Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly Review

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Release Date: 2015
Publisher: Idea Factory & Aksys Games
Platforms Available: PS Vita (Japanese & English)
Game Link: Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly – PS Vita [PHYSICAL]
Official Site: Aksys Games

Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly is the first of three otome releases from Aksys Games as part of their summer mystery bundle. From first impressions, I didn’t know much about the game prior to playing. The only aspects that caught my eye was the appealing artwork, a voiced heroine and that it involved a shooter mini-game.

In comparison to their previously heavily marketed titles, I feel Psychedelica has quietly slipped under the radar and not many other websites/reviewers have spoken much about this game.  To my surprise, I was very impressed by the immersive storyline, captivating characters and the Psychedelica universe. It’s definitely a rare hidden gem amongst the English otome localisations of 2018, and I highly recommend checking it out if you haven’t already.

Thank you to Aksys Games for collaborating with me on this review and providing a review copy of the game.

* Please do not remove the watermark from the above image or use without credit, as the cover was manually edited myself using redrawn title text to overlay over the original Japanese artwork *

Storyline ★★★★

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-The Story-
The story begins with a young woman waking up within the confines of an unknown, mysterious mansion with no recollection of how she got there. Adding to her confusion, she can no longer remember her name or past. However, before she could come to grips with her predicament she is suddenly attacked by a grotesque monster and is forced to run for her life.

The protagonist eventually comes into contact with others who also have no recollections of their pasts or how they ended up at the mansion. With only the enigmatic command “Complete the Kaleidoscope” to guide their way, the group sets off to hunt down the mysterious black butterflies that envelop the monsters of the mansion and recover their lost memories. (Official Website)

Initially, Psychedelica can be quite the daunting game to fully understand and appreciate in the early stages of the storyline. You’re thrust into a bizarre world encroached in darkness, where danger lurks around every corner and any misstep could lead to your untimely demise. To make matters worse, you possess no memories of your former identity and are forced to blindly trust and cooperate with complete strangers.

Quite figuratively and literally, you’re left fumbling around in the dark grasping for the memories of your past and uncovering the secret of the mansion in order to return to the real world. The storyline takes on a non-linear approach, and you slowly come to piece together the fragments of Benyuri’s (Protagonist) memories as you progress through the game.

A lot of players have criticised the ‘flowchart’ format of Psychedelica, as it detracts from the main overarching storyline. I personally didn’t mind it, as I could see the direction and purpose behind the format. It reinforces the mystery aspect of the game, as you’re forced to piece together the fragments of her memories in a non-linear order.

The connections from the puzzle pieces slowly tie in with the main storyline arc, creating a unique and multi-faceted story-telling experience. For the most part, the memories are quite light-hearted to juxtapose with the dark themes of the Psychedelica universe. I thought it created a nice balance between the two and really strengthened your attachment as a reader to the characters upon returning back to the main storyline.

After playing through the game, I can really see why the main storyline is titled ‘the best ending’. The romance and otome aspect in Psychedelica takes a complete backseat to the main storyline, and is completely overshadowed—but surprisingly, not in a bad way. If you enjoy a Visual Novel that emphasises on romance, then Psychedelica may not be the game for you.

The main storyline is very well written in its execution, and was a rollercoaster of emotions from beginning to end. It really hit home with its message, as well as seamlessly incorporating the fantasy elements of the game with the storyline.

If you’re a fan of mystery and angst, then you’ll definitely enjoy Psychedelica. To me, Psychedelica was everything that I had wanted Bad Apple Wars to be and more. Due to the fragmented game layout, it really leaves the reader wanting more as the mystery continues to thicken the further you progress in the game.

The pacing, revelation of the plot, suspense and twists were all just so well written. Although Psychedelica isn’t without it’s plot holes, I was still very satisfied with how everything was answered and tied together by the completion of the game. The game is quite short in length, and the character routes are significantly shorter than the main storyline arc itself.

Depending on your read speed, it would take on average 15-20hours to fully complete the game.

Character Development ★★★★

If it wasn’t for the great cast of characters in Psychedelica, the storyline would have been nowhere near as impactful. I loved how raw and real their emotions were written to be, as well as their interwoven backstories that led them to Psychedelica. You could really relate to every character’s pain and suffering, and I liked how every character dealt with loss and grief so differently.

It served as a direct reflection of the varying dimensions of the human psyche, and how people cope and handle hardships in different ways in real life. My only qualms with the game would be that some of the character routes were laughably short. Some were only two or three chapters long, which leaves little to no time dedicated to fleshing out their story further. The chapters essentially incorporated a few extra short fluffy moments, before it was the end of their route.

Fortunately, your attachments to the characters and their development is mainly explored in the main storyline rather than their own seperate routes. As a result, the lack of romance did not really impact my overall enjoyment of the game.

The game has a fairly static route order, and it’s quite difficult to stray from it as certain content/endings only unlock upon the completion of a previous bachelor. I highly recommend the following route order:  Kagiha → Yamato → Monshiro → Karasuba → Hikage.

WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD! READ AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION!

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BENIYURI: Although Beniyuri is by any means an outstanding heroine that falls outside of the standard otome trope, I still enjoyed playing as her throughout the game. Having a voiced protagonist really improved the overall game experience, and I’m not sure why this isn’t a common aspect yet in Visual Novels.

Although initially reckless and unable to defend herself in Psychedelica, Beniyuri tries her best to harness the power of her imagination to tackle the monsters alongside everyone else. With her own strength, she develops as a character over the progression of the story and slowly learns to face the darkness and grief hidden in her own memories. I could also understand as to why all the bachelors had feelings for Beniyuri, due to how much she had shaped and impacted their lives in the real world.

I liked how Beniyuri’s ways of coping with grief and overcoming her survivor’s guilt differed from route to route, depending on the bachelor. It exhibited the varying dimensions of grief, and how there were both positive and negative outcomes depending on how you approached it. Hearing her voice, pains and anguish throughout the game definitely helped to develop a stronger connection to her as a protagonist and a sense of empathy for what she has suffered and endured.

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KAGIHA: Kagiha is Beniyuri’s first love, and the older brother figure of the group. He has always been the voice of reason, the most mature and someone whom they could all depend on. Everything Kagiha has done, has always been for Beniyuri’s sake first and foremost. He is willing to turn a blind eye to all acts of sin, so long as he can uphold his promise to her and his desire to be with her forever.

Kagiha really got the short end of the stick in almost all departments, especially in his character route. Initially, I was quite surprised when his route ended because it all happened so quickly, and I thought to myself ‘No way that’s it, right?’ To my dismay, that really was it.

Out of the entire character cast, he was the only one unable to truly have a happy ending with the heroine because he no longer had a place with her in the real world. Although I was initially disappointed by how abruptly his story ended, after thinking it over I really enjoyed the direction the writers decided to take with it. It explores the notion of sacrifice, and the extreme lengths that one goes through when suffering from grief.

Kagiha represents the denial stage of grieving, and how he was willing to sacrifice absolutely anything—even the remaining shreds of his humanity, for a fleeting chance of being with the heroine. He comes to resent the monster that he has become, because despite knowing the futility and immorality behind his actions—he cannot accept his own death.  Although his ending initially confused me, I really liked how dark, tragic and realistic it was.

Rather than the cliche ‘reincarnation’ route where she is able to be with him as a different person in the real world, she chooses to stay with him in Psychedelica. Beniyuri chooses to sacrifice moving forward with her own life, and to remain in blissful denial of the truth. It is the only way that allows them to be together as their current selves and with the memories that they held dear. The ending is tragically moving in its own right as their love for another is built on the notion of sacrifice, and it is the closest they will ever be to attaining happiness as a couple.

As saddening as it is, it was befitting that Kagiha passed on in the best ending as it symbolised that the characters were finally able to move forward with their lives and come to terms with their past. In the alternative ending where his death had not occurred and they all happily lived together, it left nowhere near the same impact as the best ending. His story and character route were very tragic due to the inevitability of it all, but it was necessary due to the overarching themes of Psychedelica.

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YAMATO: Headstrong, easily irritable and somewhat of a lone wolf—Yamato has the most difficulty initially coming to accept the group and the world of Psychedelica. He and Karasuba are constantly at one another’s throats, but it is clear to everyone that they’re closer than they appear. Beniyuri soon discovers that beneath his rough exterior, he is a very kind and sensitive individual that best understands the grief that haunts her.

It makes the most sense as to why Yamato is the first to fall to despair, and slowly transforms into the monsters that prowl the halls of Psychedelica. Out of all the characters, he is the most overcome by guilt and despair as he faces it each and everyday in the real world. He regularly visits his brother Kazuya at the hospital, and laments how his actions directly caused the loss of his two dearest friends.

It is also why he is the most desperate to escape Psychedelica, after recovering fragments of his memories. I felt his character shone the most in the ‘real world’ route, as he is much more mellowed out and less aggressive in comparison to his Psychedelica counterpart. You truly get to know the real Yamato, and the reasons for his actions and behaviour up until that point in the storyline.

Beniyuri develops a strong connection to him, as she realises how they have both been battling the same demons of the past ever since that fateful day. It is through supporting each other that they are finally able to take a step forward with their lives, and time finally starts moving again. His bad ending is quite tragic, as in this route they both inevitably succumb to the weight of their grief and instead choose to relinquish their burdens and start all over again.

His route represents the all-too consuming nature of grief and guilt, and how it can completely dictate your life if left unaddressed.

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MONSHIRO: Beniyuri’s mysterious saviour who rescues her and Hikage upon awakening in Psychedelica. Not much is known about him initially, until his appearance in the second half of the storyline. The group is extremely wary of his presence, due to his allusive and strange nature. He is also remarkably powerful and adept at hunting the monsters, an indicator of his experience and how long he has resided in the realm of Psychedelica.

I absolutely adored his character, as it was just so endearing how much he clung to Beniyuri. It was understandable as to why, because of his immense loneliness from years of residing in darkness and without any human interaction. I view his story to be one of the canon routes of the game, alongside the best ending and Hikage’s route due to the nature and length of it.

I really enjoyed the twist and revelation of his real identity, as the build up and suspense for it was well written. I was very surprised and I didn’t expect it at all, yet at the same time it also made perfect sense. His feelings for Beniyuri are intensely passionate, and it’s believable because she was essentially his lifeline and reason for living in Psychedelica.

Without her, he would have long lost his sanity or fallen to the depths of despair. I also felt that as a heroine, Beniyuri was at her best rendition in Monshiro’s route. She shows conviction and true strength in entering the abyss alone, despite the almost certainty of being unable to return. It is from her feelings for Monshiro and desire to meet him halfway after waiting for so long alone, that allows her to finally believe in herself and comes to terms with the past.

She is able to pave a new path forward with her life, and this is what enables her to escape Psychedelica alongside Monshiro. Although I did like the lead up to his good ending, I felt that the conclusion itself was far too convenient. Through means unknown, Yamato and Karasubaa are able to return safely from Psychedelica and everyone lives happily ever after.

It left too many open-ended questions and weakened the impact of the best ending, as it is not the only route where everyone was able to return. His bad ending on the other hand, really suited the themes of his route and was definitely a tear-jerker.

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KARASUBA: Flirtatious, outgoing and always teasing Beniyuri—Karasuba lightens up the atmosphere of the group through his antics with Yamato. However, despite his seemingly easy-going nature; there is clearly more to him than meets the eye. There are instances where his personality takes on a cold edge that Beniyuri has never seen before, and there is a hint of biting malice in his words. This only further serves to fuel her curiosity to learn the truth behind the real Karasuba.

Despite his strong front and constant denials, Karasuba is suffering just as much as every character in Psychedelica. Out of resentment for his past self and to become stronger, he chooses to overcome his grief by working to better himself as a person in the real world. Despite attaining popularity, charisma and becoming an outspoken individual—Karasuba is unable to be truly happy with the changes.

To him, when it mattered most—he was a weak bystander who was paralysed by fear and unable to help his dearest friends.  His changes could not erase the memories of the past, despite how much he tried to look towards the future. Upon meeting Beniyuri once more, he becomes frustrated by her behaviour as she is cemented in the past.

She refuses to look at him as the person he is now, despite how much he has changed. His bad ending although disturbing, was quite an interesting take on the storyline. In a sense, Karasuba is able to do what he was unable to as a child—which is to protect her from all the hurt and suffering she has endured. They both choose to forget everything, and spend the rest of their idyllic days in Psychedelica.

Anyone who has suffered grief will have thought at least once, ‘if only I could forget the memories, as it would erase the pain I’m currently feeling’. Karasuba’s route explores the notion that even if one were to forget, would it truly lead to real happiness? Experiencing and enduring grief is apart of what it means to live, and shapes who you are as a person.

I enjoyed his good ending, as it is from his influence that Beniyuri is able to see the error of her ways. She realises how much she has missed by remaining stuck within the past, that she could not even see the person her dearest friend had become—even though he had been standing right before her eyes the entire time. Karasuba inspires her to catch up to him, to better herself as a person and to adopt the same outlook of looking towards the future.

His route overall was my least favourite due to how inconsistent his personality was, and the weak chemistry he had with Beniyuri. Despite the reasons used to justify for his actions as well as the nature of his past, it did little to redeem his character in my eyes.

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HIKAGE: Hikage is reliable, strong, trust-worthy and the natural-born leader of the group. He keeps everyone grounded and together, despite the initial tension amongst everyone after arriving in Psychedelica. However, Hikage is not the person he appears to be. He harbours the dark secret surrounding the mansion, and is the true ending of he game that reveals the answers to all the remaining mysteries of Psychedelica.

I didn’t expect the twist to Hikage’s character at all, and I really enjoyed the extra dimension it brought to storyline of Psychedelica. It was interesting to finally solve the final puzzle, that delved into the reasons as to why Hikage became so twisted as a character and his reasons for relentlessly pursuing the completion of the kaleidoscope. I enjoyed Beniyuri’s interactions with Usagi in the earlier half of the route, as the light-hearted tone balanced with the later angst of his story.

His route isn’t as romantic as the others, as it has a greater focus on explaining the plot and fleshing out Hikage’s character. Even until the very end, it is never truly confirmed what he felt for Beniyuri. Although there were some plot holes regarding the universe of Psychedelica, for the most part I was quite satisfied with how the plot unfolded as well as the explanations.

It tied in with the other routes well, and the plot holes weren’t anything detrimental that affected my enjoyment of the overall story. Normally I’m not a fan of the ‘reincarnation’ trope, but it was quite befitting in the case of Hikage’s ending. It was the only possible method for him to attain happiness alongside Usagi, and both had already passed on a long time ago.

By coming to accept his past and letting go of his long-harboured hatred and regrets, his soul is purified and he is finally able to move onto the afterlife. It is from this, that he and Usagi are able to reincarnate in the real world and experience the childhood they never had. I liked how despite meeting one another again in passing within the real world, there weren’t any direct romantic implications for Beniyuri and Hikage.

Psychedelica at its core isn’t a tragic romance, but a story about overcoming grief and moving towards the future. Everything Hikage has done has always been for the sake of his beloved sister, so it was befitting that his happy ending would be him reuniting with his sister rather than Beniyuri.

Design ★★★

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The artwork in Psychedelica is gorgeous, and definitely one of the highlights of the game. The art style really complemented the ethereal and fantasy-like nature of the universe, as well as the character designs. I liked the attentiveness to detail in the CGS depicting the monsters, and the backgrounds were beautifully drawn. A few of them definitely looked like a scene that could have come out of a painting.

Out of all the characters, I definitely liked Monshiro’s outfit best. It was very mysterious, yet it also captured the innocence of his character perfectly with the cute ears on his cape and the way the ribbon weaved through his clothes. My only criticism would be that there were definitely some discrepancies between some of the CGs and the character sprites.

I noticed in particular that the artist at times, doesn’t quite get the anatomy of the side profiles of faces or the correct body/face proportions. I felt this was more prominent in Karasuba’s CGs, in comparison to the other characters. The inconsistencies were quite noticeable in many of the CGs and it is something for the artist to definitely improve on for their future works.

Music and Voice Acting ★★★★★

The music and voice acting were arguably the best aspects about Psychedelica. The soundtrack is beautiful, especially the piano instrumentals for the more emotional moments throughout the storyline. It set the mood of the scenes so well, and the voice acting is just as good. As I mentioned earlier, I really liked the fact that Beniyuri was voiced as it really strengthened your attachment to her as a character.

It was easier to relate to her pain and anguish that were conveyed through her voice,. It also made her seem less two-dimensional, as she was a more active participant in the storyline. I really would like to see this feature being more commonly implemented in future Visual Novels, as it just adds so much more to the game overall.

There is very little to criticise about the music and voice acting in Psychedelica, and I really was not disappointed at all throughout the entire game. It complemented the stellar writing and world-building of Psychedelica perfectly.

  • BENIYURI | VA: Nakahara Mai | 中原 麻衣
    Midori Days as Midori Kasugano, Strawberry Panic! as Nagisa Aoi, Clannad series as Nagisa Furukawa, Kamichama Karin as Karin Hanazono, and Gekkan Shojo Nozaki-Kun as Yu Kashima
  • KAGIHA | VA: Toriumi Kosuke | 鳥海 浩輔 
    Naruto series as Inuzuka Kiba, Hakuoki series as Saito Hajime, Nightshade as Chojiro Momochi and Danganronpa series as Kiyotaka Ishimaru
  • YAMATO | VA: Hosoya Yoshimasa | 細谷 佳正
    Black Wolves Saga series as Julian, Kenka Banchou Otome as Kira Rintarou, and Danganronpa series as Kazuichi Soda
  • MONSHIRO | VA: Matsuoka Yoshitsugu |松岡 禎丞
    RE: Birthday Song series as Ame, Taisho x Alice series as Alice, Sword Art Online series as Kirito, and No Game No Life as Sora
  • KARASUBA | VA: Kakihara Tetsuya |柿原 徹也
    Amnesia series as Shin, Code: Realize series as Viktor Frankenstein, and The Charming Empire as Toki Tanba

System ★★★★

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Contrary to popular opinion, I quite enjoyed the system in Psychedelica and could understand the direction behind it. It reinforces the mystery behind the universe and the fragmented nature of Beniyuri’s memories, as you’re forced to learn them piece by piece in a non-linear order. Although it does force the player to deviate from the storyline at certain points throughout the game, it created a nice balance between the light-hearted moments and angsty plot content.

When you do return back to the main storyline, your attachments to the characters are strengthened as you slowly learn more and more of their different backstories. If anything,  then I did wish they could have improved the order in which the episodes unlocked as some of them did not align with the main storyline at times.

There also wasn’t enough clarity in the gameplay that for some of the bachelors, you HAD to read all their character short stories prior to their route. If you didn’t, then the correct decision at their character branch would not appear in their route. You would then have no idea how to progress with the game, and become completely stuck as a result.

The mini-game was quite simple, but it again suffered from lack of clarity with the instructions. I only realised by my second or third playthrough that you could drag through the touch screen to select multiple butterflies, rather than individually clicking them on the screen. After that, it became incredibly easy to achieve an S Ranking in every mini-game segment.

On a positive note, the mini-game is very easy to play and even a complete rookie would be able to achieve an S with some practice. The point requirements to unlock the short stories are not very high either, so you’re not required to grind points very much at all. I played the mini-game whenever it appeared in the main storyline, and ended up with an excess of points by the end of the game.

In terms of graphics interface and UI, then I really liked the design for Psychedelica. It suited the themes and motifs of the game perfectly, and was very aesthetically pleasing to look at and easy to navigate. I also liked the butterfly motifs and visual animations that were prevalent throughout the game, as it definitely added to the atmosphere.

Conclusion

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In conclusion, Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly is a hidden gem amongst the English otome releases for 2018 and I’m really surprised it isn’t talked about more. It is well-written and refreshingly different from the games that I have played so far. Although it is initially difficult to become immersed in the storyline and universe, I highly recommend finishing the game at least once. The first playthrough in my opinion, is the most enjoyable and there’s a reason why it’s titled ‘the best ending’.

It just perfectly captures the themes and questions that Psychedelica attempts to explore and answer. I was very impressed with the world-building, character development, captivating plot and beautiful music and voice acting. The twist definitely caught me off guard, and I quite enjoyed the mystery elements of the game. If you’re looking for a standard otome that focuses more on romance, then this may not be the game for you.

In my opinion, then there is still a lot of romance throughout the story—but it pales in comparison to the actual plot itself and the character’s struggles to overcome their grief and the burdens of their past. At its core, Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly is a tragically moving tale that explores the themes of friendship, revenge, the fragility of life, inevitability of death and the impact of grief on the human psyche.

I highly recommend Psychedelica if you love a good mystery/fantasy story with plenty of twists and character angst to keep you on the edge of your seat. My next review will be on ‘7’sCarlet‘ which will most likely be posted in the following week or the beginning of June!

Overall Rating: 4/5


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Written By Cherry

 

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