleep"

Maturity Level6/8

"I'll need to see some identification"
Some material may be inappropriate for persons under age 16. If this were a movie, it would probably between PG-13 and R.

My entry for Gower's Contest: Battle in the Ruins of a Dead Civilization

Explore the not-so-uninhabited ruins of Japan, after it had been completely annihilated in World War Two.  Fifty years later, the travel ban is lifted, and James and his crew may be the first people to get a peek into this relic of a country.  However, expect the unexpected, for James and his crew are not the only residents of the Land of the Setting Sun!

Hope y'all enjoy it!  Please leave a comment, any feedback would be much appreciated!

V.2 - 183% less POV and tense errors, partly in thanks to the help of Shadowdrake27 and Mizal.  Thank you both!

Player Comments

This was an interesting premise for a storygame -- an alt-history present in which all of Japan was nuked into obliteration at the end of WWII, not just Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But I struggled to maintain interest because the story took far too long to build interest, and too much of the writing failed the basic tenet of "show, don't tell."

I did like that the characters were distinctly drawn, and that there were some interesting details plugged in here and there to help me remember who was who, and to experience a little of the flavor of some of the exotic locales mentioned.

However, the story began in a dull place -- reading an email -- and then proceeded to describe at length the logistics of getting to Japan: meeting your "team" at the airport, going through Chinese customs, picking which boat to take. The act of making landfall in the ruins of Japan doesn't happen until late in the story, by which time I've already made up my mind about what I think about the story in general.

Another issue with the set-up is that there are no stakes involved. The original purpose for going to Japan is to take pictures, which is supposedly interesting because no one has been allowed to go there since the war. The mystery of what you find when you arrive is introduced far too late.

And while the characters are given distinctive traits, very few of them have a clear tie to the story -- and this comment is especially directed to the "team" that assembles at St. Louis. Dr. Blythe organizes the expedition, but plays less and less of a role as the story progresses. The Mongolian chick is inserted as an obvious potential love interest. And Aubrey? He is described as a "hit man," because obviously photography expeditions are run like mafia jobs. If these people think Japan has been uninhabited since the 1940s, why bring any muscle at all?

The only characters with a clear and undisputed need to be on this expedition are the two Japanese gentlemen, because of their obvious desire to see their ancestral home. But herein lies a lost opportunity: in this alternate timeline where all of Japan has been fried, what is the story of those Japanese who survived? Where were they in 1945, and what have they and their families been up to since that time?

A good example of what I'm talking about can be found in this passage:

"It became easier to speak to him, and we talked for a while, about our homes, and about our dreams. He’d been attached to the hip with Itaki for years, helping him through depression and the loss of his heritage. Ogasawara was always a traveler, with no home to speak of, and was born after the bombs dropped. Itaki, however, was a young child when it occurred, stranded in China as his home country faced annihilation. Someone had decided Itaki would not pay for his country’s mistakes, but Itaki felt differently."

So there is a lot of good information in there, but it's "told" as an info-dump of exposition, not "shown" as a natural bit of dialogue between the characters, in which Ogasawara and Itaki tell their stories in their own voice. Unfortunately, too much of the story is told as exposition, making me feel removed at arm's length from the story.

As for the main character, I should point out that being a photographer for a newspaper is hardly an adventurous profession anymore. (How many people on this site even read newspapers?) And getting "footage" is a reference to movie making, not still photography.

But there was a fatal flaw when in order to keep the story going, I had to make the choice to sacrifice some nameless sailor to the creature just to save my own skin. At that juncture I was deducting points from my planned rating, and I skimmed through the remaining pages, because I really didn't give a rat's ass as to what happened after that point. I had lost all sympathy for the protagonist.

I realize that this is a boatload of criticism, and so I feel the need to qualify all of this with the statement that I sense potential in the writing, and Chef's interest in storytelling is apparent. I do look forward to seeing what he comes up with next.

-- Bill_Ingersoll on 12/1/2019 10:49:36 PM with a score of 0
A very interesting game! Sort of a historical fiction combined with a present day (ish) adventure that takes place after an altered history. I really enjoyed the setup and the game; I did have some issues with it though. Spoilers start now so read the game first.

First of all, the characters were all well done and very memorable. I related to each one, and was sad when anyone died. I feel like this is really important in this type of story—well done! The main character was very well done and relatable as well. I also loved how much sense the choices made in terms of why YOU were the one making it. Usually they small group was split evenly, and you were the “deciding vote” this made the story and choices seem way more real!

The game had two main branches that greatly changed the outcome and events. This was good, but left me wondering if the two were reared at all. Some elements were common among the two, but there was an entire creepy faction that disappeared in one. There was also not very many answers in one—sort of like a no matter what you do you are dead scenario. I liked the story heading with the newer ship better. If the other branch was the only one, I would be frustrated with every ending.

The game was very harrowing! My favorite part of the whole story was the one where you don’t make the flight. In that version another reporter goes to japan, and seeing his picture the main character simply says he is glad the didn’t go. That made me so nervous to take the other path, it was great! Everything was pretty creepy, and no two deaths were exactly alike. I believe the “fail paths” were more well done than most of the “full ending” ones. This is only because most felt like a quick death ending despite being the farthest path you could take.

None the less, it was a very good horror that kept you in the dark while having the choices all make sense. The lack of info on anything in the endings may even add to the creepy effect of the story, But I like to have answers. To me it felt like even the author didn’t know why everything was happening, so he just killed everyone off before they got an explanation. Again, to someone who likes the horror genre this is probably a good thing.

The branch that I liked (with the strange doomsday settlers) felt like a more complete story with a plot. You either were killed by the faction, or beat them. When you beat them you got some limited answers, ended the threat, and lived to tell the tale. It felt more complete to me. That may have been the point though—to only have one “full” ending. This ending was scary, and get like a well thought out phycological thriller.

So that is my opinion on the story. Here is some technical/ writing things:

-General- minor grammar/spelling errors (example “smalling” should be “slamming” on pg question the scavengers) there were a lot of these misspellings.

- General- “Of course” was used a lot, sometimes feeling repetitive.

-Pg flying with chickens- tense change in 1st paragraph

-pg Miyazaki- you call “Qara” “Mara” on this page

-General -very description language, but sometimes it was over done. If you can take out words and quicken the pace during action scenes do it! They don’t have to run “ridiculously fast” in combat. You can just say a stronger verb like “charge” and let the reader get the impression. Example on page lost when the group gets a “ridiculous head start” I would go with either just a head start, or that they were hard to see, or just jump to “they were difficult to follow in the rain”.
-- Shadowdrake27 on 11/11/2019 12:06:28 PM with a score of 0
Not enough choices to significantly change the story.
-- Quorrah on 9/29/2020 11:24:31 AM with a score of 0
It was great to finally be able to sit down and read this one in its entirety after being interrupted or not able to focus enough during previous attempts. Land of the Setting Sun is now on my short list of first person things that don’t annoy me, and between this and Gower’s games maybe I’m even starting to warm up to that POV.

Alternate history is fun enough on its own, and this was a unique take on prompt unlike anything else we got from the contest. (Pretty unique for the site as well, with Horror and Modern Adventure both being a couple of the weaker categories.)

Hmm, this horror story mentions an hours long trip on a Greyhound bus on the very first page. Foreshadowing?

Technical aspects I’ll just touch on quickly. The POV issues have been cleaned up, and this is otherwise in great shape from a proofreading standpoint. I only spotted three typos in my entire read through. There’s also a nice amount of branching; there’s a lot of gauntlet style choices, but those are part of two completely different paths that split near the beginning.

The scavengers path was the first one I wound up on. I think this was actually the ideal order to read in, because having the first encounter with the black dust when there had been no previous hint of it was far and away the creepiest ending for me. Unfortunately I just wasn’t feeling most of the rest of the endings, the scavengers themselves never gained more detail than being ‘the scavengers’, and the actual villains and what they were up to felt pretty random and flat compared to the rest of the story. Like, very one note and they just didn’t mesh well with the rest. The transformations would’ve genuinely made more sense and been just as effective if they had some kind of supernatural cause or if it simply turned out radiation worked just like in comic books...you know, something that followed more naturally from visiting the haunted, irradiated ruins of Japan than stumbling upon the HQ of a random B-movie villain.

Likewise, you know, you make the MC a journalist, you give him a camera...make the camera actually useful for something. Such as saving his life in a way that seems more fitting for what’s been established as a pretty compassionate, possibly pacifist, anti-war guy than deliberately throwing another person at a monster to save himself. (Particularly when a couple of the other endings don’t show him as having a super high sense of self preservation...) It didn’t ruin the story for me as much as it did for Bill, but it was a pretty out of character feeling moment, made doubly annoying when it turned out to be the only way to proceed, and seemed like a waste of an opportunity to use the special quality of ‘guy who uses camera as a matter of instinct’ that only the protagonist had in a plot relevant way.

The Tokyo path brought more answers about the black dust to light, or at least made its origin clear.

I don’t quite follow the chalkboard ending. You’re somehow given control of the shadows there? But who is the man and for what purpose? That was a part that really needed a little buildup or some prior hints to not come out of nowhere. Could’ve literally been God or Satan you took an offer from, it’s that open for interpretation. Maybe that was the intention, but it’s still abrupt and the result is unclear...although I’m tentatively filing it away as a good ending, because the Tokyo path needs at least one.

Obviously I know the deadline was the cause, but I kept encountering elements of this story that really felt like they wanted to be longer. The ‘Cold happens, everyone dies’ ending felt like it may have been tacked over the place where a whole nother path was planned. And five major non-protag characters are a lot to juggle in any story, but especially in one this size that also has to account for branching. Everyone is introduced with all these details about them--Blythe’s eccentricity, Ogasawara and Itaki’s strained friendship--that seem like they’ll develop into something more or otherwise become important, but ultimately there’s just no time for it to happen. Qara feels like she doesn’t have a whole lot to do. Aubrey probably works out the best just because it makes sense that he’s not overly talkative, and he has plenty to do. (The ending where he kills was hilarious by the way.)

Why did Blythe *not* want to talk about Ganbataar, by the way? There’s a couple of fat paragraphs that summarize the fact you tried to talk to him after the incident with the other ship, but nothing ever comes of it. It could probably be cut entirely or at least trimmed down--as I read this spot in particular stuck out as something that needed to be broken up with at least a line of dialogue or something. Showing, not telling and all that.

There weren’t more than one or two other places where the ‘telling’ seemed overboard at all, which is a feat to be proud of in itself with first person past tense. The prose here is strong and for the most part the protag is likable and relatable. Just sucks he’s in a horror story because as expected, there didn’t seem to be many opportunities to get out of it alive.


TYPOS

The small town of Miyazaki was teeming with unseen life, lurking under various rubble and collapsed wildlife.

One of the men opened the warped metal doors open, like the entrance to a shipping container.


“The only thing that keeps me thinking is how someone could’ve possibly moved Itaki without anyone noticing. Honestly, I think he left on his own.” he concluded.

Cries began to rise from the front of the ship as one of the cres shuddered and collapsed onto the deck, scattering little ice particles.
-- mizal on 12/16/2019 11:10:52 PM with a score of 0
I enjoyed this story very much, primarily because I connected very well with the characters in it.
-- TheCanary on 11/7/2019 8:51:23 PM with a score of 0
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