[DEMO] Phantom Ban Detective Agency Review

77b7248e0ff41f3df1e0775ea9f94e42_original

PROJECT: Kickstarter Page
DEMO LINK: Download here

The game developers @ObentoMori reached out to me on twitter a while back to check out their upcoming Visual Novel. After skimming over their kick starter campaign, it quickly piqued my interest as I am an absolute sucker for detective/mystery Visual Novels. Although the campaign has already been successfully funded, you can still continue to donate via paypal to help support the team. You can do so from the above link, as well as view more information about the project/game itself.

The demo is fairly short (10-20minutes long) and this will mostly be my first impressions on the game and what I would like to see in the finished version!

Storyline

Screen Shot 2017-08-19 at 6.22.45 am.png

– The Story-
In Phantom Ban Detective Agency you play as Riley Weir, a high school student at North Milton High. Alongside fellow student Dameon Hunt, self proclaimed “Phantom expunger extraordinaire,” she finds herself wrapped up in strange occurrences caused by mysterious beings called “Phantoms.” Together they join forces to solve the strange phenomena caused by the Phantoms and restore peace and order to North Milton.
(Kick Starter Page)

The premise is quite interesting, with the concept of ESPers and ‘Phantoms’ that creates mysterious phenomena for the protagonist to solve. It has a lot of potential in the development of the storyline, as there is just so many possibilities for the writers to work with. I’m excited to see how the mystery will pan out in the completed game. As it is a demo, I’m hoping that in the full game the introduction will be a lot more fleshed out and not so rushed like it’s current state.

You’re immediately thrust into the universe of the game, with little to no prior build up. You are barely able to acquaint yourself with the character cast before the first phantom case already appears. Whilst it was a good showcase of the surprisingly good graphics and effects of the game, it was not so good of an impression on the storyline.

You are also then given a list of suspects, in which you have only met one out of all the potential culprits. In a mystery detective Visual Novel, it is extremely important to introduce the whole cast of characters and to acquaint the players with the potential suspects beforehand. It creates good tension, forges a more memorable connection to the characters, keeps the audience questioning on who is the most suspicious and we’re constantly on a look out for potential ‘clues’ when interacting with them.

It only makes the betrayal all the more impactful later when the player finally realises who was behind the crime. This is a very crucial element of detective/mystery Visual Novels that I definitely hope to see in the final game.

Character Development

Screen Shot 2017-08-19 at 6.16.35 am.png

Although you’re only introduced to four characters so far in the demo, I quite enjoy their personalities from what I’ve seen so far. Riley seems to be quite a snarky, confident and strong-minded heroine which is what I definitely like to see in a female detective protagonist. Dameon (Riley’s ‘Detective Partner’) is great, and I love the interesting and fun dynamic between the two. Dameon is flamboyant and overly confident in his skills as a ‘Phantom expunger extraordinaire’, which clearly unnerves Riley.

Already from first impressions the two cannot stand one another and it will be interesting to see how they slowly become closer over the course of the story. As you can potentially romance the characters, I’d like to see the entire dateable cast and how this will affect the story endings. How would love affect the solving of a case, if the culprit/target is who Riley has feelings for? What personalities/tropes will these other characters fulfil?

Design

Screen Shot 2017-08-19 at 6.21.07 am

This was actually the aspect I was most impressed with the game. I really like the art style for the character sprites, I think it’s just so lively, fun and quirky. It really suits the theme of the game. I especially enjoyed Dameon’s choice of expressions, which I think were a very nice touch to his character. Some of the sprite poses could be cleaned up as they were slightly disproportionate in a few, which I’m sure will be refined for the final release.

The background art is especially gorgeous, and I was very surprised with the quality of it. The commissioned artist (Xand) did such an amazing job with it, and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing the art for the other locations in the game.

Music and Voice Acting

I quite liked the opening trailer for the game, as it had the notable ‘detective/mystery’ vibe going on that definitely caught my eye. In terms of the music for the demo thus far, then the tracks were decent. They suited the ‘mystery’ theme and scenes of the game, but I wouldn’t say that there were any that stood out so far. The looping at the end of the tracks were very noticeable, and should definitely be adjusted for the final version.

In terms of voice acting, then I am unsure if the completed game will be voiced.

System

Screen Shot 2017-08-19 at 6.28.48 amScreen Shot 2017-08-19 at 6.20.16 am

The system is fairly simple in design, and everything is very straight forward. It is clear cut, easy to read and navigate. If anything, I definitely would’ve liked to see a more detective-orientated user interface (UI). There are just so many ways to improve the system, in order to immerse the player into the role of a detective.

I’m very curious as to how many mechanics the game will include as part of the mystery/detective theme of the game. For example: a notepad/record of clues accumulated so far? Hint system? How do you ‘clear’ a case? Do you have to select and put forward the correct evidence, in order to out the suspect? How will you go about doing this? How many maps will there be? To what extent are these maps/rooms ‘interactive’?  Will items in the room be selectable?

As there is a foreseeable plan of 4-5 cases to clock the game, I’d definitely like to see increasing difficulty as the player advances through the storyline. Usually in most mystery games, with each subsequent case they tend to introduce new ‘mechanics’ that are applicable to the next stage. This keeps the gameplay refreshing and retains player interest. I look forward to seeing how the creators decide to approach arguably the most important aspect in a detective/mystery Visual Novel!

Conclusion

Screen Shot 2017-08-19 at 6.17.04 am

From what I have seen so far, I actually quite liked Phantom Ban Detective Agency. It has a lot of potential to be a solid game, and I’m fairly impressed with what I’ve seen so far for an indie visual novel team. The storyline is interesting, and I enjoy the ‘phantom’ concept. The writing could be improved for the final version with some proof reading, as the sentence structure had some overly-long phrases and grammatical errors in the demo.

The characters, artwork and backgrounds are great and I’m looking forward to seeing the case-solving mechanics of the game. I think for an updated demo the best place to end the game would be after the first case. This would properly showcase the game’s main storyline, pique player interest and demonstrate the mystery-solving elements and mechanics. To me personally, the system UI and how interactive a game is in how you’re able to solve the case is the most important aspect of a detective/mystery visual novel.

I was impressed with the game animations so far such as the map transitions, phantom movement and just the small effects such as water droplets that really add to the overall feel of the visual novel. The music is decent, with some slight tweaking in terms of smoother track looping. I’ll be following the progress on this game, in anticipation for it’s expected 2018 release. I definitely recommend checking it out and giving the demo a go, as well as  supporting the creators via the kickstarter paypal link if you enjoyed it so far!

Advertisements

Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds [Limited Edition] Review

e55f9120-7c99-402c-94fa-86d30553de7b

RELEASE DATE: May 6 (NA) & May 9 (EU)
PUBLISHER: Idea Factory & Otomate
PLATFORMS AVAILABLE: PS Vita (Japanese & English) & Steam (To Be Released)
GAME LINK: Hakuoki Kyoto Winds – PS Vita [Regular Edition]
STORE LINKS: Hakuoki Kyoto Winds – PS Vita [Limited Edition][NA]
Hakuoki Kyoto Winds – PS Vita [Limited Edition][EU]
Official Site: Idea Factory International

I have been excited about Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds for quite a while now! Although the series is a little outdated in comparison to all the new otome game releases in the past couple of years, I’ve always had a soft spot for it as being one of the first otomes I ever played. It has always remained a solid ‘staple’ of the english otome game releases thus far, and it essentially is the title that really caught the attention of localisation companies. It proved that there was indeed a target market for the niche genre within the western community.

When Idea Factory International reached out to me for a collaboration, I was ecstatic! Although I initially didn’t plan on playing the remake as I played both the original Demon of the Fleeting Blossom on PSP and Stories of the Shinsengumi on PS3; I was still curious as to how they were going to approach a revamp for the series. The important aspect to remember is that Kyoto Winds ONLY includes Chapter 1-5 of the original game.

The second part has yet to be officially announced, and you’re only receiving the first half of the original storyline before it branches into the seperate bachelor routes. Although I initially wasn’t a fan of splitting the game into two halves, after playing through it I can understand why they made the decision. Hakuoki to begin with has always been a very text/content heavy game, with great emphasis on the overarching historical timeline of events. As they have refined and added a lot of additional dialogue/writing to the original game, the beginning chapters are significantly longer and offer many more hours of gameplay.

There are also an additional 5 bachelor routes in comparison to the original 7, as well as new event CGs. Due to the sheer amount of selectable bachelors each having their own routes, marketing and writing-wise it made the most sense to split the game into two. I was surprisingly quite impressed with the new additions to the game, and enjoyed playing the remake despite already being very familiar with the series.

Impressions on the Limited Edition

51a82650-b4e6-4488-99c3-d757042f790d

I was actually really surprised by how large the box for the Limited Edition was when it arrived in the mail. The box is really well made and sturdy; featuring lovely cover art for the game. Normally I don’t like to keep game packaging, but the one for Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds was just too lovely to throw out (laughs). I really liked how snugly all the items fit inside the box, and it was designed very well. It features an exclusive bento box, furoshiki, official soundtrack disk, hard cover art book and of course a physical version of the game.

The bento box is made out of bamboo, and was nicer than I expected. It definitely made a lovely match with the large furoshiki, which features art of all the bachelors from the game. However, I personally think the bento box is more suitable as a display piece or as an accessory container than as an actual bento box for use. My favourite aspect of the LE was definitely the hardcover art book, as it included a lot of CG art from the game as well as detailed character profiles and insights into the overarching storyline.

It provided a lot of extra information on the bachelors, and draft artwork leading up to their final designs. Overall, it’s a solid LE and definitely a step up from the previous LE’s for the Hakuoki series. I recommend purchasing it if you love exclusive well-made display items and are a huge fan of Hakuoki! Purchasing the LE definitely shows support for the series, and would lead to better LE’s in future. Other than that, then I wouldn’t say the LE is an absolute must have. The game is still very enjoyable with or without the extra content.

Storyline ★★★★

2017-07-08-232919.jpg

-The Story-

Japan’s Edo Period was drawing to a close.

The shogunate, who’d held power in the country for more than 200 years, found itself challenged by the imperial court, and by several domains who had chaffed under shogunal rule.

In the midst of this political unrest, an organization rose to prominence: The Shinsengumi. Originally formed to protect the streets of Kyoto from masterless samurai, they came to represent the last, tragic bastion of the honor-bound samurai culture that had defined much of Japan’s history.

A young woman by the name of Chizuru comes to Kyoto in search of her missing father, and soon encounters danger and the Shinsengumi in quick succession. When it becomes clear the Shinsengumi are also searching for her father, Chizuru is put under their protection.

But odd things are afoot in Kyoto—possibly even supernatural things. Can Chizuru navigate this maze of mortal danger and political intrigue? Amidst so much misery and death, can she find romance?
(Official Website Summary)

The website summary actually encompasses the story outline very well, so I won’t delve into it further here. The Hakuoki series has always been well-known for its interesting premise and powerfully interwoven storyline with Japan’s historical period of social unrest and change. It incorporates key elements such as fantasy, love, friendship and betrayal to create an immersive and memorable storyline. The world of Hakuoki is thoroughly fleshed out and demonstrates impressive world building, as the historical events propels both the storyline forward and the development of the characters.

They’re caught in between the cross-fire of a political war that acts as the catalyst for change and the beginning of a new era. A battle that would only imminently end in defeat, and inflict unimaginable death, despair and suffering as there is never a true victor in the aftermaths of war. The characters are on the losing faction, and are forced to question their own beliefs and morality as their organisation once built upon camaraderie and unwavering trust slowly corrupts from within.

They come to the daunting realisation that with the changing world, there is no longer a place for samurai. Their resolute beliefs on what constituted as an honourable warrior were now considered remnants of the past, and wars were no longer won through sheer will or one’s skill in battle. For these men who lived and died by their blades, their once unshakeable beliefs had wavered and their very existences are rendered meaningless.

It is the answering of these existentialist concepts tied in with significant character development over the course of the plot, that makes the storyline of the Hakuoki series so memorable. The writing in the remake Kyoto Winds is quite impressive, and refines the storytelling from the original game. There is just so much more description and attention to the finer details of the story, that is noticeable right from the very beginning.

The additional narration also gives Chizuru so much more personality, and provides the audience with a better understanding of her thought processes towards her own circumstances and the other characters in the game. As the first half is mainly dedicated to the historical events leading into the main complication of the storyline, it can be quite stale at times and very lengthy to read. If you’re not a fan of long introductions, slow storyline pacing and a greater focus on the plot rather than the romances between the characters; then Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds may not be the game for you.

As the first half of the remake only covers Chapter 1-5, it ends just before the common route branches into the character paths in the original. This is the section of the storyline where they lose the battle at the Fushimi Magistrate, and depending on the route; the heroine Chizuru becomes separated from the Shinsengumi and attempts to rejoin them at Edo along with the chosen bachelor.

Although the cliff hanger definitely builds hype for part two of the game, it was quite disappointing as the storyline after the character branch is where Hakuoki truly shines. One of the advertised aspects of the remake is the ‘new content’ they added to the game for all the bachelors, along with new dateable characters. If you’ve only ever played the original PSP or DS version, then you’ll definitely enjoy the remake as all the content will be completely new to you.

However, if you’ve already played the PS3 version then you’ll realise that half the new content is actually from the translated fandisk (Zuisouroku). This was the ‘Memories of Love’ portion in Stories of the Shinsengumi, which unlocked after finishing all the bachelor routes. Rather than keeping it as an ‘extra’ standalone fan service segment, they actually incorporated the fan disk moments into the overarching storyline itself. This was quite effective, as the events in Zuisouroku did follow the linear events of the main plot.

It made the storyline and characters much more immersive and likeable; as there was a greater balance between the plot and romance aspects of the game. It provided greater insight into the bachelor’s feelings and thoughts, and they’re not quite so dismissive and emotionless towards Chizuru in comparison to the original game. However, I was still rather disappointed as I thought when they claimed it’d be all ‘new and never before seen’ content for the game, it meant that they wouldn’t be reusing old scenes and labelling it as ‘longer bachelor routes’.

The other half of the content however, did keep to their promise and included new scenes and CGs. It took 3-4 hrs to complete my first play through, and around 2-3hrs for every bachelor afterwards. I did all 3 endings for every character, which totalled to approximately 25-30hrs of play time.

Character Development ★★★

WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD! READ AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION!

As the first part of the game only covers Chapter 1-5, I will only be discussing the character development that I’ve seen so far and giving a run down on their personalities. The second half will contain more detailed thoughts, as the branches into the character routes is where we see their relationship with the protagonist truly blossom.

There is no particular route order for Kyoto Winds, as all the stories progress in the same linear fashion by following the chronological historical events. If anything, I would recommend the main Shinsengumi characters first in any order (Hijikata, Okita, Saito, and Harada), followed by Chikage Kazama. The remaining characters should be played after, leaving the three new bachelors for last (Iba, Sakamoto and Souma).

2017-07-08-204445.jpg

HIJIKATA TOSHIZO: The acting leader of the Shinsengumi, and regarded as the ‘demon commander’ amongst his men. He is a force to be reckoned with both on and off the battlefield, and has little tolerance for lack of discipline. Hijikata strongly believes that war is not won through mere skill alone, but through perseverance and sheer willpower.

He is one of the most dedicated to the Shinsengumi, as all the lives of his men rest upon his shoulders. He has led them to victory time and time again, showcasing his skills as a master tactician. To Hijikata and Kondou, the Shinsengumi is a representation of the dreams they once shared in their youth: that even regular and poor men without noble upbringing such as themselves, could become revered and honourable samurai.

Despite his cold exterior, Chizuru soon realises that he is much kinder and more considerate than what he usually shows to others. He is one of the few members who rectifies Chizuru as apart of the Shinsengumi, assuaging her fears of being a burden to her newfound second family. Hijikata admires her tenacity and wholehearted dedication to the Shinsengumi, respecting that she is an invaluable member he does not wish to part with.

He abides by her wishes whenever possible to assign her tasks around the headquarters, even though it is inefficient and counterproductive from a strategic standpoint. Hijikata is truly a man of his word, exhausting nothing less than his best efforts to protecting Chizuru. He strongly believes that an honourable samurai must always keep their promises, and to go against such code of conduct is akin to throwing away his pride as a warrior.

With the extra scenes and dialogue in Kyoto Winds, I really enjoyed Hijikata’s route so far. It’s not the gruelling read I remember from the original, as Hijikata’s route is the longest and the only one where you see to the final end of the Shinsengumi. As a result, the romance and relationship development really takes a backseat to the historical recounts and the activities of the Shinsengumi.

The additional moments with Hijikata made him a lot more relatable as a character. It was the little interactions and small acts of kindness that he showed to Chizuru which revealed his true feelings towards her. In the original, it felt like Chizuru was always second to the Shinsengumi. In the remake, despite Hijikata being bound by his duties as the leader of the Shinsengumi; he still does everything in his power to accomodate to Chizuru’s needs and feelings as much as possible.

2017-07-08-204508.jpg

OKITA SOUJI: One of the most feared and renowned swordsmen of the Shinsengumi, there are very few men who live to tell the tale after facing Okita on the battlefield. His skills and finesse with the blade are unparalleled, and unlike most men who waver in the face of bloodshed and death; Okita has very little reservations towards such sentiments. His sole life purpose is to act as a sword and a living weapon for the Shinsengumi: any enemy of Kondou’s is also an enemy of Okita’s. He completely disregards his own sake and livelihood for his beliefs, and it is this reckless abandon that makes him such a formidable warrior.

His relationship with Chizuru has an extremely rocky start from the very beginning, and he coldly asserts that if she were to ever impede the goals of the Shinsengumi; he would not hesitate to kill her. It is a running motif between the two, as Chizuru is perplexed by how Okita can always utter such frightening words with such a gentle voice and smile on his face. In stark contradiction to his cruel promises however, Okita saves Chizuru at every opportunity and does not hesitate to protect her at the cost of his own body. It is this complexity that forms the crux of Okita’s character, and the complete contrast between his words and actions.

Okita has always been one of my favourite characters from the original, as well as one of the more popular bachelors with reason. Unfortunately his constant switch between hot and cold is frustrating for the majority of his route, as well as his one-track mindset and his complete dedication to Kondou. However, he makes an interesting character that you cannot help but become drawn to over the course of the storyline. Morikubo Shoutarou does such an amazing job voicing Okita, and perfectly captures both his inner anguish and playful personality. He delivers his lines so smoothly and it really is a delight to listen to.

Another reason contributing to his character popularity is due to the more notable romance in his route in comparison to the other bachelors. As he quickly becomes incapacitated and rendered bedridden due to illness, he has many more opportunities to be ‘alone’ with Chizuru. In the remake, the romantic interactions and tensions between the two are even more palpable. There’s just so much more integral character moments between the two that leads to the development of their relationship. It is one of the routes where their romantic feelings for one another become very apparent (especially on Chizuru’s end) from very early on in the story.

Despite Okita’s complex nature, Chizuru shows surprising insight into his true feelings and thoughts; understanding him on such a personal level that it unhinges him. Despite his cold detachment from others, he finds himself wavering in the face of her unabashed honesty and wholehearted efforts to become closer to him. Unsure of how to respond to her affectionate sentiments and his own growing feelings that impede his life’s purpose as a sword that serves Kondou; Okita constantly pushes her away, unable to admit what she truly means to him.

2017-07-08-204535.jpg

SAITO HAJIME: Unlike the previous two members of the Shinsengumi, Saito is more so dedicated to the art of swordsmanship rather than the organisation itself. He has devoted his entire life to honing his skills as a warrior, and views sentiments such as camaraderie to be unnecessary on the battlefield. He respects and admires Hijikata’s leadership, as he views that he is the embodiment of an honourable samurai and a commander worth following. The Shinsengumi to Saito is akin to a sanctuary: it was the only place he could truly practice his skills as a warrior, due to the fact that he was left-handed.

All the dojos he attended rejected him, as wielding a sword with one’s left hand was considered the incorrect stance for prestigious samurai and disgraceful practice. However, Hijikata and Kondou wholeheartedly welcomed and accepted him, after witnessing his superior skill. As a result, it is with the Shinsengumi that Saito truly feels a sense of belonging as they shared the same views on what constituted as a true warrior and samurai.

Although Saito is a man of very few words, in the moments he does speak to Chizuru he is very kind and tender. Unlike the others, he always takes the time to answer her questions and is very patient when speaking to her. I really loved Saito’s route in the remake, since it really brought out all the cute nuances of his character that was absent in the original. In the original, Saito continually justifies that he only protects Chizuru out of duty and because he was ‘ordered’ to. With all the additional dialogue and character moments however, it is clear that Saito feels much more for Chizuru than what he leads on.

Saito truly has the best embarrassed and ‘blushing’ moments with Chizuru, as he is always at a complete loss for words with her unexpected forwardness. To Chizuru’s confusion, he is just so shy and she wonders what could be the cause for his strange behaviour. Although the snow bunny scene is a rehash from Zuisouroku/Memories of Love, it is still one of my favourite moments between the two. It is just such a heartwarming scene, that really showcases how adorable their relationship is with one another.

2017-07-08-204625.jpg

KAZAMA CHIKAGE: The prestigious head of the demon clan in the west, Kazama proves to be a force to be reckoned with over the course of the storyline. He directly opposes the Shinsengumi, as he sides with the the enemy faction that desires the collapse of the Shogunate. Due to his status as a demon and pure lineage, he is extremely powerful and possesses strength, speed and skill far beyond the scopes of human abilities. Kazama takes immense pride in his position, and resents mankind with every fibre in his being due to the suffering that demons have endured in the past at the hands of human greed.

As a result of these instilled beliefs, he is condescending, arrogant and spiteful. He truly believes that there are no humans worthy of his respect and that there is no such thing as true samurai or warriors. Upon discovering that Chizuru is a pure-blooded female demon, Kazama begins to pursue her relentlessly due to his duties as clan head. Female demons are extremely rare, and their population is scarce; copulating two pure-blooded demons would in no doubt produce an even more powerful offspring that would be beneficial for the future of their race.

Although Kazama is insufferable and a thorn in the side of the Shinsengumi in all the routes, he is without a doubt my favourite character in the game. My main source of interest in the remake was that Idea Factory finally addressed the unanimous fan request for Kazama to have a proper character route. In the original, his story can barely be classified as a ‘dateable bachelor’ as it ends so abruptly, and there’s hardly any moments of genuine interaction between the two. I definitely wanted to see exactly how much more content he would have, and how they would address his storyline.

To my surprise, I was very pleased with how it turned out. What I liked about his story and character is how different he is in comparison to the other bachelors. He really brings out the fire in Chizuru’s personality, as although she is very passive with the other characters; she turns into a complete tsundere regarding Kazama. She is vehement and adamant in opposing his views on humans, and completely refuses his advances at every opportunity. This greatly amuses Kazama, as he is thoroughly content in entertaining her whims and certain that she would inevitably become his.

I really liked the relationship dynamic between the two, and Kazama’s infuriating arrogance really made for very humorous dialogue and character moments. Out of all the bachelors, I always felt that Kazama suited the heroine the most as he truly brings out the best in her. He forces her to admit the things she doesn’t dare usually voice, and he addresses the truth behind her past, family and demon lineage. Although this was hardly delved upon in the original, they definitely touched on it a lot more in Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds which I really liked.

With the additional character moments with Kazama, it really showcased that he isn’t truly a heartless demon and is much more considerate than he initially appears (at least regarding Chizuru). There is genuine and notable development between the two, as Chizuru slowly comes to realise his surprising kindness and thoughtfulness towards her feelings. In his own way, he respects her desire to stay with the Shinsengumi and concedes that they may be different from other humans. To me, in the remake it definitely showed in Kazama’s actions how much more he cared about Chizuru than his words would imply.

2017-07-08-204552.jpg

HARADA SANOSUKE: One of the kinder captains of the Shinsengumi towards Chizuru, Harada is extremely popular amongst women due to his handsome looks and thoughtfulness. He is surprisingly perceptive regarding the emotions of women, and very considerate of Chizuru’s circumstances in all the routes. Unlike the other captains who live and die by their blades, Harada desires a peaceful life outside of the battlefield. As the organisation slowly corrupts from within, Harada is forced to question what he truly wishes to do with his life. What was once built from mutual camaraderie and men who shared the same beliefs, had now been tainted by the inevitabilities of war and human greed.

Out of all the bachelors, Harada is without a doubt the most romantic route. His story is much more light-hearted in comparison to the other character paths, as he is not as deeply invested in the Shinsengumi itself. With the remake, he shares even sweeter moments with Chizuru that only serve to further justify his status as ‘best husband material’. There really isn’t anything too melodramatic about his route in Kyoto Winds, as the relationship between Chizuru and Harada develops the most naturally in comparison to the other bachelors.

He is a gentleman through and through, always places her needs before his own and notices things about Chizuru that the others do not. It was very enjoyable and refreshing to have a story that didn’t revolve so much around the angst and conflict that pervades majority of the characters.

2017-08-18-014640

HEISUKE TODOU: The youngest Captain of the Shinsengumi, Heisuke is extremely close with both Harada and Shinpachi.  The three are rarely ever seen apart, and regularly drink together at Shimabara. In spite of his age and youthful looks, he is exceptionally skilled with the sword and certainly earned his position as a division Captain. Although he initially joined the group due to his strong beliefs in camaraderie and friendship, he quickly becomes disillusioned with the Shinsengumi.

In comparison to the others who are wholeheartedly dedicated to the Shinsengumi, Heisuke is unsettled by the corruption within the organisation and the grand scheme of the war. He considers things that the others do not, such as what political stance would be best for Japan itself. His route delves further into his reasons for joining the Guardians of the Tomb, and his wavering beliefs on what is the right path to take.

I felt that out of all the characters, he was the most realistic and surprisingly insightful in his views on the Shogunate and overarching war. Rather than a one-dimensional perspective solely focused on what it means to be a warrior, he has the forethought to decide for himself what he truly believes in; even if that means separating from the people he cared about. As Heisuke and Chizuru are around the same age, they quickly become close and fall into a comfortable relationship with one another.

I was surprised by Heisuke’s forwardness in the remake, as unlike the others; he is quick to realise what he is truly fighting for and whom he wishes to protect with his life. This was a welcome and very refreshing change that I really liked. One major complaint I had about Heisuke’s route was the complete lack of CGs of him with Chizuru. Almost all of them were sole portraits of himself, and I felt that he really got the short end of the stick in the art department which was rather disappointing to see.

2017-07-31-073348

NAGAKURA SHINPACHI: Another formidable Shinsengumi Captain and the loyal right-hand man of Harada. The two are rarely ever seen apart, and they share a closely-knit friendship as a trio with Heisuke. Shinpachi is exceptionally cheerful, bright and a source of comic relief amongst the men. Unlike the others with poor upbringing, he was born into a prestigious house of samurai. However, he abandoned his family home to be a lordless ronin as the stifling life of a retainer did not suit his free-spirited nature.

He is one of the few main characters who did not have an individual route in the original game, and I was very curious as to how they would approach it. Unfortunately, I was quite disappointed. His route is extremely platonic in comparison to the other bachelors, and felt very lacking in terms of romance and CGs. He constantly asserts that he views Chizuru as a younger sister whom he must protect, and nothing more.

Despite being apart of the main cast, his story felt like an add-on or a side route at best. Even by the end of Shinpachi’s story, I couldn’t bring myself to view him as a ‘romantic interest’, due to the complete lack of emotional development. I felt very little writing was invested in actually getting to know Shinpachi as a character, and his past prior to the Shinsengumi. In comparison to the other bachelors, I dislike how the decision to become a fury was essentially forced upon him by another.

This creates a sense of guilt that tarnishes his once-pure relationship with Chizuru, and was an outcome that Shinpachi would have never willingly wanted for himself. In comparison to the others who knowingly accepted the fate of a fury for the sake of their own pride and the ability to protect what they hold dear, Shinpachi protects Chizuru due to the oath he made with Inoue. It only furthers the whole ‘platonic sibling relationship’ dynamic that pervades his entire route.

2017-08-18-014654

SANAN KEISUKE: The Colonel of the Shinsengumi, and regarded as a high-ranking officer within the organisation; even above the Captains themselves. He has a strong stake in the order of operations and works closely with both Kondou and Hijikata. Although initially beloved by the troops for his kind and gentle demeanour, he quickly becomes jaded and hostile after he receives a critical injury that renders him unable to wield a sword.

To a warrior, such an injury is considered even worse than death. He becomes increasingly dangerous and unhinged as he laments in his worthlessness, and the change in the eyes of the troops who once revered him. He eventually succumbs to the Water of Life and pays the price with his own mortality to once again wield a sword. Sanan is prevalent in all the routes and plays a significant role in the overarching storyline, due to his deep involvement and research in the Furies.

I had always disliked Sanan’s character from the original game, as he is more or less akin to a fallen hero turned villain. I was surprised that he would be a dateable bachelor in the remake, and I was curious as to how they would flesh out his story. Unfortunately, I was extremely disappointed by what could barely classify as a ‘romance route’. Although you come to understand Sanan’s motives and innermost thoughts, there is very little interaction between the two that can be considered as a ‘potential love interest’.

Their relationship is more so akin to a father gently scolding a petulant child. Other than a few scenes with Sanan where he reverts to his once gentle and kind self, the bulk of his content is apart of the main storyline that is present in all the bachelor routes. As a result, in terms of new content it was very lacklustre and left much to be desired. I also found it strange how even if you become closer to Sanan in his route, he is very much still obsessed with the notion of improving the furies and using Chizuru as a means to do so.

He completely disregards her feelings and emotions on the matter, and still forcibly uses guilt to coerce her into the notion that it is all for the sake of the Shinsengumi. The scene where he enters her room and attempts to cut her for a sample of her own blood (until forcibly stopped by the other Captains) still occurs in his route.

It is very difficult to see Sanan as a love interest, when he shows such disregard and callousness towards Chizuru’s wellbeing. I genuinely felt that having Sanan as a dateable character added very little to the overall storyline, other than revealing some more information about the Furies.

2017-07-31-073406

YAMAZAKI SUSUMU: Part of the ‘Watch’ division of the Shinsengumi, Yamazaki is mainly involved in stealth missions and reconnaissance rather than on the front lines of battle. He holds Hijikata in high esteem as a skilled commander who cares for his men, and devotes himself wholeheartedly to him. Yamazaki is serious, dedicated and prioritises the success of a mission above all else. I always liked Yamazaki’s character from the original game, and I was very excited to play his route in the remake.

Surprisingly, I actually really enjoyed his character story and how his relationship with Chizuru developed. Yamazaki is just so adorably shy and reserved, and his serious nature prevents him from expressing his true feelings. It was quite amusing to see how all the other characters slowly became aware of their relationship, whilst Yamazaki remained completely oblivious.

It was so sweet when he revealed how he came to fall in love with Chizuru: that he was always watching her from afar, and it was from these moments that he truly came to realise her innocent and honest nature. It is because of this that he cannot stand to see her hurt, and feels powerless to protect her as she has become someone irreplaceable to him. Unlike the other warriors who possess the strength to fight, Yamazaki is constantly forced to watch as his comrades perish in war.

Chizuru in turn assuages that in his own way, he is fighting his hardest in order to prevent more casualties from occurring. He is a vital part of the Shinsengumi, even though his strength does not lie within his ability to wield a sword. Chizuru is able to understand him in a way that others cannot, despite his quiet and withdrawn nature.

The two just complement one another so well, and it’s the little things that really endeared him as a character to me throughout his route. If anything, I wish there was more writing dedicated to fleshing out his story. I felt it was so short in comparison to the screen time the other bachelor routes had.

2017-07-08-232510.jpg

IBA HACHIRO: A childhood friend of both the protagonist and the Shinsengumi, Iba is popular amongst the men due to their youthful memories of learning swordsmanship with one another. He has been promoted to the position of vassal for the Shogun, and inherited his prestigious family dojo during their time apart. As a result, he wields a blade with superior finesse and skill. However, it is clear that unlike the Shinsengumi; he has never tarnished his sword with the life of another.

Soft-spoken, handsome, gentle and charming, Chizuru is unsure initially as to how to respond to his forward affection. She slowly falls in love with his kind nature, and becomes frustrated that she cannot seem to remember the fond childhood memories that Iba holds dear. Iba on the other hand, dedicated his entire life to swordsmanship in order to gain the strength needed to protect the girl he loved in the past.

I had little expectation going into this route as Iba is a new character, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Although the whole childhood friend trope isn’t by any means groundbreaking to the otome genre, I felt that the writing and dynamic between the characters were done well. It is very difficult to dislike Iba, as he is very forward, honest and genuinely cares for Chizuru’s wellbeing above his own.

I found the ‘ancient demonic arm’ aspect of his route to be quite interesting, and not what I anticipated at all. The premise was not seen in any of the previous games, so it was nice to see something completely new to the Hakuoki series. However, I felt it was integrated quite poorly and had some glaring loop holes such as how it even attached to his own arm in the first place. In one scene it was completely separate from his own body, and in the next it had magically fused with him.

You would think that the writers would address such a crucial development in his route, and I was left very confused at how it was left unexplained. Despite the lacklustre incorporation into the storyline, it was still a welcome change and refreshing angle to his character route. In the original Hakuoki, barely any of the stories ever truly expanded on the ‘demon universe’ fantasy aspect of the plot. It’s quite disappointing, as there is just so much of Chizuru’s own background and past that is left unexplored.

2017-07-31-073422

SAKAMOTO RYOUMA:  A ronin from the Tosa domain, Sakamoto is a man of mystery and proposes radical concepts far beyond the scope of his time era. He strongly believes in working for the sake of Japan’s future as a whole, rather than living a simple and meaningless life as a vassal. He quickly becomes a target and creates many enemies, due to his weaponry dealings with various domains and his lack of allegiance to a single side in the war.

He immediately becomes interested in Chizuru from first glance, and attempts to become closer to her at every opportunity. To her dismay, he is very flirtatious, suave, charismatic and handsome; often leaving her extremely flustered and confused as to what the underlying meaning behind his actions are. I found their relationship dynamic very interesting and refreshing, as it was very different from all the other bachelors. His route also offered a lot more context to the overarching war, and different perspectives on why important events occurred.

I found the whole ‘letter writing’ asoect of their relationship to be very cute, and it definitely showed the development of their feelings for one another. It built up anticipation for the readers, wondering when the pair would next be able to meet. However, one aspect of the route that I found quite lacklustre was Sakamoto’s reasons for falling in love with Chizuru. Unlike the others, he is intrigued by her from the very beginning and without much given reason.

Their relationship develops very rapidly, and I couldn’t help but question his motives throughout the route. Just why was he going so far for essentially a stranger? What was compelling him to do all these things for Chizuru? Does he have a hidden agenda? The address of his initial feelings was never answered even until the very end of his story, and it definitely made the romance progression feel much weaker in comparison to the other routes.

2017-08-18-014706

SOUMA KAZUE: Souma is a bright-eyed warrior, who abandons his former family upbringing in order to follow the ideals of the Shinsengumi. Souma truly believes that the Shinsengumi embody what it means to be a Samurai. He is initially appointed as Kondou’s page, and works beneath Chizuru who acts as his mentor throughout the story. He quickly learns and attends to the chores within the compound, as well as sword training underneath the other Captains.

As a result, the pair spend majority of their time with one another and become fast friends. Although his skill with the sword pales in comparison to the Shinsengumi Captains, Souma is determined to attain true strength and works hard each and everyday. Out of the new characters, Souma’s route was the one I did last as he had very little presence in all the bachelor stories and he did not pique my interest at all.

As Iba and Sakamoto’s routes were quite promising, I went into Souma’s path with high expectations. However, I was once again disappointed as it suffered from the same glaring issues as Shinpachi’s and Sanan’s routes. It had very little romance throughout the entire story, and I considered it platonic at best. For the bulk of his story, he does not even realise Chizuru is a girl; which made for some very comical moments that I did enjoy.

But as a result, the romance naturally suffered due to his lack of awareness of her true gender. I felt that Souma’s route was underwhelming and stale in comparison to the other bachelors, as very little events of substance actually occurs. His route also doesn’t reveal or contribute anything noteworthy to the overarching storyline. The only redeeming quality of his route was that his character is voiced by Yūki Kaji. I’m hoping his route picks up in the second half, as that is where I’m expecting the actual romance to occur.

Design ★★★★

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The beautiful art for the Hakuoki series has always been one of the highlights of the game. The bachelors are just all so well designed, and very distinguishable from one another. The background art has also notably improved in the remake, looking much more refined and crisp on the PS Vita screen. They also incorporated many new backdrops that were not in the original game.

As I mentioned earlier, Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds included many more CGs for all the bachelors than I expected considering it is only the first half of the game. It included both CGs found in the fan disk and new CGs exclusive to the remake. Although Idea Factory decided to design new characters to entice returning players to the remake, I personally didn’t find myself as attached to their designs in comparison to the original cast.

To my knowledge, the original artist for the series Kazuki Yone is no longer affiliated with the company; and the new characters and CGs were illustrated by an unknown artist. It is clear that they attempted to emulate as closely as possible the original art style, with the new bachelors and CGs. Although most of the new CGs are quite well drawn and lovely, in several of them I noticed the expressions of the characters were particularly different in comparison to the original artwork.

It definitely seemed quite stiff, and not so smoothly drawn when placed side by side with Kazuki Yone’s illustrations. I will never understand the decision behind removing her from the series, as I felt her unique artistic touch to the original characters is incomparable. It’s just so distinct, and really brought the characters to life. The new character designs although attractive, were nowhere near as memorable and well designed in comparison to the original cast.

Considering how ridiculously popular the Hakuoki series is, you would think that they would wish to maintain the main selling point of the game which is the artwork. If you’re new to the series then the differences will not be as apparent, but as I am very familiar with the game I instantly noticed the artistic changes. It’s very disappointing, and leaves me apprehensive for future artwork in the Hakuoki series.

Music and Voice Acting ★★★★

The music and voice acting is another aspect of the Hakuoki series that contributed to its immense success. One thing I didn’t expect from the remake was a completely revamped soundtrack, in comparison to the original game. The bgm tracks have significantly improved, especially for the battle and combat scenes. They suited the theme and motifs of the game perfectly, and were very effective in setting the mood of the story.

As additional dialogue and scenes were added to the remake, I also found the voice acting had improved from the original game. The new dialogue showcased more of the bachelor’s personalities, and enabled the voice actors to be so much more expressive in demonstrating their character’s feelings and inner conflict. The voice acting cast for the Hakuoki series has always impressed me, and it features a prolific and experienced line up of seiyuus. They emulated all the characters in the game immaculately and really brought their personalities to life.

The standout performances to me were definitely Miki Shin’ichirou (Hijikata Toshizo), Tsuda Kenjirou (Kazama Chikage) and Morikubo Shoutarou (Okita Souji). Hakuoki was the series that really made me a fan of Tsuda Kenjirou’s voice acting, as I felt his interpretation of Kazama’s voice and character was even greater than anything I could have imagined. His voice is just so rich, and distinguishable. He perfectly captures Kazama’s resentment towards humans, and his unwavering arrogance that Demons are superior in all aspects over mankind.

  • Hijikata Toshizo | VA: Miki Shin’ichirou | 三木 眞一郎 |
    Black Wolves Saga series as Nesso Galland, Pokemon series as James, and Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood as Roy Mustang
  • Okita Souji | VA: Morikubo Shoutarou | 森久保 祥太郎 |
    Code: Realize series as Impey Barbicane, Persona series as Hanamura Yosuke, and Naruto series as Shikamaru Nara
  • Hajime Saito | VA: Toriumi Kousuke | 鳥海 浩輔|
    Period: Cube ~Shackles of Amadeus~ as Poyo-poyo/Shiki Hanamiya, Danganronpa series as Ishimaru Kiyotaka, Diabolik Lovers series as Sakamaki Shuu, Nightshade as Momochi Choujirou, and Naruto series as Inuzuka Kiba
  • Kazama Chikage | VA: Tsuda Kenjirou | 津田 健次郎 |
    Nightshade as Hattori Hanzo, and The Charming Empire as Amazaki Soshi
  • Iba Hachiro | VA: Miyano Mamoru | 宮野 真守 |
    Ouran High School Host Club as Tamaki Suou, Steins Gate series as Okabe Rintarou, Death Note as Light Yagami, Vampire Knight series as Zero Kiryu and Kingdom Hearts series as Riku
  • Souma Kazue | VA: Yūki Kaji | 梶 裕貴 |
    Black Wolves Saga series as Rath Vogart, Diabolik Lovers series as Sakamaki Kanato, Code: Realize series as Finis, Collar x Malice as Okazaki Kei, Norn 9 series as Yuiga Kakeru, Accel World as Haruyuki Arita, Attack on Titan as Eren Yeager, Final Fantasy series as Hope and Ao Haru Ride as Kou Mabuchi

System ★★★★

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The system overhaul and overall UI improvements were quite impressive in the remake. They completely renewed the text dialogue appearance, as well as the system navigation options. It incorporated a significantly better design than the original game, and felt very smooth to use. It included all the basic functions such as CG Gallery, Music List, Scene Recollection, and skip options.

I definitely would’ve really liked a ‘jump’ button included in the game, as the common route reused so many scenes and it was very time consuming to skip through for all 11 bachelors. The ‘Record of Service’ was extremely useful in the completion of the game, and unlocked after finishing a bachelor route. It enables the player to select exactly which chapter they would like to start the next play through on, as well as adjusting the bachelor’s affection level to access the different endings.

The encyclopaedia was very helpful in understanding the historical terminology and timeline, and I liked how they also added a side image of the character when providing information in regards to them. They also included effects such as floating cherry blossoms in between chapter transitions, and falling snow during the winter which were very nice extras to see.

Similar to the PS3 version, they again incorporated sprite animations such as moving lips, blinking eyes etc. However, I felt it looked much smoother in comparison to the original, as the animations were rather stiff on the PS3. There was also an on-screen butterfly effect which hovered over a particular bachelor, if you increased affection points with them after a decision.

I felt that out of all the new features, the ‘Warrior Record’ could’ve been designed much better. I was initially so confused as to what the purpose for it was, until I realised it indicated the current bachelor’s level of affection. I felt it was quite inconvenient to use, as you had to individually scroll through every bachelor to find the one you were after. Also, the percentage indicator was so small and it was why I couldn’t decipher what it’s function was to begin with at all.

The aspect I was most impressed with were all the new character animations and effects during the battle scenes. It’s significantly more interactive in comparison to the original, and actually included effects like blood being smeared across the screen, and improved blade animations. The transitions between the images were much smoother, and the overlaying of the character sprites felt more ‘authentic’ to an actual battle scene.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds was definitely a better remake than I had initially expected. The writing is noticeably more detailed, which created a significantly more immersive storyline and multi-dimensional characters. The overall art improvements and complete music overhaul was also a great plus to the game. However, I did have some notable criticisms with the remake.

By the fifth and sixth play through, it definitely became extremely tedious going over the same common route so many times over. As someone who is very familiar with the series and played it on multiple ports, I did struggle with completing the game. Although it was very enjoyable playing the better written characters and routes, the new additional bachelors felt rather bland in comparison. Despite Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds offering a lot of new content, it became extremely text heavy as a result.

If you’re not a fan of long introductions, slow storyline pacing and a greater focus on the plot rather than the romances between the characters; then Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds may not be the game for you.

Not only that, but as it is ‘Part One’ to the series; it’s essentially a constant rinse and repeat of the story introduction, the same historical events and political unrest within Japan before any of the actual romance happens. Although it would be more enjoyable for new players to the series, it would still become noticeably tedious in the later play throughs.

The new characters were a lot better than I initially thought, but they were nowhere near as memorable and likeable as the original cast. I definitely would have preferred more content with the original characters, rather than having that screen time split with the new bachelors. For example: Shinpachi, Yamazaki and Sanan can barely be classified as ‘new routes’ and they definitely felt like side characters despite being apart of the main cast.

On the upside, Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds offers a lot of replayability and content to read as it took me a long time to finish the game. Eleven dateable characters is by far the most I’ve seen out of all the otome games I have played. There is plenty of beautiful art with every bachelor, despite some characters receiving more than others.

As I mentioned earlier, although there is definitely new never before seen content in the remake, not all of it is ‘completely new’. For example: a lot of the ‘romance scenes’ with the bachelors are reused from the fan disk (Zuisouroku) and Stories of the Shinsengumi. Rather than being a standalone segment of the game, it is integrated into the storyline itself for more seamless and cohesive storytelling. This is rather misleading advertisement for returning players to the series, and a little disappointing. However, if you have never played the aforementioned fan disk or PS3 version; then this would not affect your enjoyment of the game at all.

Initially, I was stuck between 3.5/5 or a 4/5 rating due to how repetitive the game became in the later play throughs. However, after factoring aspects such as the art, music, voice acting, system, and improved writing; it definitely bumped it up to a 4/5. You can definitely see a lot of significant revamps and improvements in the remake, in comparison to the original Hakuoki title. I still enjoyed it despite being very familiar with the story and characters already. I have high hopes for the second half of the remake, as this is where the storyline really picks up. It actually diverges into the individual character routes, and where the true romance and character development happens.

Again, thank you to Idea Factory International for reaching out to me for the opportunity and I’ll definitely be posting up more reviews soon!

Overall Rating: 4/5

Written By Cherry

NEWS: New Website Layout & Update

cropped-764034.jpg

Hello everyone,

I have been very inactive the past three months due to major assessments being due and having final examinations for the semester at university right afterwards. Talk about not being able to catch a break. It’s been a very stressful past couple of months, but on the bright side they’re finally over! I essentially went into hibernation mode afterwards, and spent my time catching up with friends whom I hadn’t seen at all during the study period.

Unfortunately, that only lasted a blissful two weeks before being back at university again for second semester (laughs). Although I didn’t have much time to devote to Visual Novels/Otome Games the past few months or to sit down and write a review; I did take the time to update my website layout! If you’re new, then you obviously won’t notice any differences.

But to my old followers, then it was a complete site overhaul. Considering I was a complete coding novice when I started creating my website, I’m very happy with how it turned out. It’s been half a year already since I started blogging and I figured it was time for a change. I find it’s a lot cleaner and easier to read than before, which was what I was definitely aiming for!

On yet another positive note, I do have plans for upcoming reviews! Although they won’t be as frequent as my prior uploads, I will try to fit them in when I’m not being swamped with studying! I plan to cover games such as RE: Birthday Song, Norn9, Les Fleursword and Collar x Malice!

I will be posting my review of Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds today as well, which was written in collaboration with Idea Factory International. Thank you so much to all the readers who continue to comment on my work with your kind words, and those who have been wondering where I’ve been. Thank you so much also to my first two donators: Melli and Laura! It is you guys that keep me writing, and active in the community. I also cannot believe that I have already hit 100k+ views. That is insane to me, and I never would have thought I’d hit this milestone so soon.

If you would like to receive instant updates of when I post, you can follow me on my social media below or subscribe via email in the side box on the right!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/visualnovelreviews/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/vnreviewer
Tumblr: https://vnreviews.tumblr.com/

Our Two Bedroom Story Character Review: Tsumugu Kido

30b59671-a02f-455d-a6b5-9a2621db019b

download-on-the-app-storegoogle-play-badge

I decided to pick up a new Voltage Inc. character to try as I haven’t played a mobile game in a while and they were currently having their massive yearly sale. Although the sale has now ended, their yearly sale is the best time to try out their games since the prices re slashed on so many stories from 25%-75% off. If you’re not a fan of buying individual routes, I suggest waiting for these sales to occur before purchasing them.

After browsing the /r/otomegames reddit for some recommendations, I decided on Tsumugu Kido from ‘Our Two Bedroom Story’. I’ve played this title a long time ago when it first came out, and purchased the main story and sequel of ‘Minato Okouchi’ and ‘Kaoru Kirishima’ in the past.

It’s one of their more popular games that spawned a sequel title and I can understand why. Although the premise is rather bland and a rehash of the ‘forced living arrangements’ trope, the heroine is very refreshing and dedicated to her job. I believe back then it was one of their first games that introduced a very different protagonist in comparison to their older titles. The whole ‘step-sibling’ concept was incorporated rather poorly for most of the routes however, and clearly it’s only purpose was to serve as a reason for the couple to live together.

Despite this, I still feel that ‘Our Two Bedroom Story’ is one of their better titles and I did enjoy it back then when I first played it. What interested me about Kido was the literal ‘dual-personality’ aspect and how he actually had two different character sprites. This was quite different in comparison to previous Voltage Inc. routes and I was interested to see exactly how his route would play out.

Prologue Summary

The heroine temporarily moves into her new step-father’s home, only to find that it has already been occupied by a dishevelled, blunt and stingy man by the name of Kido. Speaking with a prominent kansai-dialect, he demands the heroine leave his home as he is the rightful owner of the place. Despite her protests, he childishly asserts that as he has already moved in first; she essentially has no say or claim in the matter. The protagonist has already moved all her things from her previous home, and the current circumstances renders her homeless.

She finally adheres to his living arrangement requirements, and agrees to pay rent for the next month until she is able to find another place. Although she is appalled by Kido’s love for money and unreasonable demands, she concedes that the current situation is far more desirable and less financially straining in comparison to living in a hotel.

The next day at work, she is excited that her efforts at the company had been recognised and her transfer request had finally been accepted. The heroine has been moved to the Seasonelle Department, which is the company section that every employee dreams of entering. It encompasses a group of the most elite journalists and news reporters within the company, working together in a high dynamic and fast-paced work environment.

To her surprise, she is not the only new worker entering the department. Another man by the name of Tsumugu Kido attends the same introductory meeting and the heroine is in awe of his skill and experience. He immediately leaves a lasting impression with his refreshing ideas for Seasonelle, despite it conflicting with the ace of the department Minato. He is unafraid to voice his daring ideas and handles himself with undisputed confidence.

Unlike the inexperienced heroine who struggles with all the new information at the meeting, Kido was head-hunted from another company due to his vast portfolio of publications and talent. She finds herself noticing the subtle similarities between Kido her co-worker, and the rude and dishevelled Kido at home.

She rules it as a coincidence that they share the same name as she is unable to bridge the disconnect between the two completely different personalities. Where the Kido at home is blunt, extremely rude and stingy; the Kido at work is full of gentle smiles, encouraging words and approaches his work with absolute efficiency. Unlike the shabby appearances of the Kido she knows, her new co-worker is exceptionally tidy, proper and emulates the ideal image of an elite businessman.

The heroine is immediately placed on a project with Kido as her support and she is determined to publish something worthwhile. In spite of the article being assigned to her, Kido quickly takes over the project and leaves little to nothing for the heroine to do. She is dismayed by the turn of events as although Kido’s methods are not wrong and far more efficient than anything she could potentially do; it was an article entrusted to her, to complete by her own efforts.

She is determined to prove her worth and at home that night, she begins to research new articles and content that even Kido himself did not include in his drafts. The Kido at home is surprised by her efforts, and asks her why she is trying so hard for a futile cause. She answers that she recognises her weaknesses, which fuels her desire to learn and improve herself to earn the recognition of her co-worker.

Afterwards, the Kido at work concedes to her wishes after seeing the content she produces and allows her to have a more active role in writing the article alongside him. Her relationship with both Kido’s continues to grow, and she finds herself slowly accepting the newfound company of her housemate. She begins to cook for the household in return for a reduction on rent and discovers that they share the same sense of humour.

They enjoy idyllic days together and fall into a comfortable routine of sharing dinner and watching comedy skits afterwards. Although they engage in their fair share of friendly banter, the heroine finds herself enjoying their conversations and her opinion of him gradually improving. However, she finds herself suspicious about the true nature of his work as she had never seen him dressed for it nor leave the house prior to her.

One night, she notices he had fallen asleep with the window open in his room. Despite his warnings for her to never enter his room, she worries that he may catch a cold overnight. She asserts that there would be no harm in sneaking in to close it, before taking her leave. However, she quickly becomes entranced by his sleeping face illuminated by the moonlight and is surprised at how unexpectedly handsome he is. Contrary to his usual dishevelled appearance, he had distinctly beautiful features that she never noticed before beneath his large frames.

To her shock, he briefly opens his eyes and she realises that the face staring back at her is none other than Tsumugu Kido; the prim, proper perfectionist she sees everyday at work.

Character Development

Admittedly, after playing through Tsumugu Kido’s route his character is not for everyone. Due to the complete disconnect between his two personalities at home and at work, it’s difficult to decipher which of the two represents his true feelings towards the heroine. One moment he’s incredibly rude and condescending to her, whereas the next moment he showers her with kindness and gentle words. It’s consistently hot and cold with Tsumugu Kido, and you’re completely at the mercy of his whims for the majority of the story.

It really raised questions as readers on the genuineness of his feelings and actions towards the heroine, due to the incongruity between his two personalities. To me the highlight of the route was actually the protagonist herself, and her refreshing approach in responding to Kido’s difficult personality. She is headstrong, resilient and determined in proving her worth to Kido despite the obstacles she has to overcome. She successfully earns his respect and recognition of her abilities at work over the progression of the story.

This is quite a feat in itself as Kido is well-known for his solitude at work and his ambitions to rise to the top of the company, without the assistance of others. He is arrogant and prideful in his abilities, to which no one can refute due to the quality of work that he produces. On top of that, he is remarkably handsome and considered the current most eligible bachelor at the company.

Kido finds himself equally perplexed by the heroine and becomes increasingly resistant to her attempts at getting closer to him. No matter how rudely he acts towards her and pushes her away, she remains kind and accepting of his true personality. She is the only one he feels the most comfortable around and feels no need to hide his less than desirable traits from her. Instead of being offended by his tirade of insults, she deflects it with ease and constantly has snarky and witty comebacks of her own.

Rather than stepping down and being intimidated by his actions, the heroine isn’t afraid to speak her mind and stand up to him. I actually found myself laughing out loud at so many of their interactions with one another and it was really refreshing and different in comparison to the usual character dynamics seen in the standard Voltage Inc. routes. It was so satisfying to see Kido’s reluctant acceptance of her as his equal, and gradually opening up to one another due to their surprisingly similar personality traits and interests.

There is notable character and relationship development throughout his route which was crucial to the good pacing of his story. When the heroine decides to enact a cooking strike due to Kido’s actions, we begin to see the change in his character and his clear shift in emotions towards the heroine. It was really sweet to finally see glimpses of Kido’s true self, and the subtle kindness within his actions rather than his words.

When the protagonist finally discovers the truth behind his past, it finally closes the disconnect between Kido’s two personalities and how he came to be the person he was in the present. His suffering, hard work and perseverance to finally achieve his current place in life is admirable and he is understandably jaded due to his experiences. I liked the focus and writing dedicated to the explanation of his past, as it was quite thorough and was a crucial aspect that revealed the complexities beneath his character.

He gradually falls deeper in love with the heroine and how she truly sees him as a person rather than for his monetary assets. This is the pivotal moment where we finally see Tsumugu Kido’s true self and emotions and it felt so satisfying to read. It was like all the heroine’s difficulties in overcoming his difficult personality and finally coming to truly understand him were worthwhile in the end.

Although his character personality and story may not be for everyone, I still really enjoyed his route and was surprised by how much I liked it in the end. It is quite difficult to get into initially because of how utterly abrasive and rude Kido is in comparison to the other Voltage characters I’ve played that encompassed a similar character trope. As Kido quite literally has a ‘dual personality and identity’ in every sense of the word, I felt his character and route were a direct reflection of this.

His personality is very extreme in both ends of the spectrum and swings wildly back and forth between the two. His emotions and actions constantly contradict one another which serves to both confuse and infuriate the heroine, as she is unable to distinguish his true feelings. The banter and light-hearted moments between the two serves to ease the tension and I was really impressed by how snarky and witty the heroine was, in responding to Kido’s antics.

I felt like she was definitely one of the best renditions of the MC in ‘Our Two Bedroom Story’. Although in the other routes she also exhibits determination and passion for her work, considering how infuriating Kido was at times; it also brought out the fire in her own personality.

Despite Kido being a new character to the game, he surprisingly has a lot of content already implemented due to his unexpected popularity. His route is a whirlwind of emotions from beginning to end, and has a very rocky and tumultuous start with his relationship to the MC. However, I do recommend giving his route a try as the conclusion to his story and the development of his character was well worth the read in the end.

Period: Cube ~Shackles of Amadeus~ Review

c-mxzjqv0aa4zrd.jpg

RELEASE DATE: 2016
PUBLISHER: Idea Factory & Aksys Games
PLATFORMS AVAILABLE: PS Vita (Japanese & English)
GAME LINK: Period Cube: Shackles of Amadeus – PS Vita [Physical]
Period Cube: Shackles of Amadeus – PS Vita [Digital Code]

I was very excited to play Period: Cube ~Shackles of Amadeus~ as it is my first collaboration title with Aksys Games. I was provided with a copy of the game to review in light of its April 28th, 2017 release. I had been anticipating Period: Cube since Aksys Games’ announcement last year of licensing four otome titles in 2017, which I covered in my ‘Most Anticipated English Visual Novels of 2017‘ post. To my delight, the next out of the four to be released is Collar x Malice which was the one I had been looking forward to the most. You can pre-order the game from Amazon here, for the official release date of July 28, 2017!

What initially attracted me to Period: Cube was the incorporation of RPG elements, and an MMORPG as the basis for the universe setting. As I have played many MMORPGs since childhood, this brought about a wave of nostalgia for me. I was interested to see how they decided to approach the RPG gameplay and how much of it would be balanced with the visual novel aspect of the game.

Storyline ★★★

PC_M10a.jpg

-The Story- 

Searching for clues about your missing brother, you and your childhood friend Hiroya begin playing an online RPG called “Arcadia.”

You’re suddenly enveloped in a flash of light, and awaken to find yourself in a mysterious fantasy world. You discover you’ve been sent inside of the game, and learn that the only way out is to complete it. In a deadly world on the verge of collapse, you become the “Almighty,” the key to clearing Arcadia, and the secret weapon everyone is after.

You and your companions undertake a perilous journey, where love grows as the world falls apart. (Official Website

The website summary actually encompasses the story outline very well, so I won’t delve into it further here. Period: Cube has a very interesting premise that is reminiscent of the highly popular light novel and anime adaptation, Sword Art Online. It immediately appeals to fans of the MMORPG genre and the creators definitely showed their attentiveness to the finer details throughout the story. I loved all the little nuances and references, and they were extremely nostalgic as I’ve played RPGs since childhood.

If you’ve never played RPGs before, then the encyclopaedia entries are very detailed and explain everything concisely. The universe of Period: Cube demonstrated elaborate world-building and were highly reminiscent of aspects you’d find directly from a cohesive RPG title. The immersive overarching storyline really captures your interest and encourages playing all the routes in order to reveal the ‘complete truth’.

However, the plot had many integral issues in terms of storyline explanations and the development of character routes. There were many times throughout the game where I had to re-read many revelations in order to fully understand exactly what had happened, how the events occurred and why. This is a sign of flawed writing and pacing, as the crucial foundations of the storyline were not very concrete or coherent.

It had an interesting premise and collection of unique ideas that weren’t executed to the fullest potential. Many of the strange phenomenons in the game that transitioned into the real world were never properly fleshed out and left me in a state of confusion. I just had so many questions remaining, despite completing all the routes.

How were the players consistently pulled back into the game, despite not being logged in physically? How did this occur regardless of their location? How were the character’s data and minds inputted into the system to begin with? All they did was create a character, and for some reason in a flash of bright light they were sucked into the game. The whole concept of the ‘Period: Cube’ was poorly explained and evident in all the routes, since some characters converted into data could magically return after dying whilst others could not.

Period: Cube was also very difficult to play without a walkthrough and they really should not have used the combat selections as integral choices for the character routes. Although they seemingly didn’t appear to have any significance, they actually did. I was shocked when after thoughtlessly choosing several options, I ended up on a character route after an extremely short prologue and first chapter.

I was also on the completely wrong route and had to replay it several times through trial and error. If you’re expecting Period: Cube to incorporate substantial RPG elements, or have gameplay akin to the Fire Emblem series; then this game really isn’t for you. It is still a visual novel through and through, and only utilises the concepts of an RPG to further the storyline. The ‘combat system’ is extremely basic, and coded as decisions in the game; rather than having any substantial value.

That being said, I still really enjoyed reading the overall storyline of Period: Cube. It was unique, interesting and would appeal more to people who are familiar with RPGs. You can see just how many references are placed throughout the game, and relate to them as an RPG player. The translation was also quite good, with only very marginal typos from all the routes. Some phrasing of words could’ve been better, and there were some sentence cut offs from the original meaning in Japanese. However, they were negligible for the most part.

I would have preferred the prologue and common route to be longer, as you’re not even introduced to all the characters before being locked into their route prior to meeting them. You’re thrust into the game universe all too quickly, without proper build up and introductions. Each route took around 3-4hrs to complete depending on your read speed, which totals to around 30hrs of gameplay.

Character Development ★★★

WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD! READ AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION!

2017-05-03-143230

KAZUHA: As a protagonist, Kazuha elicited very mixed feelings within me. It felt as though every single bachelor fell in love with her at first sight, and their only reason for loving her was because of how ‘cute’, ‘innocent’ and ‘kind’ she was. Not to mention she looks exceptionally young in comparison to the rest of the cast, and age sixteen at most. Although she does develop as a character, it did not feel very satisfying nor was it a substantial change. She is able to stand by her convictions and beliefs by the end of the game for the sake of all the remaining players; and return to the real world.

Kazuha is determined and unwavering in her views of justice and the integral goodness that every person possesses, no matter how many terrible experiences are inflicted upon her throughout the course of the story. It is from finally coming to terms with her own strength, that she is able to call upon the powers of the Almighty. However, this blind trust is also her greatest flaw; she is constantly manipulated by others seeking personal gain and dragged around by all the bachelors fighting for her affection throughout the game.

I felt there was just so much more that could’ve been done with her character, considering all the RPG elements they incorporated into Period: Cube. As the game storyline revolves around an RPG universe, I would have really liked to see the heroine have some progression stat wise. At best, she would be level 5 by the end of the game. It honestly felt pathetic that she barely advanced any levels, when all the other characters were at least five times higher.

Realistically in any MMORPG, she should have never made it past a day in Arcadia without speed levelling and increasing her stats. Not only that, but her combat consists of mainly ‘buffing’ or ‘de-buffing’ allies and enemies from the backline. All the characters then proceed to praise her as if she was a godsend and no one else could’ve done the exact same thing. It felt like such a cop out that her level was pretty much negligible, and just because she’s the protagonist and ‘coincidentally’ the Almighty; she had the ability to one hit kill extremely powerful mobs.

It is because of her almighty status, that she receives constant protection and saved by the bachelors time and time again throughout the game. You would think that in a life or death situation, she would be more proactive to ensure her own survival. Thousands of people have died in the game, and yet Kazuha avoids hundreds of warranted deaths because she is the protagonist. Ironically, the only times when Kazuha is truly assertive in what she wants and wishes to do is in the bad endings of the game.

It was really disappointing to see how much great potential she had to develop as a character with the overarching storyline and universe, and none of these concepts were utilised at all.

I recommend playing the character routes in the following order: Radius → Astrum→ Demento → Zain → Libera → Hiroya→ Poyo-poyo due to storyline spoilers and flow of events. Poyo-poyo can only be unlocked upon the completion of Astrum, Libera and Hiroya’s routes. I have the completed walkthroughs for the game here.

2017-05-01-015019

RADIUS: Renowned as a solo player who never forms parties with others, he is the strongest player of the demon faction. Radius is a powerful fencer, who owns the ‘Infernal Shadow’s Edge’ which is part of the Trinity of Swords required to clear the Ark; the final dungeon within Arcadia. Radius saves Kazuha when she separates from Hiroya and is attacked by enemies. He trades her his most prized Shadow’s Edge to regenerate her health, and Kazuha narrowly avoids death upon completion of the mission.

They temporarily return to the real world, and the two coincidentally meet one another at the hospital. He is cold, blunt and aloof and wishes to have nothing to do with the heroine. He sharply rejects her attempts at friendship and camaraderie, asserting that he works alone. The heroine is confused by the disconnect between his cold words and kind actions, as in spite of his uncaring demeanour; he had saved her life countless of times. She soon comes to discover the reasons behind his distrust towards others, and the suffering he has endured in the past.

Radius is extremely similar to Kirito from Sword Art Online, and jaded by the exact same experiences. He suffers from survivor’s guilt, after his entire party and close friends are killed on a quest expedition for the Shadow’s Edge. Radius is burdened by their final words, and believes himself to be a coward for abandoning his comrades. He views himself undeserving of the life given to him, and yet lacks the courage to face death. This confliction forms the crux of his character, and the inner dilemma that causes him to distance himself from others.

As a result, he finds Kazuha’s complete acceptance of her precarious situation bewildering; and becomes angered on her behalf. Radius views it to be extremely unfair, how she was unknowingly thrust into a life or death situation because of her honourable intentions to save her brother. Now she is being hunted by all of Arcadia, due to her status as a powerful ‘tool’ and disregarded completely as a human being.

Radius admires her inner strength and perseverance; qualities which he sorely lacks in spite of his physical prowess. As Radius spends more time with Kazuha, he comes to fall in love with these aspects of her personality and confides in her his dark past and inner torment. It is through his experiences with her that he is able to come to terms with his anguish, and relinquish the burdens he has carried for so long.

Radius’ route was initially quite irritating to play, due to his constant refusals of the heroine and his cold assertions for her to stay away from him. At every opportunity, he would assume she was stalking him and disrespecting his wishes of wanting to be left alone. He is very fickle in his emotions, and continually switches between resenting the heroine completely; to saving her every time she is in trouble.

However, as a character he develops significantly over the course of the storyline and has some great romantic moments with the protagonist. He becomes very soft towards the heroine when he falls in love with her, and priorities her wellbeing above all else. He is no longer afraid to die or face the future, if it is for her sake. Radius even bows his head to the guild Forte, and uncharacteristically begs them to party with him to save Kazuha.

He had the best CGs and romantic scenes with the protagonist in the game, and was unexpectedly passionate when in love. He also spent the most time with her in the real world in comparison to the other characters, which was reflective in his CGs. Radius’ route was overall the most well-rounded in Period: Cube, as it properly developed his character and relationship with Kazuha over the course of the story.

There was slow, notable progression and I could understand his reasons for falling in love with Kazuha. She had always looked at him as the person he truly was, rather than exterior appearances, fame or fortune. She is able to accept him within his darkest moments, no matter how many times he pushed her away and did not allow his cold rejections to faze her. Her own perseverance and selflessness for others inspires Radius to overcome his own personal demons and accept that it was not too late to atone for his past mistakes.

2017-05-01-013410

ASTRUM: The famous guild leader for the dungeon speed-runners Clarius, and representative of the Angel Faction. Unlike the demon faction, the angels are organised and possess guild roles; enacting proper chain of commands and efficiently battle dungeons together. Although highly respected and revered for his immense strength and tactical game knowledge, Astrum is also well known as an avid role-player within Arcadia. Despite it being a game, Astrum’s mannerisms and flowery dialogue are extremely exaggerated and reflective of his in-game character role.

He is the owner of the ‘Divine Blade of Light’ which is the other piece of the Trinity of Swords required to clear the Ark. Astrum falls in love with Kazuha at first sight due to her beauty and status as the ‘Almighty Amadeus’ and lovingly refers to her by that title throughout the game. He rescues her and Hiroya in the woods, and welcomes them to the Celestial Palace.

However, his actions incur the wrath and jealousy of the other angels; as they view him treating Kazuha favourably despite being unable to use the powers of the Almighty. Hiroya’s presence as a demon is also unheard of, and the atmosphere becomes tense as they continually put off expeditions to the Ark; despite the impending Jaws of Death threatening to consume Arcadia.

I had very mixed feelings about Astrum’s route initially. I was intrigued by his appearance in Radius’ story as his direct counterpart and complete opposite in personality. I didn’t mind his roleplaying and found it hilarious, as it was in line with the RPG elements of the game. It added a lot more comic relief and a light-hearted tone to Astrum’s route. His character is also a reference to RPG players in real life, as many do actually enjoy roleplaying and I’m sure every RPG enthusiast has done it at least once before.

However, I found his overly affectionate feelings towards Kazuha difficult to believe and understand. He essentially falls in love with her at first sight without any proper build up or development. Astrum completely favours her over everyone else, despite the questions and anger directed at his complete disregard for his own position. As a leader, it was unfair that he showered her with special treatment without any proper justification or explanation.

Because of this, for the bulk of his route in spite of the kindness he showed to Kazuha; his feelings felt rather shallow and disingenuous. It felt as though his only reasoning as to why he had special sentiments towards her was due to her status as the Almighty, and because of how ‘cute’ and ‘kind’ she was. However, upon meeting his real life persona Asou Tohru… needless to say, I instantly fell in love with his character.

Sakurai Takahiro did such an amazing job with voicing Tohru’s persona, and perfectly captured his awkward social tendencies and mannerisms of speaking. He truly brought his character to life, and it always amazes me how he is able to play so many diverse personalities. Although I was initially confronted by his sudden rejection of the heroine upon meeting her in real life, it was explained quite well afterwards.

It revealed Tohru’s insecurities and his lack of self-esteem, as he was afraid that Kazuha had become disillusioned by how ‘uncool’ he was in the real world. A stark contrast to the confident and powerful leader of the Angels as Astrum, Tohru in real life is teased by his peers for his lack of social skills and constantly compared to Kazuha’s older brother, Shiki Hanamiya. No matter how hard he tried, his efforts remained unrecognised and forever labelled as second place.

This creates a major inferiority complex within Tohru, and he uses Arcadia as an escape from the real world. At least in the game universe, he could emulate the character that he aspired to be. I was really disappointed that they didn’t delve more into this backstory with Shiki, since it formed such a major crux to Tohru’s character and personality. It is through Kazuha’s belief in his abilities as his real life persona, that gives him the confidence to finally best Shiki.

She asserts that there are only things that Asou Tohru can do, that no one else can replicate. I found the long-running gag of Shiki completely disregarding Tohru’s presence hilarious, considering Tohru’s entire world revolved around being second place to him. Although I absolutely loved Tohru’s character, his relationship and feelings towards Kazuha at the beginning lacked a lot of foundational development and proper progression.

2017-05-02-212752

DEMENTO: The notorious PK’er (Player Killer) who appears throughout all the character routes. Demento has the status of ‘Fallen’ which is branded on his chest as a symbol of killing other players throughout Arcadia. He captures Kazuha an innumerable number of times in Period: Cube and forces her to use the powers of the Almighty, at the cost of her own safety and life. He wishes to to see what would happen when a player affiliated with neither the angel or demon factions clears the Ark, and whether the whole world’s balance would be destroyed by his actions.

He was once apart of the guild Clarius and completed many dungeons in the same party as Astrum. However, he one day kills a Demon and experiences an unforgettable thrill that begins his downward spiral into corruption. Astrum overlooks the incident as Arcadia does encourage the killing of other faction players and Demento has yet to be branded. He becomes addicted to replicating the sensation and begins mindlessly killing all players of both factions. As a result, he is eventually banished from the guild.

It explained why Demento was so powerful despite his poor weaponry and levels. Players with the ‘fallen’ status are punished for their actions, reset their level upon killing and are unable to equip any items other than the basic default gear. As he regularly played with Astrum, it can be assumed he was fairly high level prior to his branding. Astrum forever lamented his decision and wondered if there was more he could’ve done to prevent Demento’s demise.

I had a lot of issues with Demento’s route and character overall. Regardless of his actions being committed in the game world, he still enacted irreversible murder without remorse. Thousands of people died from Idiopathic Coma in the real world because of his cheap thrill and he showed complete disregard for Kazuha in all the routes. He uses her for his own selfish means of entertainment, and I could not even fathom as to how Kazuha developed feelings for him at all.

This was exacerbated by the fact that his route is only three chapters long and branched directly from Astrum’s route. It then led to the question of: Astrum treated you with nothing but kindness, and yet for some reason you were compelled to fall in love with the guy who kidnapped and threatened to kill you? There was just so little time and writing developed to his character that I’m unsure as to why he was incorporated at all.

It became almost irritating and predictable at how without fail in every single story, he would appear sooner or later for no other reason than to cause unnecessary drama and create anguish by murdering other players. It was never truly justified as to why he killed players in Arcadia either, other than it giving him the sensation of truly being alive and some satisfaction in his monotonous daily life.

Why did he not feel alive to begin with? What were the reasons as to why he lacked so much purpose? If he had no reason for living, why did he pray for life every time he killed someone else? How can he wish for himself to live, when he killed others without thinking by the hundreds? His route was just so painfully ironic, it was almost laughable at how essentially nothing was explained about his character, past and reasoning.

In his good ending he suffers from amnesia and as a result, his crimes are ‘erased’ from his memory and enables him to have a bittersweet happy ending with Kazuha. To me, this was quite a cop out as countless people still died because of his actions but he is essentially cleansed of sin and responsibility. After all, even though the murder can never be trialled in the real world; the knowledge of his actions would burden him until the end of his lifetime. If not for his amnesia, he never would have been able to attain happiness.

Although he did have some cute moments with the heroine and one of the only few characters who had a proper kiss CG, I simply could not overlook his actions and poor writing for his story. His contribution to the overall storyline was minimal and regardless of whether or not he was in Period: Cube; it would not have altered the events of the plot at all.

2017-05-05-011415

ZAIN: An NPC (non playable character) within the world of Arcadia, he usually resides in Adventurer Town to guide new players with tutorial information and provides quests to complete. Unlike other NPCs, he receives a reprogramming and orders to protect Kazuha. This gives birth to human-like tendencies, and a lapse in memory in regards to his original purpose and origins as an NPC. As Zain is originally not human, he experiences many difficulties in understanding human emotions and customs.

Zain is incredibly kind to Kazuha and very helpful in assisting her when she becomes separated from Hiroya. He quickly becomes extremely attached to her, as he experiences so many new things and powerful emotions with Kazuha. His feelings transcend into obsession, as he becomes consumed with unhealthy thoughts of possession and expecting Kazuha to mirror his own feelings. This angers his creator and causes immense confusion within Zain, as he become unsure of his own identity and sense of self.

Again, I had a lot of problems with Zain’s route. His overall storyline was extremely confusing for the most part and filled with many convenient plot holes that were never truly explained or fully delved upon. I could understand that Zain experienced a lot of turmoil due to his conflicting desires, the interference of his creator/the voices within his mind, and his lack of understanding with the nature of humans. However, a lot of his actions and key scenes with Kazuha were very disturbing and manipulative.

The scene where he forcefully attempts to merge himself with Kazuha, in order for them ‘to share the same feelings’ made me so uncomfortable reading. He was quite literally physically and mentally violating her, and forcing his own emotions and thoughts on her; something which he knew more than anyone else was mentally debilitating and extremely painful. His feelings towards Kazuha to me were very selfish, and entirely based on inciting guilt.

Kazuha would always feel guilty imagining how lonely Zain would be without her, and how she could never go anywhere without him because of how worried he would be waiting alone. It was just an unhealthy relationship from start to finish and due to Kazuha’s ‘kind nature’ she could never seperate from him for very long. It was also sad how the only method he could transcend from NPC to the real world with Kazuha, was through the death of Demento.

The concept of their minds merging was explained very poorly and all too coincidental for the events of the story to occur. Essentially in order to for them to be together, it required the death of someone else. Again, his route honestly didn’t really contribute to the story nor his character and I would have preferred much longer stories with the others who actually played a role in the overarching plot. It felt like he was implemented just for the sake of having another character and Zain’s route directly tied into Shiki’s story. It felt like it was two routes dedicated to Shiki, rather than a stand alone route for Zain.

2017-05-03-232419

LIBERA: A nekama (person who portrays the opposite gender online) who uses his cute appearance and deceptively feminine mannerisms to attract the attention of countless males in Arcadia. He is surprisingly popular and amasses many friends with his outgoing and talkative nature. They regularly invite him on missions and gift him with rare items and gold, asserting that they’ll protect him on their quests.

Despite playing the game since beta, he is fairly low level and prefers to stay within town to socialise rather than accompanying parties on missions. He is also quite mischievous and haughty, often stealing other player’s gold and selling gifted items for his own benefit. Unlike the other characters in Period: Cube, Libera does not wish to clear the ark and desires to remain in the game world. He prioritises his own safety above all else, and fears death with every fibre of his being.

I found it pretty hilarious how throughout the game, everyone more or less doesn’t notice that Libera is a guy in real life despite how obvious it is from his voice. For the most part, I didn’t really feel the ‘romance’ aspect from Libera’s route. His initial feelings towards Kazuha and kindness are all fabricated, and he expresses vehemently that he only ever desired to use her for his own sake or to pawn off to a high-level player.

He views her as a prized asset that is beneficial for his own survival in Arcadia. Despite his cold words, when Kazuha is in trouble; he always manages to be there at the right moments to save her. Although he claims to prioritise his own life above all else, he constantly places himself at risk in order to protect Kazuha. This encourages the heroine to truly get to know Libera, and what warped his perception on the world.

His story is rather tragic, and explains Natsu’s contribution into the overarching storyline. He has been plagued by illness and a weak body since birth, rendering him to a sick bed at the hospital. As a result, he is unable to properly attend school and make friends; unknowing of which day would be his last.

His beloved elder brother Natsu is what holds their family together, and is admired and deeply respected by Libera. He is talented, handsome and intelligent; and decided to create Arcadia for Libera’s sake as the only thing he could play at the hospital were video games. The notion of transcending death and eradicating illness also enticed Natsu, as it would be the cure to his brother’s health issues.

It made sense as to why Libera preferred the social aspect of Arcadia, due to what he lacked in his life. He feared death because he knew better than anyone else what it was like to face each day, knowing it could be his last. In Arcadia, the options were limitless on what he could do in comparison to the monotonous life he lived in the real world. With Natsu’s accident, it shattered their family apart and he comes to believe that he should’ve taken his brother’s place.

Although he contributed immensely to the overarching storyline, the romance aspect of his route left much to be desired due to his age, and the rocky beginnings of their relationship. Not only that, but he created a female character which prevented him from truly expressing his feelings towards Kazuha for the bulk of the game. The romance honestly felt rather forced, and it was more befitting as a platonic route. I actually preferred a route with Natsu instead of Libera, since I felt they actually had chemistry in every story in Period: Cube.

It was really disappointing that the story was told from Libera’s perspective instead, even though it would’ve made so much more sense if Natsu was the selectable character. He had such an important impact on the creation of Arcadia and the overarching storyline, and I was genuinely surprised in how they decided to approach his backstory. The closest thing we got to a Natsu route was Libera’s good ending CG, where he essentially grows up to look exactly like Natsu (laughs).

2017-05-06-221829

HIROYA: Kazuha and Shiki’s beloved childhood friend, and neighbour since they were little children. He has long admired Shiki due to his intelligence, strength and fortitude when it came to Kazuha, and aspired to be more like him for her sake. Hiroya is traumatised by Kazuha’s accident that left her prone to fainting and she experiences many lapses in memory as a result. He views it to be entirely his fault, due to his thoughtless actions as a child that inadvertently led to the accident.

He vows to become stronger and wholeheartedly dedicates himself to becoming a better man capable of protecting Kazuha. He reluctantly allows Kazuha to join him in Arcadia due to her heartfelt request to find her brother, which leads to the events of the storyline. The story branches when Kazuha either chooses to separate from him in Minta Woods upon an ambush, or decides to remain by his side.

I honestly felt really bad for Hiroya in all of the routes, because he essentially plays second fiddle to every single bachelor despite him being there for Kazuha from the very beginning. He accepts her choice no matter the circumstances in the end and supports her completely in her decisions. Hiroya only desires her happiness and everything he does is for her sake.

Although he makes a lot of Kazuha’s decisions on her behalf, he always tries to keep her best interests at heart. This is also an issue with his route, as he does not allow for Kazuha to decide for herself what she wishes to do and develop the confidence to voice her own beliefs. In Radius’ route, he completely dispels her concerns and tunnel visions on prioritising her own safety at the cost of her own wishes.

His route is very cute, fluffy and had a predictable romance because the feelings were always there to begin with. It is obvious no matter which route how much he cares for Kazuha and his feelings are as blatant as ever. Because of this predictability however, I didn’t feel as much attachment to him as a character. As the poster-boy of the game I did expect a greater focus on the romance with the heroine, and his contribution to the overall storyline.

There were really no surprises in his route, and follows the standard events and typical interactions reminiscent of the childhood friend trope. I did like his unhindered dedication and determination to improve himself in regards to the heroine, as it demonstrated out of all the bachelors that he truly was in love with Kazuha and it was understandable as to why.

2017-05-07-005636

SHIKI: Normally I wouldn’t reveal the identity of this character (which I haven’t in my walkthroughs) but Aksys Games already spoiled it on their official game website. I do spoiler tag my character development section, as I personally find I cannot delve into my complete thoughts on a character, without revealing major events of their story. If you haven’t played the game in it’s entirety yet, I highly suggest not reading this character section.

Shiki is the elder brother of Kazuha, and the reason as to why all the events in the story occur. He created Arcadia in the pursuit of an eternal utopia, where humans transcend the possibility of death and illness. This is due to Kazuha’s accident from childhood, that instills fear within him that human lives are not indestructible and can be taken away in the blink of an eye. Young Kazuha asks Shiki to promise and fulfil her wish of living in a world without pain, and a world where they could be together forever.

This drives Shiki to grant her desire and he is able to access the Akashic Records; which is the embodiment of all knowledge within the universe, from the beginning of time. It provides him with the answers to create the world that Kazuha is seeking. However, due to her lapses in memory she soon forgets many of the moments they shared together and their promise.

Only Shiki alone remembers their promise, and this is why Kazuha found his actions so unfathomable throughout the entire story. It is due to this unworldly knowledge that enables Shiki to create technology far beyond the realms of human capabilities, and essentially achieve the level of a God.

It also explained as to why no matter how much Tohru tried, he could not surpass Shiki’s intellect and why he topped the university despite never studying. Due to his obsession with the notion of granting Kazuha’s wish, he disregards all other factors and obstacles impeding his success. He becomes warped by his fear of Kazuha eventually forgetting him or dying, and willingly sacrifices dozens of lives to ensure her wish comes true.

His feelings for Kazuha are on a completely different magnitude, and despite him knowing his actions were morally wrong; he was too far gone to stop. He is filled with regrets, self-loathing and ironically watches every other bachelor end up with Kazuha in all the other routes. I honestly found it difficult to believe that he was not Kazuha’s genuine sibling, due to their interactions and similarity in appearance throughout the game. Despite the constant assertions that they were not related, I found myself highly skeptical of it.

As a romantic interest, he was exceptionally creepy in his nighttime expenditures whilst Kazuha was sleeping and I inwardly cringed at many of their moments together. However, I felt his story definitely answered the many questions that were left open-ended in the other routes. It offered a plausible and holistic conclusion that tied up all the loose ends of the storyline, and was a satisfying read considering all the other routes never addressed Shiki’s conflict and reasoning for his actions.

He is left as an amnesiac and confined to the hospital in all the other stories, which really built the drama and anticipation for his route. His good ending made a lot of sense, as realistically he could never experience happiness otherwise. His stained hands and lonely years devoted in solitude to Kazuha’s selfish wish was irreversible and had completely twisted his personality. Turning back time was very befitting of the theme of the game, and enabled Kazuha the newfound confidence to relive her life without the impairments of her physique from the accident.

It returned the lively childhood and close relationship she had lost with both Shiki and Hiroya. It also provided Kazuha with the decisiveness to affirm her own feelings and stance when it came to her brother. In the new timeline, Shiki does not impose his emotions and desires on Kazuha, and is respectful of her decisions. She chooses of her own accord to be with him, and is finally able to truly fall in love with Shiki this time round.

What I liked about his route and all the other stories was that Kazuha never deludes herself into thinking she loves him, and genuinely reveres their relationship as platonic. It is only in the new timeline does she fall in love with his true personality. Although Shiki is cold-hearted and borderline insane in all the routes, I could sympathise with his character and reasoning. The bad ending itself was quite interesting, as it demonstrated rather literally how repetitive a utopia without death would be.

The characters relive the same day over and over, and although there is no pain or suffering; there is also no ‘true happiness’. It rectified the recurring motif and theme of the game, that life is a gift to be cherished in both the good and bad times despite the short life span of humans.

Design ★★★★

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This was one of the aspects that captured my interest from first impressions, and was definitely one of the highlights of the game. I loved how many MMORPG elements they incorporated into the design and artwork. For example: the outfits reflecting the class/race for each of the bachelors and even the side characters had very memorable and distinct costumes.

One of the notable elements of Period: Cube was that the main bachelors each had a different sprite for their real life appearances, and how they looked in game. As a player it was exciting to anticipate when you would eventually meet them in the real world and how they differed from their in-game personas.

The unique weaponry was also a very nice touch, as well as the additional ‘glow’ effects on special ability activations. The backgrounds were so incredibly gorgeous, and they really brought the game to life. It was reminiscent of the maps and dungeons typical to an RPG, and Kuroyuki’s art style definitely suited the theme of the game.

I felt that Period: Cube really brought out the full potential of the OLED PS Vita screen, and definitely showcased the impressive and crisp graphics. There were plenty of CGs for every bachelor, although I found that Kuroyuki (the artist for the Black Wolves Saga series) had a noticeable trend of drawing awkward half-kiss expressions on the characters in Period: Cube. As I have played her previous works before and quite liked her unique artwork, this was rather surprising to see.

It was disappointing as it felt like some characters definitely had better kiss scenes than others, and was a downgrade to previously released titles with art by Kuroyuki. In terms of consistency between the CGs and character sprites, then the game did fairly well. I really loved how many unique monster designs they incorporated into Period: Cube, and the definitive attentiveness to the RPG aspects were great to see.

Music and Voice Acting ★★★★★

For me personally, this was without a doubt the standout aspect and highlight of the game. I was amazed at how phenomenal the OST was, and loved all the tracks immensely. I was really impressed with the battle BGMs, especially “Battle Finale” since it honestly felt like something that would come out of a high-quality RPG game. Rarely do I ever hear a game OST and instantly feel the need to listen to the soundtrack on repeat.

The piano tracks were so lovely, and really inspired the pianist in me to actually try and learn them myself. The voice acting was fantastic as well, encompassing a highly prolific and famous cast line up. Even the side characters had very memorable voices, such as Jocus being voiced by Morikubo Shōtarō. They did such a great job at emulating the character personalities, and really built a strong level of attachment to all of them by the end of the game.

I personally felt Sakurai Takahiro (Astrum) especially, as well as Okamoto Nobuhiko (Hiroya) and Maeno Tomoaki (Radius) had notable performances in Period: Cube. As I already mentioned earlier, Sakurai truly captured how endearing Astrum’s character and personal conflictions were. I found myself laughing out loud, and feeling all sorts of emotions when reading and listening to his character’s dialogue. It’s amazing to see how well he can personify so many different character personalities, and my last game I played was him voicing Mejojo von Garibaldi from Black Wolves Saga — Bloody Nightmare —.

This actually gave me a lot of mixed feelings, because if you’ve played the BWS series you’ll understand exactly what kind of character Mejojo was. It’s just a testament to his skill as a voice actor, to be able to reproduce and play any type of character trope. It was also nice seeing Maeno again from Code: Realize as Lupin, and he perfectly expressed Radius’ transition from cold to loving towards Kazuha.

  • Astrum | VA: Sakurai Takahiro | 櫻井 孝宏 |
    Danganronpa series as Kuwata Leon, Black wolves Saga series as Mejojo von Garibaldi, Grisaia series as Kazama Yuuji, Naruto Shipuuden as Sasori, Final Fantasy series as Cloud Strife, Anohana as Atsumu Matsuyuki, and Psycho-pass as Shogo Makushima.
  • Hiroya | VA: Okamoto Nobuhiko |岡本 信彦 |
    Black Wolves Saga series as Pearl, Maid Sama! as Takumi Usui, Haikyu!! as Yuu Nishinoya, and Gekkan-Shojo Nozaki-kun as Mikoto ‘Mikorin’ Mikoshiba
  • Libera | VA: Hanae Natsuki | 花江 夏樹 |
    Taisho x Alice series as Ookami, Your Lie in April as Kosei Arima, Tokyo Ghoul series as Ken Kaneki, and Aldnoah Zero as Inaho Kaizuka
  • Shiki | VA: Toriumi Kousuke | 鳥海 浩輔 |
    Hakuoki series as Saito Hajime, Naruto series as Inuzuka Kiba, Danganronpa series as Kiyotaka Ishimaru and Nightshade as Momochi Chojiro
  • Radius | VA: Maeno Tomoaki | 前野 智昭 |
    Code: Realize series as Arséne Lupin, Taisho x Alice series as Akazukin, and Kenka Banchou Otome as Onaigashima Houou
  • Zain | VA: Hirakawa Daisuke | 平川 大輔 |
    Code: Realize series as Count Saint-Germain, School Days series as Itou Makoto, Hiiro no Kakera as Oomi Suguru, Taisho x Alice as Cinderella and Diabolik Lovers series as Sakamaki Raito

System ★★★★★

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The system was another fantastic aspect of Period: Cube and definitely matched up to the music and voice acting. I loved the system user interface (UI) and design, and it felt very crisp and smooth to navigate. The attentiveness to the detail reflective of an RPG were consistent throughout the game and followed the thematic motifs of Period: Cube. It really left a strong and lasting impression, especially if you’ve previously played RPGs and can relate to the references much better.

It provided statistic pages for all the characters, displaying their items/gear, class information and love affection towards the heroine. Depending on the events of the story, the HP Gauge of the character actually does change and I found myself checking on it periodically throughout the game.

The system incorporated great battle animations such as character sprite transitions upon using abilities, monster kills, spells, glowing weapons, affection increase etc. It definitely brought the RPG game elements to life, and I really liked the map movement of the game which reflected the time of day.

This is also shown on the game’s loading screen, which had three different landscapes based on morning, afternoon or night. Period: Cube had all the basic functions of a visual novel such as CG Gallery, scene recollection, music list, and save/load slots. I liked the extra unlocked character profiles of the bachelor’s real life personas upon completion of their route, and the bonus ‘his perspective’ segment that had a bit of fan-service dialogue.

However, I do wish these were a little longer in length and came with a CG as it’s technically the ‘after-epilogue’ endings of the routes. The skip speed was very fast and the jump button was a life saver considering how vague the options of this game were at times. This definitely helped so much when writing my walkthrough and manoeuvring through the game routes.

As Period: Cube is still purely a Visual Novel, the combat system was extremely basic; however, it was nice that the creators tried to incorporate it into the game. I personally didn’t think that they should’ve used the combat select options as important route deciders, as it made the game unnecessarily more difficult than it should have been.

The encyclopaedia is very useful and a helpful feature for players who have never played an RPG before and ensures that the game is enjoyable for a wider audience. However, for players accustomed to the RPG elements then the definitions were very basic and common knowledge. I also really liked the blinking, mouth and hair movements of the game, since it showed up really nicely with the PS Vita graphics.

Conclusion

2017-05-07-005603

In conclusion, Period: Cube is a good game. With the stellar game design, system, voice acting and music; it definitely made it a worthwhile title to try and support english game localisations. It had gorgeous visuals on the PS Vita screen, and far better music and voice acting than I would have ever anticipated. It had an awesome opening and is sung by Joelle, who has contributed the vocals to other games such as Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Bravely Default.

It incorporated a notable amount of gameplay, CG art and many character routes to choose from. Although the storyline left much to be desired in its execution, it still had an interesting premise and captivating elements in all the routes. It really needed more cohesive explanations to some of the glaring plot holes in several of the character stories. The incorporation of the protagonist Kazuha with the combat system was also quite poor, and I was really disappointed by how minimally it impacted the storyline.

I honestly preferred less dateable characters overall, and more writing time devoted into fleshing out the bachelors that had significant contribution to the overarching plot. Personalities such as Zain, Demento and Libera were nice to have, but not necessary to the overall storyline. With or without their involvement, it didn’t significantly alter the key events in Period: Cube nor would I have sorely missed their presence.

I preferred more writing focus and character development on Radius, Astrum, Hiroya, and Shiki as well as replacing Libera with Natsu. To me, that would have offered a more memorable connection and attachment to the characters; as well as better explanations on the overarching plot. Rather than dedicating screen time to new character stories that were half-done anyways, they could have addressed the many prevalent plot-holes.

Although they incorporated a lot of cute character and relationship moments with all the bachelors, it wasn’t really enough to overlook the subpar plot explanations. I honestly felt stronger attachments to the side characters of the game, which is an indicator to how two-dimensional some of the bachelors really were. The highlight of Period: Cube was definitely the impressive world-building, music, voice acting, and UI design; and to me that was what really swung the game from a 3.5/5 to a 4/5 rating.

I do recommend giving the game a try, as I did enjoy the storyline and immersive graphics on the PS Vita. I particularly enjoyed Radius’ route and Tohru’s character, who were definitely the standouts from the game. Thank you again to Aksys Games for the collaboration, and I’m definitely looking forward to their next otome slated release of Collar x Malice on July 28th, 2017!

Overall Rating: 4/5

Written By Cherry

Period: Cube ~Shackles of Amadeus~ Poyo-poyo Walkthrough

2017-05-07-005603

Official Website: Aksys Games
Game Link: Period Cube: Shackles of Amadeus – PS Vita [Physical]
Period Cube: Shackles of Amadeus – PS Vita [Digital Code]
If you would like to read a full review of the game, you can read it here.

* Poyo-poyo can only be unlocked after completing Astrum, Libera and Hiroya’s routes. *

Common Route

  • Use knife
  • Use knife
  • Both of you, just calm down.

Character Route

Good Ending

  • Use knife
  • All right, I trust you!
  • If you say so, Poyo-poyo.
  • Then, I guess half is all right.
  • My brother could have come home.
  • I’m the one that’s sorry.
  • I’m sorry for worrying you.
  • … Tell me your favourite food.
  • Don’t say that, please.
  • Run
  • Apologize to Ira.
  • I don’t want a world like that
  • I won’t lie.

Merry Bad Ending

  • Title Screen → History→ Poyo-poyo Route → Chapter 7
  • Kazuha’s Almighty Level 4
  • Poyo-poyo’s Affection 0
  • I want to be with everyone
  • I love you.
  • I hope tomorrow will be a good day (repeat day)
  • But, something feels strange… (end day)

Period: Cube ~Shackles of Amadeus~ Hiroya Walkthrough

2017-05-06-221928

Official Website: Aksys Games
Game Link: Period Cube: Shackles of Amadeus – PS Vita [Physical]
Period Cube: Shackles of Amadeus – PS Vita [Digital Code]
If you would like to read a full review of the game, you can read it here.

Common Route

  • Use knife
  • Use knife
  • Hey, don’t attack Hiroya.

Character Route

Good Ending

  • We don’t have to rush.
  • Step back
  • You’re already helping me a lot.
  • I want us to work together, Hiroya.
  • Use knife
  • I need to ask Radius, too.
  • If it’s not a big deal, then tell me.
  • I think we can be honest.
  • You’re making me blush…
  • I really want to go with you guys.
  • Observe
  • Hiroya didn’t do anything wrong!
  • I think you should do it, Hiroya.
  • I don’t want to be separated from you either.

Merry Bad Ending

  • Title Screen → History→ Hiroya Route → Chapter 7
  • Kazuha’s Almighty Level 5
  • Hiroya’s Affection 0
  • How about Radius?
  • Don’t lose to my brother.

NEWS: New Facebook Page

Hi everyone,

I have received some requests from you guys to also have a facebook page for the website, as facebook notifications are a lot more convenient. I know that not everyone has a wordpress account to follow the blog, or would prefer to not have continual email updates about new posts. People also tend to use facebook more so than other social media as well nowadays. I sat down and made the facebook page today, so yes you can also now like/follow ‘Visual Novel Reviews’ on facebook!

You can see the facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/visualnovelreviews/

screen-shot-2017-05-06-at-3-30-59-am.png

I usually do check my social media/website everyday, so if you do comment/post things I do try to respond within the day! For more prompt responses or casual conversation about visual novels/otome games, I am the most active on twitter @vnreviewer.

Period: Cube ~Shackles of Amadeus~ Zain Walkthrough

2017-05-05-011444

Official Website: Aksys Games
Game Link: Period Cube: Shackles of Amadeus – PS Vita [Physical]
Period Cube: Shackles of Amadeus – PS Vita [Digital Code]
If you would like to read a full review of the game, you can read it here.

Common Route

  • Use knife
  • Run
  • Run

Character Route

Good Ending

  • Scream
  • Yes. I trust you.
  • Thank you very much.
  • Then, you should find something.
  • You’re Zain, that’s who.
  • Please be here when I come back.
  • Use knife
  • I’m just glad you’re safe.
  • You’re special, Zain.
  • Poyo-poyo looks hurt.
  • Please don’t do anything cruel.
  • Do you promise?
  • Play harp
  • I wanted to talk with you.

Merry Bad Ending

  • Title Screen → History→ Zain Route → Chapter 7
  • Kazuha’s Almighty Level 6
  • Zain’s Affection 0
  • I was worried about you.

Period: Cube ~Shackles of Amadeus~ Libera Walkthrough

2017-05-03-232424

Official Website: Aksys Games
Game Link: Period Cube: Shackles of Amadeus – PS Vita [Physical]
Period Cube: Shackles of Amadeus – PS Vita [Digital Code]
If you would like to read a full review of the game, you can read it here.

Common Route

  • Use knife
  • Use knife
  • I think this person’s right…

Character Route

Good Ending

  • I think I’d like to rest.
  • I was just surprised.
  • You should come too, Libera.
  • Play harp
  • I want us to fight together, Libera.
  • You’re Libera, aren’t you?
  • I was just surprised.
  • Wait. I still want to talk to you.
  • I could at least go to the entrance…
  • I’m not going back.
  • That’s really sad.
  • Play harp
  • I’m sure you can do it, Riku.
  • Increase ally strength

Merry Bad Ending

  • Title Screen → History→ Libera Route → Chapter 7
  • Kazuha’s Almighty Level 4
  • Libera’s Affection 0
  • Have confidence!
  • Slow enemy movement