(This post was supposed to go up a year ago…but I never finished it off. Since I picked this game as my favourite PSP game of 2014, I thought I should finally post it!)
I got a huge package of games (6 games!!) at the beginning of Feb which was very exciting (who doesn’t love getting packages?), and the first one I played was Shinobi Koi, Utsutsu. I debated for a few minutes, because I also got Arabian’s Doubt and Edgeworth Investigations 2. But I knew Ninkoi (the game’s nickname which is a combo of the alternate reading for shinobi, like in ninja, and of course Koi as in love) would be fun, and relatively quick. And I cannot resist the art; I just love this artist’s style so much.
And I was right! It took me a little over a week to finish it, and that’s while working more than full-time. So, here’s my review of Shinboi Koi, Utsutsu!
Plot: Katagiri Kaede is a young woman in the 1700’s (I think? historical Japan about a 100 years after Oda Nobunaga anyways) who was orphaned very young and brought up by her grandmother until she passed away. Now she works at a restaurant and attends the town ninja school. In this alternate history, ninja, led by Sanada Yukimura, played a key role in the defeat of the Yoritomo shogunate a hundred years ago, and ninja are respected as warriors. It’s even very common to have ninja school, the most famous being the Sanada Koutou Shuurenin school, still controlled by the Sanada clan and attended by the richest and most elite students.
It’s Kaede’s dream to attend this school and after graduation, join the Sanada Yuushitai, an elite ninja group who protect the shogun. She has a fairly clear memory from when she was very young – she was travelling with her parents when they were attacked by bandits, who killed her parents. They were about to kill her as well when a mysterious ninja appeared and saved her. He also apologized for not getting there in time to save her parents, but she’s always felt extremely grateful and wishes she could thank him. This event became her inspiration to train as a ninja and hopefully one day join the Sanada Yuushitai.
She’s hoping to save up enough money to apply to the famous school by working at the restaurant, but one day she gets a break. A thief steals a customer’s wallet, and she chases him outside and uses her ninja skills to catch him. This catches the eye of an older gentleman who finishes the capture, and then introduces himself as the Vice Principal of the ninja school. He notices something special in her, and invites her to join the school as a scholarship student.Kaede doesn’t know what he sees in her, as she knows she doesn’t have much skill, but she’s not going to let this chance go by, and she agrees.
The next scene is her entering the school, where she meets the Vice Principal again, who tells her that the Principal has agreed to let her in. The conditions are that in six months, on the midterm exam, she must obtain a grade of excellent (or kou), the highest of the three possible grades. And because she’s ‘just’ a poor scholarship student, she can’t expect to have a partner the way regular students do, so she’ll have to get this grade on her own.
While they’re talking, some students notice the new face and approach her. They are the game’s heroes, all from well-known ninja families:
During the conversation, Kaede gets really embarrassed when someone (probably Anayama) flirts with her, and suddenly a cloud of pink smoke erupts around her. All the guys including Sanada are caught in the smoke and suddenly turn into Romeos, saying how cute she is and not paying attention to anything except her. When it wears off, they’re all horrified at how they acted and that they, all good students, were unable to resist.
Sanada feels sorry for her plight, and he arranges it so she can pick any of the five boys as her partner to help pass her trials (once you’ve played one route you can also pick Sanada).
Once you’ve picked, the route splits and you start training.
There are two things I love about this game that I think make it stand out (I love the art and seiyuu but I could say that for most otome games.)
One is the hook of Kaede’s mysterious power, which is both amusing and shows what the guys are really thinking near the end of the routes. It’s interesting to speculate whether what they say ‘under the influence’ is ALWAYS their true feelings, though I think it’s at least amped up quite a bit at the beginning.
The other is Kaede’s true singlemindedness and humbleness without being a martyr, which I find a little rare in otome games. Kaede jumps at the chance to attend the school, though she doesn’t think she really belongs there. She doesn’t get down on herself when jealous fangirls tell her she doesn’t fit in, because she knows that already. She doesn’t care what people say about her, or if they prank her, because she’s going to take any chance she gets to train at a high level and become an elite ninja. Her power also gives her a plausible reason to not think that the guys are interested in her without the way-too-common “heroine has low self-esteem”, which honestly I’ve experienced enough to last five lifetimes (the regular “Oh, he couldn’t like me, he’s too good for me!”)
I really enjoyed all the routes, and I’m really happy that the PS Vita version coming out in a few months will have new character routes, including one for Kuroudo’s brother, who’s in this one already, and Hattori Hanzou.
Here’s a promo movie for the new version:
I can’t wait! It will also have some new material for the existing routes, so it fulfills my wish for a fandisk pretty well.