Nightshade: Gekkamaru Walkthrough

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

* indicates affection point raise with that specific character

Common Route

Chapter 1

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

Chapter 2

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

Chapter 3

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

Chapter 4

  • No option

Character Route

Good Ending

Chapter 5

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

Chapter 6

  • No option 

Chapter 7

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

Chapter 8

  • No excuses (*Gekkamaru)

Chapter 9 

  • Hold his hand (*Gekkamaru) 

Chapter 10 

  • Well… (*Gekkamaru) 

Chapter 11

  • Don’t resist (*Gekkamaru) 

Bad Ending

Chapter 5

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

Chapter 6

  • No option

Chapter 7

  • I’ll eat as much as I can

Chapter 8

  • I understand

Chapter 9 

  • Pat his futon

Chapter 10 

  • It’s nothing

Chapter 11

  • Resist

Nightshade: Kuroyuki Walkthrough

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

* indicates affection point raise with that specific character

Common Route

Chapter 1

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

Chapter 2

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

Chapter 3

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

Chapter 4

  • It was a coincidence
  • But…

Character Route

Good Ending

Chapter 5

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

Chapter 6

  • No option 

Chapter 7

  • Of course not (*Kuroyuki) 

Chapter 8

  • Go outside (*Kuroyuki)

Chapter 9 

  • No option

Chapter 10 

  • All right (*Kuroyuki) 

Chapter 11

  • I don’t know (*Kuroyuki) 

Chapter 12

  • No option

Chapter 13

  • No option

Bad Ending

Chapter 5

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

Chapter 6

  • No option

Chapter 7

  • I was just amazed

Chapter 8

  • Wait

Chapter 9 

  • No option

Chapter 10 

  • I’ll fight with you

Chapter 11

  • He’s not

Chapter 12

  • No option

Chapter 13

  • No option

Nightshade: Goemon Ishikawa Walkthrough

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

* indicates affection point raise with that specific character

Common Route

Chapter 1

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

Chapter 2

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

Chapter 3

  • Bukemachi
  • All right (*Goemon) 

Chapter 4

  • I’m sorry (*Goemon) 
  • But…

Character Route

Good Ending

Chapter 5

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

Chapter 6

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

Chapter 7

  • I feel shy (*Goemon) 

Chapter 8

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

Chapter 9 

  • You’re coming with me (*Goemon) 

Chapter 10 

  • Having you stroke my head (*Goemon) 

Chapter 11

  • I believe we’re destined (*Goemon) 

Chapter 12

  • Meet his eyes (*Goemon)

Chapter 13

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

Bad Ending

Chapter 5

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

Chapter 6

  • I don’t think we’d be convincing

Chapter 7

  • Stop teasing me

Chapter 8

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

Chapter 9 

  • That’s unlike you

Chapter 10 

  • Sleeping in the same room as you

Chapter 11

  • I’ll be waiting

Chapter 12

  • Look away

Chapter 13

  • Is it poison?

Nightshade: Hanzo Hattori Walkthrough

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

* indicates affection point raise with that specific character

Common Route

Chapter 1

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

Chapter 2

  • You’re leaving me here?
  • Goro-san
  • Keep quiet (*Gekkamaru)
  • Main Street
  • I’ve never had such good dessert before (*Goemon)
  • Don’t resist (*Hanzo) 
  • Bow deeply in silence (*Hanzo) 

Chapter 3

  • Fushimi castle, Main Gate
  • I will do my best (*Hanzo) 
  • I can’t do that

Chapter 4

  • It was a coincidence (*Hanzo) 
  • Understood (*Hanzo) 

Character Route

Good Ending

Chapter 5

  • [SAVE POINT] Is Lord Tokugawa receiving unexpected guests? (*Hanzo) 
  • Main Street
  • Residential District
  • Fushimi castle, Main Gate

Chapter 6

  • How do I fight him? (*Hanzo) 

Chapter 7

  • I should stay (*Hanzo) 

Chapter 8

  • How many are there? (*Hanzo) 

Chapter 9 

  • All right (*Hanzo) 

Chapter 10 

  • Thank you for saving me (*Hanzo) 

Chapter 11

  • I like it (*Hanzo) 

Bad Ending

Chapter 5

  • [LOAD SAVE POINT] You’re very knowledgeable
  • Main Street
  • Residential District
  • Fushimi castle, Main Gate

Chapter 6

  • I can’t win…

Chapter 7

  • I should go

Chapter 8

  • What should I do?

Chapter 9 

  • I can’t…

Chapter 10 

  • I’m all right

Chapter 11

  • It suits you

NEWS: The Charming Empire Release Announcement

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For more information, check out the steam store page.

Recently, Dogenzaka Lab announced two new games to be localised in english on steam: The Charming Empire and Campus Nightlife. This is super exciting, cause as I mentioned before in my anticipated english visual novel releases for 2017; this year will indeed be very stacked in terms of english localisations! It is great and promising news for Visual Novel fans in the western world, as more and more publishers/companies are recognising that there is a viable target market and fans of the genre. With the newfound momentum we’re seeing in 2017, I won’t be surprised at all if 2018 turns out to be even better.

Of course, that is still a while away and as fans we’ll just have to continue keeping our fingers crossed! I will be covering The Charming Empire out of the two games, since from the premise I found it to be more interesting out of the two. If you would like more information about Campus Nightlife, you can read about it on the steam store page.

Initial Impressions

From first impressions alone, The Charming Empire has some pretty impressive art for a game originally on the mobile platform. Truly, the mobile platform has come so far in improving the past couple of years. I’m sure that it’ll look even better on the PC screen, judging from the screenshot previews that they’ve shown of the game so far. I can already see that Dogenzaka Lab have addressed some of the shortcomings I mentioned from reviewing their two previous (and most popular) releases for mobile and steam: Men of Yoshiwara: Kikuya and Men of Yoshiwara: Ohgiya.

Other than the clear art improvements, they’ve finally decided to incorporate voice acting in their ports! As I mentioned in my criticisms of their previous games, the recent steam release visual novels have all included full voice acting. In order to compete with the rapidly growing and competitive market, having non-voiced games really isn’t going to cut it anymore. Not only that, but some of these games are fully voiced and significantly lower in terms of price threshold. Voice acting just adds so much to a game, and can turn poor/average writing into an engaging story due to the expressions of the VAs.

Overall, in terms of first impressions it is quite positive and I am personally looking forward to the game’s release.

Storyline

-The Story-

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

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

The story seems interesting enough, and I do like that it is a more traditional and historical setting; rather than one set in Modern Japan. Dogenzaka Lab’s Men of Yoshiwara series is their most popular and successful for a reason, as they definitely do much better with the concept in comparison to their other game genres. However, I’m still slightly apprehensive of the game’s writing due to past experiences with the company’s titles. They’re not exactly known for their stellar writing, interesting protagonists or bachelor personalities.

Their previous games have been riddled with poor writing, and littered with grammatical errors and spelling mistakes. It’s as though it was translated by someone unfamiliar with the english language, and judging from the game script it honestly felt like the final copy wasn’t properly proofread at all. However, as it is a newer release by the company I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt for now and I sincerely hope that the writing is much better this time around.

Character Introductions

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Toki Tanba  |  丹葉桐己  |  CV: Tetsuya Kakihara  |  柿原徹也

The flirtatious cafe owner

Toki owns a cafe in the city that serves tea and various confections. He is particularly kind to women and loved by all of his customers. But behind that kind smile, however…

“Sorry for the wait. This here is the pride of the cafe, our signature baumkuchen.”

Oh my, it’s the VA for Shin from Amnesia: Memories and Viktor Frankenstein from Code Realize: ~Guardian of Rebirth~. I knew his voice sounded familiar the moment I heard it! He seems to be one of the two the main bachelors judging from the art and trailer released so far. I find it quite amusing that in this game he plays a flirtatious character, whereas his previous roles in the above two very popular otome games were the complete opposite.

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Kei Yoshimine  |  吉峯螢  |  CV: Toshiki Masuda  |  増田俊樹

The captive former prince

Kei is the heroine’s private tutor.
The prince of a fallen country, he is now a captive of the empire.
Perhaps because of those circumstances, he treats the heroine harshly.

“My name is Kei Yoshimine. Starting today I’ll be teaching you foreign language and dance. Any questions?”

Kei seems like your typical major-closet tsundere; where he’s cold to you initially but becomes increasingly embarrassed and shy as he develops feelings for the heroine. I do really like his character design, as I have a soft spot for dark-haired male leads.

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Koichiro Sera  |  世良皇一朗  |  CV: Takuya Eguchi  |  江口拓也

The reticent bodyguard

Sera is the heroine’s unsociable bodyguard.
Not a minute goes buy where Sera isn’t devoted to his duties, and he also has a stubborn side.
He bares distrust towards Lord Soji’s dictatorship.

“Stay close to me.”

The same VA as Sonosuke Izayoi from the Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak High School. Ironically they both play a similar character role in both that anime and this game.

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Kagemitsu Togawa  |  渡川景光  |  CV: Toshiyuki Toyonaga  |  豊永利行

The mild-mannered aide

Kagemitsu is Lord Soji’s right hand man.
He is a childhood friend of both our heroine and Soji.
Kagemitsu worries about the future under Lord Soji’s dictatorship.

“You’re so kind…just how I remember you.”

The role of the kind childhood friend who usually is very supportive of the heroine and her endeavours in every route (despite also being in love with her). I’ve learnt to distrust this type of character trope as in light of recent popularity of these personality types; companies have enjoyed placing dark twists on their character to make their inherently bland stories more interesting. Although I don’t think that is the case in this game, you never know until you actually play through his story route.

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Soji Amazaki  |  天崎奏嗣  |  CV: Kenjiro Tsuda  |  津田健次郎

The aloof lord

Soji holds the most powerful seat in all the empire.
Only trusting himself, he rejects the opinions of others as he continues his dictatorship agenda — breeding animosity amongst the people.
He’s a cold man who sees even his own sister as a political tool.

“I see you’ve arrived safely. From now forth, you’ll be living here.”

The moment I heard that voice, I knew exactly who it was before even checking the name. It’s the same VA for Seto Kaiba from the Yu-Gi-Oh series, and of course Chikage Kazama from the Hakuoki series. The VA for Chikage Kazama is my all-time favourite performance for a male character out of any otome game that I’ve played. Now that I know he’ll be voice acting in this game, I am a lot more hyped and excited than I was initially. With Chikage Kazama’s voice, I can imagine exactly what character and role Soji will play in this game.

Final Thoughts

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The Charming Empire is actually looking very promising now that I’ve looked over all the information that they’ve released so far. They definitely stepped up their budget and voice acting, with their two main characters being voiced by very popular and prominent VAs. I’m looking forward to playing Toki and Soji’s routes the most as not only are they voiced by some of my favourite VAs, they’re also the main characters of the game. Generally speaking, the main bachelors/poster men do have the better routes, greater screen time and more prominent roles in the overarching storyline.

I am especially interested in Soji as I am admittedly biased and love that he’s essentially emulating Chikage Kazama’s voice V2 in this game. But, I am also intrigued by his character as I do like his design best out of all the bachelors. He is the reason as to why the MC was brought to the palace capital in the first place, leading into the events of the game. You can just tell that he has a significant role within the storyline, due to his actions in the premise and his clearly questionable hidden agendas concerning the protagonist.

The art in the game is gorgeous, and I do love the designs for all the characters. Normally I usually do have several characters I lean towards more than others, and the rest I play to complete the game. For ‘The Charming Empire’ I am looking forward to playing all of them. The game looks to be very solid if the writing has improved from Dogenzaka Lab’s previous games, and I sincerely hope that they incorporated better music. Mobile platform games are always prone to thirty second generic tracks that loop horrendously, and it would be a shame considering the prominent VA cast and beautiful art.

I am looking forward to playing this game, and I definitely think it should be a game to look out for as an otome fan!

Amnesia: Memories Review

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RELEASE DATE: 2011
PUBLISHER: Idea Factory & Gloczus, Inc.
PLATFORMS AVAILABLE: PSVita, Steam, iOS/Android (English)
PURCHASE LINK: 
Amnesia: Memories – PS Vita [Digital Code]
Amnesia: Memories – Steam [Online Game Code]

Amnesia: Memories is the second Idea Factory localised title I played after Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom (which I will also be reviewing). I purchased a PSVita just to play the game, as I loved the artwork and the game is very popular in Japan. The PSVita is the main platform for a lot of visual novel releases, so there would be plenty of current and to be released titles for me to play.

Needless to say, it is one of my favourite otome games that I have revisited and played many times. My ultimate bias is Kent, as he is undoubtedly best boy in my eyes and agreed upon by many other players. I own the game both on the PSVita, and the steam platform port. It’s one of the few Visual Novels that regularly goes on sale on steam from $29.99USD to $2.99USD, a whopping -90% off which in my opinion is absolutely nuts.

I don’t usually purchase multiple ports of the same game, but who can say no to a $2.99USD game? You won’t find any visual novel of this quality and length for that price anywhere else. Majority of mobile phone games cost $4 or $5 for a single character route alone.

If you haven’t played the game yet, I highly recommend waiting for the steam -90% or -75% sale ($7.49USD) as it does happen fairly frequently and is an amazing steal. For this post I actually created the custom header using previously released idea factory official artwork so I am quite proud of myself!

Storyline ★★★★

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-The Story-

A story that takes place in a fictional world…

It was the 1st of August.

That morning, when she awoke, the heroine found herself without any memories from before August 1st…… Everything, from the sort of life she lived, to the relationships she had, was a blank……

A young boy named Orion appeared in front of her, referring to himself as a “spirit.” Under Orion’s guidance, the heroine began the struggle to regain her memories. She searched her house for clues about her everyday life, and received a message on her phone…

What was displayed on the screen was an unknown name to her.

Now, she is asked to meet with him, a boyfriend whose name and face she doesn’t know. In a position where who to trust is uncertain, the heroine must move in a way that her memory loss remains undetected by her partner. Because of this, the story becomes tangled in complex ways.

With no memories of “him,” our heroine will write a new love story starting today…… (Official English Website

The story of Amnesia: Memories has a very strong and interesting premise. From the very beginning, you select a ‘world’ of your choice based on the symbols on a deck of cards: Clover, Spade, Heart or Diamond World. This locks you into your character route from the get go, rather than the usual dating-sim format where you attain a certain level of affection with the bachelors through varying decision points to eventually access and branch off onto their story path.

The story routes are universally different since you live in ‘different worlds’ so to speak, and as a result there is no general common story. From the very beginning in each world, it is new and unread content.

The heroine has lost all her memories prior to August 1st, and finds herself very alone and lost with her predicament, as her family in all the routes are living far away. Not to mention she has a young boy spirit named Orion taking up residence in her mind where her memories used to be. Orion cautions the heroine that due to her amnesia not being medically related but rather because of his spiritual existence; that her condition cannot be known to others.

A prolonged hospital stay would inevitably lead to her mental state deteriorating, as she is not suffering from amnesia caused by physical trauma or natural means. If she remains bound to Orion for too long, his mental state would eventually encroach upon hers – Orion would never be able to separate from her mind, and the heroine would completely lose her sense of self and the means of regaining her memories.

Her only method of recovery is to regain her memories through interacting with those around her, and living her everyday life undetected in order to avoid questions or suspicions of her unusual supernatural predicament. However, can she really trust those around her? How does she know whether or not they’re genuine and honest? Or will they end up taking advantage of her impaired state upon discovering the truth?

The game involves the use of three parameters: the heroine’s affection towards the chosen bachelor, his affection for her and his suspicion of her condition – if the suspicion meter is too high or affection too low, it can lead to the many bad endings.

I really enjoyed the storyline of Amnesia: Memories, as I found it to be incredibly refreshing and different. Rather than getting to know your bachelor and falling in love through regular means; you’re thrust into a situation where you have to juggle part-time work, relearn about your friendships with people and date essentially a stranger whom you know nothing about; but cannot let know that you’re anything but in love with him and play the role of a happy couple in a wholesome relationship.

What I especially liked was not only learning about your surroundings, but the heroine as a person before her memory loss. It created a very immersive game experience where you’re constantly putting together the pieces of the puzzle, and figuring out exactly who you were before the accident; and the true nature of those around you.

Not to mention in every world you choose, the character roles are quite different each time. For example: in Heart World Shin and Toma are your closest childhood friends, whereas in others they’re your university acquaintances or co-workers at Meido no Hitsuji (The Maid Café where you work). In Clover World, Kent is your boyfriend from another university and Ikki an acquaintance;  in Diamond they’re both your co-workers.

It feels like you’re reading a completely different storyline every time, and forced to adapt as a player to a completely different scenario whilst taking into account your amnesia and parameters. It honestly feels like you’re suffering from amnesia all over again, despite being on your second playthrough of the game due to the differences between the routes. You feel a sense of empathy and connection to the protagonist, as you too are fumbling around with the pieces of the storyline.

It creates a very complex plot and rewarding game experience, as you’re not just revisiting the same content over and over. Not to mention the fact that every character in every route treats you differently depending on their relationship to you in that world. As a result, certain characters whom can be considered trustworthy in one route; actually aren’t in another.

The overarching plot line that culminated with the true ending in the Joker Route was very well done, and was truly heart-wrenching. I did not expect that twist whatsoever, and was shocked when everything was revealed in the end. If anything, I do wish they spent more time explaining the scenario in greater detail such as the nature of Gods and wishes etc. I felt that although the explanation was good, it could’ve been a lot better since there were still many questions unanswered despite it being the true ending. I also disliked the writing of a particular route, which I will elaborate on in further detail in the character development section.

The game translation and writing were very good, with very little grammatical errors and typos throughout. Amnesia: Memories is medium-length in terms of game time, and would take approximately 20-30 hrs total to complete. It uses a calendar format beginning on August 1st, and the routes finish near the end of August. The player plays through the heroine’s life on a day-to-day basis, culminating to a month worth of in-game content.

Character Development ★★★★

WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD! READ AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION! 

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Orion is an important character to touch upon, as he essentially acts as both our guide and narrator in the game; as well as replacing the heroine’s subconscious for majority of the game until she regains her memories. I’ve read a lot of mixed reviews on Orion, with many arguing that his jubilant and excessively-cheery tone of voice became extremely irritating as the game wore on. I can understand that perspective, as his voice and character isn’t for everyone. I personally enjoyed his presence very much as it was something very different and refreshing in the game; something which I had never seen before.

I welcomed his character because he provided entertaining dialogue and comic relief that set a very light-hearted tone to the game, and made the story more interesting to read on a daily basis. Other readers have argued that it is due to his presence, that takes away from the protagonist’s own personality – since he’s always talking over the top of her; and we’re essentially always seeing his opinions, and his reactions and decisions to many of the scenarios that the heroine encounters.

How I see it is: imagine the whole story without Orion in it. The overarching storyline would no longer make any sense, and the heroine would become even more persona-less without his guidance and humorous banter. She is suffering from severe and abnormal amnesia; having to relearn everything about herself without any help. She doesn’t even know who she is, or what she looks like; how is it possible then to have a personality?

She wouldn’t even know where to start in order to regain her memories. Imagine playing in the perspective of a protagonist grasping at straws to regain some normality and understanding of her life, and it takes all her mental effort and willpower to take in her surroundings and relearn everything about herself. Hard to have a personality then, right?

What I liked about having Orion was his significance to the overarching storyline, and that the heroine essentially becomes a huge puzzle herself that we must solve. As her memories return and we slowly put together the picture of who she used to be; her personality does begin to return. Orion’s voice and narration also painted a better picture of the storyline, making it easier to follow as a reader in his perspective.

Playing in the heroine’s perspective would’ve filled day-to-day dialogue with her monotonous thoughts and anxieties, without a clue on how to go about her condition (as we saw her extreme reliance on Orion in explaining to her the logical course of action to take, and his understanding of the human world).

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SHIN [HEART WORLD]: The poster boy of Amnesia: Memories, and in his world plays the role of your boyfriend and close childhood friend. You begin the game in a hospital room, as you are recovering from an accident. He quickly notices you’re acting strangely, and begins his interrogation of you as well as immediately going in for a kiss! A girl really can’t catch a break, can she? The heroine ultimately fails his test, agreeing that they had been dating for three months when in reality, they had only begun dating recently for around a month.

Shin then takes it upon himself to do everything in his power to help the protagonist regain her memories. However, there are strange circumstances involved in how the heroine sustained her head injury… perhaps, it was even intended murder? Is Shin truly looking out for her best interests, or was he in fact the culprit attempting to hide his tracks and salvage their relationship? With her amnesia, can the heroine ever truly find out what really happened that night?

From the very beginning, the audience is given a clear picture of Shin’s personality – cold, extremely blunt, forceful and pushy. He is a tsundere through and through, and the heroine is clearly his weak spot. Despite his insistent denials, he often becomes embarrassed and blushes around her. This makes for some very adorable character moments between the two, as the heroine slowly begins to regain her memories and fall in love with him all over again.

Although he isn’t anywhere near as gentle to her as Toma (her close childhood friend along with Shin in this route) nor does he spoil her as much, Shin genuinely cares for the heroine and does everything he can to help her through her amnesia. For example: regular visitations to her house to check up on her, and taking her to places that had meaningful importance to her in the past.

Everything he does is shown through his actions, and always in the best interest of the heroine. To me, this was both what I liked and disliked about Shin. Although it showcases his head-strong, determined and caring personality, at the same time he never asked or considered what the heroine herself wanted. He always went ahead and decided what was best for her, based on his own opinion and decisions.

Although there was plenty of romance in the route, it overall did have a darker and more tense mood than the other stories. The romance played a backseat to the murder mystery in Shin’s story, as he stops at nothing to uncover the culprit to ensure the heroine’s safety. As a result, the reader is always left wondering “whodunnit?” and even Shin at times seemed like the forerunner as the real perpetrator due to the fragmented nature of the heroine’s memories.

Shin himself didn’t exactly do himself any favours to clear his innocence either, as the heroine is constantly kept in the dark about what he is truly up to. However, I did really like how the mystery unfolded and how it was all answered in the end. The scene where he confronts the real culprit was done particularly well, in terms of how it was written and the voice acting. To be honest, I should’ve seen hints of the culprit’s twisted nature already from Shin’s route but I wanted to believe it was only exclusive to this route…oh, how entirely wrong I was (laughs).

Shin had one of the best ending CGs in the game, it was honestly just too cute and I loved the consistent flashbacks throughout his story of their childhood together along with Toma. It gave significantly more depth and history to their relationship, and how Shin knows the heroine better than she knows herself. Besides, who doesn’t want to see how the characters looked as children?

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KENT [CLOVER WORLD]: My ultimate bias in the game, and when I mentioned replaying Amnesia many times; I actually meant majority of the time I just replay his route alone (laughs). It’s quite interesting because out of all the characters, Kent actually was the least appealing to me and didn’t really leave much of a favourable impression in any of the other character routes. As a result, I came into his route not expecting much at all and played it just to access the Joker Route.

The heroine begins the route in the comforts of her room, and explores for any clues about herself. Soon enough, she receives a text from Kent demanding to see her at a costume café which Orion remarks is a very strange choice for a meeting (little does the heroine know she actually works there). Due to the contents of her phone and the nature of their previous texts, the only possible conclusion is that Kent is her boyfriend.

Orion frets from the get-go that they’re thrust into an extremely unfavourable situation; if they potentially break up due to the heroine’s amnesia, it would be detrimental to lose someone so important to her once she regains her memories. Yet, avoiding the situation isn’t an option either as they could break up without even talking it through, and lose a valuable source of information to curing her amnesia in the process. From first impressions alone, Kent is condescending, logical to the point of being overbearing, blunt and confrontational.

Both Orion and the heroine lament how they possibly could’ve been in a happy relationship, but apologise in order to salvage whatever they had prior to her amnesia. Kent is shocked at the heroine’s change of heart, but accepts the favourable outcome – with him too apologising for his actions, and expressing his willingness to accept any complaints or opinions she may have towards their relationship.

We soon learn that they had only been dating 3 days prior to August 1st, and as a result were in the very early tentative stages of dating. What I really liked about Kent’s route was because of the heroine’s amnesia, she was able to become more patient and understanding with Kent’s shortcomings and get to know him for who he truly is. Prior to that both parties would be too stubborn to give in, leaving their relationship in a cycle of turmoil and constant fighting; there wouldn’t be a day that passed without the two engaging in a pointless argument.

Out of all the bachelors, only in Kent’s route do we get to meet his parents; to which ensued a hilarious scene. Orion comments that although they had found Kent’s stubborn logic bad initially, it was nothing in comparison to his parents. The heroine realises that he has been raised with the drilled notion that everything must follow a sequence of logical conclusions; and as a result, Kent approaches everything in life in the same manner.

Although Kent is exceptionally intelligent with a bright future ahead of him, he genuinely does not understand scenarios that require the application of common sense and human interaction – looking at everything as though it is a maths equation with logical set steps.

It is not that Kent purposefully wishes to anger the heroine, but he genuinely does not understand her ‘illogical’ thinking process; and as a result he doesn’t know how to appease her, or make her happy. He constantly sets his pride aside to consult Ikki (his best friend in the route) for girl advice. Kent is nothing but earnest and genuine in approaching the heroine, doing everything he can to maintain their current happiness together as a couple.

For example: showing up to the heroine’s workplace with a half-month anniversary cake, sprinting to the train station to see the festival together and creating a math exercise workbook for the heroine which is just so Kent. I absolutely love his character and the writing for his dialogue; it’s actually so hilarious to read yet so incredibly well written. It’s consistent throughout the game, and adds so much dynamic to his personality.

He is also the only route to properly communicate and come to know of Orion’s existence and the true nature of the heroine’s amnesia. This to me was a very unique aspect of his route, and a true turning point in both their relationship and as characters. Rather than him sending her to the nearest hospital, he is accepting of her situation due to the mutual trust they’ve built together – despite the scenario denying all forms of logic.

It was a very cute and meaningful scene, because if it was Kent in the past; he would have never been able to accept such reasoning or adhere to her wishes. The moment when he finally confesses to the heroine at the swimming pool as well as exhibiting clear signs of male jealousy was just all too adorable for me. It is without a doubt my favourite CG in the game.

When he rushes to the heroine’s side during her accident near the conclusion of the game, and gives up on his presentation that heavily weighs on his future; I felt was truly the defining point of their relationship and extremely satisfying to read as a reader. Kent is finally able to see eye to eye with the heroine, agreeing that his actions are altogether too irrational and illogical; and that he had been incorrect about his assumptions on love.

To me, Kent’s route represented what a realistic and healthy relationship should be – despite it being fictional. Kent retains his sense of self throughout the game, but by the end of the story is more than willing to compromise and change aspects of himself to be a better person for the heroine. He prioritises her happiness above all else, and truly loves her both in actions and words.

They both empower and encourage one another to be better and truly reach a mutual understanding. For example: he helps the heroine raise her university grades in order for them not only to be together studying abroad in London, but to have a bright future with one another.

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IKKI [SPADE WORLD]: Your co-worker and current boyfriend in Spade World, Ikki is considered incredibly handsome and popular amongst the girls; enough to invoke the creation of a long-standing fan club. Accustomed to the affections of women, he is always courteous, kind, and overly flirtatious; essentially both the enemy and ideal man of every woman. Ikki always knows exactly what to say in order to charm a girl’s heart, and as a result the heroine constantly has her guard up around him. She is uncertain as to how she should respond to his affections, as he is very forward in his intentions towards her.

We soon learn that they have been dating for two months, and their relationship ends by the end of August. This is due to the heroine uncovering the sinister nature of Ikki’s fan-club prior to her amnesia; fans are only allowed to date Ikki for a span of three months before inevitably breaking up with him. They are also to provide daily reports of their activities with Ikki, because no one can ‘own’ him; he must be shared by everyone. If they do not obey these rules, the fan-club will enact severe punishment; and these aren’t just idle threats.

Ikki and the heroine had never been in love to begin with, as she had joined the fan club out of curiosity of his unnatural popularity and to oversee their daily operations. He had agreed to date the protagonist as he could not fathom as to why she was the only woman whom his mystical eyes did not work upon; the eyes that could make any woman fall in love with him at first sight.

Of course, as they get to know one another they begin to inevitably fall in love. What I disliked about Ikki’s route was due to the disingenuous nature of their beginnings and his flirtatious nature, it was difficult for most of the route to decipher whether or not he truly loved the protagonist. It felt like he was just playing a game with the heroine, and constantly using his physical wiles in attempting to charm her.

It took him so long to finally work up the courage to confront his fan-club, and for the most part the heroine endures the severe bullying alone with her amnesia. It’s why his route had some of the darker bad endings, due to how serious these fan-club girls really are in their threats.

Ikki was far too passive in the whole ordeal, never once questioning as to why his relationships only ever lasted for three months. The explanation behind his eyes I felt was very poor, as they just attributed it to him making a wish upon a star and magically, he’s had them ever since. Done. End of Story. You’d think that for such a crucial part of his character and history, they would dedicate a lot more time into the writing and fleshing out his story.

As a result, it leaves very little dimension to his character. What you essentially see in all the other stories is what you get in his route. Only difference is his flirtatiousness in the beginning transforms from a ploy in his experiment with the heroine, to being genuine when he falls in love with her by the end of the route.

What I did like about his route was that he helped the heroine confront her father in her desires on what she wants to do in her life, and her strive for independence. It’s the only story route where we see a part of her family, and a little bit more about her personal life before her amnesia.

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TOMA [DIAMOND WORLD]: Surprisingly he is actually one of the most popular characters in Amnesia and often places very highly, if not topping their character polls. For the life of me I cannot even begin to understand this, but to each their own I suppose. Admittedly I did quite like his character design at first glance and I played his route second after Shin’s, as in terms of spoilers and story flow; it made the most sense. Boy, was I in for a wild rollercoaster ride in his story.

Similar to Heart World, in Diamond both Shin and Toma are the heroine’s closest childhood friends. However, rather than falling for Shin; the heroine has always been in love with Toma, but believes that he has never seen her as anything other than a little sister. As a result, prior to her amnesia she never managed to confess her feelings.

In his route, the heroine doesn’t see too much of the rest of the cast outside of Toma and Shin. Upon discovering the bullying inflicted upon the heroine at her apartment due to her close friendship with Ikki, and his suspicions of her amnesia; Toma suggests for her to stay at his place, as he claims he was her boyfriend and naturally would be the best course of action to take.

As the route progresses, their friends begin to express their concerns that they rarely ever see the heroine anymore; and even Shin shows up multiple times at Toma’s home and disapproves of the living circumstances as they’re not actually dating. This causes Toma to fly into a panic, as he is conflicted with having his lie exposed and being hated by the heroine or keeping her trapped by his side in blissful ignorance.

His obsession proves to be the overwhelming deciding factor; as he drugs the MC and purchases a cage to prevent her from escaping and discovering the truth. To me, his relationship with the MC can in no way shape or form be considered love. It is an unhealthy obsession, where he wants to possess her for his own selfish desires.

He distorts and justifies his obsession by veiling it beneath the facade of concern and out of affection, when in reality he has shown to be extremely manipulative and malicious; destroying any evidence for the MC to regain her memories, and fabricating the truth countless of times.

In one of his bad endings, the worst case scenario that Orion warned the heroine about from the beginning occurs. Due to the prolonged confinement, Orion has completely encroached upon the heroine’s mental state and she has been reduced to being nothing more than a lifeless doll; the unwilling reciprocal for Toma’s dark desires, and caged in his home for the rest of her life.

It’s so incredibly ironic because all of these events could have been avoided, as it was all based on a misunderstanding. Toma couldn’t bear to let the heroine go because he thought she was in love with Ikki, when she was actually in love with Toma the whole entire time. When he discovers her diary entailing the truth of her feelings before her amnesia, suddenly all is well and they have a happy ending together. To me, that made no sense whatsoever as how could she possibly still be in love with someone who deliberately put her in harms way and blatantly lied for his own selfishness?

How on earth does he still deserve a happy ending, and end up with the heroine regardless of his previous actions? I suppose I can see the aspects which people like about him, because at the end of the day he is still a fictional character. His actions can be interpreted as an out of control passion, the kind of love that ignites oneself into the flames of self-destruction. And I suppose that is what makes for an interesting and different story; of the good guy corrupted by sin and the dark side of loving someone too much.

He had a lot of cute and romantic moments with the heroine due to their seclusion together, and it is shown prior to his crazed cage frenzy that he had genuinely been a positive figure in the MC’s life. Although I still can’t bring myself to like him due to the trespassing of moral boundaries, I can see why many people still do.

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UKYO [JOKER WORLD]: The most mysterious character out of the cast, and his route can only be unlocked upon the completion of the other four worlds. He makes appearances in all the stories, with varying screen times. Due to the unveiling of the overarching storyline and Ukyo’s role in each of them, I felt the game routes were best played in the order of Shin → Toma → Kent → Ikki. Ukyo is known as a talented and famous photographer, who often visits Meido no Hitsuji to observe and talk to the heroine.

Although he appears kind and gentle initially throughout the routes, from progressing with the story and bad endings; we come to realise that there is something amiss with his character. He has periods of lapses in judgement and changes in personality. Ukyo turns sinister with continually increasing threats to taking the MC’s life and succeeding in some of the endings.

As players progressing through the story and putting together the pieces of the puzzle from the other routes; we come to realise the grand picture. The other four routes represent parallel worlds on the same timeline continuum, hence why Orion assured the heroine that choosing any world was perfectly acceptable at the beginning of the game. Although she exists in all of them and would not disrupt the timeline by returning to any of the worlds, they may not necessarily be the world she originally came from prior to her memory loss.

Her original place was in the Joker World, where she was Ukyo’s beloved girlfriend. They had met during Spring beneath the cherry blossoms, and shared a loving and blissful relationship together for several months. However, at the beginning of August she attended university where a fatal accident occurred; causing a mass explosion in the classroom the heroine was in. Although she survived the initial incident, she passed away during her prolonged hospital stay near the end of August.

Ukyo unable to cope with the loss of the tragedy, makes a heartfelt wish to turn back time and prevent the accident from occurring; and create a future where he and the heroine are able to be together. A benevolent and powerful God decides to grant his wish, in order to restore their powers. The greater the wish within the heart of a person, the greater the power that returns to the God upon its success.

This leads to the God residing within Ukyo’s body and subconscious, in order to sustain time travelling and the ability to move between the parallel dimensions. This explains Ukyo’s appearances throughout all the routes. However, they soon come to a daunting realisation after countless times of living the same month of August over and over and failing in their attempts.

The heroine’s fate is to die by the end of August, and as a result accidents occur to ensure this event goes through in order to maintain the balance of the world. In Ukyo’s attempts to prevent her death in the different worlds, he perishes in her place. By the same logic, in order to maintain balance within the world; Ukyo’s foreign existence offsets the equilibrium and must be eliminated.

As a result, Ukyo and the God are stuck in a continually looping time paradox due to the wish that binds them together. Until it is granted, they are unable to escape from the time loop. It is an extremely difficult realisation from his painful experiences that even fate itself is against his dearest wish. It is fated and written in the law of the world that he and the heroine cannot exist together.

Countless times he saves the heroine only for her to end up with the bachelor she was meant to be with in that world, and he dies excruciatingly alone by the end of August. If he is able to survive the end of August, the heroine herself meets her own end; leaving Ukyo with the pain of mourning and losing her multiple times over. He then would commit suicide in order to reset the time paradox and reattempt the task in another world.

It is no wonder he becomes so twisted, having met with horrible deaths of both himself and the heroine an unimaginable number of times. He is forced to look on as whilst he’s working so painfully hard for the MC’s sake, she falls in love with another and has no memory of his existence. As a result of the time loop and Ukyo unable to bear with the heartache; his personality splits and forms a new entity within himself: Dark Ukyo. Dark Ukyo represents his sinister thoughts, and murderous intentions.

Why was he trying so hard for her sake, when she would never look his way? She leaves him to die blissfully ignorant, and has the happy ending that he would never be able to have. Why should he continue to love someone, who inevitably falls for another without any semblance of recognition for him? Whilst she has died many times over, she would never remember the pain of reliving death. The scars that Ukyo has been embedded with would never heal; and he has experienced what no human should ever experience more than once in a lifetime.

His story honestly made me so sad, with the knowing realisation that whilst we had our happy ending with literally every guy prior; Ukyo would appear and disappear in the routes. Now we know it was because he met extremely painful ends; whether by tragic accidents or he was unable to wait until the time limit and ended his life by his own hands.

The amount of love and dedication he had towards the heroine and her happiness is unfathomable; the kind of love that lasts a lifetime. The writing in his route was beautiful, and it’s the route where we see the most out of the heroine’s personality due to uncovering the truth and it is where she truly belongs.

When the God and Ukyo realises that he has exhausted all his powers to reset time and travel between the worlds, they decide as a last resort to return to the heroine’s original world with Ukyo and prevent her death. Although she was alive in the other worlds, she was not fated to be with him. The suspense, adrenaline and tension conveyed with the stakes at hand truly made the storyline a rollercoaster from beginning to end.

It was their last chance at being together, and to defy the very hands of fate with their everlasting love. It was incredibly dramatic and heartfelt, and the feels were really too much. It had the most ‘complete’ and ‘satisfying’ ending because it revealed all the mysteries behind Ukyo’s character and the heroine’s true past, as well as Orion’s origins.

However, I still felt they could’ve definitely gone into better detail with Orion and the God; as well as the explanation for the time travel paradox. It is quite a hefty read that the writer unloaded all at once, and I remember the first time reading it I did have to read it several times to fully understand what exactly happened. Although I do really love the time travel paradox twist, it should’ve been explained in greater detail and more clearly. I still felt the whole wish concept and God story could’ve been fleshed out much better, especially as his story is the true ending.

Design ★★★★

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The art in Amnesia: Memories is absolutely gorgeous! Everything is just so crisp and vivid, and it’s without a doubt the main selling point of the game. I loved all the bachelor’s character designs, especially the heroine herself. She has one of the best designs for a protagonist, and I overall really do love everything about her look. I’m a big fan of the hair and beret.

The multiple perspectives where you could see the back of the bachelor was a very nice touch to the game. The CGs are one of the best that I’ve seen, and all the characters just have so many great scenes. I really loved the colouring, shading, and line art as they suited the tone of the game perfectly.

The artist for Amnesia: Memories (Hanamura Mai – 花邑 まい) also did the art for an upcoming to-be-released in english otome game called Collar x Malice. I talked about the game in my anticipated 2017 releases, which for more information you can read about here.

My only criticism as a personal preference would be the bachelor outfits. I found them very odd initially to look at, as they just seemed so out of place and whacky. Although there are fantasy elements to the story; it is still a daily life type of game. For example: all the buckles and straps on Kent’s outfit really just doesn’t make any sense. I’m not entirely sure what the aim of the game producers were in the design, but if it was to stand out and give a different type of appeal; then yes they definitely achieved their target.

Music and Voice Acting ★★★★★

The music and voice acting was yet another stand out point of the game. It is composed by Manyo, who is one of my all time favourite Visual Novel music artists. The BGMs were just so soothing and lovely; they suited the mood and scenes of the game wonderfully. The other Visual Novel OST composed by him that I am a big fan of is for the Kara no Shoujo series. The opening theme of Amnesia: Memories is quite popular, and the different ending songs of each bachelor route were a nice touch.

The voice acting cast is very famous, and all solid veterans. Needless to say it was no surprise that they were all top notch, and perfectly emulated their character roles.

  • Kent | VA: Ishida Akira | 石田 彰 |
    Naruto series as Gaara, Danganronpa series as Byakuya Togami and Black Wolves Saga series as Zara Skeens
  • Shin | VA:  Kakihara Tetsuya| 柿原 徹也 |
    Code Realize ~Guardian of Rebirth~ as Viktor Frankenstein
  • Toma | VA: Hino Satoshi |日野 聡 |
    Naruto series as Sai, and The Disastrous Life of Saiki K as Kineshi Hairo
  • Ikki  | VA: Taniyama Kishō | 谷山 紀章 |
    Yo-Jin-Bo as Kasumimaru Fuuma, and Black Wolves Saga series as Guillan Guinor
  • Ukyo  | VA: Miyata Kouki | 宮田 幸季 |
    Danganronpa series as Chihiro Fujisaki, and Nightshade as Ieyasu Tokugawa

System ★★★★★

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I really liked the design interface and system of Amnesia: Memories. It was clean, crisp, easy to navigate and suited the theme of the game. You can just see the attentiveness to detail in the design and ease of use. It incorporated a gallery, music record, opening and ending select, and access to several short stories and extra content. You can even play cute mini-games with your favourite bachelors, and attempt to beat them for some interesting interactions!

What I particularly liked was the art transitions in between chapters and scenes, the chibi illustrations were very cute and matched the events of the storyline. My favourite would be the one of Orion struggling in the day-to-day duties of the Maid Café.

Another strong point was the inbuilt mobile system in the game, as it is one of your main sources of information and communication due to your amnesia. You often receive texts and calls from the characters that progress the storyline, and it added that extra dynamic to the game.

Conclusion

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Overall, Amnesia: Memories is a great and solid game. It’s different, refreshing and interesting in comparison to the other otome games on the market. Besides, how often do you see a game of this quality writing, art, music and voice acting on sale for $2.99USD? I personally bought it full price when it came out on the PSVita, and I don’t regret it one bit.

Although Orion’s presence over the heroine is not for everyone, it added dynamic to the overall storyline and created a more complex protagonist for the players to discover. One of my personal enjoyments of the game was the presence of the heroine’s female friends, which actually doesn’t occur too often in otome games. They proved to be very supportive of the heroine’s condition in many routes, and were friends she could rely on in times of need.

The girl talk session they had in Kent’s route was hilarious, and it was nice to see there was at least some normality in the heroine’s life. Sawa and Mina are the types of girlfriends whom anyone would love to have in real life. My only criticisms of the game would be that some routes definitely felt more lacking in certain respects in comparison to others.

For example: although Ikki and Kent shared similar routes to one another, Ikki lacked a lot of the character depth and progression that Kent’s route had. In Toma and Shin’s routes, then they were the complete opposite of one another despite having prominent roles in both worlds. Although the game’s strong point were the different storylines, not all of them were executed to the same level of quality.

Ukyo’s route had amazing promise from beginning to end; but slightly fell flat in it’s concluding explanation on the fantasy elements of the game. However, in spite of my mixed feelings on some of the routes; I was still satisfied with all their good endings.

I definitely recommend the game (be on the lookout for those steam sales!) and would love to see Amnesia: Crowd, Amnesia: Later or Amnesia: World localised. I personally would like Amnesia: Crowd out of the three, because it gives a more concrete, holistic future ending and complete tying up of the Amnesia series.

Overall Rating: 4/5

Written By Cherry

Most Anticipated English Visual Novel Releases of 2017

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Ever wonder what other english releases are going to be released in the year of 2017? Do you want to know what games you should save up for? Are you looking for more games to add to your playlist and backlog? Here is my personal list of games that I am anticipating for 2017, and cannot wait for their release! They’re in no particular order and hopefully they won’t be pushed back to 2018, as they are all planned for 2017 but no official date has been announced (for some of them at least). 2017 is probably the best year so far that I’ve seen in terms of the amount of new titles picked up to be released in english.

1. Collar x Malice

-The Story-

“Who put this collar on me?”

The protagonist is a policewoman who works in Shinjuku, which had become a dangerous city after a series of brutal incidents popularly referred to as the “X-Day Incident”.

She had been busy working in her assigned area everyday in order to keep it safe. But one night, an unknown assailant attacked her and placed a collar built in with poison around her neck.

Amidst the chaos and right before the protagonist’s eyes were men with suspicious backgrounds. They’re all part of an organisation composed of former police officers and have taken it upon themselves to investigate the brutal cases.

Without knowing whether she should trust these men or not, she suddenly became the person who held the key to this massive case.

In order to remove the collar that places her at the edge of death and to liberate Shinjuku from the malice that binds it, she cooperates; beginning to investigate the incidents with the men.

Who holds her life in their hands?
Will Shinjuku ever return to its former glory?

(English translation from official website)

I love the premise, storyline, art, OST, and just everything about Collar x Malice! I am an absolute sucker for mystery x detective themed games. Not to mention the artist is Hanamura Mai (same artist for the Amnesia series) and Manyo as the composer (big fan of his soundtracks and work; composed for Amnesia and Kara no Shoujo series). I just knew the art was familiar when I first saw screenshots of the game. I am extremely excited about the game, and dearly hoping it will be a 2017 release.

UPDATE: They have announced that the game release date is July 28th, 2017. Preorder here: Collar X Malice – PlayStation Vita

2. Period Cube ~Shackles of Amadeus~

-The Story-

With the help of your childhood friend, Hiroya, you decide to play the online RPG game “Arcadia” in order to look for clues as to the whereabouts of your missing older brother.

You are suddenly engulfed by a blinding light and lose conscious. When you wake up, you find that the scenery has changed into that of a video game fantasy world.

As you are overwhelmed by the sudden twist of events, you learn a terrible truth: to escape this deadly world, you must clear the game.

In this cruel world, you were selected to become the key to clearing the game – the holy sword. With this, you are the target of everyone!

(English translation from official website

The first out of the four otome titles localised by Aksys Games in 2017, the storyline gives me Sword Art Online vibes. With beautiful art by the artist of Black Wolves Saga, this is quite an interesting fantasy otome with RPG elements. Period Cube actually comes out very soon, with an announced release date on the 28th of April next month!

UPDATE: The game has now been released! Purchase the game here: Period Cube – PlayStation Vita

3. Bad Apple Wars

-The Story-

Congratulations on your DEATH admission!
Welcome to NEVAEH Academy!!

The heroine, who was caught in an accident on the first day that she was to enter high school, suddenly found herself on the premises of an unknown school.

This was NEVAEH Academy, a school for those whose souls were left behind after death.

In this school if you were a good student who followed the rules then, upon GRADUATION, you would be able to return and RESUME YOUR LIFE.

The heroine, having been informed about her death from a suspicious man wearing a RABBIT HEAD and thinking that this was all a dream, followed him to the school entrance ceremony.

Suddenly, a piercing explosion echoed from over there.

What started at the sign of that noise was the school war between those who defy the school’s rules, the DELINQUENT TEAM BAD APPLES, and members of the DISCIPLINARY COMMITTEE.

In the middle of that battle, the heroine meets a RED-HAIRED young man.

That young man faced her directly and asked a question.

“– Do you want to live?” (English translation from official website)

The premise reminds me so much of one of my favourite animes, Angel Beats. The art deviates from Idea Factory’s usual style, taking on a more comic-book themed approach (to match the concept that it is a different world, I suppose). Although it was a little strange to look at initially, I do find the art grew on me the more I looked at it. The release date is still to be announced, but I do hope it stays with its 2017 expected date.

4. Code Realize ~Future Blessings~

The fandisc for Code: Realize, featuring after stories for the main cast and new routes for Herlock Sholmes and Finis.

If you haven’t read my review for Code: Realize ~Guardian of Rebirth~ you should check it out! If you have, then you’ll know I absolutely loved the game and it is one of my all-time favourites. I am looking forward to the new routes with Herlock Sholmes and Finis, as I felt their stories weren’t quite fully delved upon in the original game. The art in the opening looks gorgeous, and of course who doesn’t want to have more stories to read with their favourite bachelor? The release date is still to be announced.

5. Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome 

-The Story-

Ema Tachibana is a tall, gloomy and unsociable girl with a bad case of resting bitch-face. With all that working against her, she’s never really had any friends. That didn’t really change when she started at a new school. Everyone kept their distance because they were scared of her.

But Ema herself was quite content with that state of affairs. She was all set to spend the rest of her time until graduation invisible as ever.

That is until two men turned her life upside down…

“I’ve finally found you. You are my… my one and only muse!”

Miki Hiraizumi—recently returned to Japan from abroad, he’s loved making clothes ever since he was a little kid. He has a strong desire to help make charming, unusual women shine. (Also a bit of a masochist.)

“Listen, you may be nothing but a little shrew right now, but even you have some potential to shine. I’ll just have to polish you up.”

And Saito Shinjou—he frequently finds himself bored because things have always come easy to him. He wants to find a way to do something so big, it’ll change the world. (He’s also a bit of a sadist.)

These two ambitious and attractive fellows decide to give Ema Tachibana a makeover!

“No… I’m not really interested…”

But Ema has other ideas. (English Official Website)

This is quite an interesting pick up by MangaGamer, as I feel R18+ otome game localisations are very few in comparison to bishoujo games. The summary looks hilarious, and the art is quite good! The VA (Yotsuya Cider) of Shinjou Saito is the same as Kyrie from OZMAFIA!!! Hopefully if the title sells well commercially, we will see more mature-themed otome games released in future.

6. Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds

-The Story-

A remastered retelling of the beloved otome Hakuoki series that focuses on the story set in Kyoto. 

Hakuoki was first developed and released in 2008. New players, as well as players that have grown with the franchise, can discover the beauty and richness of its story with new, innovative features all presented on the Playstation Vita system. 

Never-before-seen episodes and character routes have been added to the original version of the game, introducing more romanceable targets, new minor characters, and plenty of new paths to seek for yourself!

Take a glimpse into the world of Hakuoki, as it was originally intended!

(English Official website

Although I’ve already written a post regarding my mixed feelings on the game, it is still a great title nonetheless for players new to the franchise. It’s essentially an all-in-one release, so if you haven’t gotten around to playing the series; now is the time to play it. It’s release date was announced only a few days ago, the game is being released on May 16 (NA) and May 19 (EU) for the PSVita!

UPDATE: The game is up for pre-order. Pre-order it here: Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds – PlayStation Vita

7. Night Shade

-The Story-

Thanks to an age of constant war, the Iga and Kouga had independently achieved an expansion of their respective forces.

Both shinobi forces, owing to that long history of warring, shared an antagonistic relationship of mutual hatred towards one another. However, during the ninth year of the Tenshou era, the Iga forces fell into ruin due to the Tenshou Iga War started by Oda Nobunaga. The few Iga members that had survived were taken in by the Kouga forces.

Seventeen years later, the Sengoku period had ended and lasting peace came to the world.

Dreaming of performing shinobi duties, Ueno Enju (the protagonist), daughter of the Kouga forces’ leader, Ueno Kandou, had been training everyday.

After finally being selected to go on her first mission, a major incident occurs. It not only derails Enju’s fate, but the fate of the village as well…

(English translation from official website)

The storyline, art and theme reminds of the Hakuoki series. I really enjoy historical Visual Novels, and the art in Night Shade is gorgeous. Originally it was actually meant to be released December 15th, 2016 on steam but it got pushed back. I’m assuming it just wasn’t ready yet, and although it is unfortunate; it’s better to wait if it’s going to be a higher quality release. It’s in the steam-release queue with other Visual Novels within March-April release dates, so fingers crossed it will be released sometime soon in 2017! What I’m looking forward to the most about the game is that Hattori Hanzo is voiced by the same VA as Chikage Kazama from Hakuoki. He is one of my all-time favourite VAs, and it’s ironic the character is named ‘Hanzo’ (after Overwatch, the name is forever ruined for me -laughs-).

UPDATE: The game has now been released! Purchase it on steam here.

8. Grisaia no Rakuen/The Eden of Grisaia

-The Story-

Our story picks up immediately after the events of Grisaia no Meikyuu, with Kazami Yuuji having been detained for suspected involvement with an international terrorist organization, lead by Heath Oslo, that has managed to enter Japan’s borders with a devastating new weapon of mass destruction in hand. Meanwhile, at Mihama Academy, the remaining students find themselves with time running out – due to financial issues, the school is set to close within the month. Over the past year, though, the girls of Mihama have finally begun to find their own legs, thanks to Yuuji’s involvement – are they really just going to bury their heads in the sand and let the world change around them? And are they really willing to let the man who changed their lives slip away without so much as trying to win him back? As the end of their time at Mihama Academy approaches, Amane, Makina, Sachi, Yumiko, and Michiru find themselves arriving at a single conclusion.

The final chapter in the Grisaia series, featuring Prologue De La Grisaia, a prologue set before Yuuji’s arrival at Mihama; Blanc Aile no Tane, the overarching story’s grand conclusion; a smorgasbord of bonus eroscenes; and an after story to the events of Blanc Aile no Tane. (Excerpt from VNDB

The Grisaia series is one of my all-time favourite visual novels, and it’s great to see that the series trilogy will come to an end in 2017. The Labyrinth of Grisaia (second in the series) was released in January this year. It has a to-be-expected release date of March 2017, and the uncut version sometime during the summer. I personally am currently still finishing up the first game (The Fruits of Grisaia), and onto my last route which is Makina’s. But, I am taking my time as the series is incredibly long (my current playtime is 85hrs) and I might as well pace myself until the final game is released. No point finishing the games early then suffering the unbearable wait (laughs).

9. Nekopara Volume 3

-The Story-

What’s NEKOPARA? Why, it’s a cat paradise!

Minazuki Kashou, the son of a long line of Japanese confection makers moved out to open his own shop “La Soleil” as a patisserie.

But upon moving out, hidden amongst his things were two of the catgirls (“neko”), Chocola and Vanilla, that the family had been raising. When he tried to send them back, they begged and pleaded until he gave in and now they’ve opened La Soleil together.

With two nekos who really, REALLY love their master trying their very best and occasionally failing — a heartful comedy opens for business!

See the Sayori NEKO WORKs’ mascots Chocola and Vanilla like never before, moving, and in full voice on screen. And now with the E-mote System, the characters smoothly move on screen changing expression and poses in countless ways. (Steam Summary)

Initially, I found this game a little weird not going to lie. It is not for everyone, and I actually found out about it from internet memes (laughs). But, once you give it a try it’s actually a pretty good game and for a very cheap price! They often go on sale in bundles, which is when it’s best to grab them. The art and animation is really good and crisp, and it’s an all-around hilarious game. The cat girls really do grow on you as you play through the visual novel. This is the last in the trilogy, releasing the last two romanceable cat girls. It is set to be released on the 28th of April, 2017.

10. New Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony

-The Story- 

The third Dangan Ronpa game which has been confirmed at the TGS 2015 to be released on both the PS Vita and PS4.

Like the title “New” implies, the game has a completely different storyline, characters and environment than the first three games (the “Hope’s Peak Academy” storyline ends with an anime series), with only the series’ mascot Monokuma returning. The game features a new killing game called the New Killing School Life. The new setting is called Gifted Inmates Academy or the Prison School for the Gifted. The Academy (and hotel) is in a garden surrounded by a cage. It’s implied that the story is set in the future.

The overall theme is mentioned to be “psycho cool”, unlike the “psycho pop” and “psycho tropical” themes of the first two games. The visual style will have a “cool adult-like image” and the Class Trials will have “high-speed reasoning action”. While the storyline and the sixteen new characters are different, the gameplay is similar to the earlier games, including exploration, talking with other characters and the Class Trials. It will have notable additions and improvements, though, like the possibility to use your own lies to defeat opponents during the trials. (Excerpt from VNDB

Did I save my ultimate bias and the best for last? Perhaps. This is my number one favourite visual novel of all-time indisputably. It has an amazing mix of storyline, plot twists, character cast, humour, cuteness and mystery; just everything I love in a game. When I first played the game, I had a phase of obsession for several long weeks – months (which never happens to me over a game; usually I just have a few days of bliss upon completing a game before getting over it). I’m a little sad that the Hope’s Peak Academy arc has ended, and I am very curious as to how they decided to revamp the series with a brand new release with a completely new cast.

The Danganronpa series is a ‘whodunnit?’ mystery/detective Visual Novel, where you must discover the culprit of the killings and present your findings in a class trial. The stakes are essentially kill or be killed – and you’re faced with uncovering people whom you consider friends; as potential murderers. However, it is not what you expect at all coming into the game; with an incredibly immersive storyline and great gameplay. It’s one of those games where you just have to try it yourself to understand what it’s truly about. The descriptions will never do the game any justice.

I have heard mixed reception over the new game, but for the most part they were very positive. It has an announced release date on the 26th of September for NA and 29th of September for EU. What I am glad about is the steam port is being released at the same time as the PSVita/Playstation 4 platform. This is great considering for the predecessors, the steam release was usually a year later.

I hope that you all enjoyed my list, and found some new games to look forward to for 2017! 

Men of Yoshiwara: Ohgiya Review

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RELEASE DATE: 2015
PUBLISHER: D3 Publisher & Dogenzaka Lab
PLATFORMS AVAILABLE: Apple iOS/Android/Steam (English)

After playing through Men of Yoshiwara: Kikuya, I realised that its popularity allowed the production of a sequel within the same universe of Yoshiwara but using different characters. I was curious about the game, mainly to see whether the game creators addressed the glaringly obvious issues and much needed improvements of the predecessor.

At first glance, the artist had improved significantly in comparison to their debut work. The art looked a lot cleaner, and the character designs were more appealing and less generic. I was excited to play the game as the Yoshiwara universe made for an interesting premise already in the original game, and I preferred the design of the bachelors a lot more in the sequel.

The story also takes upon a different direction with an affluent heroine driven by duty to enter the Pleasure District, rather than the cliche naive, kind-hearted, Cinderella type protagonist who meets the bachelors via fate.

Storyline ★★★★

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-The Story-

Deep in the center of an island lies the Yoshiwara pleasure district. Never does its beauty, nor bustling activity, wane in the slightest.

Full of doubt and wonder, which courtesan will you have chosen by the end of a seemingly endless night? (Steam Summary

If you’ve played the predecessor, you will already be very familiar with the Yoshiwara universe and storyline. If you haven’t played the first game, then the setting is based on an island where men are rarely ever born. If a family is ever cursed with the birth of a son, they will eventually be forced to be sold to Yoshiwara, the Pleasure District.

This is for the sake of the island, people and it’s culture, for it is the only method of attaining love (even if it is through the means of one night of deception) or bearing a child. Being a courtesan in Yoshiwara is akin to slavery, as the courtesans are unable to leave the district and their only method of freedom is paying off their debt or being bought by a customer.

Paying off their debt is a feat possible only with the earnings and status of a top courtesan which many aspire to become but never reach. Having one’s freedom bought, only to be inevitably sold to a rich family is merely trading one’s masters and home for another. Even if a courtesan were to find freedom, it would be difficult to survive without a stable source of income, and their talents are rendered obsolete in the world outside of Yoshiwara.

In comparison to the first game where our heroine stumbles into the Pleasure District by coincidence, and certain events occur allowing a pauper to access the top gentlemen (only the rich could ever dream of producing the income needed to spend a night with the best in Yoshiwara); in Ohgiya you play as an affluent protagonist who bears the responsibility of visiting Yoshiwara in order to produce an heir to continue her family business and name.

In all the storylines, she is torn within her inner conflict of desiring the true love she has read about in her studies and novels, and what she must do in order to not disappoint her mother.

She has been raised with love and dutiful care, carrying herself with the poise, dignity and intellect as expected of someone with great lineage. The visitations prove to cause the heroine immense duress, as she is unable to properly respond to the affections of the courtesans and being surrounded by unfamiliar men where she must engage in a purely physical relationship. In turn, all the courtesans of Ohgiya vy for the protagonist’s endearment for reasons such as status for their own career, fame, fortune or perhaps… something more?

The protagonist of Ohgiya has been met with mixed reception in the many reviews I sampled, but I personally thoroughly enjoyed the change of pace and definitely view her as an upgrade to Kikuya. In comparison to Kikuya, where the protagonist is clumsy, naive and innocent to the workings of the world and men; the heroine in Ohgiya is headstrong, intelligent, stays true to her convictions and isn’t so easily swayed by the charms of the courtesans.

Her actions were refreshing; and her source of conflict throughout the routes understandable. Although she knows where her inevitable familial duty lies, and does not wish to disappoint her hard-working mother, she remains cold and apprehensive of the bachelors as she stays true to her own beliefs and sense of self respect.

It is only when she truly falls in love with the courtesans after getting to knowing their own pasts and hardships, does she fully open herself up to them and consummates their relationship. There is actual understandable and noticeable relationship progression, as the characters become closer to one another.

However, I do agree with the notion of other reviews that the heroine’s personality is rather inconsistent in some routes. For example: in Takigawa and Gakuto’s route the protagonist is extremely cold in her approach and refuses to fall in love with them whatsoever; being the top ranked courtesan means they’re extremely skilful in having women fall for their whims and could easily be toying with her feelings. In Asagiri, Utsusumi and Ageha’s routes however although she is on-guard, she is much more reciprocal to their affections.

Although it’s a little confronting to play initially, I feel it’s understandable as the heroine changes in accordance to the bachelor’s personality. Courtesans such as Takigawa and Gakuto are infamous for their trysts with women, and very persistent in their approach to courting the protagonist. The heroine is only more defensive in order to protect herself from getting hurt, and because she is unsure as to how to respond to attention she has never received before.

All the routes differed greatly from one another, another factor that they improved from Kikuya. All the men have different situations or issues that they must overcome in their past, and their struggles in Ohgiya which the protagonist learns about and inevitably falls in love with.

The writing was significantly better than Kikuya as well, the sentence flow and structure had greatly improved, as well as the translation. I’m not sure whether it’s simply because they hired a translator with a better grasp of the english language or whether the original writer had changed/improved from the predecessor but I’m assuming it to be both due to the notable improvements.

The sexual content is as prevalent as the first game (text only — no NSFW images) in terms of description, so that is something to be aware of. Due to the improved writing, I felt the interactions between characters to be more heartwarming and romantic. The climaxes of all the routes were well done, and each of the story’s conclusions brought about a sense of satisfaction at their completion.

Each route is around the same length of 3 hours as the original game despite having less chapters (10 in comparison to 13 total for each bachelor); each chapter is a lot lengthier in terms of content. The game is a lot cheaper than Kikuya at $15.99 compared to $29.99, due to the fact that it does not include the many sub-story scenarios with each of the courtesans. It only comes with the sequel and date scenario for each bachelor, as well as one route less (Kikuya had 6 bachelor stories, Ohgiya has 5). However, I find it to be a much better purchase than Kikuya at full retail price.

Character Development ★★★

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

As I mentioned earlier, the character development improved vastly from Kikuya. There’s actual slow and notable progression in the interactions between characters, and genuine conflict that draws them closer together in understanding and developing their relationship. Each bachelor has their own past and reason for ending up in Ohgiya, which the heroine eventually comes to discover from her visitations. It is these events that coax the protagonist to open up about herself, and realise that their feelings for her are not empty proclamations and her heart can be trusted in their hands.

She is a skilled tailor and business woman in her own right beneath her mother’s tutelage; quickly rising to the problems that occur and doing everything in her power to help the man she loves. One thing that I would’ve liked and many would agree on is a route for Musashi. I personally am very intrigued on his past with the heroine, and his clear underlying feelings and devotion towards her. It would be a refreshing difference from courting someone from the Pleasure District, versus someone the protagonist has known her whole life as a member of her household.

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TAKIGAWA: Takigawa is what I consider to be the canon route of the game, and the most well written out of the bachelors. The protagonist is very apprehensive and hostile initially to him, due to his reputation as the top courtesan of Ohgiya.  She chooses him at Musashi and her mother’s recommendation, due to his experience and status. He is skilled at what he does, although Takao his ultimate rival from Kikuya (the first game) claims that he has “never fallen in love before”, and thus the love he sells is no match for him.

In spite of the main character’s consistent refusal towards his advances, and cruel remarks – he is nothing short of passionate towards the heroine. He openly expresses his desire and sincerity for her time and time again – stopping at nothing to convince her that he is genuine in his feelings towards her. We soon discover that beneath his arrogant facade, is a lonely and traumatic past involving the dark secrets and baggage that comes with reaching the status of top courtesan.

What I liked about the route was that through the heroine’s influence, he was able to confront the demons of his past and turn his life around for the better. It is through each other that they are both able to grow as characters, a slow progression that is evident throughout the story. I consider the route canon due to him being the only bachelor with past history with the protagonist – Takigawa had always been in love with her since childhood, and the game revisits this through a series of flashbacks.

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GAKUTO: The second most popular courtesan at Ohgiya after Takigawa, and considered the most handsome in terms of appearances by the women of the island. He is rougher and brusque in comparison to the other bachelors, and shrouded in a veil of mystery – never allowing any women to truly come close to him. However, he has his rare moments of gentleness especially to Utsusemi and Ageha that reveal his kind nature, taking the two beneath his wing and tutelage like genuine blood brothers. He considers the heroine interesting at first meeting, and chooses to continue courting her.

As the two grow closer, the protagonist discovers the source of his inner turmoil and torment – that he is an avenger, whose sole life purpose is to seek revenge upon the woman who caused the death of his best friend. His traumatic past forms the crux of his character; and there’s significantly more to him than meets the eye.

His love for the heroine is exceptionally passionate bordering on violent, but ultimately not enough to swerve him from his path of revenge. His route is a lot darker in comparison to the others, but very dynamic as the readers are pulled into the back and forth tide of his indecision between choosing the heroine and revenge.

What I disliked about his route was for majority of it Gakuto was so hell-bent on his revenge, that it seemed as though no matter how hard the heroine tried nothing would get through to him. It felt as though no matter how strongly he claimed he felt about the protagonist, it would never be enough to quench his thirst. So then it brings forth the question: is he truly genuine about the heroine? How can he continue to hurt someone he supposedly cares about, time and time again?

My favourite moment of his route was in Chapter 8, when the heroine threatens to leave him as a last resort to saving him from the path of revenge – and the once proud, unemotional Gakuto completely breaks down and begs the heroine to stay with him. It was a heart-wrenching and touching moment that stood out to me throughout all the routes, and how much he had truly grown as a character.

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ASAGIRI: Asagiri is the most passionate out of all the bachelors, and the most sexually explicit route. He differs from the rest of the men, due to his softer and more seductive demeanour when handling women. Rather than viewing Yoshiwara as a cage he can never escape from, he willingly remains there as he is content with his life as a courtesan. I felt the writing of the dynamic between Asagiri and the heroine were particularly well written in his route, and the sheer ardour and yearning they have for one another is reflected as such.

One thing I disliked was despite his supposed love for the protagonist, upon her breaching the topic of purchasing his freedom for a future together – he vehemently denies her, and becomes angry at her for “denying his way of life”. I found this to be a sudden contrast to the actions he had shown prior, since if he truly loved her wouldn’t he want to always be with her freely? Rather than only within the confinements of Yoshiwara with only very little time together?

Then, when the protagonist finally visits him again after some space for one another, he just magically changes his mind about his previous sentiments? It felt like an all too convenient series of events that didn’t match up with the character’s actions at all.

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UTSUSEMI: Cheerful, friendly and easily approachable; Utsusemi always wears a cheeky smile on his face. Despite his outward mannerisms that Gakuto always chastises as inappropriate for a courtesan, he is the third most popular at Ohgiya. He is humbled by the heroine’s choice for him as her selected courtesan, as he believes he is no match for Takigawa or Gakuto. In his route, it truly explores the deep friendship between him, Gakuto and Ageha.

Although his path started off very sweet in his patient progression with the protagonist, I found it the most disjointed out of all the routes and difficult to follow. When the heroine doesn’t visit Ohgiya after some time, Utsusemi suddenly has a personality change where he roughly forces himself onto her. I found it to be very abrupt, unwarranted and there was no justification for it.

Also, I could not understand his reasoning for forcing Ageha to take on his identity as his family’s lost son in the mainland, even if it was for the sake of “Ageha’s happiness”. It is not something for Utsusemi to decide, and for someone whom he supposedly is doing for his sake — Ageha was anything but happy, and clearly extremely distraught by the events. Utsusemi then goes on to implore the protagonist to “let him use her as the reason for him to stay here”.

This comes off as very selfish to me, since they’re essentially sacrificing Ageha for the sake of their own happiness, rather than actually doing it for Ageha. Utsusemi to me, never felt truly happy with his choice in the end and only comes off as regretful for his decision.  Although his route started off well, it had very poor execution and story flow.

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AGEHA: The equivalent of Kagerou from Kikuya, Ageha is an apprentice-in-training soon to become a fully fledged courtesan once he completes his deflowering ceremony. He directly serves underneath Gakuto and Utsusemi, whom he deeply respects and admires. Ageha is extremely pure by nature due to his lack of experience with women, and has been sheltered by the other courtesans all his life.

Despite his appearance and mannerisms, he is the same age as the protagonist. If you’re looking for a pure love with plenty of crying from both parties, and many overly sweet moments then this is the route you’re after. He is an ideal match for the heroine, as she feels his honest nature can be trusted compared to the deceitful nature of experienced courtesans. It is a very pure love story, with both parties going to great lengths in order to be with one another.

His route didn’t stand out to me as much as the others, since I felt their love didn’t have as strong of a foundation as the other courtesans and his character changed very little over the course of the story. It also had too much crying for my taste, and petty misunderstandings. The events that led to the climax of his story were also far too convenient and all of a sudden they’re able to be together. It didn’t truly feel like they had fought to be together, nor the fruits of their labor had come to fruition at all, which was disappointing.

Design ★★★★

Similar to Kikuya, the major selling point of the game is the beautiful art, backgrounds and sprites. I felt that the body proportions were improved in comparison to the first game, such as the hand structure which I criticised in Kikuya. The background art especially improved, and I did not mind that some were reused as the resolution was increased to match the new art style. The line art and colour illustration was significantly cleaner, and there was less of a disparity between the character sprite and CG.

The character clothing and hairstyles were drawn with more attentiveness, and I loved the kimonos of the courtesans in Ohgiya a lot more than the original. I found them to be drawn a little bulky at times, but I suppose it’s to demonstrate the traditional style of the kimonos they’re wearing (as Kikuya is meant to be a ‘modernised brothel’). I especially loved the new protagonist’s character design, and hair. Overall, I felt the quality of illustration was maintained and improved in all of the CGs.

One of my main criticisms would be the use of the old character sprites from Kikuya, as the characters from the original game do make cameo appearances in Ohgiya. Due to the improvements and different art style between the predecessor and sequel, it is blatantly obvious when the character sprites are side by side. It feels as though they clearly do not belong in the same game, and I find that to be poor production value.

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Music and Voice Acting ★★

Although the music tracks have improved in Ohgiya compared to Kikuya, it still suffers the same glaringly obvious issues as the predecessor. They used only a handful of 30s looping tracks that became repetitive over the course of the game, and the loops were very choppy and poorly done. You can hear the exact section of the song where it loops back to the beginning. The songs did better suit the mood of the game, and were more mellow and pleasing on the ears to listen to in comparison to Kikuya. However, they really weren’t anything special to write home about and there was no voice acting in any of the platform ports.

System ★★★

As the game initially was also a mobile platform port, the UI wasn’t particularly impressive or attentive to detail. The controls and ease of use felt rather clunky on the steam version, and not completely smooth for the user. However, it is an improvement over the hot purple/pink colour scheme of Kikuya, using rich tones of gold and red.

It more or less features the same basic functions as the original, with character introductions, access to gallery, backlog and the same six load/save files which honestly is not enough for a game of this length. At the very least what they did change is when you open full screen mode in Ohgiya, it does not turn completely pixellated and has good resolution; an issue that really should not have been in Kikuya at all.

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Conclusion

Overall, Men of Yoshiwara: Ohgiya is a good game and I enjoyed it a lot more than its predecessor, Kikuya. It has a stronger cast line up of bachelors, each with distinct personalities and better written storylines. There are plenty of noteworthy moments in all the bachelor stories, even though the author was unable to hold the momentum all the way to the end of the routes such as Utsusemi and Ageha.

Although the writing has improved vastly to Kikuya, as a standalone title it is still quite poor and could use a lot of improvement. There is still a fair amount of grammatical errors, typos, and sentence cut offs that are noticeable in all the stories. However, it is easier to overlook than the amount that I found in Kikuya.

Although the stories had better cohesion, build up and development; some of the lead up events to the happy end felt very abrupt, forced or sudden. Convenient plot devices would occur to wrap the story outcome into a sudden happy ending. It disrupted the flow of the story, and although the ends are satisfying in terms of the characters ending up together; it could have been executed much better. The happy endings honestly felt tacked on, without too much connection to the events that happened prior, especially for the normal ends. It felt like a backtrack to all the bachelor’s actions in the route.

I thoroughly enjoyed Takigawa and Gakuto’s route, and they definitely fulfilled my expectations as the two main bachelors and poster-men of the game. I find that $15.99 USD is a fair price for the game, despite the lack of sub-stories. You would expect to complete the game in about 10-20 hrs of gameplay, and with the art and improved content you’re receiving it is a decent purchase (not to mention it does go on sale on steam once in a while). That being said, I do recommend purchasing the game on sale as it’s not rare that this occurs, and just more bang for your buck right?

I am fairly satisfied as the game has improved a lot as a later title of Dogenzaka Lab, addressed a lot of the shortcomings in Kikuya and will continue to improve in future. My main qualm with their games is to invest in better translations, improved UI for cross platform ports, and to perhaps incorporate voice acting. Many of the Visual Novels released and to-be-released on steam are all very popular and highly praised games from initial release, and it is rare for them not to have voice acting. If Dogenzaka Lab hopes to compete with them, then it would be a major step forward in improving their games.

Overall Rating: 3/5

Written By Cherry

Men of Yoshiwara: Kikuya Review

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RELEASE DATE
: 2014
PUBLISHER: D3 Publisher & Dogenzaka Lab
PLATFORMS AVAILABLE: Apple iOS/Android/Steam (English), PSVITA (Japanese)

I recently picked up the game a few weeks back during Steam’s December/Winter Sale. It was 75% off the original price of $29.99USD, which is quite a good steal in my opinion. What initially attracted me was the lovely art, and its setting within ancient Japan/the Edo Period. I have a soft spot for the time period due to its depictions of ancient Japanese culture, and there are vast windows of opportunity for interesting storylines interwoven with the complexity of history. I especially adore characters adorning kimonos as they are always drawn so beautifully, as well as the intricate background arts to reflect the era.

The use and popularity of the genre within visual novels have increased immensely after Idea Factory’s now coveted poster game Hakuouki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom made its huge splash with both its original debut in Japan and expansion to western culture through the licensing partnership with Akyss Games. Game companies are always seeking new target markets to appeal to, and whatever is popular clearly sells, right?

I was aware that the game originally was released for the mobile platform, but after its notable popularity it garnered enough of a following to warrant a steam release as well as it’s sequel – Men of Yoshiwara: Ohgiya (which I also reviewed). I was intrigued on how they decided to approach the steam port, in terms of graphics, improvements, art, UI etc. and was met with mixed reception.

Storyline ★★★

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– The Story –
A closed island where baby boys are not born…
A unique culture that is completely different from the mainland has been flourishing on the island. In the middle of the island, there is a district where men are gathered.
Some women just want children.
Others are looking for love.
Knowingly deceived by a lie, and deceived in return, all in a single night’s dream.
At the end, to whom is it that you will be talking of love? (Steam Summary)

You play as the daughter of a regular shipping agent, and have lived a relatively sheltered life on an island where men are rarely ever conceived. Any men who are born are cursed to being inevitably sold to Yoshiwara, in order to become a courtesan. As a result, the only choice for the women of the island to experience any semblance of love or to have children is to pay a visit to the district of Yoshiwara. It is a custom exclusive only to this unique island, where it has become an everyday occurrence when a woman comes of age to visit the pleasure district.

Yoshiwara despite its awe-inspiring beauty, is merely a fabricated dream. The male courtesans are enforced to something akin to slavery – they sell their body and love, but never their hearts. Our protagonist on an errand to Yoshiwara, stumbles across a courtesan and his lover attempting to escape to the mainland in order to be together. Assisting such a crime would be considered high treason, but the MC follows her heart and allows them to find a boat in order to escape. In return for her kindness, she is given a large sum of money and a kimono of great quality.

She continues on her errand with the package in hand, and is dragged into the depths of the pleasure district where she meets our bachelors and experiences emotions and events she never would have dreamed of or been possible without the blessing of the couple she rescued. What would become of our innocent heroine who has never experienced the darkness of the island, and will she fall into a world of deceit and fabricated dreams?

Although the premise was promising, it had very mediocre execution. The events were extremely predictable, with the heroine quickly falling to the beguiling charms of the gentlemen. The courtesans in turn fall for the protagonist without any proper build up or emotional connection, but merely on the premise that she is “cute and innocent”. The writing was littered with grammatical errors, spelling mistakes and a lot of the phrases were worded quite strangely.

The flow of the writing was disjointed and clunky, and clearly translated by someone where english is not their first language. The stories tended to wrap up through very convenient methods without much explanation, and the heroine ended up with all the male courtesans through more or less the same ways (courtesan pays off debt or gets bought, they get married, the end).

For several different character routes, variety and variation is a must in the writing of the story. Overall, if you overlook the subpar writing and poor execution the story does have some good moments here and there of promise. There were a few scenes that definitely warmed my heart, in the climaxes of the story when the protagonist and the male bachelor confide in their love for one another and the culmination of their relationship. It does contain fairly descriptive sexual content compared to most otome games, so that is something to also keep in mind. Each route takes about 3hrs to complete (with the side stories, sequel and date scenario).

Character Development ★★★

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

In general, I found the character development to be very lacking in this game. Most of the bachelors hardly change throughout the story, and more or less remain the same. They’re a little softer in their approach to the heroine, and more open in confiding their love – but as a reader you’d expect something more than that after everything they have been through together.

The heroine especially, completely lacks character and is the equivalent to a doormat. She cries a lot, and for the most part essentially over nothing. She quickly falls for the guys, and is willing to throw everything on the line for them after only a few encounters which for the life of me I cannot begin to wrap my head around. I suppose her only good point is she doesn’t lack passion and is willing to protect at all costs what she holds dear. She is easy to read like an open book, very kindhearted and hardworking due to her sheltered upbringing.

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TAKAO: One of the most popular courtesans in all of Yoshiwara, he excels in charming women with his sweet words, alluring demeanour and charming nature. Due to this, he is extremely egocentric and approaches everything in a very confident manner. The heroine is bewitched by his looks at first glance, and quickly succumbs to him — visiting him at every opportunity, constantly waiting for him at Kikuya (the more popular a courtesan; the longer his list of customers he must attend to) and finds herself unable to focus when she is apart from him.

What I disliked about the route was that Takao remained the same from beginning to end, and his personality had very little development over the course of the story. His feelings for the heroine were also abrupt and sudden, and without much relationship build up.

I found Takao a lot more likeable in the other character routes, as he is prevalent in all their storylines. His story was also tied up in the most convenient plot device possible, and I disliked how they didn’t properly explore his relationship with his father further; despite their heartfelt reunion. It felt like it all happened so fast, and then it skipped to their wedding and then “the end”. It had so much potential to give Takao the depth he needed as a character, because ultimately his family was his reason for continuing to remain in Yoshiwara for so long. For the poster boy of the game, I expected a lot more from his route.

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KAGURA: I felt the pacing in Kagura’s route to be a lot better than Takao’s. The pacing was significantly slower in terms of romantic interactions (for Takao’s he is very forward from the get-go), but it made for a more meaningful relationship. Kagura is a very serious individual, and very different from the other courtesans. He wishes to be recognised for his abilities in swordsmanship and knowledge of western culture rather than his looks alone. He is hardworking, and not a man of many words.

As a result the heroine desires to know more about him and what he likes, and their interactions mainly consist of conversations in getting to know one another. I found the MC to be more endearing in this route, as she tries her best to get to know Kagura, his interests, and shows more attentiveness to him. My only criticism would be again, that his story ties up in the most convenient way possible before it quickly skips to their wedding and the ending of the story.

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KAGEROU: My personal favourite route of the game. He is Kagura’s attendant, and a courtesan-in-training soon to have his coming of age debut. As a result, he is unfamiliar with women and love and has a sharp-tongue when speaking. He is the same age as the heroine, and thus their relationship begins on a more even playing field. Both are able to open up to one another more, as their similar age makes conversing a lot easier.

The heroine is not intimidated by Kagerou (in comparison to the other bachelors) and is able to show a lot more of her true personality. They often engage in friendly, endearing banter and it is clear through their interactions with one another the continual shift in their relationship. Kagerou idolises Kagura and as a result it is rare for him to interact with anyone else. It is clear when Kagerou falls for the heroine, by asking her to accompany him on a date to the local festival.

His route was like a breath of fresh air, as he wasn’t stifled in confinement. Kagerou has yet to become a fully-fledged courtesan, and is still allowed outside of Yoshiwara to pursue his studies. He truly changes when falling in love with the heroine, and pushes everything aside when she falls ill; showing his immense love for her. I personally find their route to be the most canon, as they are able to consummate their love as one another’s firsts and with someone they truly love; something rare and unheard of in Yoshiwara.

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TOKIWA: He comes off as very rude and arrogant in majority of the other routes, so to my surprise he was actually one of the more gentle characters out of the courtesans. Tokiwa prior to his demotion to Takao’s attendant, was a rising courtesan within the district for his skills in dance, singing and unique foreign looks. In comparison to the other men of Yoshiwara, he originated from the mainland and was not originally born on the island itself.

He did not come onto the protagonist as strongly compared to his appearances in other routes, where he consistently attempted to seduce her and has a bad reputation for stealing other gentlemen’s clients (which is considered forbidden in Yoshiwara; as a client may only choose to remain with one courtesan once chosen).

I quite liked the pacing of their relationship, since I felt they developed quite mutually. He learns to accept himself for the things that he despises, due to the heroine’s love for him. I felt in this route the protagonist truly wanted to make him happy, and paved the path for him to achieving his dream as the most desired and top courtesan in Yoshiwara. My main criticism would be the story tied up through a very convenient series of events that enabled them to be together and ended in marriage.

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IROHA: The now retired-courtesan and current “ogre-like” manager of Kikuya, he is the main contribution to its success within Yoshiwara. He is always thinking of the business first and foremost, using whatever means necessary in ensuring it prospers as the most popular courtesan shop. His route is very different in comparison to the others, as he is no longer working as a courtesan. As such, he insists to the heroine that there is no need to pay for his services, as he is no longer a gentlemen of the night.

Although he is always employing tactics that would be most profitable for the store, it is clear in the other routes that he is not completely as heartless as his actions would infer. He clearly does care for the other courtesans very much, and wishes them happiness. Due to his position, he keeps a clear barrier between him and the heroine; refusing her wishes and advances for a more intimate relationship.

We soon learn that it is due to him holding a dark secret, and a strong sense of debt towards Kikuya. When he falls for the heroine, he becomes very passionate and extremely jealous; unlike his normally cool and collected self. I quite enjoyed his route, as the complication was different from the other courtesans. He is not bound to the store in the same manner, and their source of conflict results from his dark secret. I found his transformation a little overbearing however, since he went literally 180 degrees towards the heroine from dismissive to completely obsessed in an instant.

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HAYABUSA: The only courtesan with prior history with the heroine, and her dear childhood friend. Unlike the others who use their beguiling charms and physical attractiveness in earning customers, women are attracted to Hayabusa due to his hardworking and caring nature. He gets along with the other courtesans of Kikuya well, especially Takao in spite of Takao having stiff relations with the others due to his popularity as a courtesan and abrasive nature.

What I liked about this route was it was interwoven with flashbacks of their past, and the nostalgic nature of their conversations. It demonstrated how much they truly cared for one another, and how their feelings had not diminished despite the time they had spent apart. Hayabusa has always been in love with the heroine, and only thought of her; collecting her favourite candy in the hopes that if they were to be reunited, he would be able to offer them to her as a gift. I found that to be so adorable, and a testament of his longstanding love.

Overall, the route is a lot fluffier than the others but I found myself again being disappointed by the ending. He easily escapes jail with the help of the heroine’s mother as the patrol guard had previously been in her debt and he is subsequently released. It then quickly skips to their wedding scene and ending. He also has less content in comparison to the other men, as he was the newer add-on route implemented in the game (and thus, does not appear at all in the other male routes). Whilst the other characters have plenty of sub-stories, there aren’t any for Hayabusa I believe.

Design ★★★

One of the biggest selling points of the game is its great art, especially for something being originally for a mobile platform. It has a wide array of backgrounds, and the character designs with their unique kimonos are all drawn beautifully. I love the colour scheme and art style of the artist. If I were to be nitpicky, then I felt that the CGs of the game were of lower quality than the drawn character sprites. The line art just wasn’t as clean or crisp, and the artist clearly had trouble with certain expressions or hand gestures (something that is quite common in visual novels).

For example: in the two images below, in the first image with Iroha both of the character’s hands are very oddly proportioned. His hands are clutching her face like a vice, and larger than her head; whilst the heroine’s hands look akin to being fractured and claw-like. In the second image with Kagerou, what is clearly an attempt at looking seductive comes across as someone who looks completely different. It doesn’t look at all like his character sprite, and looks more like an evil expression in a bad ending route.

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Music and Voice Acting ★★

As it is a mobile platform game, the music wasn’t anything great. Most mobile platform visual novels often utilise only a handful of 30 second tracks that consistently loop over the course of the game. The looping in this game however, was done quite poorly and choppy. You can hear exactly when the sound loops for it stops abruptly and changes back to the beginning of the track. The songs chosen however, were suitable to the mood and scenes of the game.

As the steam was ported from the mobile version, there was no voice acting. This to me is quite disappointing, as for the PSVITA port it included voice acting from famous seiyuus from the Tokimeki Memorial series and I believe Takao is voiced by Morikubo Shoutarou who famously voices Okita Souji from Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom, Impey Barbicane from Code Realize: Guardian of Rebirth, Hanamura Yosuke from Persona 4 and Shikamaru Nara from Naruto.

System ★★

The system, user interface (UI) and overall graphic layout isn’t really anything to write home about. As it is a mobile port, it uses the exact same UI that you would see on your mobile phone. One major complaint I had was even though you have the option to play the game on windowed mode or full screen for steam, if you chose full screen; the game would become incredibly pixellated and unclear as it was not programmed for the larger resolution of a PC screen.

This shows incredible lack of foresight by the company, and is quite sloppy in my opinion. The textual interface is bland, and the glaring tones of pink and purple aren’t very appealing to look at. Six save slots is too little for a steam port, and the overall ease of use for the interface such as accessing the backlog/save file loads didn’t feel crisp at all.

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Conclusion

Overall, the game wasn’t too bad. Nothing outstanding to write home about, but not terrible either. It is Dogenzaka Lab’s most popular title for a reason, as the game did span multiple ports and a sequel using the same setting with different characters. It had some good moments here and there, and glimpses of greater potential that were not executed properly. One of my major qualms about the game was the poor writing and translations that are difficult to overlook for a $29.99USD game. I can think of numerous titles off the top of my head of the same price, but with infinitely better quality writing, plot, character and execution.

I also do not understand why Dogenzaka Lab did not import the PSVITA version to steam instead. It included professional voice acting, improved UI, graphics (cleaned/fixed the old CGs), new CGs, additional events and scenes. Hayabusa is not an included character to play, but they have a PSVITA exclusive bachelor called Itou Keiji for selection instead. Unfortunately, the PSVITA port is still in japanese without an english release so the only way to access the game is via purchasing it in the Japan PSN store.

I personally would not recommend purchasing the game for full price at all. In terms of price value however, then the steam version is significantly better than the mobile platform. Purchasing it via mobile means you pay-per-character, and all the extra content must be purchased individually as well. The steam version includes all character routes, sequel, date scenario and several sub-stories for each bachelor.

I would only recommend purchasing the game on sale, and it goes on sale once every couple of months from what I have observed. For the price of $7.50USD (75% off), it does offer a decent amount of gameplay that I feel is worthwhile. With around 3hr routes per character (including extra content), you would expect to complete the game in about 10-20hrs depending on your reading speed.

I thoroughly enjoyed Kagerou’s route, and it was definitely my favourite of the game. If you can overlook the grammatical errors and typos in the game and are looking for a more steamier otome game with good art, then I recommend purchasing this one on sale. I look forward to playing the sequel Men of Yoshiwara: Ohgiya and seeing whether or not the developers have improved their shortcomings of the first title. I will be posting it up next, so look forward to reading it!

Overall Rating: 2.5/5

Written By Cherry