Period: Cube ~Shackles of Amadeus~ Astrum Walkthrough

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A full review of the game will be out soon! Check back for more updates.
Game Link: Period Cube – PlayStation Vita
Official Website: Aksys Games

Common Route

  • Use knife
  • Play harp
  • It wasn’t him. It was my fault.

Character Route

Good Ending

  • I’m just a little embarrassed.
  • It’ll actually make me more nervous.
  • I’ll do everything I can.
  • Use bow
  • I was thinking the same thing.
  • Please, let me stay here.
  • Use bow
  • I’m sorry, Toru.
  • I can’t help you.
  • Increase ally strength
  • Astrum, stop!
  • You’re not at fault
  • Yes, I do.
  • Don’t push yourself
  • I’ll fight with you.

Merry Bad Ending

  • Title Screen → History→ Astrum Route → Chapter 7
  • Kazuha’s Almighty Level 5
  • Astrum’s Affection 0
  • Do we really have to fight?
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Period: Cube ~Shackles of Amadeus~ Radius Walkthrough

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A full review of the game will be out soon! Check back for more updates.
Game Link: Period Cube – PlayStation Vita
Official Website: Aksys Games

Common Route

  • Use knife
  • Run
  • Play harp

Character Route

Good Ending

  • Where did we meet before?
  • No, I won’t run away.
  • I’m sorry for asking.
  • Play harp
  • My friend is hospitalized here.
  • Thank you so much
  • Grab onto Demento
  • He’s my friend…
  • Mochi with grape filling
  • Both versions of you are cool
  • I don’t want to go home, though.
  • I wish I had been by your side
  • I’m glad you’re safe

Merry Bad Ending

  • Title Screen → History→ Radius Route → Chapter 7
  • Kazuha’s Almighty Level 5
  • Radius’ Affection 0
  • I missed you

The Charming Empire Review

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RELEASE DATE: 2014
PUBLISHER: OperaHouse, Dramatic Create & Dogenzaka Lab
PLATFORMS AVAILABLE: Windows/iOS/Android (Japanese) & Steam (English)

What initially captured my attention about ‘The Charming Empire’ was the beautiful art and interesting premise for the storyline. For a Dogenzaka Lab title, it seemed to have significantly improved in comparison to their previous games. I was pleased to see factors such as better translations, art and voice acting had been addressed. However, I was still very apprehensive of the game because of my past experiences with their titles.

I have only played their most popular game release which was the Men of Yoshiwara series: Kikuya & Ohgiya. Although I enjoyed them, they still had many glaring issues such as poor writing/translations, lack of voice acting and terribly looped soundtracks. I haven’t played any of their other games due to the poor reception they received.

I decided to try this game out in spite of my concerns, as I did like the art and improvements I could see at first glance. They also had some fairly prolific voice actors in their cast line up such as Kakihara Tetsuya and Tsuda Kenjirou which inevitably convinced me to purchase it.

Storyline ★★

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-The Story-

Our heroine, Amane Kosaka, was living a simple yet happy life in the countryside until one day she was suddenly taken away to live in the empire, summoned by her brother Soshi Amazaki — the current ruler. Though she was unaware of the underlying circumstances, she finds herself brought to this lively and palpable central city.

Living in the immaculate royal palace, our heroine comes to learn that the empire might not be as joyful as it seems.
Her brother is no longer the gentle man she once knew…
A corrupt organization secretly runs things behind the scenes…
The heroine’s fate guides her down the path of love. (Steam Summary

To the dismay of the heroine, she is whisked away to the capital of the empire against her wishes and for the most part confined to her room during the duration of her stay. She is subjected to many tutors on varying subjects such as history, etiquette and dance lessons in order to prepare for her debut into high society. Amane Kousaka becomes very lonely, as her brother is incredibly cold to her and completely withdrawn within his office. He immediately states upon her arrival that they can no longer have the sibling relationship they once shared from childhood.

To the heroine who has spent majority of her life within the peaceful countryside amongst her loving grandparents, the empire is a strange and lonely place. The servants do not wish to engage in conversation or friendship despite her continual attempts, and she longs to explore the city outside the castle walls. However, she soon comes to realise that the people of the city have become restless and dissatisfied with Soshi Amazaki’s dictatorship.

The citizens view him as a heartless tyrant, and the disparity between the rich and poor continues to grow larger day by day. Fires and violent outbreaks begin to appear in different areas across the city, and rumours of a rebellion to overtake the throne begin to spread amongst the people. Can Amane restore peace to the city she once loved? Has her brother truly changed from the kind man she once knew him to be? What are the secrets behind the political conspiracy kept hidden from her? Will she even find love despite the grim circumstances?

Although the game had a very interesting premise, the writing and execution heavily suffers due to it originally being a mobile game. The prologue is extremely short and abrupt, and you’re immediately thrust into the empire under orders from your brother. The sentences are short and condensed in order to fit into the text boxes that were meant for a small mobile screen.

The story is fairly fast paced and you’re barely able to form any attachments with most of the bachelors, before it moves onto the overarching storyline regarding the political unrest and rebellion occurring across the city. I felt the explanations and different perspectives on the linear storyline could have been fleshed out much better, and many of the endings and conclusions were solved far too easily.

It hints within all the routes that Soshi’s actions aren’t truly what they seem to be at face value, and he meets his demise before you can fully discover the truth in most of the stories (aside from Kagemitsu).

As a result storyline wise, many of them felt lacking and it was clear the routes were mainly used as a build up for Soshi’s story since that finally reveals the truth and the explanation behind it all. The plot is fairly repetitive due to it following a similar linear sequence of events that eventually leads to the different endings with each bachelor. What I do commend about the writing is that the translations have definitely improved in comparison to previous Dogenzaka Lab games.

There weren’t many typos or errors at all, which was good to see they had addressed one of their major criticisms in the past. However, the storyline of ‘The Charming Empire ‘ really wasn’t anything memorable. As it was originally a mobile game, the routes are very short. At a relaxed reading pace, each route took around 1.5hrs-2hrs to complete and the total game time would be anywhere between 10-15hrs overall.

If you’re expecting an immersive and detailed plot similar to Nightshade (which was released during the same month) then this really isn’t the game for you. Considering the total time it took to complete the entire game, you really can’t expect major character development or a complex storyline to fit within that time frame. It is at best a light and cute read that isn’t particularly memorable, but enjoyable to play nonetheless. Although the game definitely had some really cute character moments here and there, it really wasn’t enough to compensate for the subpar plot execution.

Character Development ★★★

WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD! READ AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION!

I personally recommend playing the game in order of: Yoshimine Kei → Koichiro Sera → Tanba Toki → Togawa Kagemitsu → Amazaki Soshi due to spoilers and the storyline flowed best in this sequence. Although you can switch up between the characters, Amazaki Soshi should definitely be played last otherwise the storyline loses it’s impact. I have a complete walkthrough of the game here.

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YOSHIMINE KEI: Kei is the heroine’s private tutor, and a captive former prince of the empire. He is essentially a prisoner of war, although he has been fortunate enough to not have been placed in the dungeons. Kei resides within the castle itself, and spends his days reading or in the castle gardens. He bears extreme hatred and resentment towards Amazaki Soshi, as he destroyed his beloved home and took away everything he once held dear. Kei’s family, the former King and Queen of Yako were murdered under false claims of breaking their peace treaty with the empire.

As a result, he is hostile towards the heroine due to her relationship with Soshi and distrusts the people within the empire. However, the protagonist finds herself wanting to know more about Kei; as although he is rude and brusque, he is an exceptional teacher and carries himself with nobility and grace due to his upbringing. He shows glimpses of kindness towards her, and is the only person she can regard as a friend within the castle. Kei’s company alleviates the loneliness she feels due to Soshi, and as they grow closer she comes to discover that Kei is easily embarrassed.

Although I picked Kei first as I liked his character design best, I did not expect to enjoy his route as much as I did. His relationship with the heroine was just too cute, and Kei is definitely a tsundere through and through. His moments of shyness and embarrassment towards the heroine’s obliviousness really grew on me as I progressed with his storyline. I felt the writing was best showcased within Kei’s route, as the pacing and descriptions of their interactions with one another were quite well written.

He developed significantly over the course of his route, and it was nice seeing his slow transition from complete distrust of the heroine to opening up to her about his past, fears and true feelings. I also felt the heroine was really proactive in getting to know Kei, and their feelings developed quite mutually.

The gift of the ‘Water Moon’ from Kei was just so cute, and was definitely a pivotal point of their relationship. I really liked the CGs for Kei’s route, and felt that they were definitely the best overall in the game. His route was very light-hearted, sweet and had plenty of cute moments together with the heroine. His route can be read as a stand alone separate from the others, as it doesn’t really delve too much into the overarching plot.

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KOICHIRO SERA: The heroine’s unsociable bodyguard who has been assigned to protect her during her stay within the castle. Despite her continual attempts at conversing and offers of friendship, Sera rebukes her as he views they are not apart of his job description. This does little to deter Amane, as he is the closest person to someone she regards as a friend. Although he is admired for his skill in combat, his very own soldiers at the castle view him difficult to work with; which greatly saddens Amane.

As the protagonist gets to know Sera better, she realises that his brusque mannerisms contradict the kindness and consideration of his actions. However, she soon becomes suspicious of his underlying intentions due to overhearing his conversations with others in regards to plans for the empire.

Sera’s route begins to delve more into the overarching plot of the rebellion, and there is less focus on their relationship development in comparison to Kei’s route. It is revealed that many of the castle workers are secretly rebels that were allowed access into the grounds through Sera’s authorisation. The heroine is shocked by this realisation out of fear for Soshi’s safety and Sera’s actions are akin to treason.

Sera is forceful and adamant that it is a necessary evil to destroy and kill Soshi, for the sake of invoking change within their now corrupt city. He presses onto Amane that she must accept her birthright, and ascend to her rightful place on the throne. This serves as the main source of conflict within the route, as the protagonist laments that Sera only protected her due to her integral position rather than his own personal desire.

I didn’t enjoy Sera’s route as much due to the sudden incorporation of the overarching plot that really disjointed the overall storyline pacing. The route initially begins with the two slowly opening up to one another, and the development of their relationship. However, upon the revelation of Sera’s plans for the rebellion and his intention to have Amane ascend the throne; all that prior development goes out the window.

Sera abruptly changes into a completely different person, and becomes forceful in his approach towards Amane. He disregards her concerns on the responsibilities of overtaking the throne, and her lack of political knowledge to rule a country. He is insistent that it is the only solution to their problems, without taking into consideration the protagonist’s feelings at all. It just felt like such a major step back from all their progression thus far, and they completely rushed the transition into the overarching storyline.

As a result, I couldn’t help but question the legitimacy of his feelings towards her and he is all too easily forgiven when she eventually concedes to taking over the throne. Although I do like how in his route Amane proves she is capable of becoming a hard-working and caring leader for her people, their overall relationship pacing felt too disjointed and lacked a lot of necessary development.

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TANBA TOKI: Toki is a flirtatious cafe owner, who rescues the heroine from a pick pocket on her first adventure into the city. He is incredibly popular amongst women due to his handsome looks and charisma. Toki is beloved by the customers who visit his popular cafe, which serves many western styled teas and confectionary. The heroine quickly becomes infatuated by his kind demeanour, the lively atmosphere of the cafe and his signature baumkuchen.

She begins to secretly use the hidden passageway underneath the castle to visit him everyday in the city, despite the risks of getting caught. Soshi immediately notices this and grants her permission to visit the city in the afternoons until sunset, after her studies conclude for the day. Amane is delighted by this, as it is the first semblance of kindness he has shown her since her arrival (and from the two routes so far).

Toki’s route is interesting because it is the only storyline that mainly takes place within the city, rather than in the castle grounds. It is clear from the beginning that there is more to Toki than his kind demeanour, although the heroine wholeheartedly believes in his sweet words. They share some very cute moments together initially, with Toki claiming that she is very precious and dear to him; different from all the previous girls he has been with.

He expresses that he genuinely means the things he says to her, and the heroine quickly falls in love with him. However after an outbreak of arson within the city, upon the heroine’s usual visitation to the cafe; Toki is incredibly cold to her. He rebuffs her attempts at reconciliation and offers for help with the injured. He states that a person of her status could never begin to understand the suffering of the poor, and her very presence within his cafe invokes resentment from the people.

He dismisses her completely, and insists that it would be best if she does not return as they are from two completely different worlds. Realising the futility of her actions, the heroine regretfully leaves. As the days pass, she is unable to forget her feelings for Toki and resolves to see him one last time before her wedding. However, she is captured in the secret passageway and imprisoned within the cafe hideout.

She comes to the realisation that the cafe was in fact a meeting place for the rebels, and Toki was the forerunner in leading the people. Toki visits the heroine and claims that he had only befriended her due to her status and money; and it is only through her actions that he was able to make it this far with his plans. His feelings for her had never been genuine, and she had been a pawn within the rebellion. Many of his strange actions up until that point now all make sense, and the heroine is left feeling bitter and betrayed.

Toki’s route suffers from the same underlying problem as Sera’s, where the transition into the overarching storyline was far too sudden and disjointed. Rather than feeling shocked at the betrayal, it was more so confusing and didn’t make much sense. Toki went from claiming how precious the heroine was to him, to treating her as a tool the next moment. It was like they rendered all previous relationship development between the two as obsolete, and the drama was forcefully incorporated just for the ‘shock’ factor.

Amane is quick to blame herself for the incident and is far too understanding of Toki’s behaviour, despite the treatment she has received. She is a helpless victim in the overarching political turmoil, and condemned by Toki for deeds she did not commit. She has shown Toki nothing but genuine kindness throughout his route, and he holds her responsible for the suffering of the people; despite only recently coming to the empire.

And then because she loves him and due to the few moments of kindness he had shown her; he is quickly forgiven and they end up happily together. I just could not view their relationship as genuine considering the events that occurred and found it incredibly unrealistic. I especially disliked the abrupt transitions of Toki’s feelings. It alternated between being smitten with the heroine, to resenting her with every fibre of his being, and then suddenly completely in love with her again.

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TOGAWA KAGEMITSU: Kagemitsu is the childhood friend of both Amane and Soshi Amazaki, the current ruler of the empire. He is his right hand man and trusted adviser, and shares idyllic memories with the two siblings from their lives in the countryside. As children, Amane had always loved Kagemitsu and wished to stay with the two of them forever. Initially she does not recognise Kagemitsu upon their first meeting, as she had not seen him for many years. She is surprised by his newfound maturity, and is overjoyed to have a companion within the lonely castle grounds.

After witnessing her being bullied by her personal tutor, Kagemitsu angrily stands up for Amane and replaces her. His lessons prove to be both effective and enjoyable, and Amane rapidly learns about the history and culture of the empire. She soon looks forward to their afternoons together drinking tea and strolling through the gardens, reminiscing of the happier times they once shared together as a trio in their youth.

Kagemitsu’s story is very much so connected to Soshi’s route, and significantly builds on the overarching storyline. I recommend playing his route prior to Soshi’s, as it offers a lot more information and further delves into the main plot. I genuinely felt the explanation within his route was much more clearly explained, in comparison to Soshi’s reveal about the empire and the nature of the rebellion. As a result, I felt that his character purpose was more so as an extension that led into Soshi’s route; rather than his own stand alone story.

The romance really took a backseat in Kagemitsu’s route, and there really wasn’t much character development on his part at all. He was the same kind, childhood friend that Amane had always remembered, and doesn’t really deviate from that character role.

As the two had always shared mutual feelings towards one another, there really wasn’t much relationship to develop as the foundations were already there. Although there were some romantic moments between the two, his route was rather disappointing and not at all memorable as a stand alone story.

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AMAZAKI SOSHI: Soshi is the protagonist’s older brother, and the current reigning King of the Empire. Amane is dismayed by his abrupt request to remove her from the countryside, and she becomes exceptionally lonely during her stay. He is initially cold to her, and rectifies that it is impossible for them to share the same sibling relationship they once had. This does little to deter the protagonist, as she continually attempts to socialise with Soshi and creates opportunities to spend more time with him.

However, over the duration of her stay she begins to hears of rumours of a rebellion as well as the people’s disillusionment with Soshi’s dictatorship. They view him to be a heartless tyrant who cares nothing for his people, and leaves the poor to fend for themselves; despite the constant outbreaks of arson and violence.

The heroine finds herself unable to distinguish the truth from lies, and begins to lose faith in Soshi. Although she genuinely wants to believe he is the same Soshi from her memories, his actions of constantly pushing her away and leaving her in the dark do little to reassure her concerns.

The threats continue to increase, and the possibility of Soshi’s position being overthrown becomes more and more likely as the days pass by. Amane decides that she must take action and discover the truth, both for the people and herself.

One of my main qualms about Soshi’s relationship with Amane is that it’s described rather inconsistently over all the routes. In some stories, it says that they are half siblings, whereas others emphasise how forbidden their relationship is; implying that they’re completely related by blood. Then in Sera’s route, their family tree demonstrates that Soshi isn’t apart of the hierarchy at all. It’s only properly confirmed in Kagemitsu’s route that they’re indeed not related by blood, and Soshi was adopted into the family at a young age.

I was very confused, as I wanted to know if the nature of their relationship was truly incestuous. Although there are incest undertones as they do view one another as siblings and grew up in a familial relationship, it’s technically not truly ‘incest’ because they are not blood related. This definitely made it a lot easier to accept their relationship, because I personally do not feel comfortable with family romances. This ambiguity lies in the fault of the translations, and really should have been clarified considering his relationship with Amane plays an integral role within the overarching story.

I quite enjoyed Soshi’s route, as it definitely filled in all the missing elements that was prevalent within everyone else’s story. He is the ‘canon route’ of the game, and I highly recommend that you do NOT play his story first. Playing his story first completely ruins the concept of the game and storyline, and he honestly should not have been available to play. His story should have been unlocked only through the completion of everyone else’s routes. Without the build up of the other stories, his route doesn’t make much sense nor does it have the same impact.

It was frustrating for the majority of his route as he constantly pushes the heroine away from him, and acts coldly towards her on purpose. However, it was nice seeing him slowly open up to her and eventually unable to control his forbidden feelings. Everything he has done has been for the sake of the heroine and her happiness, and it explains why he easily concedes the throne in all the other routes and supports her no matter which guy she chooses.

I quite like the twist of his dual-identity and the nature behind the true leader of the rebellion, as it added a subtle complexity to the plot that I wasn’t expecting. His story is one of redemption, forgiveness and acceptance that his past mistakes with the empire do not condemn him for the rest of his life. Soshi’s route is rather tragic in comparison to the others, and I felt the writing and storyline could have been executed much better.

The revelation behind the twist and overarching plot was delved upon much better in Kagemitsu’s route, which doesn’t make much sense as it should have had the most wholesome explanation and conclusion in Soshi’s story.

However, I did like that the protagonist took a more proactive role within his route. I was really shocked at her attempted assassination, as although it was understandable; there was absolutely no build up towards it at all. It definitely could have been developed much better, and was an interesting facet of the route that fell short of its potential. Their relationship development felt the most fitting out of all the characters, as his presence is prevalent within all the routes and he is the reason as to why all the events in the story occur.

Design ★★★★

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I was actually genuinely impressed by the art and it is without a doubt the highlight of the game. I did not expect to see such clean and crisp character designs that were relatively consistent with the CGs. Although the bachelors in some CGs looked a little different in comparison to their character sprites, the small differences were honestly negligible. I really liked the heroine’s character design in The Charming Empire, and I genuinely felt she looked better than the bachelors in many of the CGs.

I did not expect so many CGs to be incorporated for a relatively short game, and that was a definite plus as the art was really lovely. I was more so impressed as the artist Mitsuya Fuji is relatively unknown and to my knowledge hasn’t illustrated for any other game titles. Their most notable work would probably be the Drama CD series for Rejet ‘Midnight Jiang Shi’ and you can watch the PV for it here.

The only downside to the art of the game were the obvious digital paintings for the backgrounds. They clearly used real life images/photographs and digitally edited them, in order to cut the costs of producing their own backgrounds. Although this is commonly seen in mobile games, it definitely doesn’t transition well onto a steam port. The character sprites looked noticeably distinct against the background, and distracted from the artwork. It looked pixellated and out of place in many of the images, which really took away from the overall feel and impression of the game.

Music and Voice Acting ★★★

The voice acting was another aspect that attracted me to the game, and it did not disappoint. It was nice to see Dogenzaka Lab finally incorporating voice acting into their games, in order to compete with the recent otome steam releases. One of the advertised highlights of ‘The Charming Empire’ was their feature of prolific voice actors for many of the characters. It definitely helped the game out a lot because without them bringing the characters to life, the storyline would have been even more monotonous and two-dimensional than it already was.

The voice actors really emulated their personalities perfectly, and I was impressed by the great audio quality. I really enjoyed Kei’s voice actor surprisingly enough, as I felt he really captured his adorable tsundere moments. The music on the other hand, was quite typical of an original mobile port and suffered from blatantly looped tracks. It wasn’t bad by any means, but there was also nothing good about it either.

I found myself turning down the music after the first twenty minutes of playing because the looping was so distracting. Although the BGMs are definitely an improvement from previous Dogenzaka Lab games, they incorporated so little tracks that it became incredibly repetitive to listen to by the end of the first playthrough. It was quite disappointing that the music definitely dragged down and hindered the great voice acting.

What I do commend is that they’ve definitely improved and addressed some aspects of the game that weren’t in their previous titles, such as incorporating sound effects. The game is also fully voiced, so even all the side characters have voices of their own (not including the MC, which is standard for otome titles).

True to their word, many of the characters are voiced by famous voice actors that have done previous work on some very popular otome games. As I mentioned earlier, I recognised Kakihara Tetsuya and Tsuda Kenjiro instantly from the trailer and they definitely convinced me to purchase the game.

  • Yoshimine Kei | VA: Masuda Toshiki増田 俊樹 |
    Taisho x Alice series as Kaguya, Marginal #4 series as Kirihara Atom, Haikyu!! as Chikara Ennoshita
  • Koichiro Sera | VA: Eguchi Takuya | 江口 拓也 |
    Taisho x Alice series as Gretel, Collar x Malice as Hoshino Kazuki, Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak Academy as Sonosuke Izayoi
  • Kagemitsu Togawa | VA: Toyonaga Toshiyuki | 豊永 利行 |
    Marginal #4 series as Makishima Shy, Yuri!!! On Ice as Yuuri Katsuki
  • Tanba Toki | VA: Kakihara Tetsuya | 柿原 徹也 |
    Amnesia series as Shin, Code: Realize series as Viktor Frankenstein, Kenka Banchou Otome as Mirako Yuuta
  • Amazaki Soshi | VA: Tsuda Kenjirou | 津田 健次郎 |
    Yu-Gi-Oh series as Seto Kaiba, Hakuoki series as Chikage Kazama, Nightshade as Hanzo Hattori

System ★★★

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The system design and UI is quite nice for a mobile port title. It incorporates all the basic functions such as save/load slots, CG Gallery, skip, text speed etc. I would have preferred the save slots to be listed individually, rather than new slots appearing after every save. It was quite inconvenient to constantly scroll down to reload old saves, and felt rather clunky. I also disliked how even though I set the text skip to ‘already read’, this setting reseted every time I played a new route or re-opened the game.

The voice lists were a nice touch, although they weren’t anything impressive as the lines were very short for each character. I didn’t really expect too much out of the UI, as it was a mobile port. The character select and prologue options are reminiscent of a mobile game, as you would purchase their individual route and lock yourself into their story. If possible, I would have liked a scene recollection option for the CGs and a ‘jump’ button to skip to the next decision.

It would have been very helpful in replays of the route for the normal ending. I did like how fast the text skipping was, as it made replays much faster than usual in comparison to other games.

Conclusion

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In conclusion, I had really mixed feelings about the game. If you’re looking for a light-hearted and short read, with beautiful art and great voice acting then this is the title for you. The overarching plot is relatively simple, with a greater focus on the cute character moments and relationship development for the bulk of the game. It has a lot of CGs with every character, in spite of the short length. I can overlook a lot of the shortcomings of the game, if I consider the fact that it was originally a mobile port.

Although it can be considered quite pricey for the amount of game time you’re getting, it is still significantly cheaper than purchasing individual mobile routes and side stories. It also includes full voice acting, which is something rarely seen in mobile games. On that note, I wouldn’t recommend purchasing the game at full price considering the other titles in the steam store for the same price point; but with significantly more playtime. For example: Amnesia Memories, Nightshade and Nameless ~The one thing you must recall~ to name a few.

In spite of my criticisms of the game, I still found it enjoyable to play and read. It was a nice breather from the content-heavy and darker themed titles that I have been playing recently. Although it wasn’t by any means memorable, it still had some really cute moments here and there; coupled with the great art and solid voice acting. I surprisingly enjoyed Kei’s route, as the refreshing innocence of the two characters were really endearing over the course of the story.

However, if you’re looking for a game of immersive substance that is really worth your money in terms of content; then I would not recommend The Charming Empire. The routes mainly revolved around the same repetitive storyline that was prevalent in all the stories, with varying perspectives. Despite how similar and connected the stories were to one another, the bachelors made little to no appearances in the other character routes. This was very disappointing considering the game length, and it made it difficult to develop meaningful attachments towards the characters.

Although ‘The Charming Empire’ wasn’t without it’s faults, it was definitely a huge improvement overall from previous Dogenzaka Lab games and a good sign for better releases in future.

Overall Rating: 3/5

Written By Cherry

NEWS: False Elegy Kickstarter

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The biggest English fantasy visual novel, False Elegy, has just launched on Kickstarter.

With a planned story of 250.000+ words, False Elegy will the biggest English fantasy visual novel on Kickstarter (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1183318884/false-elegy-the-dark-fantasy-visual-novel).

The interactive story features three different routes, covering the three different heroines. False Elegy will be the first English Visual Novel to contain both romance and action at this production level.

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SYNOPSIS: Since the dawn of man, Ascendants have soared through the skies. To the humans, they are ethereal, divine and immortal beings, guardians of earth and protectors of humankind. But even among the Ascendants, there are those who have Fallen.

Areon and his partner Eden are Ascendants tasked with the elimination of the creatures born from sin – the Fallen. Following a tragedy, Areon chooses to participate in the Divinity Project; a project with the potential to rehabilitate Fallen and make them Ascendants once again. There is a risk though. During the project, a Divinity Link forms between Fallen and Ascendant and this means their fates are linked. They are connected until finally the Fallen Ascends and is freed from sin, or the Ascendant Falls to the same corruption as the Fallen.

At the selection, the beautiful Ark catches his attention. A Fallen never approached due to her insanely corrupted personality. Areon, undaunted by her ferocity, forms a link with Ark. However, he did not realize that his powers will be irrelevant. What will be challenged are his wits, resolve, and mental fortitude. What awaits him is a bigger task than he could have ever imagined.

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ABOUT TEAM GENE6: Team geNe6 is an international team striving to make their mark in the visual novel world. Their goal is to create the high-quality visual novel which everyone has been waiting for, whilst also introducing people to the medium. Inspired by both Japanese and western media, they hope to create something unique and surprise everyone with their upcoming visual novel, False Elegy.

FALSE ELEGY:
Retail: €19,99
Demo: https://team-gene6.itch.io/false-elegy
Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1183318884/false-elegy-the-dark-fantasy-visual-novel
Available on PC, Linux and Mac

The Charming Empire Walkthrough

If you would like to see my general review of the game, you can read it here.

I personally recommend to play the characters in the following order.

YOSHIMINE KEI

8

  • Prisoner?
  • I’ll do my best
  • Tell the truth
  • Why can’t you go, too?
  • That’s not true
  • Deny it
  • Stay a little longer
  • Yeah
  • Romance novels
  • Apologize
  • Relax
  • I’m not sure about this
  • Okay
  • Original story → From the Beginning → Choose all the Opposite Answers → Normal End

KOICHIRO SERA

9

  • No, but…
  • Try again
  • Leave
  • I just want to walk around
  • Are the houses okay?
  • State what I think
  • Leave the room
  • Did you used to train here?
  • Ask Sera
  • Keep holding hands
  • Say no
  • Um…
  • I’ll think about it
  • Talk
  • Why are you doing this?
  • Tell the truth
  • Stop him
  • Sacrifices are ridiculous
  • Original story → From the Beginning →  Choose all the Opposite Answers → Normal End

TANBA TOKI

18

  • Apologize
  • Continue forward
  • Thank you
  • You bought it for me?
  • Play along
  • Accept
  • What’s our relationship?
  • Can I really go with you?
  • I’m important to you?
  • Push the man aside
  • Don’t say that…
  • Peek through a closer window
  • Think positive
  • You’re letting me go?
  • Do you like quieter girls?
  • Ask the guards for help
  • Save my brother
  • Original story → From the Beginning → Choose all the Opposite Answers → Normal End

TOGAWA KAGEMITSU 

13

  • The future
  • A sugar candy
  • This is all new to me…
  • I’ve never seen this design
  • I was spacing out
  • I’m happy
  • I want to do something
  • Forward
  • That’s embarassing
  • Hold his hand
  • No
  • I trusted you
  • Are you serious?
  • Ask about the promise
  • You do deserve it
  • Original story → From the Beginning → Choose all the Opposite Answers → Normal End

AMAZAKI SOSHI

15

  • Just pick one
  • Yes
  • Stay in your room
  • I don’t
  • I think he’s kind
  • Tell someone
  • It’s not going well…
  • Go to Soshi’s room
  • Go with Soshi’s choice
  • Turn the corner
  • I just can’t
  • I wanted to go with you
  • Original story → From the Beginning → Choose all the Opposite Answers → Normal End

Nightshade / Hyakka Hyakurou Review

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RELEASE DATE: 2016
PUBLISHER: D3 Publisher, Lantern Rooms & Red Entertainment Co.
PLATFORMS AVAILABLE: Windows/PSVita (Japanese) & Steam (English)

I was anticipating the release of Nightshade even before it’s initial english release date of December 15, 2016. You can imagine my complete disappointment when I checked on the original release day and realised that it had been pushed back for an unforeseeable amount of time. I was initially put off by it as the official announcement for the release date delay was posted a week later on steam.

I felt it was extremely last minute decision-making, and didn’t leave too great of an impression as the announcement should have been out at least a week prior to the release date. However, I felt that the wait would also be more worthwhile if the end product was of better quality.

I was very surprised when they decided to announce at the beginning of April that the new release date would be April 12th. I had expected that they would have announced it much earlier prior to the upcoming release rather than only less than two weeks before, in order to build greater hype.

Needless to say I was pleased since I would have the time to play and review the game over the Easter break, and the date just so happened to be after all my mid-semester exams. Although the game definitely lived up to its stunning visuals and popularity, I wouldn’t say it was one of my all-time favourite titles.

Storyline ★★★

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-The Story-

During the Sengoku Period the two main factions of ninja clans, Iga and Kōga, warred against each other for decades.
In the year 1593, Nobunaga Oda started the Tenshō Iga war, decimating most of the Iga ninjas in the process.
The very few that survived were absorbed into the Kōga clan, despite their past rivalries.
 
After 17 years the Sengoku Period finally came to an end, and Japan was unified.
 
Enju (Protagonist), daughter of Kandō Ueno, the Head of the Kōga clan, spends her days training diligently in hope of becoming a full-fledged ninja like her peers.
 
At long last she is assigned to her first mission, but finds herself caught in a dark conspiracy――. (Steam Summary

The protagonist Enju is the sheltered princess of Koga and a symbol of unity between the two clans of Iga and Koga. She has been protected and raised with immense love, whilst enjoying her idyllic and peaceful days amongst her childhood friends and the village of Koga. Due to her integral status as Kando Ueno’s daughter, Koga’s people are apprehensive to the concept of Enju pursuing the path of a Shinobi as it would inevitably endanger her own life.

This only serves to fuel Enju’s passion and desire to become a fully-fledged ninja, and join the ranks of her companions in order to have the strength to protect what she holds dear and finally receive the approval of her father. Elated at the prospect of finally accompanying her friends on a mission to Kyo, Enju leaves Koga bright-eyed and determined to prove the fruits of her labour and results of her training.

Little does Enju know that what initially appeared as a promising start to a new future, would turn into a horrific tragedy. She is used as an unknowing pawn within an overarching political conspiracy, and has no choice but to partake in the game in order to survive. With the whole world against her and forsaken by her own village, Enju experiences the cruel reality that she had been shielded away from her whole life.

Her once unshakeable beliefs on what constitutes as a ‘proper’ Shinobi have now wavered in the face of her own morals and values. Enju comes to the painful realisation that in order to become the Shinobi she had always admired, the price she must pay is the sacrifice of her own humanity.

Can she continue to follow the same path with the same conviction as she had in the past, because it was what a Shinobi should do? Or would her human desire to live lead to the destruction of her own village and everything she held dear?

The universe of Nightshade is an immersive world of ninja and samurai based on a real historical time period soon after the end of the Sengoku Era. The storyline is refreshing, unique and captures your interest immediately from first impressions. It is apparent that the writers spent a lot of time crafting the background to the storyline, as it is very detailed and imaginative. The time invested into the writing of the storyline really paid off as it is one of the highlights of the game and I greatly enjoyed reading the unfolding plot.

It really does keep you on the edge of your seat, as you’re continually wondering what will happen next. The conflict between the ninja clans within the overarching political war created a very complex plot, that delves into thematic concepts such as adventure, self-discovery, self-worth, familial loyalty, love and betrayal. It’s a roller coaster of emotions for many of the routes, and the descriptions of the emotional turmoils of the characters and their inner struggles were very well written.

I also liked all the ninjutsu they tried to incorporate and introduce into the game, as it definitely made the storyline more exciting to see the unique abilities the characters possess. It made the ninja aspect of the game feel a lot more authentic, and added greater dimension to Nightshade.

I especially liked the moral address on what it means to be a Shinobi for many of the characters, as their sense of duty is conflicted by their own morality and beliefs. It created multi-faceted personalities that were more realistic and established stronger attachments to the characters by the end of the story. However, in spite of how much promise the storyline of Nightshade had; it definitely did fail to deliver in various key areas.

As the storyline was linear, the main plot and source of conflict is prevalent in all of the character routes. The common route is the same for all characters, as well as the game branch. Although I don’t mind linear storylines at least for the general or common route of visual novels, I definitely prefer non-linear for the character paths as it creates more interesting and unique storylines. Due to this aspect, progressing through the routes became rapidly very stale as its the same repetitive storyline for all the characters.

Although there are alternate events that lead to different endings with all the bachelors, the routes were not entirely separate from one another. They all built from the same premise, and the core development of Enju becoming a fugitive and abandoned by Koga is universal in all the routes. The game did incorporate some interesting character pasts and twists, but it wasn’t enough to fully disconnect the story routes from one another.

My main criticism for Nightshade is that Ieyasu Tokugawa is unfortunately not an obtainable character, which I felt was a huge waste of potential and character design. Not to mention he has such a lovely seiyuu (voice actor) as well. Including Ieyasu would have created a significantly more refreshing and multi-dimensional storyline, in comparison to the current cast of bachelors. This is due to their similarity as all being Shinobi, which really narrowed the possibilities of what they could do for Enju within the storyline.

As ninja, they all lacked the political power to fully save Enju as they’re unable to remove her status as a wanted criminal nor declare her innocence. As Ieyasu is a lord within the Council of Elders, it would have created a unique path with a different perspective to the current storyline. Due to his status, there were just so many more possibilities on how the plot could have developed and I was really disappointed with the missed opportunity.

Having more diversity with the bachelor roles would have imminently strengthened the storyline, and it’s a shame that Ieyasu’s character wasn’t delved upon further. He really piqued my interest as he is such an integral character in all the storylines, and had so much undiscovered complexity to his personality. Although he initially appears kind and gentle-natured, he also has shown glimpses of cunning and extreme coldness; which is inevitable as someone does not rise to the top of the hierarchy without committing any acts of questionable morality.

Overall, although I did really enjoy Nightshade’s storyline I felt it had so much untapped potential to become an amazing story. The linear format for the character routes really inhibited the story development, and by the third playthrough I had essentially seen everything the plot had to offer.

Many of the events that invoked suspense and surprise from the initial playthroughs, had become predictable and stale due to the repetitive nature of the linear storyline. I also would have liked epilogue endings for the characters with a bonus CG, as it would have created a more wholesome conclusion to the character routes.

Character Development ★★★★

! WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD! READ AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION!

I personally played the routes in the following sequence of characters, however my recommended order after finishing the game is: Goemon → Hanzo → Kuroyuki → Gekkamaru → Chojiro. To me, the story development made the most sense in this order and the trio from Koga had a greater amount of spoilers. If you need the walkthrough for the game, I have a completed one here.

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HANZO HATTORI: The most loyal disciple of Ieyasu Tokugawa, and head of the Tokugawa clan. He is widely considered as the most powerful shinobi the world has ever known, and his very name draws fear and awe from both allies and enemies. Hanzo is undefeated in battle and unparalleled in both strength and skill. He is a man of few words, and is a model example of how a shinobi should be. His only focus is on the completion of his objective, and views failure as akin to death due to his strong sense of principle.

He has never known of a life outside the battlefield, and lives for no other sake than to be a shinobi. Hanzo has no fear of death, despite facing it everyday of his life. He views factors such as emotions and trust as a liability to a shinobi; as it affects their better judgement and compromises the success of a mission.

However, he is honest and unexpectedly more kind and gentle than his looks perceive; facets that Enju eventually comes to realise and falls deeply in love with. Initially, she admires him from afar due to his representation of the shinobi she had always wanted to become — the model of strength, skill and the ability to protect others.

In spite of his criticisms that her emotions make her unfit to be a shinobi, he does not undermine her weaknesses nor her desire to improve. He constantly provides her with honest advice, praises her strengths and encourages her own personal growth.

I picked Hanzo first because I found his character personality the most interesting out of all the bachelors, and because he’s voiced by Tsuda Kenjiro (same VA as Chikage Kazama from the Hakuoki series). I’m a huge fan of his voice acting due to his unique and powerful voice, and he did not disappoint at all in Nightshade. I thought Hanzo would have a side character plot initially due to his lack of connection to the rest of the group and I’ve never been more glad to be completely wrong.

I immensely enjoyed his route and he is by far my favourite character in the game. The little things he did for Enju and their gradual development as characters through the small gestures really grew on me throughout his story. For example: things like being able to read the other’s small changes in expressions and Hanzo’s cues. Aspects like their synergy and innate trust in battle, and being able to gradually converse with one another in spite of Hanzo’s curt nature of speaking.

The recurring motif where Enju confesses that the moment she fell in love with him was when she first saw his smile, and his continual response that ‘nothing compares to the beauty of your smile’ was honestly so sweet. It seemed almost natural for them to fall in love due to their close proximity for three months, and despite his denials that it was all for the sake of his orders; he was still undoubtedly Enju’s saviour, her light in the dark and her guide.

I felt what Hanzo was able to do for the heroine was something that none of the other bachelors were able to do. He respects her enough to give her advice, but never the final answer. He abides by her wishes and supports her in a way that only he knows how; a way that was different from everyone else. Hanzo enables her to find her own strength, and make her own decisions on what path she should take.

He is kind, gentle and honest; someone she can trust wholeheartedly and has proven this by putting his life on the line countless of times to save her. Although Hanzo has cut down endless lives with his blade, upon meeting Enju and falling in love with her; his blade wavers for the first time in his life. Through falling in love with Enju, he begins to question his own sense of morality and how killing her friends would affect her; because he loves her and does not wish to erase her smile.

It’s a very pure kind of love that is mutual from both parties. For Hanzo, then he respects her skill, work ethic and dedication from his first impressions. However, what makes him fall in love with her is how inherently different she is from him. She has innate strength, something which he lacks — the strength to break free of the customs and ‘rules’ that upholds shinobi and their society.

Enju is able to be her own person, and carve her own path based on her own beliefs, rather than succumbing to what is expected of her. Despite always beating herself up, she puts in the hard work and is determined to improve herself. By the end of the game, Enju displays that she has even surpassed the strongest ninja clan of Tokugawa in her abilities. Enju reminds Hanzo of the parts of himself he didn’t think he possessed anymore, and that is what makes him irrational.

I felt Hanzo really enabled Enju to be the best version of herself she could possibly be. She was able to confront her own father; the source of her lack of self-efficacy and low self-esteem. Through Hanzo, she was able to finally believe in herself and have the courage to face the things she never could in the past. I also really liked how in his route we find out about the truth behind her mother’s death, and it gives Enju the necessary closure she needed and answers the question she had always wanted to know.

It gives her peace knowing that she had in fact, been deeply loved and not been abandoned by her mother. Although her hands become stained in his route, I felt it was necessary for the development of her character in order to mature and grow.

Even her childhood friends upon meeting her again, comment that she has become even more beautiful than before; but she is no longer the Enju they had known. I really liked how in Hanzo’s route, the growth of their characters and development of feelings were both mutual. You could just see the subtle changes in their interactions and decisions over the course of the story.

I felt their ending was so befitting and sweet, and they honestly had all the best moments together. I finished his route feeling very satisfied, however I would have really liked an epilogue of their marriage life since it felt like a more wholesome conclusion to their story.

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GOEMON ISHIKAWA: Widely considered the most renowned thief within Japanese history, and a direct mirror to ‘Robin Hood’. Goemon steals from the corrupt and rich families within Kyo, and gifts his bounties to the poor. He is the reason as to why the Koga ninja are hired and sent to Kyo by the Minister, and as a result setting the events of the story in motion. Goemon is notorious for his MO of sending notices prior to his robberies, and has evaded all attempts at capture from the special police task force.

Due to the honourable nature of his actions towards the citizens, it is initially difficult for the Koga ninjas to gather information on the high profile thief. However, we soon learn that his successes are largely due to his past status as an immensely skilled ninja; a ninja that even Hanzo himself respects and has trouble dealing with.

I found it really ironic how throughout the whole entire common route, Enju was seeking information from the very man she was meant to capture. It is clear from the get go that there was more to ‘Goro’ (his alias) than what he led on, and his beguiling charms and flirtatious nature really keeps you interested and reeled in to his character.

He is a highly skilled ninja, master thief, extremely popular amongst women, charismatic, quick-witted and possesses a handsome face. Goemon essentially has the whole package down pat, and has the type of personality that is really difficult to dislike. His route was the complete opposite of Hanzo’s, and a welcome change in tone. It was a lot more light hearted due to his joking nature, and continual attempts at making moves on the heroine.

Normally I’m not as much of a fan of flirtatious characters, but I was really interested in finding out the true face of Goemon Ishikawa — the man beneath the mask, and what really happened to him in the past that led to his life of thievery. I really liked how in his route they delved upon the Hanzo, Chojiro and Goemon trio and their past as ex-Iga ninjas who trained together as brothers from a young age.

What I liked about Goemon’s route was due to his pacifist ways, he chooses not to kill others and opts to flee rather than engage in combat. This essentially preserves the heroine’s innocence, and her hands do not have to be stained by death. Through Goemon’s manipulation of the events to occur, she also does not have to face her fellow comrades from Koga as they now have the same objective for her protection and return. To me, this was the highlight of Goemon’s route and what really made their relationship so endearing.

You can just see the lengths that Goemon goes to in order to protect the heroine both emotionally and physically, as well as showcasing his admirable skills as a master tactician. Everything he does considers the heroine’s feelings and happiness. In spite of the linear storyline and similar plot in all the character routes, Goemon’s wit and cunning to devise daring strategies in order to save the heroine kept the story refreshing.

I really liked the twist on his character upon the realisation that he was the ex-leader of the now fallen Fuma clan. It just made so much sense as to why he was so highly-skilled and his distaste of Hideyoshi. It echoes his feelings at the beginning of the route, when he expressed he had lost everything in the past and why he now chooses a peaceful life outside of the battlefield. It was a surprising revelation that added an extra dimension to his story, and I felt he had a really great finale to his route.

The whole ‘betrayal’ plot was really well done, and he almost had me there for a second but I just knew something wasn’t quite right about it considering his actions until that point. Midorikawa Hikaru did such a great job voicing Goemon, as his voice was just so soothing to listen to and his personality was spot on.

I really liked the light-hearted theme of Goemon’s story, and definitely enjoyed his route. My only criticism would be that due to his protection of Enju, she didn’t develop quite as much as a character in comparison to Hanzo’s route.

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KUROYUKI: Enju’s beloved childhood friend, and the youngest amongst the Koga shinobi group. He left Koga eight years ago on an unknown mission under the orders of Koga’s Leader, and appears during their journey to Kyo. Enju is extremely happy with his return, as in her eyes he is the same Kuroyuki that left Koga all those years ago. However, it is clear during their early interactions that he is not the exact same Kuroyuki she once knew; as an ever-pressing sadness permeates his character and a coldness in his eyes that Enju does not see.

His route is a lot darker than the previous two, and focuses more so on the ninja-aspect of the game and the overarching storyline. Kuroyuki really captured my interest initially as it was obvious that there was something really unhinged about his character, and the darkness surrounding his eight years away from Koga. What I liked about his route was it finally revealed the conspiracy behind Hideyoshi’s killer in Hanzo and Goemon’s route, and the master puppeteer orchestrating the murder.

I did not expect the twist in regards to his forbidden ninjutsu from Kaga, and his horrific experiences during his time in training. His story is really tragic, emotional and heartfelt; and you can’t help but sympathise for the trauma he has had to endure. I did like how in his route they utilised different aspects of the ninja universe, to craft a more intricate and multi-faceted storyline.

However, due to the dark nature of his past it encroaches upon his current relationship with Enju and warps it into an unhealthy obsession. Although the game does try to justify their love for one another as being genuine, to me it really came off as severe Stockholm Syndrome. Enju continually reasons that the Kuroyuki she sees before her is the Kuroyuki she had cared for in the past, when the reality is he’s now a completely different person.

In order to master his dojutsu (eye illusion technique), he sacrificed his mentality and memories due to the parasitic nature of the skill. Jaded by his experiences in Kaga his only remaining memory is of Enju, which keeps him sane and connected to reality. His life is the equivalent to a never-ending nightmare, and his hands have been stained by the bodies of countless corpses. As a result, I could not help but question the legitimacy of their feelings for one another.

I felt Enju regressed significantly as a character, as she completely loses sight of her original objectives and desires; instead only caring about Kuroyuki and nothing else. Even her own friends are dismayed by the unhealthy changes, pleading with her to snap out of the trance that he has emotionally manipulated her into. Enju is fixed on the notion that they only have each other, and that without him life is no longer worth living.

Kuroyuki has no qualms about kidnapping Enju over and over, and lied in order to keep her by his side initially. Although he does realise the errors of his ways later in the storyline, and wishes for Enju’s happiness; I still could not bring myself to view their relationship as truly genuine. However, I did enjoy his bad ending because it actually felt befitting to the storyline and tragic theme of his route.

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GEKKAMARU: Gekkamaru is Enju’s assigned bodyguard from childhood, and they share a relationship akin to master and servant. To Enju’s dismay, he is extremely overprotective and constantly teased as a result of his excessive doting. However, his loyalty is unmatched and views Enju as greater than his pledge to Koga itself. He would willingly throw away his village and everyone else for her sake.

Gekkamaru is notorious for constantly shadowing Enju, often following her and keeping vigilant watch of any potentially dangerous endeavours she may partake in. Although he is initially skeptical of her first mission assignment to Kyo, Enju reasons that it is her duty as a Shinobi of Koga. She expresses her desire to become comrades of equal status to one another, rather than their current established relationship of master and servant.

When Enju is convicted of murder, Gekkamaru is the first to rise to her aid and without a second thought; disregards his orders from Koga. Thus, begins their journey as fugitives and a different twist on the previously seen game between the Council of Five Elders. Although I did enjoy the surprising developments in Gekkamaru’s story, I felt that the relationship development between the two really took a backseat to the tragedy.

It was just so much bloodshed and death one after another to the point of being almost overwhelming. After the second character death, it became a predictable chain of loss, mourning and needless bloodshed. There wasn’t really much ‘relationship’ to develop, as I felt the feelings were always there to begin with; and the only inhibition had been their status as master and servant. Once that aspect was out of the picture, it felt natural for them to realise their feelings for one another had developed into romantic love a very long time ago.

They had some really good moments together as well as so many great CGs. I definitely praise the writing for it, since they really knew how to play on your heartstrings. The poetic comparison of their relationship to the moon and the heavens was really lovely, and truly a befitting description of what they were to one another.

I also liked the twist and explanation for his overprotective nature as a ninjutsu placed on him by Kagari, Enju’s mother. It was a unique aspect to his storyline, and showcased yet another facet of how evil Kando was and the complexity of the political conspiracy. However, I felt Gekkamaru’s route was overall lacking because he didn’t really develop much as a character over the course of the story. Not to mention that although the spell aspect was interesting, it also served as a question to whether or not Gekkamaru’s loyalty and feelings could be considered truly genuine.

What you see from him in all the other stories is essentially what you get in his route. There isn’t any sort of hidden agenda, darkness or extra dimension to his character. He is the epitome of the ‘childhood friend and sworn protector’ trope, and doesn’t steer outside that role at all. With their close proximity on their journey and no longer bound by rules of custom, the relationship development between Enju and Gekkamaru didn’t come as a surprise at all. Rather, it felt expected for it to occur eventually. As a result, I found his story route a lot weaker in terms of plot in comparison to the others.

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CHOJIRO MOMOCHI: Koga’s greatest shinobi and a veteran on the battlefield, Chojiro is someone whom Enju deeply respects and has admired since childhood. Due to his outstanding skill and experience, Chojiro acts as a mentor and older brother figure to the Koga ninja. Their skills and fearsome reputation are largely due to his efforts, as although he is critical as their teacher; his opinions are hardly ever wrong. He is a man of very few words, and the type of shinobi that Enju has always aspired to be.

They share a familial relationship as cousins, as Enju’s mother is also Chojiro’s aunt. Originating in Iga, Chojiro has lived a life of unbearable loss and suffering; witnessing his village’s destruction and the deaths of everyone he held dear at a very young age. As a result, he is extremely jaded and wholeheartedly devotes himself to his mission; because that is how a shinobi should be.

Chojiro has always completed his orders without question, and completely discarded any semblance of weakness on the battlefield. However, after spending more time with Chojiro and truly getting to know his real self; it reveals to Enju a very tragic revelation. In spite of his cold exterior, Chojiro is the one who is suffering the most and no longer able to express his sadness due to the years of suppression.

He is afraid to hold anything dear to him, because he knows he will inevitably lose it; like sand slipping through his fingertips. He is afraid to deviate from the objective of his missions, because he does not wish to lose his home a second time. He is afraid to love another, as the nature of how a Shinobi should be does not allow for him to possess such sentiments.

Chojiro is unimaginably scarred and has closed his heart to others, because he has experienced so much loss that it has consumed his entire being. He turns a blind eye to the pain and suffering he feels; because it has become a natural part of his life. Chojiro’s route is incredibly sad and tragic, and I really do commend the writing for it.

Although it followed the same linear branch as Gekkamaru’s route, I felt the storyline was executed much better in Chojiro’s route and significantly more meaningful. Rather than being aware of the nature of the game, the characters are fighting to the death for the sake of their own village and families. The stakes are much higher, and they had fully resolved themselves to kill; in order to protect what they held dear.

It made their deaths so much more traumatic and impactful upon the revelation that they had all been used as tools for a petty game. I felt the romantic development between Chojiro and Enju in his route was quite disjointed and seemed out of place within the story. There was just so much death, despair and loss happening that it didn’t truly feel right for their feelings to develop in such a setting.

For most of the story Chojiro is conflicted between his duty as a Shinobi and his own desires; and only realises how dear Enju is to him after experiencing the loss of all his disciples and dearest friends. To me, it felt more befitting for their relationship to have stayed platonic as Chojiro was more akin to a broken man; grasping for the only remaining person he had left.

Another factor that I liked about Chojiro’s route is that he’s voiced by Toriumi Kosuke, who is the same VA as Saito Hajime from the Hakuoki series. It’s really ironic because the voice for Chojiro sounds exactly the same as the one for Saito, and they both play the same character trope of the tragic hero bound by duty.

It honestly felt like Saito V2 for most of his story, and I was thinking to myself constantly ‘I already suffered enough in Hakuoki, why must I experience the exact same ordeal again?’ He did a great job capturing Chojiro’s inner turmoil, suffering and character personality, although I didn’t expect any less after his performance as Saito in Hakuoki. I did really like the powerful writing for Chojiro’s storyline and his bad ending was truly befitting of his character route and the tragedy that encompassed it.

Design ★★★★★

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The art, character designs and backgrounds were by far the highlight and selling point of the game. I was actually very surprised by the sheer number of character sprites that the game incorporated, and the backgrounds were so gorgeous. They honestly looked akin to a water colour painting and suited the time period of the game very well.

I really liked all the character designs, and how they had both regular outfits and ninja battle gear. Even many of the side characters had their own unique sprites, and I particularly liked Ieyasu Tokugawa’s outfit design as well as Enju’s. She has a very different and refreshing look for a visual novel heroine, and her colour motif for her ninja outfit was lovely.

I liked how every character had their own distinct ninja weaponry that really suited their battle style and personality. The battle stances and poses were especially well done for the characters. They even incorporated unique ninja uniforms to distinguish the clans from one another, which I really liked. You could tell the developers paid a lot of attention to the minute details that really contributed to the overall feel of a game.

If there was anything to criticise about the artist’s illustrations it would be that the body poses and hands in some CGs were slightly out of proportion in some images in comparison to others. I did feel that the CGs were of slightly lesser quality than the character sprite illustrations. For example: in some CGs the hands/fingers were definitely a little too large, or in some side profile images they really over accentuated the length of the bachelor’s neck and adam’s apple.

However, these are very small details that can be easily overlooked and Teita is also the artist for the Norn9 series by Idea Factory. I really did enjoy the amount of detail and forethought the developers placed into the art and design of the game.

Music and Voice Acting ★★★★★

Another highlight of Nightshade was the stellar music and voice acting. I really liked the OST of Nightshade, as it was very soothing to the ears and a joy to listen to. I particularly liked the battle theme music, since I felt it perfectly suited the scenes and added much more dynamic to the action. The opening and ending OSTs were also really good, as well as the softer instrumental tracks.

They incorporated very prolific and well-known voice actors that definitely brought out the personalities within the characters and emulated their roles very well. Needless to say I expected nothing less than stellar, and they undoubtedly delivered to my expectations. Many of the voice actors are the same as the characters from the Hakuoki series, so if you’re familiar with the game you’ll instantly recognise them in Nightshade.

  • Momochi Chojiro | VA: Toriumi Kosuke | 鳥海 浩輔 |
    Inuzuka Kiba from Naruto series, and Saito Hajime from Hakuoki series.
  • Hattori Hanzo | VA: Tsuda Kenjiro | 津田 健次郎 |
    Seto Kaiba from Yu-Gi-Oh series, and Chikage Kazama from Hakuoki series.
  • Ishikawa Goemon | VA: Midorikawa Hikaru | 緑川 光 | 
    Lancer in Fate/Zero, Yoh Tomoe from Starry Sky series, Marth from Fire Emblem series, and Sakamoto in Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto.
  • Tokugawa Ieyasu | VA: Miyata Koki | 宮田 幸季 | 
    Ukyo from Amnesia series, and Chihiro Fujisaki from Danganronpa series,

System ★★★

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The system design and user interface was decent in Nightshade. It included all the basic functions such as save slots, skip, quick load/save, rewind and CG Gallery. I would have liked to see a ‘jump’ button included which skips to the next decision point and saves the time skipping all the scenes in between. This would have been really helpful replaying the common route, as it was very repetitive between the five characters due to the linear storyline.

The UI was nicely designed and incorporated some really nice extra animations to the game such as leaves falling, cherry blossom petals and rain. A flower animation also appeared on screen hovering over a specific bachelor when you earned affection points with them. The game also included a ‘memories’ tab which allowed you to replay chapters from character routes, and unlocked two bonus events (without CG) upon completion of their story. However, I would have liked to see a scene recollection included as well rather than having to replay the entire chapter to view specific scenes.

What I really do praise about Nightshade was the clean fighting animations and overlaying of the sprites during combat scenes. It definitely made the game a lot more immersive and enjoyable to play, as although the effects were simple; they were very effective. I also liked how you could actually choose specific character voices for the system dialogue and it was a really nice touch to the game.

On the first day of release for all users there had been prominent visual text spacing issues where the words were all clustered together. Although it was still readable, it was very taxing over a prolonged period of time. The developers did fix the issue after a couple of hours which was very prompt of them. However, for a title that was delayed 4-5months after the original release date you really do not expect for bugs to still occur for a final release copy.

I would’ve preferred a clearer text font choice for the game, and I had troubles initially adjusting the text speed. Sometimes if you don’t click the correct spot, it sets the speed to 99% rather than 100% which does not make the text appear all at once. It took a little fiddling around with to correct, however it really shouldn’t be an issue to begin with. As a result, the UI did feel clunky to use as a whole.

Conclusion

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In conclusion, Nightshade is a solid game and definitely one of the better english otome releases currently on the market. If you enjoyed Hakuoki, I highly recommend Nightshade as the two games are very similar in many respects and I’m sure Nightshade was heavily inspired by it. Although Nightshade has it’s own fair share of suffering and tragedy, it overall was nowhere near as dark and painful as Hakuoki. It definitely had many more light-hearted moments and genuinely happy endings, rather than the bittersweet conclusions that the Hakuoki character routes had.

The main highlight and selling point of Nightshade is the beautiful artwork, stellar voice acting and solid music. The game is very well designed and incorporates numerous character sprites, unique ninja outfits and weaponry and a solid selectable bachelor cast. Normally I don’t tend to like all the characters of a game, but in Nightshade there definitely wasn’t anyone I disliked. Every character has their clear strengths and weaknesses, and grow on you throughout the course of the game.

Nightshade had a lot of potential to go from a good game to an amazing one, and unfortunately it was lacking in one too many aspects within the writing. Although it is one of games I really enjoyed playing, it unfortunately wasn’t one of my all-time favourites.

Although Enju is a lovely protagonist who exhibits varying degrees of character development throughout the routes, it felt lacking in comparison to the potential shown in Hanzo’s story. It made the overall impact and writing within the other routes a lot weaker, as they did not fully flesh out Enju’s character as well as it did in Hanzo’s route.

The linear storyline and lack of character role diversity really took away from the overall feel of the game. It definitely lost its momentum and surprise factor by around the third playthrough, as it essentially only followed one of two linear game branches that both revolved around the same concept. As the characters were all ninjas, they were powerless in the overarching political turmoil and unable to truly save Enju.

Because of this, it really disappointed me that Ieyasu Tokugawa wasn’t an obtainable character. There was so much untapped potential for both diversifying the storyline, and character development due to his powerful position within the council. It would have even made sense to me as ‘the true ending/canon route’ to the game, as he would have been able to do what the other bachelors were unable to; which was prove Enju’s innocence and clear her status as a criminal.

The system also had many issues on the first day of release such as text font clarity and some users reporting that they were unable to play the game. This definitely impacted my score for the game’s system, as these are issues you don’t expect to occur after a 4-5month release date delay. The issues have now been fixed, so future players do not need to worry about potential bugs occurring and impeding their enjoyment of the game.

Overall, I really enjoyed Nightshade and do recommend it if you’re a fan of otome and historical storylines. The captivating character cast, beautiful art, clean fighting animations, and voice acting are more than enough to thoroughly enjoy the game. Although the storyline of Nightshade was good, it had so much untapped potential and opportunities to fully flesh out the universe and delve further into the plot. It was extremely disappointing that they weren’t utilised at all, and to me that was the downfall of Nightshade.

If these aspects had been addressed, Nightshade would’ve easily scored much higher. Hopefully more great titles continue to be released in english, and as fans we should continue to purchase the games to show our support. This helps encourage developers reaching out to the western market for localisation.

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

Written By Cherry

Nightshade: Chojiro Momochi Walkthrough

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If you would like to read the full review of the game, you can read it here.

* indicates affection point raise with that specific character

Common Route

Chapter 1

  • I should thank Brother Chojiro (*Chojiro) 
  • I’m glad we get to work together 

Chapter 2

  • All right (*Chojiro) 
  • Goro-san
  • Keep quiet (*Gekkamaru)
  • Fushimi castle, Main gate
  • That’s a relief
  • Try to resist
  • Stand up for Brother Chojiro (*Chojiro)

Chapter 3

  • Residential District
  • That’s not true (*Chojiro) 

Chapter 4

  • No option

Character Route

Good Ending

Chapter 5

  • Main Street
  • Residential District
  • Fushimi castle, Main gate

Chapter 6

  • [SAVE POINT] I wonder how everyone is doing (*Chojiro)
  • Someone I truly respect (*Chojiro)

Chapter 7

  • I wanted to stay with him (*Chojiro) 

Chapter 8

  • Attack (*Chojiro)

Chapter 9 

  • No option

Chapter 10 

  • Hug him (*Chojiro) 

Chapter 11

  • You’re right (*Chojiro) 

Bad Ending

Chapter 6

  • [LOAD SAVE FILE] What’s going to happen to me?
  • Someone I aspire to be

Chapter 7

  • I want to apologize to him

Chapter 8

  • Watch his movements

Chapter 9 

  • No option

Chapter 10 

  • Stroke his head

Chapter 11

  • You’re wrong

Nightshade: Gekkamaru Walkthrough

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If you would like to read the full review of the game, you can read it here.

* indicates affection point raise with that specific character

Common Route

Chapter 1

  • I should talk to Gekkamaru (*Gekkamaru) 
  • I’m glad we get to work together

Chapter 2

  • You’re leaving me here?
  • Goro-san
  • Keep quiet (*Gekkamaru) 
  • Residential District
  • I know you weren’t (*Gekkamaru) 
  • Try to resist
  • Bow deeply in silence (*Hanzo)

Chapter 3

  • Fushimi castle, Main gate
  • Don’t worry (*Gekkamaru) 

Chapter 4

  • No option

Character Route

Good Ending

Chapter 5

  • [SAVE POINT] You look very handsome (*Gekkamaru) 
  • Main Street
  • Residential District
  • Fushimi castle, Main gate

Chapter 6

  • No option 

Chapter 7

  • Of course. You’re a great cook (*Gekkamaru) 

Chapter 8

  • No excuses (*Gekkamaru)

Chapter 9 

  • Hold his hand (*Gekkamaru) 

Chapter 10 

  • Well… (*Gekkamaru) 

Chapter 11

  • Don’t resist (*Gekkamaru) 

Bad Ending

Chapter 5

  • [LOAD SAVE POINT] Your movements are beautiful
  • Main Street
  • Residential District
  • Fushimi castle, Main gate

Chapter 6

  • No option

Chapter 7

  • I’ll eat as much as I can

Chapter 8

  • I understand

Chapter 9 

  • Pat his futon

Chapter 10 

  • It’s nothing

Chapter 11

  • Resist

Nightshade: Kuroyuki Walkthrough

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If you would like to read the full review of the game, you can read it here.

* indicates affection point raise with that specific character

Common Route

Chapter 1

  • I should make preparations
  • I’m so happy to see you after 8 years (*Kuroyuki) 

Chapter 2

  • You’re leaving me here?
  • Goro-san
  • Make an excuse for Kuroyuki (*Kuroyuki) 
  • Fushimi castle, Main gate
  • Were you really joking? (*Kuroyuki) 
  • Try to resist
  • Stand up for Brother Chojiro (*Chojiro)

Chapter 3

  • Residential District
  • Because you get lonely easily (*Kuroyuki) 
  • I can’t do that

Chapter 4

  • It was a coincidence
  • But…

Character Route

Good Ending

Chapter 5

  • [SAVE POINT] Of course (*Kuroyuki) 
  • Main Street
  • Residential District
  • Fushimi castle, Main gate

Chapter 6

  • No option 

Chapter 7

  • Of course not (*Kuroyuki) 

Chapter 8

  • Go outside (*Kuroyuki)

Chapter 9 

  • No option

Chapter 10 

  • All right (*Kuroyuki) 

Chapter 11

  • I don’t know (*Kuroyuki) 

Chapter 12

  • No option

Chapter 13

  • No option

Bad Ending

Chapter 5

  • [LOAD SAVE POINT] Maybe
  • Main Street
  • Residential District
  • Fushimi castle, Main gate

Chapter 6

  • No option

Chapter 7

  • I was just amazed

Chapter 8

  • Wait

Chapter 9 

  • No option

Chapter 10 

  • I’ll fight with you

Chapter 11

  • He’s not

Chapter 12

  • No option

Chapter 13

  • No option

Nightshade: Goemon Ishikawa Walkthrough

Capture

If you would like to read the full review of the game, you can read it here.

* indicates affection point raise with that specific character

Common Route

Chapter 1

  • I should make preparations
  • I’m glad we get to work together

Chapter 2

  • You’re leaving me here?
  • Goro (*Goemon)
  • Keep quiet (*Gekkamaru)
  • Main Street
  • I’ve never had such good dessert before (*Goemon)
  • Try to resist
  • Bow deeply in silence (*Hanzo)

Chapter 3

  • Bukemachi
  • All right (*Goemon) 

Chapter 4

  • I’m sorry (*Goemon) 
  • But…

Character Route

Good Ending

Chapter 5

  • [SAVE POINT] I’m fine here (*Goemon) 
  • Main Street
  • Residential District
  • Fushimi castle, Main gate

Chapter 6

  • I don’t think I can play a good wife (*Goemon) 

Chapter 7

  • I feel shy (*Goemon) 

Chapter 8

  • You’ll make a wonderful husband (*Goemon)
  • That doesn’t change the fact that it hurt (*Goemon)

Chapter 9 

  • You’re coming with me (*Goemon) 

Chapter 10 

  • Having you stroke my head (*Goemon) 

Chapter 11

  • I believe we’re destined (*Goemon) 

Chapter 12

  • Meet his eyes (*Goemon)

Chapter 13

  • Is it really a pain killer? (*Goemon)

Bad Ending

Chapter 5

  • [LOAD SAVE POINT] Let’s go to the dessert shop
  • Main Street
  • Residential District
  • Fushimi castle, Main gate

Chapter 6

  • I don’t think we’d be convincing

Chapter 7

  • Stop teasing me

Chapter 8

  • You’ll be a good father
  • Don’t force yourself to laugh

Chapter 9 

  • That’s unlike you

Chapter 10 

  • Sleeping in the same room as you

Chapter 11

  • I’ll be waiting

Chapter 12

  • Look away

Chapter 13

  • Is it poison?