Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Games for Adults: Guilty ~The SiN~

Guilty ~The SiN~ Review

            If there’s one genre that I wish we’d get more of in the English VN department, it would be the dark genre. By that I mean games with a dark story (preferably of the fantasy, horror, or science fiction type) and complex characters like the games of Type Moon, Nitro+, Innocent Grey, and Black Cyc to name a few. The demand has been noticed considering on the all ages side we’ve gotten Higurashi no Naku koro ni, 9 Hours 9 Persons, 9 Doors, and you could even count the Shin Megami Tensei series to an extent; on the 18+ side we’ve gotten Soul Link, Divi-Dead, Nocturnal Illusion, Demonbane, and Kara no Shoujo. A recent addition to the genre on our side of the world is Tactics’ Guilty ~The SiN~ (no that is not a typo), released by Mangagamer on March 13, 2011. The only question is if it’s a good addition. The answer? Well…

Pros: Interesting story concept, interesting characters, artwork for the most part is very good, Nagi’s route.

Cons: The game falls short of taking full advantage of its story elements and characters, there are a few cases where the artwork seems to flub in quality, Mayuki’s route, the main villains aren’t very effective, Yukari and Atsumi have no routes, the awesome opening movie was not in the game.

WTF?!: Why are all the evil flunkies wearing Darth Vader masks?
            In Guilty, you play the role of Akira Kamijo a slightly troubled but otherwise normal high school student (I guess being a street fighter counts as normal in this game). His otherwise normal life of school, work in his uncle’s restaurant, and taking care of his younger sister Aya is soon thrown into turmoil as a series of events lead to various supernatural forces targeting his sister for their own purposes. Now Akira has to undertake efforts to protect Aya, acquire the power to do so, and find a way to deal with the dark curse imposed upon her that seems to be what’s attracting these demonic foes. However, as things progress it becomes apparent that the greatest threat to Aya may in fact be herself as the curse starts to take its influence…

            Okay, to be honest, this game is a difficult one to review, especially in the story section. The story for this game has all the right elements necessary to make a good dark eroge, but so many opportunities are wasted that the story can’t get past being more than plain good at best and facepalm worthy at its worst. This doesn’t make the game terrible as I’ll explain the good first.

            To begin with, the game’s story has a very interesting concept first in the setting for this game being in a world that’s only just recovered from a devastating war and inhabited by demons only barely hidden from the public eye. Also well established is Akira and Aya’s predicament as they get thrown into a dark plot completely out of their control and how they both struggle deal with it, both in recovery and in trying to keep themselves and their friends and loved ones out of danger. This makes for a pretty strong beginning though I have to admit the path to the story resolution and the resolution itself isn’t as strong as the beginning but I’ll get to that later.

            The core characters are another good part of Guilty’s story as each character has their own distinct personality and quirks (click here for profiles, remember NSFW content). It’s also interesting to see how some of the characters relate to Akira; a good example would be the father-son relationship shown between Akira and his uncle which serves to add some complexity to Akira’s character and also helps to give credibility to his development from a troubled youth into a man whose found contentment in life. The best example of character relationships though is shown in the case of Nagi Okitsu, one of Guilty’s three winnable heroines. I’ll make it clear right here that in my opinion she’s not only the best heroine in the game but her route’s the best of the three. Aside from being badass, it’s the relationship that she forms with Akira that not only helps her character shine but also makes her relationship with Akira the most believable. The interactions between the two initially portray her as a girl whose lived the life one would expect of a soldier/secret agent and as a result she can only make a passing blend into normal society but her time with Akira helps to provide her with a good look and even experience of a normal life which leads to her questioning some of her own ideals and perspectives and ultimately leads to a resolution of a major aspect of her past that’s far more satisfying than shown in the other routes (not to mention that final CG for her good ending is pretty cute).

            Now despite this initial praise it’s time for me to start on the flaws of this story and boy are there a lot of them. The main flaw, as I previously stated, is that there’s just so many wasted opportunities that could have made this a very good dark story. While the story has a strong start, it has a very rough path to the end from there. You’ll find potentially interesting story elements that are brought up but end up becoming very minor parts of the stories or are simply never brought up again. Also while the core characters are interesting, the side characters are pretty underused even though they themselves are interesting from the scenes we see of them. A good example would be Yukari Kusakabe, a character who from the beginning is shown as being a character who knows a little bit of everything concerning what’s going on with Akira and Aya and even begins training Akira to fight. All this makes her a very interesting character, but aside from not having a route, when the time comes for the story to reach its climax her involvement is disappointingly small and when it is revealed just what her relation towards the two siblings is, it’s really only treated as a minor detail and is never brought up again. Another character that really gets underused is Atsumi (also lacking a route) since she gets drawn into the initial enemy plot just like Akira and Aya, it’s strongly hinted she has feelings for Akira, and being Aya’s best friend along with the aftermath of the villain’s introduction portray her as someone important to Akira and his circle of friends. While she is somewhat absent from the plot at first, the reason is believable and is actually written really well in showing the effects of her sudden absence on the lives of Akira and co., but after she returns Atsumi doesn’t do much except be a comic relief side character.

            However the biggest flaw in this game’s story, and also where we get the best look at most of the aforementioned story flaws, is Mayuki’s route. Admittedly this route wasn’t one that I had high hopes for, I thought it would be average at best, but this route managed to dash even my lowest expectations. To start with, for a route that’s supposed to result in Akira and Mayuki getting together, the two of them barely interact with each other any more than they did in the other routes. The reason for this is because this route is essentially written to show what’s been happening on Mayuki’s end during the other two routes. This is a problem because in those two routes Akira is focusing on a heroine other than Mayuki which means that while it would make sense for the events that occur her route to happen in context with those two routes, in her own route, where she’s supposed to be Akira’s focus, those events don’t make much sense. Being the heroine of that route, she and Akira should spend significantly more time together than in the other routes, which should alter things quite a bit from how this route is actually structured. Not only that, but because there’s very little interaction between Akira and Mayuki, there’s no emotional investment at all in the two of them as a couple which results in a good ending that feels very tacked on. On the other hand, the events of the scenario make more sense leading into the bad ending which sadly comes off as a better and more believable ending than the good one because quite frankly this route reads more like your typical bad end route in which you start the “flag” for the heroine’s route but opt to focus on the other heroines instead.

It really is perplexing as to how much the writers dropped the ball in creating this route, I mean it’s not like there weren’t any story elements that could have been used to make a decent route. For instance, it’s explained that Akira and Mayuki grew up together and used to be in the same grade level but due to an accident Akira ended up a year behind and this separation has created some distance between the two which makes it hard for her to express her feelings for him; all this is brought up once and never mentioned again. Another example is that there’s mention of trouble in Mayuki’s relationship with her father, the city mayor, in that the years have transformed him from an idealistic leader who wanted to do good for the people to a corrupt politician; like before mentioned only once and never brought up again. Similarly, it is shown that Mayuki does secretly feel jealousy towards Aya for her closeness to Akira, and while it figures into the plot it’s only used as a reason to have Mayuki in the main plot, meaning it sadly isn’t used for anything else such as romantic drama or tension. The bottom line is that aside from lack of time, the writers really don’t have much excuse for creating a subpar route when they have the makings for a good one right there.

            Another story flaw that Mayuki’s route brings out is it shows how ineffective the villains of the game are (or rather villain since the true mastermind behind it all doesn’t even show up until the end). I’ll admit they have a good entrance into the story as beings not to be taken lightly, but as the story goes on they do very little until the near end of the story and there’s nothing that prevents them from going after Akira en masse while he’s still weaker than they are. One can argue that it’s because the villains are going for a subterfuge approach, but that’s quickly shot down when Mayuki’s route shows what the plan is. While the plan involves Mayuki being used against Akira and makes sense in context with Aya and Nagi’s routes, it’s really head scratching as to why our main villain would go about it the same way in Mayuki’s route considering a lot of the events that occur have a better chance of alerting Akira and his allies more than anything else and because another factor in the plan involves Mayuki getting close to Akira it’s baffling as to why the villain would implement events that are more likely to alienate the two from one another instead.

            Since I’ve made it pretty obvious as to my route preference, I will say that the best route order (if you want to enjoy the story best) is as follows:

1)      Aya (spoiler: They aren’t blood related)

2)      Mayuki (this is optional, meaning you can skip this route if you like and enjoy the story)

3)      Nagi

In the area of presentation, I will say this game did a pretty good job. The artwork is for the most part good, and the music does a good job in setting the atmosphere. The latter is best shown during some of the darker scenes as it does a good job in using a simple tune to show that something unnatural is either going on or about to happen. In the case of the former all the characters and CG are all well drawn except for a couple exceptions in which a couple CG unintentionally look weird. The only area in which the game really fails presentation-wise is, for some reason, not including the opening movie in the game since I found the song “Pearly Gates” to be really good. The song aside, the visuals for the OP were handled well and in a VN type game a good opening can make for a good way to get the player’s attention and get him/her interested in playing more so its subtraction is pretty head scratching.

When it comes to the ero content, I have to say that this game is a mixed bag. While it does have some good scenes, it also has its share of scenes I’m not very fond of especially in the tentacle area. I’ll admit I’m not a big fan of that genre, but even I have to admit I’ve seen better as quite a few of those scenes don’t have the best artwork in my opinion. I won’t elaborate too much but I will say that the problem is that in those scenes things are so obscured that it feels more like a very wrong “Where’s Waldo?” than an ero scene.

In Conclusion:

Guilty ~The SiN~ is an overall okay bordering on good eroge that while not a bad addition to the dark genre, it’s not a particularly good one either. For all its faults, it has plenty of good content, especially in Nagi’s route. If more work had been put into the rough edges of the story and Mayuki’s route, this would have scored a good deal higher. Sadly I have to say, there are better dark themed VNs out there in the English market (like the one’s I listed way up top), so I only recommend this if you’ve played them all and aren’t averse to some of the more unusual ero content.

Final Score: 6/10 Above Average

Author Recommendation: Try it out.

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