As you can guess by the title, I’m not impressed by Solomon’s Ring. When it first showed up in the magazines, I was surprised because the release date was only about 3 months away. I thought for sure that it would get delayed. Now, delays are annoying when you’re looking forward to games (ahem, Ozmafia!) but I don’t mind them so much, because if they don’t push things off, they might end up with products like this. To be frank, Solmomon’s Ring has a really shallow story and characters, poor art design, and only functional gameplay.
The heroine, Lily, works in a library that she inherited from her grandfather (her parents died when she was young). I thought this was interesting (although I also thought it was historical but apparently it’s not), but it has no bearing on the plot so it doesn’t matter much. We open on the scene of her grandfather dying. On his deathbed, literally with his last words, he gives a ring to her and tells her she’s the descendant of the magician king Solomon, and that she has to protect the world from demons using the ring. Then he dies (I guess he knew exactly how much energy he needed to tell her and then waited until the last possible second because of some unknown reason).
Lily puts away the ring for a year, then one day feels like wearing it for some reason (she doesn’t mention the Solomon stuff, I guess she thought her grandfather was senile or something). She goes to work at the library, and three new visitors are hanging around – all young handsome men. They all approach her and start talking to her, calling her ‘Solomon’s daughter’. She mostly ignores them.
That night she has a dream (this is where you choose what route to go into) of being attacked by monsters, and saved by one of the men. The next day this actually happens, and she finds out that all three men are actually demons, and they want her power/the ring’s power, for various reasons. The one she picks stays with her and they encounter some monsters, and as they beat them down (the ring can seal them and absorb their power once they’re beaten), they grow closer. Then near the end they eventually have to face the king of demons, Lucifer, who wants to take the powered-up ring as well as the heroine’s powered-up soul.
Many otome games can be summarized in roughly similar terms. The issue is that it feels like the whole script for the game isn’t much longer than this blog post. Almost all the plot and relationship development happens offscreen (like, they talk about battles after showing you a couple blows, and they mention that the hero and heroine had long in-depth conversations without actually showing them). There are almost no scenes where you learn more about the characters, they’re incredibly cardboard. Sometimes I complain about scenes that are too wordy or long (*cough*QuinroseorHakuouki*cough*), but this is ridiculous. It’s like someone had an outline for an otome game, and instead of getting someone to then write a script from that outline, they added a couple lines of dialogue for each planned scene, and then put a few summarizing paragraphs in between.
Also, the art is barely acceptable. I’m pretty forgiving on art, I like to see different styles and try not to let pretty art distract me from gameplay. But in this game, though the tachi-e(the regular dialogue scene pictures) are ok, the CGs are actually worse than the tachi-e. And though some of the tachi-e are good, some are weird. Like. there’s one pose that Asmodeus (a waste of Konishi Katsuyuki’s voice IMO) does, where he spreads his arms out really wide, almost at shoulder-height. They use this pose for way too much and it doesn’t work, the only time it works is when he’s actually blocking something. It’s distracting. Plus, there are very few CGs, I’d estimate around 5 per route. To be fair, if it was fanart I’d think it was pretty good. But for professional work it doesn’t pass muster.
This CG is not good. And it’s used multiple times.
The music is decent I suppose, I didn’t notice it much to be honest.
Most things I can forgive, but the multiple writing problems – the extreme bare bones scenes, the lack of character development, the very paint-by-numbers feel of the plot – made me notice the other problems like the art more, and really, even though the game is cheap, it’s still not really worth it. By the end of it I cared about none of the characters, I actually was more interested in Lily’s friend Alisha’s romance than I was in the main plot – and this is a romance that is mentioned in about three lines total.
It really really feels like a mobile game that was meant to be released in chapters. And even though I also dissed Koisentai(which actually was originally a mobile game), and this game is full voice whereas one of Koisentai’s major issues was that it wasn’t, I would still rather play Koisentai anytime, and I think it’s more worth your money than this.
As I said, it’s too bad because the voice actors are good, and the premise is interesting at least.
I am going to play the other two routes (may as well, it’s one of the shortest games I’ve played), but unless Asmodeus’ route was a total anomaly, I feel safe in emphatically NOT recommending Solomon’s Ring. I’m not buying the other games, even though there are three more coming out, Wind, Water, and Earth. It actually makes me doubt how good Double Score is going to be, because they’re both from the production company Asgard. But at least that game seems to have better art…
I finally got through the introduction, which admittedly wasn’t that long compared to games like Hakuouki. But that creepy teacher really annoyed me. Apparently Mizuchi can only have one minamo (what? I thought they all had lots??) so Mikoto has to have a hanafuda battle with his current one, who is a total asshole (of course) and totally fixated on him (of course).
At first Mikoto doesn’t want to, but the teacher goads her into trying.
I’m trying out the teacher because he suggested I train. Of course, I save before choosing.
He gives some more detailed info on stats and tournaments. I reload and go to Momose to see what she has to say instead. She mentions that the fifth Light, Utsutsu, disappeared right after he became a light, which is interesting, though I knew that from the magazines. I’m looking forward to his route the most, actually, he seems the least likely to annoy me.
Then I ask about minamo, and here’s where my blood pressure goes up. Minamo have to be virgins; as soon as you lose your virginity you lose your power as a minamo. However, apparently as long as ‘it’s’ still in place it’s ok. Huh??? I guess women who didn’t have one to begin with, or who broke theirs through non-sex methods don’t exist? Or somehow your power knows when you’ve had sex? But apparently it just cares about the hymen (Momose says ‘some girls’ do other stuff but are still minamo), so…anal sex then? Whatever. I give that particular aspect a pass and try to forget about it. Only to be reminded that though sex is bad for minamo, the closer in romantic terms you are with your Light the more powerful you become as a support. So, like, you need to get close, but not too close? (Cause then you’re a no-good ho-bag, amirite??)
ANYWAYS. Let’s move on. She confirms that each Light only has one minamo, except for Kurenai because he hasn’t decided on one yet. She also says that after graduating, the best students in the game go on to work for the emperor, and most end up in government jobs. This makes me wonder, do they still have their minamo there? Are their minamo doomed to be virgins forever if they need their power? Hopefully I’ll know some of the answers by the end of this post.
I finish talking to her and encounter Aoi(meangirl) in the hallway. The teacher comes after and reminds me that if I win, she’ll have to leave the school. Which annoys me again because, if Aoi is a powerful minamo, why wouldn’t another guy want her? Or is she ‘used goods’ and thus not deserving of a spot at this school anymore?
I’m not using a guide, so I kind of jumped randomly around after this. I visited Mizuchi in the 2nd-year hallway but he told me to basically GTFO because 1st and 2nd years aren’t allowed to hang out together at school (odd rule but ok), and he is all about following the rules.
Then I go to the greenhouse where Mizuchi is watering plants (with his power I think) and I fall down and he very reluctantly carries me to the doctor, worrying all the while that he’s ‘dirtying’ me by touching me. Yup.
After I recover from his screaming fangirls, I decide it’s time to level up, so I head over to the teacher’s room and proceed to kick my way through several opponents. This is the fun part – the game is based on an actual game that I’ve only played a korean version of (maybe after this I’ll get better at it?) where there’s a special deck with various pictures on them, that make up various sets. Depending on which sets you end up with in your hand and play, the point value is different. In this game, it affects the attack value. Of course, the special oni card that chose you makes your attacks stronger than others at the same level, so it’s not too hard. The interface looks confusing at first but it’s quite helpful, showing you what potential hands you have and making the decision-making fairly easy. There are lots of practice battles you can do, and once in a while someone challenges you, and if you win you add a card to your deck.
I spent a couple hours doing that (what can I say, I’m an RPG-er at heart), and then continued on. There was an event with Aoi where she’s a jerk to you in front of Mizuchi and he scolds her, which was a bit satisfying. Until he leaves and she says it’s your fault and slaps you as hard as possible, which has a painful-looking CG. Of course the heroine doesn’t do anything, just looks like she’s going to cry, all the other girls blame you, and I turn off the game for the night.
…Actually no, I did manage to get through that scene, which had some redemption at the end. Aoi is obviously the ‘psycho girlfriend’ stereotype that we all know and love, I can’t wait to see how she attacks the heroine.
…(10 minutes later): I was right, she does attack the heroine but she’s possessed by a monster while doing so (encouraged by her weak spirit of course).
So for the first chunk of playtime, I’m not sold on this at all yet, although the card game is a lot of fun. Mizuchi is fine, I hope the heroine gets to know him much better in the next chunk of playtime I do.
I finally finished a game, yay! I was looking forward to Glass Heart Princess a lot for some reason, I think part of it is that it’s one of the few totally new titles in my recent history. And when I realized that there was gameplay other than visual novel style, I was determined to pick it up as soon as possible.
I was able to find a guide for it at love voice, the only one I saw. I really needed it too, especially for Shinnosuke (the butler).
The premise is that you’re an accomplished, lovely, rich student in your last year at an exclusive high school. Everyone loves you, your father dotes on you, you have an otaku maid who’s sarcastic and awesome, and a devoted butler who is willing to go to ANY lengths to protect you.
One summer’s day you’re being served tea in your vast gardens, as you do, when you have a sudden heart palpitation and pass out. You wake up in the hospital and are told that you have a rare disease called Glass Heart Syndrome. If you can’t strengthen your heart against tokimeki, you won’t live out the year.
Luckily, you’ve never been in love, so you have a (relatively) easy way of toughening up your heart – fall in love, go on dates, and train to up your ‘heartbeat limit’ all the while.
The first thing you have to do is pick your partner. The first draft pick is the school bad boy, Karasuma Yuikito (CV: Suzuki Tatsuhisa), who’s secretly a famous cat burglar. The second is the well-liked teacher, Asahina Tenma (CV: Hatano Wataru), who’s secretly a vampire mafia boss (yup). Your ‘last’ chance, if you miss these two, is Hoshino Kanata (CV: Miyata Kouki), an android from outer space visiting earth to gather data on it. And finally, if you miss all three, you have a chance at the true end, your devoted butler with a gun fetish and mercenary history, Masaki Shinnosuke (CV: KENN). There’s also a hidden character, a much younger ‘betrothed’ – I got his happy end but there didn’t seem to be much to it.
Once you ‘choose’ someone by having Cupid shoot his arrow at you during one of these encounters, you ask them out in various ways and can then choose a date every week. Leading up to the date is your training time, where you can train physically to up your max heartbeats, train in love to increase your love-intelligence (by studying shoujo manga and romance), and rest. At first you have only one activity for each of these categories and the training goes slowly, but you learn more training methods as you go. The only route I didn’t follow a guide for was Hoshino, where I just did one of each activity a week, and that seemed to work fine.
Once you get to the new year, if you’re still alive you then go into the route of the person you have a high enough score with (each date has a score e.g. Excellent is the best, then Sweet, Good, and Not Bad). There aren’t many choices here, but it’s the longest continuous story part.
I enjoyed it, but honestly the routes felt pretty short except for Shinnosuke’s, who I totally think is the true end. His is also the ‘hardest’ to get, since if you date him from the beginning, you don’t get some of his events.
I think the dates, though they’re fun, were very short, especially the beginning ones. There are also random events during the week where you walk home with your guy and discuss things with him, but it was very random – sometimes it only happened once a route. You can choose to visit your tea party friends during the week to get conversation topics, but it feels like a waste if you don’t get to use them (but at least it doesn’t take up a training slot).
Overall Shinnosuke was my favourite. Though they were all fun, his route was the longest and the relationship felt the most real – they even had a lot of backstory between him and the heroine. Even in his route though, it felt a little rushed. I would have enjoyed a longer in-between stage, where he isn’t sure of his feelings, or even after he realizes, before the external drama comes up and moves the conflict outside of the relationship.
I did really enjoy the lightheartedness of the story, and one thing that’s great is the small touches that (really) mostly add to Shinnosuke as a character – he’s had all this special training, and when you get to a certain level sometimes ‘guest’ trainers come on – and they’re all characters from past Otomate games. You don’t see them but they’re fun references. They also show up in the end of his route with their voices, and that’s great – I was wondering why Sugita Tomokazu was playing a bit part as the doctor, lol, I guess they had them fill in some small roles as well.
Also, in each route, you have a special New Year’s dream. In Japan it’s said that the first dream you have in the New Year is lucky or unlucky depending on what it is. Well, in this game, you dream of your guy, but in the setting of an Otomate game – though they don’t say the titles it’s very obvious which ones they are. And then you wake up and see that you were playing a game before you fell asleep
Overall I think this game is fun, but I don’t know if I’d recommend it 100%. There are other games I’d rate higher, but this is quite fun, and the art is great as well.
Hey everyone! I wrote this two weeks ago and forgot about it, so since I have no time right now to write a post (though I really need to do a news post!!) I’ll put this up. This game is R18 so beware.
Read the rest of this entry »
So, 24ji no Cinderella, yeah? (pretend that’s in a cockney accent) Or its official title, 24ji no Kane to Cinderella ~Halloween Wedding~. Even though I worked overtime a bunch this week, I went through all the characters! Only the best endings though (and one ‘good’ ending). Each character has a pivotal point where you can choose to stop investigating the central mystery of the game, and if you do, you don’t end up as lovers, though the one good ending I did, there was still a possibility.
As I said in the preview, Rosaria is Odette’s older stepsister (from 12ji no Cinderella), who in this game, is shown to be much more unsure and worried about Odette than she appears in 12ji. It all fits with her actions from the previous game, but Quinrose is really good at showing a new perspective and it really changes how Rosaria (and Odette, when you don’t see her inner thoughts) comes across. You also get a new viewpoint on Sirius, who I like just as much, but he seems much more mysterious and magician-like herel. Overall, I was really impressed by how they went through the same time period as 12ji but without retconning anything (of course, they were planning this game already, but they did a good job anyhow), and without boring us, even though we’ve seen all the major events already.
I liked all the routes, although I felt that Rosaria’s fiance’s, Linus, route was the weakest. It felt like it needed more story to explain how they fell in love with each other. At the start I wasn’t sure if I would like Linus at all, and I did like him in the end, but I think it could have been much better with a little more showing of both of them developing romantic feelings.
My favourite character…is hard to pick. I was biased towards Oswell because, well, Tsuda Kenjirou, but I also really liked both Feather and Damian’s routes (the monsters). Rosaria’s childhood friend Luis was also really good, but it’s bittersweet to play Linus’s route after him because you know he likes Rosaria (although really, you think he could have pushed a little harder over the years and years they’ve been friends, because she really has no idea).
Rosaria herself is pretty awesome, though I liked her less in Linus’s route – at times she felt unworthy of his high rank, and I felt like she seemed more helpless.
Looking back, the routes all seemed fairly short once you play through once because there is quite a bit of overlap, but while I was playing it only bothered me during Linus’s route.
One more note, though I love Quinrose enough to get their deluxe editions, I gotta say that I prefer Otomate’s pre-order and limited edition drama CDs. The Quinrose ones are fun but I don’t think they add much to the characters, and since the relationships are totally unrelated to those in-game you don’t get any fun rivalries (I like jealousy events in games, what can I say).
Overall, I enjoyed this a lot and definitely recommend it for anyone who enjoys Quinrose games.
Oh, and if Quinrose doesn’t make one more game with Elise, the oldest stepsister, as the heroine, and having Halloween as one of the heroes, I will be very disappointed.
So Toki no Kizuna is totally supposed to be a historical prequel for Hakuouki. At first I didn’t believe it, because the artist is different and Otomate doesn’t usually link their games (of different titles), but yeah, once you play it it’s pretty obvious. I don’t know how I feel about that…I’m pretty tired of them milking Hakuouki, but it stands by itself at least.
The game starts out with the heroine, Yukina, scouting around the edge of the hidden oni Yase village, which is protected by barriers to keep out humans. She’s the chief of the Suzumori clan (none of her clan have shown up in two routes though, so I don’t know if she has one or is just alone), who protects the oni princess Yase, who’s supposed to be kind of a leader of all the oni clans. Yase-hime has called all the chiefs of the Ten Oni Clans to the village and Yukina runs into two of them, Chitose (CV: Itou Kentarou) and Kazuya (CV: Kamiya Hiroshi), who test her fighting skills out. Of course (can’t have a heroine be on par with the heroes right?) she fails, although the narration assures us that the chiefs of oni clans are even stronger than regular oni, who are much stronger than humans. But so far, I’ve never seen Yukina in a fight which she won.
Anyways, they all head back to the village and a couple other clan chiefs have arrived as well, Kazutake (CV: Nomura Kenji) and Shin (CV: Hino Satoshi). It’s the first time Yukina has met any of them, and none of them seem very impressed by her. She knows almost nothing of what’s going on in the world outside, and they ask her mentors, three old oni chiefs, why they’ve ‘spoilt’ her so much. The old oni say she has no need to know about the outside world. In this scene Yukina comes off as very serious about trying to be a good clan chief and lacking a sense of humour (which is pretty much her personality throughout). I didn’t mind this so much; although she comes off as a little slow, I blame the old oni chiefs who want to keep her ‘innocent’ (read naive).
Though there are some southern clan chiefs missing, the princess decides there’s no time to wait for them. She comes out and asks if any of the chiefs have had contact with humans, which is strictly forbidden among oni. All of them say they unavoidably have some doings with humans, and she asks them not to get too involved in human affairs. Then she goes back to her room, leaving all the oni chiefs bewildered, and they declare they’re surprised she called them all here urgently just to say that. Yukina is concerned about the princess, and talks to her privately. The princess says she’s seen a vision of an oni chief, one of the ones in the next room, fighting in a human war and dying, and that she wants to stop that. (Why didn’t she just say that?? I don’t know). She asks Yukina to stop the oni chiefs from dealing with humans, and Yukina agrees.
Part of the reason I didn’t like the setup was that all the oni chiefs, even though they’re supposed to be incredibly loyal and dedicated to Yase-hime, they completely ignore what she says and pretty much act like they’re not part of a larger oni clan family at all. Why do they even bother to be part of the Ten Clans, when they seem to not care about them as a group at all? It made the whole intro seem fake and honestly cheapened the whole idea of Yase-hime being their leader, who only showed up for a few minutes near the beginning to tell them all not to get involved with humans (a rule all of them had already broken, by the way). Yase-hime as a character wasn’t great either, she’s basically a deus ex machina to get the oni to stay in the village for a while and give Yukina an excuse to get out of the village and chase her attackers.
The next day the princess is attacked by a mysterious figure, who Yukina catches in the princess’s room. She attacks him, but he stops her easily with an unknown force and is in the middle of attacking her when an Chitose arrives and drives him off (one more time that Yukina loses easily to someone). The princess is unconscious, and though she doesn’t seem injured, she’s in a deep coma-like sleep and won’t wake up. The old oni chiefs keep the young ones in the village for as long as possible to investigate, but after several months they all leave one way or another, saying they’ll come back after they clean things up in their areas.
One thing I didn’t like was that this period, between the princess being attacked and the oni chiefs leaving, is almost totally skipped over. This is a time when Yukina probably saw them almost everyday and I would’ve liked to see her get to know them during this time, but no, there was almost nothing. She goes out a couple times with a group to investigate, but it’s all just to see the human regions getting ready for war, and to bump into the mysterious figure (which they figure out is an oni) a couple more times and get beat up again.
Anyways, after the oni chiefs leave (all except one actually), there’s another month lapse until Yukina decides to go out after one of them and try to bring them back. This is where the routes diverge.
I did Chitose’s route first – I love Itou Kentarou, and Chitose seemed like the default choice (he’s the front guy on the nice pic above). Unfortunately, I didn’t feel like Chitose’s love story was believable. For half the story he treated Yukina like an annoying companion, and even when they met after being apart a month he didn’t show any hint of fondness. This scene was especially obvious because his childhood friend came back as well, and they had a very happy reunion. Compared to that, his reaction to seeing Yukina was lukewarm. And then, with no other development between the two of them, and just a few scenes where they’re again teased by his childhood friend and then fight all in a group, he suddenly cares deeply for her and wants her to stay safely in the village? No. It didn’t feel at all realistic to me.
The second part of the route was better, in that it had some moments showing that Chitose was falling for Yukina (Yukina doesn’t think about her own feelings much, and doesn’t recognize them when other people ask her). But the start of the love story wasn’t done well.
Now I’ve also finished Kazutake’s (far left in the top pic) route, and while I think it works much better, it’s more because I could believe in subtle developing feelings without Kazutake being obvious about it, because he’s much more mature than the others and is better at hiding things. It still wasn’t very romantic, but by the end it feels like Yukina and he have a strong bond and care deeply for one another. Also, Kazutake treats Yukina with respect right from the beginning, so Yukina doesn’t seem like a doormat when she runs after him and sticks with him no matter what. Kazutake’s and Yukina’s relationship held together better, but Chitose’s isn’t really bad, the romance just feels unnatural. I’m kind of afraid to do Kazuya and Shin’s routes – I might do the last one (Senkimaru) instead.
Overall, I think this game tries too hard to be like Hakuouki in aspects that I wasn’t crazy about – the lack of romance, the way the bonds between the heroes felt stronger than between the heroine and the hero for 90% of each route, and – oh yeah I forgot this – the battle descriptions. Lots of war strategy talk between side characters, and diagrams showing whose armies are where. Not too interesting to me honestly, I usually skipped right through these. Thankfully though, I don’t think the routes are as long as in Hakuouki.
I can’t say I dislike it though – the characters themselves are pretty good, and now that I don’t have to play through the long, annoying intro part, I can try to forget how jerky they act in the beginning. The art makes up for a lot too, even the side character designs are really nice, and the seiyuu cast is amazing – Hiyama Nobuyuki is Chitose’s friend!!! I so wish he had a route or sidestory or something. He was actually playing Cupid for Chitose and Yukina, halfway through I wished he would give up on Chitose and go for Yukina himself. Yukina herself got better by the end as well – stronger and more assured, although it was more obvious in Kazutake’s route. There are several other characters who seem like they would have interesting stories as well, but apparently only the five main chiefs have a route. Oh, the music is ok. Not as good as say, Nise no Chigiri (to compare it to another Sengoku game).
Anyways, this sounds like a big gripe session, but Toki no Kizuna isn’t a bad game – it’s just not what I was looking forward to. If you like the low level of romance that’s in Hakuouki, you’ll love this. And I’m sure Otomate will release a fandisk for this, so I’ll pin my romance hopes on that.
Now, I think I’ll go back and play another route in Sangokuren Senki ^_^
I’m actually having no trouble getting through Bakudan Handan – my first playthrough I was wondering if I could last, because I was really tired and had a hard time paying attention to the mystery and puzzles. But I got through it quite well (no guide!) and am now on my fifth character.
Let me step back and explain the plot a bit. The heroine, Saki, is a normal, intelligent high school student, who’s looking forward to the opening of a new amusement park, Blossom Land, which her uncle designed/produced/something. Her uncle is the well-known game producer Inafune Keiji (who also did most of the art for Mega Man.) She’s going to the exclusive opening party, which for some reason is only open to close family and the press (this confused me; since amusement parks are pretty much the biggest venue you can have, why not let people bring as many friends as possible??) Anyways, she has to go alone to the opening. During the opening ceremony, her uncle is making a speech when suddenly the mike goes dead, and the stage is hijacked by someone in a weird pig suit, calling himself World Boo. His minions take the people on stage hostage, and he announces that he’s starting a game for the hostages’ survival. At first the crowd thinks it’s part of the show, but when an explosion brings down the ferris wheel, they panic and start to flee. World Boo says he’s going to pick 7 ‘heroes’ to try and clear the ‘game’ and save the hostages, and Saki volunteers to save her uncle.
One thing that’s good is that the prologue/intro isn’t too long – you jump right into the ’7 days of life-threatening puzzles’. You get minimal dialogue of Saki getting ready to go to the amusement park and then the action starts with the opening ceremony.
Every day, the 7 heroes have to visit a certain attraction and ‘clear’ it – usually with two or three stages each. They’re all really different, and all based on fictional video games. One of the characters is a game otaku who explains the background of the game, which sometimes help them figure out what to do. And there’s an interesting gameplay feature, where often they’ll have to figure out what they missed, and Saki has to review the game explanation and point out what was missed. It’s pretty simple – you can choose up to three things from about 8 possibilities, and as long as the right one is chosen it’s all good. There’s one other bit of gameplay that’s different from a normal visual novel – at certain point during the storyline one character or another (even World Boo sometimes) will say something that’s so wrong and/or harmful that Saki will get mad. At this point, you can choose to tell the character off or hold in your feelings. I always tell them off, it often results in an affection increase (they appreciate your setting them straight, I like that in a man ^_-), and it never seems to be a bad choice. And it feels like I’m playing Phoenix Wright – it has a scene like the ‘Objection’ scene, where Saki poses and huge text of “Donna handan da!?” (What kind of decision is that!?) appears against an exploding background. It might just be for fun, but I like it.
Other than that, though, it’s just a visual novel. I was really hoping for more gameplay, especially since several of the games they have to clear are literally videogames – there’s a shooting aliens game, a go-kart driving game, and an avoid zombies game, among others. It would have been fantastic if they put in minigames for these – although I’d want them to be easy However, compared to most otome games Bakudan Handan has more gameplay than usual already, so I won’t fault it too much.
Then there are the characters. The art in this game is not pretty otome/shoujo. It’s clean and attractive, but the character designs are far from typical otoge. Subaru is the only character I could see as the typical hero, and maybe the idol Wakasa, although even his design is far from the normal ‘cute younger guy’ look. But they definitely stand out, and after playing through Subaru’s route, I was quite happy to jump into Ryuusei’s route (yay, a host who looks like an MMA fighter, with long pink hair!). Their personalities are all well-developed, but there’s not much romance, which I’m not sure how I feel about.
Overall, I’m enjoying it quite a bit. A lot of the plot is about the group working together and growing as a team, and finding out the background of this whole situation. If you’re feeling a bit of overkill from otome romance melodrama, this might be just the game for you.
I finally finished a route in Jyuzanegi yesterday, and it’s pretty heavy. I think it’s fairly realistic for the time period, and heavy. Not too angsty as such, but just…a lot of things happening and it takes a LOT of effort and time to get a happy ending. I did Chouki first (the other cat boy that’s not the white-haired one), and I liked his character a lot. Ishida Akira’s little catboy Ryuubi also was not as annoying as I expected, so I’m having a hard time choosing what route to do next. I want something totally different, so I’m thinking maaybe Sousou (another country’s general, who’s the first person to force the cat people to leave their secluded village.
The story is set in the times of the Three Kingdoms of ancient China, and the heroine, Ka-u (Ka-un?), is a half-cat person (who are called Maozoku) living in a small village of cat people, hidden away from human civilization. They’re discovered by Sousou’s army when he’s looking for the Yellow Turban Gang (anyone who’s played Sengoku Rensenki is familiar with them, but I believe here it’s their early thuggish days), and he seems to know of them, and demands they come along and help him search or he’ll destroy the village. The strategies and warlords in this game are mostly as ruthless as you’d expect, and there’s no question that he would actually do it. The cat people are also viewed as lower than humans by most people, who call them ‘Juuza’ in reference to the story about their being left out of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac (anyone remember Fruits Basket?). The racism is fairly realistic as well for an openly intolerant time.
Ka-un is the strongest warrior of her people, and has an overdeveloped sense of duty, partly because she’s grateful to the cat people for accepting her when she’s only half-Maozoku. Chouki’s route didn’t go into her origin story too much, although there are hints near the end. I think I know which route would lay it totally bare, but I won’t spoil it.
I loved how she was strong, and yet not really a natural leader – she did get impulsive and overeager to fight sometimes, especially when Ryuubi, who’s the Maozoku’s ‘leader’, is in danger. I wish there were more scenes of her actually fighting – there is a very small battle system based on timing, but in Chouki’s route it’s only fully used a couple times. I hope it’s used more in other routes.
I don’t know how much of the plot is common to all routes, but there is a lot of going back and forth between warlords and countries and armies – by the end you really feel as if Ka-un deserves some rest and happiness. I’m looking forward to doing other routes, but I actually needed a break in-between – I felt tired by the time I got to the end of Chouki’s route. I also haven’t done his bad ending yet – I think I’ll need to cheer up after doing that.
Other things I noticed – the music is pretty good, but there’s not as much animation as in the PV, at least that I saw. CGs seem to be weighted towards the end.
Even though Harutoki 5 tied last year in an unofficial poll for the worst otome game of the year, I liked it enough to get the fandisk, and I’m playing it now. However, the problems with the first game have only partially been fixed.
One of the main problems was fixed, or at least it seems like it – I’m not going to explain fully because it’s a spoiler, but in the main game when you save the world, almost always a few particular people are sacrificed, there’s no way around it. And this problem is totally glossed over in the epilogues, which makes the heroine seem pretty jerky (unless you have magic disbelief-suspension abilities like me, or just assume that the writers screwed up and forgive the heroine). In the fandisk, it seems like the main plot is about how to prevent this, which actually makes me like the original game better as well.
But some of the other problems remain, not least of which is Neoromance’s continual refusal to provide full-voice, or even voiced scenes when it’s important. I can’t believe all the character-specific scenes aren’t voiced, it’s just ridiculous at this point. It makes me not want to buy their games. If they’d just provide more voices, I would be so much more willing to buy the overpriced special editions; instead I always buy the regular editions.
And my other problem with this Harutoki in particular is that in the CG’s, the heroine often looks emotionless, or non-human. Part of it is Mizuno Tooko’s artstyle – the huge eyes without pupils that she always gives heroines tend to look blank, but I swear she did better in #3 and #4.
Anyways, I’m just finishing up (hopefully) Ryouma’s route, then I’m going to stop in order to start either Brothers Conflict or Jyuzaengi, both of which I recently got. High school contemporary or Three Kingdoms catboys, hmmm…
I knew there was more!
Issho ni Gohan, the cooking-centric drama cd series, is being made into a game by Otomate for the PSP – for release in September. The heroine becomes the landlady at a boarding house for a nearby cooking school which she attends (which all the guys go to/have graduated from). In addition to the affection meter which changes with your dialogue choices, it will have a cooking skill meter which also affects your endings, raised by cooking minigames and quizzes.
Yoneda Hikari (CV: Kaji Yuuki) – the second-year student who’s able to become friends easily with anyone
Karasawa Rei (CV: Ono Daisuke) – the graduate with a harsh personality who’s running a nearby curry restaurant
Toriyama Yousuke (CV: Shimono Hiro) – the first-year who looks up to Hikari and is the house’s moodmaker
Daitou Natsu (CV: Tsuda Kenjirou) – a fourth-year in the Japanese food program, he grew up in a traditional Japanese house and knows archery and ikebana. He’s strict about people following the rules and has a hard time blending into groups.
Unoha Nao (CV: Fukuyama Jun) – the weak-bodied fourth year who’s a bit of an airhead, who’s also artistic
Umino Riki (CV: Suzumura Kenichi) – the popular second-year who DJs at a club to make money and wants to ‘produce’ a restaurant
Ther’s also a teaser pic about a new game about ‘glass heart syndrome’, and not being ‘allowed’ to get ‘tokimeki’(I think you’re not supposed to get romantic feelings in the game) from Otomate. More details next month.
And finally, a diagram showing all the different ways you can customize your guy in Custom Drive, resulting in (supposedly) over 1,000,000 variations: hats (5), glasses (5), personality (5), hairstyle (10), clothes (10), accessories (10), over 3 different characters. Now if I remember high school math, the law of permutations would mean that there are…hm, I only get 375,000 permutations. Either I’m wrong (impossible!), or D3 has some explaining to do! We won’t be satisfied with only 375,000, am I right?? …OK, I’ll give them a pass this time.