Coμ

comyu

Akihito calls himself a feminist, though basically that just means that he’s kind but only to girls. He tries to remain distant from the people around him, but fully acknowledges that he can’t live completely alone. He was born in Takakura City, but moved away when he was only a child, only to come back after a series of traumatic events, and hence lives alone in an apartment there. Well, almost alone. Upon arriving in Takakura, due to mere chance he discovered his childhood friend. This child good friend, Kagome, is often called the Black Witch due to the fact that she is capable to the point of her abilities appear like magic, can be both incredibly violent and selfish, and has a personality centered around scorn and sarcasm. She quickly made herself at home at his apartment and began calling herself his ‘partner’ and ‘loving childhood friend, even though she spend much of their time together tormenting him.

However, Takakura city is strange. It is an epicenter for a number of crazy rumors floating around the internet. Akihito discounted most of these rumors as ridiculous, up until the point where he saw ‘Girl A’. Girl A is a strangely clothed girl seen and posted on by a number of people on message boards, who most people can’t see but to those who can see her appears constantly, never doing anything but singing in the distance. Eventually, despite how utterly bizarre this is, because it ultimately has no effect on him, Akihito just continues on with his life, ignoring her. However, one day, he felt her call to him and was pushed to answer it,  going with Kagome to a rooftop with 4 other people on it. Out of nowhere, a monster appears and tries to attack them. And even more out of nowhere, another monster, an evil looking black dragon appears and protects them, which Akihito and the four others can clearly tell is linked with and controlled by them. Working together, they manage to defeat the other monster.

However, this is only the beginning. They soon learn that they are now linked to the Black Dragon, their avatar, which they name Babylon. They are all capable of summoning it, though each one that assists in controlling makes it more powerful. Furthermore, while it does offer power, if Babylon is killed, no matter where or when, all five of them will die. Furthermore, they are certainly not the only Comyu, as groups of  five coordinators come to be called. Rather, there are a multitude of factions such as the Round-Table, Caesars Legion, and the Anti-Rounds fighting for control, as well as individual groups hunting down avatars for sport, thus making the Comyunet quite dangerous.

Hence, Akihito is forced to have to get close to and rely on the rest of his Comyu. The other members include: Benio, a slim girl that believes in justice to the point of being nonsensical; Mayuki, a very young chibi glasses wearing Otaku with terrible fashion sense and biting personality that doesn’t fit her age; Haru, a very nonchalant and ero minded maid that can very easily ignore things she doesn’t want to deal with; Izawa, a young and effeminate looking but very hot headed and conflict prone gang boss. And of course, while Kagome may not be in the Comyu and appear to be just a normal human, even when dealing with events involving monsters, she’s still more than capable of playing a major part. These six together, along with those they meet along the way, without any guidance from the girl that gave them their powers, continue life in Takakura City, for better or worse tied together.

***

This is a primarily a battle VN with an air of mystery and some slice and life. The way this VN is structured is that there is a mostly set order you’re supposed to go in in terms of routes. You don’t unlock routes 2-4 until you complete 1, and you don’t unlock 5, the true route until you’ve completed 2-4. Before each main portion of each route, there is a prologue chapter. This chapter is mostly the same across each route, and it establishes the foundations of the world and introduces all the main characters, but in every route except the first route there are a number of choices you can make that are followed by small scenes which control the route you end up going down after the prologue, with the exception of the fourth route that branches off the third route. In addition to these choices, there are also a couple other choices you can make that lead to bad endings, but these actually lead to a pretty funny scene where you are explained to why the choice you made was wrong, and are hence worth getting. The routes in order:

The first route, and the route that you are automatically thrown into, is Benio’s route. This route while serving as a good starting point and mostly being quite simple, all around felt a bit unsatisfying. It had good potential with the central theme of the meaning of justice and a plot that was moving in an interesting direction as it approached the ending, but the conclusion felt half done, with a battle and conflict that just sort of ends rather than actually being dealt with and the romance felt like it needed far more development as well. To be more clear, it didn’t really feel like the story was over yet at all, it just ended, which I suppose may be common for first routes in novels with playing orders, but it still felt off and I liked Benio’s character so I think she deserved better.

The second route is the Hisoka Route. In this route the common route provides more info from Jack the Ripper’s Comyu’s POV and provides an intro to the goddess of Death. However, the actual entrance to her route was completely random, with there being very little build up. The relationship once it gets going is pretty amazing, but it feels somewhat rushed going into it. The plot was incredibly interesting though, providing a lot more background about the world and making it seem much darker. This route has two endings, normal and good, wherein the choices that lead to the good ending can only be chosen after completing the normal route. The normal ending was very intense but also very sad. The good ending was less sad, but also less intense, and it felt similar to Benio’s route in that it sort of just dropped off at the end rather than there being much of a finale. Still, it builds very well of Benio’s route in providing more foundation for the world, but as a route in and of itself, it felt lacking, just like Benio’s route.

Next is Mayuki’s Route, who it should be noted is definitely 18. It clearly says so. This route is very different from the other routes, in that the focus wasn’t as much on Comyus and avatars and such, but instead based around Akihito slowly becoming an Otaku due to the influence of Mayuki. This is centered around a message board based crowd developed game called Acceptor, which is pretty cool in its own right. This route takes a mechanic the previous routes had a little of, having online threads and chat conversations appear within the VN, to a new level and uses it to great effect which is incredibly awesome. The connector stuff, when it appears is good, but it all around very much does take a backseat to games, idols, etc. which is fine because it leads to the best story so far in terms of plot, character development, romance, etc. and comes to a solid and great ending, thus making it a major step up over the routes before it, and making it awesome in its own right even if it feels very distinct from the core subject matter.

The next route after that is Ayaya’s route, which branches off of Mayuki’s route, and is closer to that than the other routes. She is so cheerful it is infectious and her dedication is admirable as well, especially towards the end. It was a really really happy and cute route. The route is more of a side route than anything, having almost nothing related to Comyus or much conflict at all, and also being incredibly short. But it was amusing, so it was good for what it was.

The next route, the final route, is Kagome’s Route. This route returns back to being focused on the story that was developing in Benio’s and Hisoka’s routes, but goes much much further, and also goes to a whole other level of intense. In a way, it takes everything from the previous routes, including things the reader may have thought weren’t all that important, and ties them all together. It finally gets to the core of the story, to the point everything before in the other routes felt like it was only scratching the surface. The romance is by far the best, and even though I have a fondness for Mayuki’s route, this definitely took it to a whole other level with the events surrounding it being far more intense and also tremendously good chemistry between Akihito and Kagome. The ending was truly fantastic, tying up everything and just feeling like the perfect place to end at. Kagome’s character truly shined, and how much she was developed in contrast to how she was in previous routes stood out and was incredibly interesting. The overarching messages about moving forward, regardless of the sins, hatred, etc. that were touched upon in other routes are taken to completion, leaving a very strong impact. The battles are far more intense, and the combat system also gets much further developed. This is also the route with the best CG and where the soundtrack really shows how great it can be. It is just all around the most amazing route, very much being worthy of it’s title as true route, and gives justification to the ordered structure of the novel, as even if all the other routes exist only to lead up to this, its worth it.

Now in regards to general comments, the writing on this can get somewhat annoying sometimes. Regarding some topics, Akihito narrates things in a way that there is a lot of  fluff and repetition, which makes things feel slow sometimes. The action is solid, especially in Kagome’s route. The comedy is also solid, though that’s better in Mayuki’s route. The art is pretty good, though there was a very distinct feeling of too many characters completely lacking sprites, which felt odd. The music is incredibly good, including the OP/ED/Inserts, and soundtrack.

A VN that has one fantastic and very humorous route that’s quite a bit different from the others, and another route that most of the rest of the novel builds to that is intense, interesting, and impactful, that across both results in a tremendously satisfying VN.

9/10

Kagome> Mayuki > Ayaya > Hisoka >Benio

Also, rendering logos is hard, and I couldn’t find anything good to render the logo for this off of. If anyone can point me towards the render for the logo or just the logo on a single color background that would be much appreciated.

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euphoria

euphoria.png

Takato Keisuke wakes up in an empty completely white room having no idea how he got there. He remembers going back to his dorm from school and suddenly ending up there. He proceeds further and finds a group of girls, most of which he knows to at least some degree, all being from his school: Kanae, his kind childhood friend he is incredibly close to; Rika, a spoiled underclassman from the same club as him; Rinne, a seemingly cold but also straightforward girl in the school’s discipline committee; Natsuki, a junior English teacher that just joined and wasn’t yet very reliable; Miyako, the very strict class representative for his class; Nemu, a girl that just transferred into his class, and has so far been quite mysterious and aloof. They suddenly hear a voice telling them they have to play a game, involving Keisuke violating the others in cruel ways. The voice then make it clear that they’ll killed if they do not comply through a cruel demonstration, hence pushing them to all to agree to take part. However, Keisuke has a dark secret, that he’s always been incredibly sadistic and trying to restrain these urges, but the game and Nemu, who quickly discovers his secret, seem to be doing their utmost best to draw them out entirely.

***

Euphoria is to be frank really really disturbing in ways that are not my cup of tea at all. I had to fast forward through some scenes because holy hell, it gets completely and utterly insane. But at the same time, it has a pretty decent story. There are essentially two phases to each route, a first phase that takes place during the game, and a second phase that takes place after the game is over. The first phase involves a lot of messed up events with some character and relationship building in between, but it also sets up which route you go into with the second phase, where the actual plot is developed and mysteries are solved.

There are 5 main routes, that can mostly be played in any order. But it will definitely be more interesting if some routes are played after others. The reason for that is that at its core, one of the main things that makes Euphoria interesting is the mystery surrounding everything, and the twists and strange occurrences that arise from that. Hence, the best way to go through it in my opinion, is go through the routes in such a way that each time you delve a little bit further into the core mystery behind Euphoria.

The route order for that, as well as some thoughts on each route, is hence:

Rika: This is one of the most horrific routes, in that she is by far the one that hates having to take part in the game the most, with a strong hatred directed towards the main character, which makes it a lot worse. This then suddenly transitions to love in a very awkward way once the game is over. Ultimately, it introduces you to the general world, but doesn’t delve into the core mystery at all and just runs away from it to lead to a completely unrelated happy ending.

Natsuki: This is less horrific than Rika’s routes, and has a somewhat standard love story thrown in, but follows a very similar structure, where in the end it still essentially runs away to a completely unrelated happy ending without detailing much of the central plot, though it foreshadows some twists in further routes.

Rinne: This is where the game starts getting incredibly strange. You begin to learn more and more about some of the background that led to that point, particularly some background on the facility itself and the actually important characters involved, but it then branches off quickly into something crazy, that can branch off into a twisted bad end, or a good end that’s in a way happy, but is so out of nowhere its unsettling.

Nemu: This route is tied directly into the core route, overlapping with Rinne’s route up to a point, but then continuing along the main path. It develops a lot of the core plot and characters in important ways that the other routes don’t, and builds up to arriving at an ultimatum, however, just before its about to get there, it collapses, into a sad ending leaving nothing but more questions.

Kanae: This is only unlocked after completing Nemu’s route because of how important the development in that route is. It is all around the most crazy, even before getting out of the first half. But once it gets out, it gets even crazier. It follows a story incredibly similar to Nemu’s route, though it allows a number of choices that allow Keisuke to fully embrace his dark side instead of the restraint he automatically showed in Nemu’s route, which can culminate in what is by far the most demented ending. But if the same path as Nemu’s route is followed, it eventually gets to the point where Nemu’s route collapsed, but goes into a completely different direction, that leads down the path to a number of bad endings and the normal/true routes, which involves a tremendously convoluted plot that is complete mind screw, though ultimately does sufficiently explain the vast majority of mysteries across all the previous routes, leading up to a reasonably happy but shallow normal ending, or branching off to continue the story in a more grounded way to the true ending that despite how downright demented the rest of the game was, actually felt kind of sweet.

Overall, I was very engrossed with the main plot throughout, to the point I was annoyed I had to go through the story lacking first phase to do the plot focused second phase for the last couple routes. All in all, watching the story unfold as it did, in light of the mystery and confusing aspects mostly being sufficiently addressed, and with a focus on the true ending, I was pretty satisfied with the overall plot. It wasn’t amazing, but how it was told was unique, and ultimately pretty good.

The art was pretty good and fit the story quite well, though considering some of the scenes that just meant it made it more disturbing. The soundtrack I thought was excellent, fitting the tone incredibly well with a lot of tracks such as the main theme being completely fantastic in their own right (that piano).

8/10

I am definitely not touching anything like this again for a while though, if ever.

G-Senjou No Maou

gsenjounomaou

I should note that this review has spoilers. All of them generally do, but I thought I should note it in particular here due to how major they are, as it’s simply impossible to discuss this without them.

Azai Kyousuke is the adopted son of Azai Gonzou, the head of the Azai Yakuza group. However, this isn’t a normal father son relationship. Kyousuke owes Gonzou 200 million yen, and hence must work for him until he pays off this debt. To do this, he works for his father’s group, using his tactical mind to make a name for himself in the underworld. However, in addition to that he still has a ‘normal’ life as well. He listens to and is a major fan of classical music. He also goes to school, keeping his underworld persona kept carefully hidden away, and establishes relationships with a number of people. For example, he is quite close to his step-sister Kanon, daughter to Gonzou and a world renown figure skater aiming for the Olympics; he gets close to Tsubaki, a girl far too kind and loving of her family to the point of being utterly naive; and Mizuha, the innocent daughter of the head master of the school who seems to hate him for being two-faced. But eventually, things begin to escalate, in all aspects of his life. He’s ordered by his father to find a mysterious man named Maou. Meanwhile, an incredibly intelligent but strange girl named Haru with incredibly long hair ends up transferring into his class, and he discovers that she too is on the search for Maou. Thus begins a battle of wits between them and Maou, pulling in his classmates as well as various others, such as Yuki, a friend of Haru who is quite skilled in negotiation and mind games. But for the most part, its nothing more than Maou playing games with them, as he, Kyousuke, and Haru are connected by unbreakable chains, ones that are pulling them to a grand standoff with Maou’s ultimate plan.

***

G-Senjou no Maou is a novel with essentially seven routes. The way it’s structured is that there is a main plot, the true route, involving Haru and Maou that goes from beginning to end. However, based on the choice made at one branching point per chapter, it can branch off into three other routes, corresponding to Tsubaki, Kanon, and Mizuha, each of which also branch off into a good end and a bad end, where the conflict with Maou stops and instead the heroines are further gone into. So essentially you can either ride the Maou conflict to it’s ultimate conclusion and the true end, or you can ride it as far as you need to to branch off at key points. The way I played it was, whenever I got to such a point, I would play through the side characters stories, bad ending before good, and then reload and continue the main arc, which I feel is probably the best way to read through the novel. Overall, I don’t particularly like having to make unclear choices as the driving points between routes, so I simply used a walkthrough. So from that point of view overall I felt like the structure was pretty solid, because generally as you progress further and further into the novel, you got tremendous insight into a new character each chapter through their side story, which then made the conflict with Maou involving them more intense. Now there were also some issues with this structure. Having the side routes completely disconnected from the main story is somewhat awkward. Immediately transitioning from an ending, back to the main story feels a bit strange, in part because of how emotional every ending to the side routes is, though in a way I suppose that’s akin to complaining about how it was too good, and this is essentially my first super serious visual novel so it may just be my own inexperience.

Chapter 1 is an introduction to all the various characters involved and just begins to set up the mysteries and conflict that would be present throughout the rest of the novel. It serves its purpose pretty well, only going surface level on various issues, and having a very lighthearted feeling without too much intensity.

Chapter 2 is centered around Tsubaki’s brother being kidnapped by Maou, and the game he plays at trying to corrupt her and destroy her child like innocence, while Kyousuke also has to deal with being assigned to push Tsubaki’s family off of their land for the Azai group. The core of it, the kidnapping event with Maou was absolutely intense, the first truly intense moment in the series, and involved watching Tsubaki get pushed to her limit. This then branched off into her either being corrupted by Kyousuke, which was interesting but felt vile, in a pretty unique way to do a bad end, but this turned out to be quite a bit more than the simple bad ending I was expecting. Her good route focused on her overcoming giving into the darkness Maou cultivated in her, which is pretty solid character development, and then becomes about Kyousuke still having to deal with a way to get Tsubaki and her family off the land. This results in Kyousuke facing whether he wants to be evil head on, which leads to strong character development for him. It ultimately comes to a pretty solid conclusion, a very clear happy ending. If the side story is not gone into, it quickly moves onto the next chapter without much more to the story.

Chapter 3 is centered around the ice skating of Kanon. Kanon also seems pure and naive like Tsubaki, though not completely selfless like Tsubaki and also different in that she’s able to ignore all the dark connections in her life, taking cues and avoiding talking with people about anything they don’t want to talk about or she doesn’t want to hear, so that she can put all her energy into skating. There are two ways that it can go. It starts off with a threat against Kanon, though one that is kept from her, ordering her to lose in a certain competition by Maou to prevent anything from happening to her mother. If the Kanon route is followed, Kanon ends up losing that match terribly, completely independently of Maou but still neutralizing his threat, and the story focuses on Kanon’s background, her relationship with her bitter and obsessed mother/coach, and how everything has resulted in a somewhat twisted and very arrogant personality and outlook on life that she has to overcome, while the media seems to be doing their best to chronicle her fall. The fallen arrogant king/queen type story is one of my favorite types of arcs, so I definitely enjoyed this one. Her bad route was somewhat cliche, but not completely a bad end as she still has a chance for a normal life. Her good route was incredible. She overcomes things incredibly well, the music does an incredibly good job towards the end, and in the end there’s an incredibly bittersweet moment, one that had me literally shaking, but one that shows tremendous character development and shows a path to a bright future.

The main route, unlike Tsubaki’s is incredibly different. If the Kanon route is not followed, Kanon does not lose the competition, thus pushing the story in a complete different direction, and instead Kyousuke must work with Haru in order to stop Maou. There were some issues with this structure, such as the strong disconnect between the Kanon route and true route in this chapter, it felt very awkward to switch between them as it felt like their were some inconsistencies, mainly in that Kanon didn’t actually get any character development nor did their relationship really get much development in the main route, and hence it felt strange to be going forward without any of that, but overall it was forgivable in that it never really came up and even if it isn’t cannon to the route the attachment to Kanon remained.

Chapter 4 is centered around the relationship between Mizuha and Yuki, in that they are long separated half sisters. The branching point to the Mizuha route was a bit random. It involves Mizuha being kept as a hostage in their school. If Kyousuke calls the police, then the issues is resolved immediately and then it branches into Mizuha’s route. If they handle it themselves it continues the true route, and is what composes the rest of the chapter. However, while the plots go in completely different directions, they are centered around the exact same subject matter, the relationship between Mizuha and Yuki and Yuki’s desire for revenge, but shown in incredibly different lights. Mizuha’s route also heavily involves her character development, from being naive and spoiled simply because she doesn’t know any better to someone capable in her own right. It starts off incredibly light hearted, with Mizuha being a tsundere and there being an assortment of gags. However, it begins to transition very quickly. The bad route is similar to Tsubaki in that it is also a route where Kyousuke corrupts the heroine, though it ends very differently due to Yuki and in a very cliche manner. Otherwise, there is a transition point and time skip, after which the atmosphere changes completely and things get very melancholy. Everything after the time skip was a bit jumbled up honestly, which hurts it. In a way, a lot of what happens is passed over because of the time skip, which allows to show the contrast between two character states well, but also feels as if there’s something missing. Still, both Mizuha’s and Yuki’s character development was tremendous, even if somewhat abrupt. And the ending was beautiful, though very bittersweet. ‘Thank you’.

Choosing to go into hostage negotiations continues the main route, where Mizuha’s and Yuki’s relationship is explored from a much more involved and dangerous angle. It was heart wrenching and the latter half was more suspenseful than the other routes due to the lack of plot armor on critical characters and because I was sincerely rooting for both sides, wanting what’s best for everyone because of having gone through Mizuha’s route already and being very invested in the characters. The ending to said route makes it clear that the story is approaching the climax, at it sets up that things are about to change tremendously.

Chapter 5 is where everything built up in the true route ultimately comes into play. The twist about who Maou was felt very strange. It makes a lot of what was great about the earlier chapters feel off, though at the same time, is it fair to judge them that way? I would say not. Furthermore, there’s a whole bunch of events that occur at the beginning of this chapter continuing off the end of last chapter that change things tremendously: Finally finding out the background of Haru and her relationship to Kyousuke was sad; Haru’s motivations fully coming to light; Gonzou’s death and complete change in terms of the atmosphere his image is intended to project, as in having Gonzou as a good father was difficult enough with how it was built up, up to that point, but the way events are revealed through flashbacks it overall didn’t work as well as needed; finding out who Maou is and his motivations and goals. All of it leads to a tremendous world changing ending that’s at a whole other scale from the conflicts in the previous chapters, that was paced well and had a tremendous amount of great scenes. The ending was amazing, and the romance was definitely the best in the game. I was somewhat sad that it was over when the credits started going, but satisfied.

And then the epilogue hit. I was expecting something short, sweet, and cute. Not the roller coaster of emotions that I got. Every ending was emotional, but this was at a whole other level, it hit like a truck full of bricks. The entire sequence with ‘Close Your Eyes’ playing had me legitimately tearing up. There are only two works of fiction that I remember making my cry, Clannad when I was quite young and was probably one of my first anime, and this, so I consider it tremendously impactful. There’s a soft spot I have for self sacrificing. Maybe, ‘self-sacrifice’ isn’t quite the right word. I mean something deeper than just putting oneself in dangers way like jumping in front of a bullet for them, which had also occurs earlier without as much of an impact. Here it was something that required greater fortitude, greater strength of will: Kyousuke saying and doing things that completely and utterly broke his heart and destroyed him from the inside, but that he had to do because of his love for Haru and that he put his all into doing. And that’s not even taking into account how effectively the build up to all this was, how he had to have grown as a character from the beginning in order to be able to do so, and how close he had gotten to Haru in order to have the motivation. It brought everything together full circle, but with a tremendous amount of sadness. When it got to it’s final scene, and when the girl appeared with Haru, it felt incredibly lonely. And when it became clear who she was, and how things would play out it was an incredibly happy moment. And then it truly over. I had so much emotion I didn’t know what to do with it. Hell, I’m feeling quite emotional just writing this part of the review. Beautiful beyond words. ‘Kiyomi’.

As overall points, I should mention how classical music plays a major part, and how the soundtrack was absolutely lovely. The voice acting also seemed quite solid. There was also a very large number of CGs that are used to very great effect. There were also some interesting visual transitions between scenes.

A complete and utter masterpiece that has tremendous impact.

10/10

I would rank:

Haru>Kanon>Mizuha>Tsubaki

Yumina the Ethereal

yumina

Ayumu is a guy that just wants to take it easy. He’s the adopted son of a body guard who put him through intense training as a kid, so for a change of pace now that he’s at the boarding school Jinbu Academy, he does his best to relax and do as little work as possible, just barely passing. His closest friend is a girl named Yumina, who is similar in that she also doesn’t know her parents, though she grew up at an orphanage. But she’s also Ayumu’s opposite in many ways, in that she puts in tremendous effort, but still doesn’t manage to pass.

Due to a series of circumstances, including those involving Ayumu, it seems that she’ll be forced to repeat a year, with absolutely nothing in the rules that gets her out of it. Desperate to get around that, she runs around school asking anyone she can for help, ultimately coming upon Kirara, a small (though it would be dangerous to call her that) and somewhat sadistic girl, who is also the head and sole member of the debate club. She says that there’s a single way for Yumina to avoid having to repeat a year. If nothing in the rules allow it, she must simply change the rules, by participating in the upcoming election and becoming student council president. Yumina, being easily led on, quickly agrees and Ayumu also joins. And later on a mysterious, strange, and food obsessed girl names Ai transfers to the school and also joins.

The complete debate club works hard on their election versus the varying other clubs in the school. However, it’s important to note that the election at Jinbu academy is very different from other elections, involving a tournament style elimination structure, and being centered around debate battles that involve Ethereal technology, which works kind of like holograms. And even beyond the issues with dealing with the various competitors they must face in the election, there also seems to be something mysterious happening behind the scenes at Jinbu Academy that seems far bigger than the election itself.

***

Yumina the Ethereal is primarily a visual novel though it does have a good amount of game play in the form of combat during debate battles and otherwise. The game play is a turn based RPG with combat during the main story as well as in a fantasy themed dungeon crawler portion called the Ordacle that exists pretty much completely separate from the main story and has a storyline that can only be told across three playthroughs. The combat is decent at best, having some unique mechanics, but not really much depth, in that there are a lot of abilities, but there isn’t a lot of variation among them. The battles can also feel very slow, even when sped up, but for the most part are paced well enough with the main story that this never becomes an issue. The Ordacle itself, was very annoying at first, because doing side quests in the Ordacle is completely and utterly annoying. Thankfully, I quickly discovered its possible to ignore them all and do your best to avoid combat in dungeons and still be perfectly fine in terms of being properly leveled. That made combat much more bearable. I would like to note that there were some elements that were incredibly annoying such as essentially being required to have certain abilities, mainly chain stasis and hydroblaster, at the right levels for certain bosses without any prior warning, wherein if you haven’t gotten the abilities yet it may require reloading a much older save. I would also like to note that an extra combat type is added about half way through that adds a good amount of diversity to the combat, which did help a good amount in preventing it from feeling repetitive, though it still ended up doing so somewhat. So all in all the game play wasn’t particularly great, but it was good enough for what it was in keeping the player involved and at the minimum wasn’t a hindrance.

The structure of the visual novel portion is centered primarily around choosing what events to do, in that you are able to do two events a day, one morning and one evening, with a limit on the number of days. These events often chain together, and hence the order they are performed in needs to be carefully considered. These VN portions can ultimately give you abilities to use during combat, but they are also the primary means of telling the story. I felt that this structure was somewhat lacking, in that it was somewhat hard to follow and quite easy to do events in such a way that it feels out of order. This was especially true if you take the Ordacle related events into account. The game is also divided into two portions, the first of which takes place at Jinbu Academy and goes through the election, and that sets the stage for the next phase, which takes place in space. Jinbu Academy is also where you choose which route you end up on in the second half, with the choices being Yumina, Kirara, and Ai. The academy portion was pretty laid back, very slice of life feeling, though there were some obvious things that were bizarre with a major mystery lurking in the background. The space portion was far more intense and exciting, being at a whole other level than the election portion. However, to go through the various routes, its necessary to go back and forth between them, which I felt was pretty awkward, though the true ending did wrap things up nicely.

The routes, in terms of my playing order, which in hindsight I think is the best order:

Kirara’s route was interesting. She’s a very interesting girl being somewhat sadistic but also gentle, though her route was also somewhat depressing. Her character design I wasn’t too fond of, and though at first I really liked her personality, to be honest that decreased a bit as the story went on . The backstory on how Galeorn became someone she despised was interesting and one of the most important plot points for her, but how she didn’t get revenge at all in the end was somewhat unsatisfying, though I can understand the point they were making about moving on. I was worried they were going to sort of end it on a cliff hanger, but they fully developed the ending with the flash forward ten years later and it was great to see everyone doing well. Her ED was also great, though it wasn’t really unique to her. Also, how she was suddenly in a relationship was really random.

Ai’s routes plot seems to take the base story from Kirara’s route, and extend it, exposing a whole host of other characters and taking things further, such that the overall lore of the universe comes together much better. The plot itself from a character development point of view was also more interesting than Kirara’s, with a plot oriented around whether she should be her own person or to continue on the goals that were given to her when she was young, which ultimately amount to chasing after her sister. The ending was where the majority of the story was told, which resulted in it proceeding very differently from what I expected, but in terms of structure it makes sense, and ultimately it came to a reasonably satisfying conclusion. Her ED was decent and fit her pretty well.

Yumina’s route is the route that takes things the furthest, in terms of lore and plot. It builds upon everything introduces in the other routes, and adds quite a bit more. It also has a lot of unique moments, such as going through everyone else’s perspectives for certain events. Yumina is also someone who I didn’t like much at first, but as her character was developed she quickly became my favorite character. She’s an airhead that pretty much derives power from her airheadedness while also being kind and overtly selfless, but learning to be selfish. Her route came to the most solid conclusion of the three, which was also quite satisfying. I should also note that this route has the most music, which was great, and her ED is both good and fitting.

The conclusion route, thats unlocked upon finishing all other routes and finishing the Ordacle, was a solid way to wrap up everything bringing everything from school and space together in one epic finale. Though not exactly, it pretty much picks up near the ending of Yumina’s route, but goes in a different direction. There’s a focus on having a lot more depth to it, that primarily manifests itself in existentialist concepts being discussed when arguing with Barais, and although that in itself was rather weak and didn’t make much sense, feeling very awkwardly put together, the emotional aspects surrounding it were reasonably strong. The ending was interesting in that it doesn’t quite end for the main characters, even though a lengthy conclusion is given for the side characters. That the story is very much still going is kind of awkward in that it clearly hasn’t reached a conclusion yet, but the characters seem perfectly happy and it allows them to stay together, which was especially nice to see in the journal, but they’re still drifting outside the universe. Ultimately, it’s a rather strange feeling to be completely done with the whole novel like that. It doesn’t feel like it’s completely over, and it makes me kind of miss them and want to know what they get up to afterwards.

As for some overall comments, the music was fantastic, which makes sense as it was a core story portion. The art was decent though not exceptional, across sprites and CGs. The character designs were decent as well. The voices were fine, though it was weird to only have Ayumu voiced in some scenes.

A VN with passable game play that has a major genre shift that somehow works pretty well.

8/10

It’s disappointed the fandisc will never happen.

Also I’m surprised they translated all the info of each skill and item. That must have taken forever and was completely pointless as few would read it. I’d rather they have just saved the time and money.

Also, it’s really hard to find good images of this game to use for the header. :/

Majikoi S

majikois

Majikoi S is sort of a sequel to Majikoi, in that you should absolutely go through Majikoi first, but also sort of a prequel, sidequel, and alternate. So in terms of how it places the story, it’s everywhere. It doesn’t branch off of any single route of Majikoi, but rather has branches for pretty much all of the main ones, though some branches get significantly more material than others. All of Majikoi’s main heroines, Momoyo, Wanko, Chris, Yukie, and Mayuki, routes all get sequels, but they’re all kind of short and sweet rather than heavy in development. They all go further in showing off the growth each of the heroines had in their previous routes, while also having a bit of slice of life. There’s generally very little conflict, and they all serve as a sort of epilogue to the epilogues in Majikoi. In addition to the heroine routes, there are also two branches off of the Agave route, the final route of Majikoi. One of these is the Kazama family route, and like the heroine routes serves as a sort of light epilogue without much development. To be completely honest, I was hoping for quite a bit more from all of these, but they were nice in their own way.

The other branch off of the Agave route is the first main route, Tatsuko’s route. It explores the themes of family and such pretty well, and gets to a pretty satisfying ending. Now while this is considered a main route, and it definitely has more plot and development than the other routes mentioned so far of Majikoi S, it’s still pretty lacking compared to the main routes in Majikoi and was more to the level of a side route. I quite liked Tatsuko in Majikoi, and her character definitely shone in this, so I find it somewhat unfortunate that she only got so much.

All of the rest of the routes branch off of the No Relationship route from Majikoi, which is essentially the route where nothing happens. Hence, it’s starting the story essentially from a blank slate, which is an interesting choice that I was somewhat skeptical about, but it worked out quite a bit nicely because while throwing out most everything from the first one did feel a bit strange, it prevented the creators from being boxed in and let them go wherever they wanted in terms of story, which they take in a completely new direction that sets the stage for so much more than any previous route could. All of this begins with a common route, which is where I feel the core part of Majikoi S begins, because there’s a difference in tone and intensity as well as the feelings of a new beginning. It serves as a solid set up and introduces a whole cast of new characters, though most of them don’t have routes in Majikoi S. It then opens up a single choice over which character to pick, Tsubama, Margrit, Monshiro, or Kokoro.

Tsubame’s route is the first route that felt like a full fledged route, with a great action, a solid story, major character development, and an epic finale. It revolves around Tsubame’s ambition and how that impacts those around her, but also develops Mamoyo’s and Yamato’s relationship as siblings quite a bit. It then branches off two ways depending on a choice made towards the end, regarding which takes the lead in the relationship. That felt like a pointless split though to be honest, and Yamato felt quite off in he branch where Tsubame takes the lead. Still, overall this route was pretty great, at the level of the routes from Majikoi.

The latter three were quite a bit different from Tsubame’s however. Margrit’s route revolves around her development as a normal girl. The entrance to the route is pretty abrupt. There was definitely a good amount of character development, but the plot felt at the level of a side route, without much depth. Monshiro’s route also had a good amount of character development, mostly surrounding her relationship with her mother and her desire to prove herself to her, but the story was also lacking in terms of plot and also felt more like a side route than a main route. In the exact same vein, Kokoro also had a route with good character development, mostly revolving around her pride, but was also lacking story. In addition to these routes, Iyo’s route can also branch off of the common route, though in a more complicated manner, and similarly also has some good character development for her, though it’s even more of a side route than the others. As an overall note, it seems that Majikoi S chose to take the path of having far more routes, but having less depth to most of them. They’re all still great quality, so it’s not a matter of quality vs quantity, but more of something that comes down to preference, and I’d have to say I preferred how Majikoi was handled more.

Now, lastly there’s Koyoki’s route. It’s a bit strange, in that it doesn’t directly branch off of the No Relationship route from Majikoi, but rather involves changes that occurred far before, when Yamato and friends were still children. Other than these changes, in terms of plot and the characters involved, it’s still pretty much exactly how it is during the No Relationship Route. This route is the main route of Majikoi S in a way, similar to how the Agave route was the main route in Majikoi. It pretty much takes everything developed in all the other routes, all the hints, all the character motivations and abilities, not just from Majikoi S but Majikoi as well, and throws them into an epic story at a much larger scale than anything else so far. Some of the twists were expected, such as those involving Maple, and some of them were completely unexpected, such as those involving Seiso, but overall the story was great, and ultimately the main part of the route was just as good as Agave.

This branches off into Koyoki’s route continues depending on a choice made during the route. Honestly, this I felt was handled pretty badly and felt like it was random throw away and lazy, where it just sort of happened at the end, because the plot of the route was oriented around things at a much larger scale than just their relationship and the relationship didn’t seem all that developed at all. I much preferred how Agave was handled, in that it didn’t focus on any one character, and would have preferred that here as well, calling it Bushido route or something, with a solid non-romance end. Furthermore, I also felt that this was a tremendous waste in potential, as it resulted in a pretty weak route for Koyuki, who I thought had major potential. A route with her branching off of Agave with a happy ending could have been amazing.

In addition to all of that, there were also a bunch of easter egg type routes, such as branches off of the Hermit Crab route in Majikoi, where Yamato continues down the Hermit Crab route or ends up with Yumiko. There’s also a route, Tachibana’s, that branches off of the anime, that was really strange, but I liked her character and look forward to seeing more of her. There’s also a route with Kosugi, the ‘premium’ girl, that is unlocked after playing through the tutorial a number of times. There’s a maid route that branches off of Monshiro. There’s also a couple guy routes, Shima and Chosokabe which are like joke routes. Like Majikoi, veering off the path can also lead to a sudden Mayuki route, which is still funny.

The art was still stupendous. The soundtrack was still great, and the vocal tracks were all still awesome. There was a much higher usage of anime scenes as well as a lot more effects, which overall gave it these feeling of being higher budget and more polished that made it feel very high quality.

Overall, the highest high in Majikoi S was just as good as the highest high in Majikoi, and there were a good amount of these highs, but in general I feel the routes were lacking compared to the routes for the main five in Majikoi. The development of the world that took place as well as the new cast of characters were great and add a tremendous amount to the franchise, however a lot of it felt like it was somewhat of a set up, just touching the tip of the iceberg on quite a bit more to come. In that vein, this made me very much look forward to the A installments.

A solid sequel to Majikoi that sets the stage for a much longer franchise and has a lot of high quality content, but not as much content per route as it’s predecessor.

9/10

Good luck JAST. Please don’t take forever like Sumaga.

Majikoi

majikoi

In the city of Kawakami exist the Kazama family, a diverse group of students that are united as if family. It is led by and was founded by the free spirited Kazama Shouichi alongside the incredibly intelligent and politically minded tactician Yamato. But eventually, a number of others also become integral parts of the group. Some of the first to be added include the highly muscular but terrible with women Gakuto and great with computers though very shy Moro. But a the core part of the group would be the ‘samurai girls’, all of whom are incredibly powerful: First off Momoyo of the Kawakami temple and Yamato’s honorary older sister, who is ridiculously overpowered to the point of ridiculousness. There’s also her adopted younger sister Wanko, who is very naive and simple, but a harder worker than anyone. Then there’s Wanko’s rival, Chris, a recent transfer exchange student from Germany, and hence a recent addition to the family, who believes strongly in justice and has a lot of misconceptions about Japanese society. Another new addition is Mayucchi, a girl that has a goal of making 100 friends, but is awful at dealing with people making this goal very out of reach, though she’s also secretly incredibly powerful. Lastly there’s Miyako, who was bullied as a child but saved by the family, resulting in her obsessively being in love with Yamato and fiercely loyal to the family, though this results in a very strange personality. All of them are high school students at Kawakami Academy, and all have their own goals and motivations, leading to a number of stories involving the bonds between them and a host of other characters.

***

Majikoi is told primarily from the view of Yamato, though it occasionally switches to other characters for short periods of times. It starts off with a prologue that sets things up and introduces all the characters involved to some degree, at which point you can make choices that determine which route you go down. There are 5 main routes based on the girls Momoyo, Wanko, Chris, Mayuki, and Miyako, all of which have what are called After Stories, which are epilogues of sort. There are also 6 much shorter sub routes based on the other family members Gakuto, Moro and Capt, as well as some of Yamato’s other class mates Chikarin and Mayo, and also their teacher Kojima. There are 2 bizarre endings that are somewhat of bad ends, though they pretty much end instantaneously. There’s also an ending where nothing really happens and it just ends almost immediately. Lastly, there’s what’s called the Agave route, which only unlocks upon completing all the other main routes, and may also in a way be seen as the final route.

The prologue was handled pretty well in that it set up all the characters and events that were to come, though overall not much really happened beyond that, so it felt slow towards the end and longer than it should have been. The rest of the routes are described in the order I went through them:

Momoyo’s route focused on her dissatisfaction with not having anyone that could match her in terms of strength, and Yamato trying to find her something else to be passionate about. This eventually leads Yamato to truly begin to pursue his own dreams, to become someone who can help Kawakami, which is a bit generic, but plays well into the plot line surrounding Momoyo, which ultimately comes to a point where Yamato must prove himself worthy of Momoyo. It’s highlights were that it had a lot of intense action, where every character got to shine in the final  battle, but the focus was still heavily on Yamato, his abilities, and his own progression, even more so than Momoyo’s, though that’s not to say she didn’t grow as well.

Wanko’s route was heavily focused on her pursuing her dream of becoming an assistant master at Kawakami Temple, but ultimately simply not having the talent for it. It came to a very different conclusion than I was expecting, which was in a way heart breaking but incredibly powerful. It was a very good twist on a standard message, that you should give it all to pursuing you dream, but that in the end that there are other paths other than your first major dream, though any hard work you put in never goes to waste. A con I had with this route though compared to Momoyo was that it was too heavily focused on her and that there wasn’t much good action beyond the fight with Chris.

Capt’s route was very cliche and about saving a book store through gambling and then writing a book. It hit the themes of being a hero and the pressures of reality alongside also the joy of creation and working together with a party to support the hero. It was very pointed which makes sense considering how short it was, but its a side route so that’s expected. It was lacking depth but enjoyable for what it is.

Chikarin’s route was rather boring. There was some sort of message in there about being open to different people and things. But there was no major plot and it was just a jumble of a bunch of events. There were some character development and plot points hinted at such as having to choose between friendship and love as well as an overbearing girlfriend, but they were never fully developed. Chikarin isn’t a bad character, but she’s not all that interesting either, at least here.

Chris’s route was about her growing from a princess dependent on her father to someone strong in her own right, including beyond just physical strength. This is centered around a story about the incredible strength of love and how difficult it is to actually be dependable. It was really predictable, but cute. The love aspects were done mostly very well but some parts felt very awkward. Some parts also felt like they were too slow and dragged on too long as well. The last battle was also pretty interesting but I feel it was not as epic as it could have been.

Moro’s route dealt with the issues of having to deal with people around him that are so much greater than him, resulting in him feeling small and feeling like his own problems didn’t matter enough to discuss with anyone. He ultimately also has a string of small failures, in both test scores and creating games, all of which ultimately lead him to believe that he has no potential. All really hit home and I think was done well so I very strongly sympathize, though ultimately I feel the ending felt a bit weak and didn’t do much to conclude anything, but rather just brush it all aside.

Mayo’s route showcased that she’s a pretty awesome character. Her diligence and earnestness is amazing, and having to actually deal with whether that’s actually worth it was an interesting concept. Though as with most sub stories, not much plot or depth.

Mayuchi’s route was centered around her goal of becoming more social and making more friends, 100 to be exact. It was heavily friendship focused, but in a very awkward but well meaning way so it was interesting. There was very good progression in her slowly becoming friends with Oowada and Kokoro, though I feel there was a disconnect in becoming friends with both of them essentially separately. However, I think an important point about how its more important to have good friends than a lot of friends was glossed over. The subplot with the tournament was great too in that Yamato and all characters got to shine and there was great action. Kokoro and Ageha getting their time in the spotlight was especially cool. “Kuyashi no ja”.  Ultimately the best in terms of that so far.

Gakuto’s route was focused on how sadly pathetic Gakuto is despite meaning well. Incredibly predictable and cliche but amusing nevertheless. Chikarin is much more cruel than she is in other routes and a lot of other people’s actions also felt very off. There really wasn’t much meaning to anything either.

Kojima’s route revolved around Yamato being a teachers pet, which was fun. It was incredibly rushed and abrupt though, even for a side story. The message about how it really sucks to feel like you’ve missed out on the good part of life or completely irreparably screwed it up was very apparent, though a message beyond that about how there’s still hope or something never really materialized.

Miyako’s route revolves around her having a very anti-social character, not in the sense that she’s awkward like Mayuki, but rather the opposite in that she’s very good at dealing with people, but because of how she was bullied when she was younger due to her mother’s promiscuousness, she actively looks down on them and tries not to get involved with anyone outside of the Kazama family, and hence is somewhat overtly attached to the family and especially Yamato. Also because it starts off so happy you know that things are about to get a lot worst, which is heart rending. There’s a sense of impending doom that eventually arrives. I have some social anxiety so I can definitely sympathize tremendously so it by far the strongest emotional impact on me. The part where she had to apologize to the archery club was surprisingly pretty intense. Capt side story in it was an interesting idea and worked pretty well. The ending was somewhat too abrupt, but her After Story was surprisingly good so that worked out. Overall the one I got the most into. “Shomonai”

And ultimately there was the final route, which I’m also considering as the main route. All the other routes felt like a build up to it, especially considering all the 4th wall breaking referring to it. It wrapped things up perfectly. All the characters got their due. It was especially nice to see the characters that were only slightly in the other routes, the Takagi family mostly, as well as the motivations behind some of the other mysterious characters. There were awesome battles, the best in the series other than possible the ending to Momoyo’s route.  The plot was awesome and resolved the vast majority of things that were touched on in the other routes, finally making the story feel complete. And the tactics and planning involved worked out great. The ending separation was sad though, with a message about time always moving forward, but it fit perfectly, and was all the more impactful after all the other routes, so it was an incredible ending to an all around fantastic VN.

The way that the VN was structured, so that you didn’t have to go back and go through remaking choices in a multitude of places and having to fast forward between parts, but rather, just made a bunch of decisions and were set on a route, was one that I think worked out very well and one that I haven’t seen much in VNs like this. I would also like to remark that I feel that there was a lot of depth to both the tactics and combat throughout and that choosing to focus on the tactician of the group rather than the ‘heroic leader’ was definitely one of the strengths. The comedy was also spectacular, with many broad strokes for the many different kinds of characters.

On a final note, the art was great, both in terms of the characters designs and the quality of the sprites and CG. The music was also really good, both the soundtrack and the OP and the two EDs. Voice acting was good as well, and I preferred it over the animes.

An all around fantastic slice of life and action VN with a good focus on a lighthearted battles of wits.

10/10

Also, why the hell is there no render for the logo? Had to render it myself and I’m not very good at that. >_>