[EDIT: Ah, my Arabian’s Doubt post! Looking back at this, I would still say most of this, except for the gameplay – it’s actually a lot more varied than many otome games, lol. This was one of my first so I didn’t realize how common straight visual novels would be. Also the production values – I would give it a lower rating than before, because some things are not user-friendly, and IIRC the combat part is kind of cheesy in terms of graphics and sounds.]
Originally posted on my IGN blog on 2007/11/09
That’s the old skipping rhyme adapted for this otome game :P.
You are Princess Eileen of the country Gilcatall, a desert nation whose primary export is thieves, killers, and con men. The king, Eileen’s father, clawed his way to the throne by beating out all the other crooks who wanted the position, and now wants his only child, you, to follow in his footsteps. Problem is, Eileen wants to be ‘normal’. She wants no part of the outlaw lifestyle which is regular in Gilcatall, even though she’s been brought up trained in the criminal arts – lockpicking, stealing, fighting, etc. Her parents summon her one day and tell her she needs to pick a fiance, and since she doesn’t have one in mind, they’ve made a list of six potentials. Desperate to avoid such an abnormal situation, she makes a deal with her parents – if she can beg, borrow, or steal 10 million gold in the next month, they’ll let her off and she can live her life how she pleases. If not…they will pick her future husband. The six suitors have instructions to accompany Eileen if she asks them, but not to help her, since that would be too easy.
Now I don’t know about you, but this is the first time I’ve played a love simulation where the capturable characters are not just ‘bad boys’, they’re all hardened criminals in one way or another. And these characters, while they all have good points, are no Robin Hoods who steal from only evil people and help the innocent – they’ve all killed people and are capable of being totally ruthless. Your choices are:
There’s also your tutor, Lyle, who seems normal but has a dark past roaming the world with Robert and amassing a fortune by criminal means, and a weird pair of guests, Maisen, a self-professed prince, and Michael, the demon who owns his soul.
Interesting group to say the least!
The gameplay is nothing special. You have 25 days to go out and kill monsters for money and items. The fights are rudimentary – keep your HP up long enough to kill the monster. Non-combat play is pretty much picking an area and companion (one of the suitors), trying to win money at roulette (the other main way of earning money), or visiting the bar. You improve your relationship with the guys by fighting with them, and at certain levels events happen. There are apparently 3 endings for each character – one where you make enough money, one where you don’t, and one if you make the money and get to Level 5. I’ve only gotten 2 endings for most of the characters, but they were both interesting.
The gameplay is not why you should play this game. The characters are – they have more depth than the average otome game characters, they’re interesting, and there’s a lot of events and CGs. Playing through each character gives you more background and context for the whole situation, and it’s actually quite fun to find how the princess can fall in love with ‘bad guys’ – because though these guys can be loving to people they care about, none of them are ‘nice’. The princess herself is also refreshing – Eileen’s not quiet, not beautiful, not nice, and though she hasn’t actually committed crimes, she’s the daughter of a crimelord and her upbringing shows it; her idea of ‘normal’ is not what you might think.
The production quality is alright – it’s quick and easy to save and load, and you can skip previously seen dialogue quickly. There’s not much variety in locations and monsters, but that didn’t bother me.
Sangoku Rensenki was originally a PC game, the first ever put out by publisher Daisy². When I first saw some pics for it, I thought it looked cute, but figured it would be one of those quiet releases that mostly get ignored, especially after it was delayed a couple of times.
To my surprise and joy, not only was it released successfully, but it steadily got really good reviews, despite still getting minimal press, and was consistently on the list for most-wanted to be adapted for consoles. It finally was adapted for the PS2, and will soon be released for the PSP as well. I wasn’t able to get a copy until I went to Japan in October, and I’m finally playing it now – I thought I needed to have a good chunk of time to get into it, and I was right.
What’s it about? Well, it’s a time travel story, normal high school girl gets transported to chaotic era with lots of attractive men. Sounds pretty familiar. The specifics are that Hana, the heroine, is working on a history assignment when an old book about the Three Kingdoms (ancient China) sucks her back in time, I think to AD207. She gets picked up by one warlord, Gentoku, but throughout the game is kidnapped by Moutoku, the current most successful warlord, stays with the last major warlord Chuubou, and also goes even further back in time for a bit and sees the origin of the current situation.
The first time through, you can’t “win” anybody, Hana has to go through the story trying to figure out why she’s there and what she wants to do. Unlike many other time-travel/AU stories, Hana isn’t a legendary priestess and her arrival wasn’t foretold; most people don’t even know that she’s from another world, just that she’s foreign. When she first arrives, a voice tells her to go meet Gentoku and tell him that she’s an apprentice of Koumei, a scholar and strategist. That’s how she gets treated as a guest. The book she read comes through with her, and when she tries to read about what’s going to happen, it’s blank. That is, until she figures out what she wants to happen, and then the book will show how that could work.
I think the game is excellent in a few ways that aren’t common – first, Hana not being expected or treated as a “savior” until she proves herself (by using the book to figure out strategies). Even then, she’s just respected as an advisor, she’s not expected to do any magic or anything. Second, I found that her reactions are very relatable – the first time she’s in the field of war and witnesses people dying, partially due to her own strategy, she’s shocked and almost can’t handle it. Afterwards, it takes her a long time to reconcile what she’s doing and come to grips with the deaths that war causes, which is totally realistic for a young teenager who’s never seen violence up close and is totally unused to war. She continues to struggle throughout the game with moral questions like whether it’s right for her to help with strategies that might cause large casualties for the other side. It’s also really nice how the warlords all have their own moral code – for example, Gentoku is very strict, and will never take existing land from a present lord or heir (this agrees with the Romance of the Three Kingdoms apparently). Hana has to try and stop the war while dealing with everyone’s competing principles, which I thought was much more realistic than many other stories where once someone is convinced, they do whatever the hero/heroine suggests.
There’s also a bonus that I adore during the credits of each route – it shows extra scenes around important storylines where you get to see the guy’s side of it. It’s really great, and I’m glad that it’s shown after everything. There are even CGs just for the credits!
While playing through, I kept trying to find exactly what it was that made this game so good (because it’s good, it’s very good). What makes me want to play through again and again, getting different routes, even though I skip through a bunch of the strategy when they talk about tactics and generals and old Chinese place names? I think in the end, it’s the characterization, of Hana and everyone else. Not only do you have interesting romanceable characters, but lots of minor characters get enough details that they’re sympathetic as people and not just cliches or cardboard placeholders. When I first went back in time the second time and realized it was before the main story (so none of the romanceable characters are around), I was annoyed because I thought it was just a distraction from the main story. But the people you meet there are important in some of the routes, and they’re all memorable, and honestly it was really cool how the writers established how different the atmosphere was in the area just 10-20 years before the main story because of the different political situation.
SO, to make a long story short, I hugely recommend Sangoku Rensenki! Now I’ve gotta go, I have a warlord to romance…
It didn’t seem right to post fluff right after the disasters in Japan, but things seem to be approaching normal now, and I got a new shipment of otome magazines.
For anyone wondering what kind of swag you get with otome mags, here’s a pic I took (the colour’s kind of off but whatever):
1 – several miniposters (one set of five or so from each B’s Log)
2 – two booklets about the Yamanote Boys series (one from each B’s Log)
3 – page of stickers from Starry Sky! very cute
4 – the mags – I got the April and May B’s Log, and the most recent Cool-B and Sweet Princess
5 – The 2011 Tokyo Otome Guide – I have to plan for my fall trip! it has listings of otome-focused stores, manga, games, cosplay, everything, as well as some hotel and restaurant listings (even some butler cafés!), with lots of pics and ideas. Lots of fun to read through!
6 – Two DVD-Roms that came with Cool-B and Sweet Princess. They have promo movies, wallpapers, game guides, and even some playable demos.
And now for the news from those magazines!
A fandisk was announced for Hiiro no Kakera 4 Shin Tamayori-hime Denshou, called Piece of Future. Scheduled for July 2011, the Suwabe Brothers will be capturable! Awesome.
Sangokuren Senki is coming to PS2!!! I’m extremely happy, I’ve heard a lot of good things about this game and darnit, I’m just a sucker for fantasy historicals!
A new Quinrose game, Mother Goose no Himitsu no Yakata (Mother Goose’s Secret House) – scheduled for the PSP on June 23. Apparently there are two parts, a quiz part and an adventure part. The story is kind of like Alice, in that the heroine falls into a different world and has to find a way out. But to do so, she has to pass quizzes based on nursery rhymes. The men she meets all know her, but she doesn’t remember them. There’s a lot of really gorgeous art for this, it seems that Quinrose has over 200 nursery rhymes (which will be shown in English and then Japanese translations) illustrated by lots of different artists. Here’s a pic!
Cute huh? From left to right, the characters are:
Cezary Fritche (CV: Morikawa Toshiyuki) – a poor scholar
Eric Burrell (CV: Toriumi Kousuke) – an odd jobs guy
Arthur Lindgren (CV: Sakurai Takahiro) – a noble gentleman
Bacchus Moore (CV: Suwabe Junichi) – a cook
(sitting) Vincent Noble (CV: Yasumoto Hiroki) – a student of Cezary at a well-known school
The Nise no Chigiri fandisk, Omoide no Saki e, is coming July 21!
A new R18 game, Persona, is announced from Mirai, the creators of the Hoshi no Joou series and Jingi Naki Otome, It seems to be based on the Phantom of the Opera, but there was just a teaser spread this month.
More info on the new Otomate PSP game, Amnesia. The heroine wakes up with (surprise!) amnesia, and apparently has to figure out which of her (current?past?) boyfriends is the real one, or something.
Kago no Naka no Alicis, the all-ages fantasy PC game from icingCandy, is set for Apr 22.
Info on the Alice movie! It’s coming out on July 30, in 7 cities around Japan. The art is quite nice, dare I say, possibly nicer than the original game! Apparently the story is new, and they’re trying to make it accessible to people who’ve never played the game. Apparently Joker is in it, and that is a hint as to the story, and there’s lots of action.
Seiyuu announcements for Hotokensaa, the sentai otome game:
Kondou Ryuuichi, Hotokensaa Blue: Akabane Kenji
Sumeragi Rikuto, Hotokensaa Yellow: Takagi Shun
Doujima Mitsuki, Hotokensaa Green: Kimura Ryouhei
Yes, for all of us who try to plan our otome budgets (try being the operative word) the next couple months is a good time to save up for the avalanche of new releases coming in the winter.
Sorry for posting this half-done earlier! Here’s the full review.
After finishing all of Beastmaster and Prince, or 猛獣使いと王子さま, from Otomate, I’m honestly not sure whether to recommend it or not. I enjoyed it, but it’s definitely on the fluffy side. So if you prefer deep gameplay, or a very drawn-out story arc (like Hakuouki), this game probably won’t satisfy you. HOWEVER. On the other side, you have:
1) Extremely cute art and animals (I’m a sucker for them).
2) Midorikawa Hikaru as Matheus and Toriumi Kousuke as Alfred – need I say more? Especially Mateus, who is a natural-born lady killer. And the other characters are good too – I couldn’t wait to do Silvio’s route.
I think the artist for this game, whoever it is (yeah I’ll add it later), really found their niche with this game. They also did the art for Petit Fours and Arco Baleno, and while those games were fun enough, the characters’ stories weren’t that deep, and the plot was pretty shallow as well, so the games overall felt thin.
Beastmaster isn’t extremely deep either in terms of having a long drawn-out plot, but the central story definitely has more action, and there are a couple twists in each route that keep your attention enough to play through several times. Also, the fantasy setting is great – the art is perfectly suited to the game, with rich colours and costumes, and of course the very cute animals.
Having completed the game, I don’t know what my favourite route is. I liked all of them, even though I didn’t expect to like Lucia or Eric that much, which was a nice surprise. And I would have liked to have more story for several characters, not only because it would have made the game longer but because I was interested in learning more about them. I’d actually consider buying a fandisk for this, or (I think this would be better) getting a PSP edition if they added more scenes. Hopefully they will!
So overall, I really enjoyed Beastmaster and Prince(s). Hopefully it will be adapted for the PSP, and then I think I’d recommend it for anyone who’s interested and is satisfied with just a small minigame (the mofu mofu game ^_^). For a full-priced PS2 game, I think it’s still a little overpriced, but if you love the animal transformation aspect, it might be worth it even so.
OK, let’s see what kids they got to play the sixth-graders!
Heh, yeah, no, of course it’s all seiyuu we know and love in Otomate’s new game Clock Zero, set to release this November for the PS2.
Clockwise from the top left:
Kanou Riichirou CV: Maeno Tomoaki
Past roles: Chisato in VitaminZ, Oswell in Kazeiro Surf, Rouichi in STEAL
Hanabusa Madoka CV: Toriumi Kousuke
Past roles: Oreldo in Pumpkin Scissors, Shun in VitaminX, Sengoku in Prince of Tennis
Kaidou Takato CV: Namikawa Daisuke
Past roles: Ohtori in Prince of Tennis, Kazahaya in Kimi ni Todoke, Italy in Hetalia, Ayato in Love Revo, Yuuichi in Hiiro no Kakera
Tokita Shuuya CV: Ishida Akira
Past roles: Katsura in Gintama, Yasuaki/Yasutsugu/LizVaan/Ashvin in Harutoki series, Mizuki in PoT, Aslan in Gundam Seed, Sakuya in Tokimemo GS, Rinto in Himehibi, Katsuhiko in HnK2
Hanabusa Nakaba CV: Sudou Shou
Past roles: Kougaiji in SYK, Young England in Hetalia
Saionji Toranosuke CV: Sugiyama Noriaki
Past roles: Sasuke in Naruto, Uryuu in Bleach, Boris in the Alice series, Johan in Last Escort Club Katze, England in Hetalia
The ‘adult’ cast is still a secret. Here are two newish characters, the Dreamland guys, Bishop and Rook.
That’s it! I’ll try and keep an eye out for the rest of the cast being announced. Next up, Ishin Renka!!
As ‘Bakumatsu’ is used to refer to the period right before the Meiji Restoration, ‘Ishin Shishi’ were the people trying to achieve that restoration. One of the major players of this period was Sakamoto Ryouma, who died in 1867, the year before seeing his dream of imperial power restoration realized. This new game from D3 Publisher, Ishin Renka ~Ryouma Gaiden~ focuses on Ryouma and some new faces. Okita Souji is also a main character, as he was in the original Bakumatsu Renka. It’s set for fall release on the PSP.
The art design is quite different from the other games; characters are a little more realistic looking.
The characters, other than the heroine (that I know of) are actual historical figures:
Sakamoto Ryouma: Originally he was in favour not only of restoring the emperor’s power, but expelling foreign influences from Japan. He was convinced by Katsu Kaishuu, who he was actually sent to kill, that Japan needed to modernize in order to survive as a sovereign nation, and became a key figure in the Meiji Restoration. For example, he was the person who negotiated a truce between two enemy clans, the Choushuu and Satsuma. He was a very good swordsman, but carried a gun as well.
Okita Souji: A well known member of the Shinsengumi who was a genius swordsman, in real life he died of tuberculosis alone in Tokyo after the rest of the Shinsengumi had left for battles elsewhere.
Kawakami Gensai: Another member of Ishin Shishi, Kawakami was an assassin who favoured violence as the method of restoring the emperor. He was short, and was bullied as a child. He was enrolled in sword fighting by his sister. In the game, he’s apparently been mistaken for a woman because of his delicate appearance.
Takasugi Shinsaku: A member of the Choushuu clan of relatively high birth, he used to steal away often to the Shoka Sonjuku (a private school) and study with Yoshida Shouin, a scholar responsible for teaching many Ishin Shishi. He was a dynamic leader who formed a modernized militia that beat the shogunate forces in a key step on the path of Meiji Restoration. In history, he died in 1867 at the age of 28 from tuberculosis.
Nakaoka Shintarou: A member of the Tosa clan and another Ishin Shishi, praised as a prodigy in martial arts. His meeting with the game’s main character is when he decides not to let other people’s opinions of him influence what he does. In real life he died from the same attack that killed Sakamoto Ryouma in 1867. In this game? We’ll have to wait and see.
The heroine in this game, Sawa Nanoka, grew up in the same household as Ryouma, after he found her alone in the wilderness. Her mother died when she was very young, and her father took her into the mountains to try to escape his master. Unfortunately they were found, so her father sacrificed himself and told his daughter to live free.
This series is fairly historically accurate, so until now many of the storylines have been in the ‘romantic but tragic’ category. But they do often use any uncertainty about a character’s death to get creative, so it’s hard to say what the endings to this game will be like. In any case, it will be interesting to finally play a game focused on the other side of the Bakumatsu from the Shinsengumi.
Next week I should have the mags with news, but for now, here is the outline of Clock Zero, the newest Otomate title for the PS2, set for November.
The main character, Kurou Nadeshiko, is a 6th-grade student and kind of a sheltered rich girl. She lives a normal, fairly happy life, and has a childhood friend Riichirou. But she starts having strange dreams almost every night of a desolate world, with a black sky cut across with red and blue.
One day Nadeko and Riichirou are summoned by their homeroom teacher, Kaga Akira. There are also six other students there who are generally known as troublemakers. The teacher tells them all that as troublemakers, they have to do a special assignment.
Forced to work together, the students work on the assignment slowly and with difficulty, uncovering the truth along the way.
Then, a mysterious person, who Nadeshiko has seen in her dreams, appears, and the wheels of fate begin turning…
The art is pretty…but 6th-graders? That’s like…11 year olds. And there’s at least one character that’s younger. I probably won’t pre-order this, though I might get it later.
I’ve now completed 98% of Desert Kingdom (there’s one sub-route that I don’t think I’m interested in), and I think I should take back a lot of the criticism I originally aimed at the game.
Criticism 1: Too short
This isn’t a complete reversal of my first opinion, but more of a change. I still feel that there isn’t much story going on in the gameplay portion of the game, where you choose where to go and build up your power. The power buildup portions are a good length, with you, your target, and Unbara, but the parts where you visit the guys are often abrupt and sometimes no more than a couple sentences long. I still feel that that’s a little too short.
But the rest of the story, once you get into someone’s route, is quite long. I’d estimate at least a couple hours each. This is great if you like visual novels, but for those are bored with long discussions without player interaction, you might be annoyed.
Criticism 2: CGs
Yeah, so I picked the wrong route to start off with. Most of the CGs are excellent and very pretty, there’s only one other fanservicey (to guys) CG, and overall I really like them. Oh, and Vii’s other route (the Good instead of Happy) has a CG that I actually like better than the Happy one. Plus, once you get a certain number of routes (the first four maybe??) you get extra CGs that you only see in the gallery, which are the guys in out-of-character costumes/poses (a very nice extra).
Also, there’s a little extra feature called “With Sera”, where you have a little epilogue for each route, but as if you’re visiting Sera. These are separate from the regular epilogues in the games, though you can choose to see them after each one (I chose to save them up and watch them after, which I think is a good choice as some include spoilers). It’s light and fun, and is a great little addition to the game.
After finishing almost all the game, I really love it. Not only are the characters interesting, but the plotline is done well and integrates everyone – and no matter which route you end up in, Kingdom’s ending is pretty much the same.
I also shouldn’t leave out Aspashia – though her visual design is more loli than I’d like, her personality is awesome and realistic as an immortal princess who is used to doing whatever she wants.
Having just finished the final hidden route last night, it leaves you with that feeling, you know, when you’re all happy and gooey inside. It’s so cute, and they don’t make you go through the whole game again, which is fantastic.
So I’m a little biased positively to the game right now, but I’d definitely recommend Desert Kingdom if you like visual novels. If you don’t, and want more gameplay and interaction, I’d say only get it if you really love the setup and Arabian Nights aesthetic, since the dialogue portions will likely bore you.
I got Desert Kingdom (and Grimm, but I haven’t played that much) this week, and I like it a lot, but really I’m not sure if it’s worth full price. It’s a lot of fun, but there are things that I think could be better. However, I’m only through two routes, so this is only a partial review.
Anyhoo, here’s what I wrote as I first played it.
The first thing I see is a garish stained glass border of clashing and psychedelic colours….then a simple melody starts up, which reminds me of the theme in early Final Fantasy games when you visit the ‘exotic’ desert country…or am I thinking of the Tetris music…hm. OK, now the opening song starts, the visuals are much prettier, and it’s a standard J-rock, which I can get behind.
After starting a new game, I pick a name and there are some intro story screens. This is a world with gods, where they are born from people’s prayers, and exist until those prayers stop.
But now, people have stopped believing, and miracles are disappearing…
Now another screen, a sandy desert and a silhouette. “A young woman walks through the desert, her hair dirty with sand, but she simply walks silently as if on a pilgrimage.
The wind blows. Sand dances around and obscures the young woman’s vision. Th sand veils the world. But still, she walks on, looking into the distance with beautiful eyes.”
Suddenly there’s a loud boom! and we get the first line of dialogue from the woman, and the lovely illusion disappears. Aspashia complains that she’s tired of this desert. Heh. She continues with a self-introduction, describing herself as the princess of EVUU, the kingdom of gods, and claims a long list of ladylike accomplishments, before someone (a narrator?) interrupts her asking who she’s talking about. Then she explains that she’s been walking the desert for two months without food or water, but is at her limit, and slowly falls to the ground, starting to get covered up by the sand.
The narrator cuts in again, bringing the story back to when Aspashia lived in EVUU. Aspashia explains, with some snark from the narrator, that EVUU is basically the land of gods/djinn, and is made from magic. You can’t do anything there without magic, and so one day when Aspashia woke up, having lost all magical ability for some reason, she couldn’t do anything, even get out of her room. She was trapped there for a week and almost starved until her father, the king Sazan, came and found her. He tells her that she lost all her magic because her mother (who died after giving birth) was human. This is news to Aspashia, who isn’t too happy about it. He also says that she’s used up all her magic, and unless she wants to stay cooped up in one castle room the rest of her life, there’s only one way to get it back. She has to go live among humans, get close to them, and grant their wishes. And then Aspashia promptly starts falling through the air. Sazan says she’ll land in about three hours, and after remembering that she has no magic to help her, summons a lamp djinn, Unbara, to help her out.
And finally we come back to the first scene, where Aspashia gets mad at Unbara (the mystery narrator) for telling her when she first landed that the nearest settlement was only 10 days away. Unbara says he didn’t want her to give up, but says they should be close now. Over the next hill, she finally spies her destination, the castle town Kingdom.
That’s the intro (which you can skip after the first time) to Desert Kingdom, and the rest of the game is pretty much in line with it in atmosphere. Aspashia and Unbara often trade banter, and often make reference to the game mechanics, sometimes very plainly. It’s quite fun, and I love how Aspashia sometimes literally breaks out of her avatar square (you’ll see what I mean if you play).
I went through Vii’s route first, the mysterious assassin who’s voiced by Ryou from Hiiro no Kakera (ok, Nomiya Kazunori). The first thing I was happy to find was that he was not the typical brooding type – in fact, none of the characters felt unoriginal, which, after playing so many otome games, is surprising.
The game itself is pretty simple, you go around granting regular people’s wishes (by using a roulette wheel) to slowly build up power, and try to get closer to one of the main characters to grant their big wish and regain the rest of the power you need to become a full Mashin again.
A couple things I wasn’t too impressed by were how short the story felt (Vii’s at least) and the CGs. They were well drawn, I just wished they were different – more closer angles or something. For example, there’s one in Vii’s story where Aspashia hugs him while she’s standing and he’s (I think kneeling). But the point-of-view is set near the ground behind her, so you’re looking up at the back of Aspashia’s bare legs, and Vii’s face is so small it’s hard to read his expression. It was odd.
I’ve just finished Sharon’s (CV: Masakaze Masaya) route, and his CGs were better, but it still seemed a little short on story.
I think it would be improved by having just a little more development in relationships in between the character intros and setups, and getting into their plots. Hm, I could be being too picky though, I’d like to know what other people think if you’ve played it. It could also be better on other routes, especially Sera’s since he’s the first one. I’ll have to report back.
However, overall I am enjoying it a lot; there’s not much gameplay though really, it’s really to fill in the blanks between the intro and entering someone’s route. And there’s not only one “mystery” character (who is not a mystery at all, but you have to do several routes to get him), but another one where you have to finish all the others first! I’m such a sucker for these, I think I’ll be spending some time this weekend finishing this for those routes…