Sunday, October 21, 2012

Games for Adults: Shuffle!

Shuffle! Review
            While Da Capo may have been Mangagamer’s first game release to have an anime based on it, at the time following its release many considered it to be a fluke or possibly the closest thing to a big name game that it would ever release. This was because many were still in doubt over MG’s translation quality and its survival in the market. The release of Shuffle! on August 15, 2009 changed all that as its surprise release and subsequent announcement of a deal with Navel officially cemented in the idea that Mangagamer was indeed here to stay and also started that “can do” attitude that the company has that’s had many eroge fans looking to it for the big name games. This is because Shuffle! is probably the most well known eroge on this side of the ocean as a result of its anime next probably to Kanon, and as a result it’s Mangagamer’s bestseller after the recently released Koihime Musou. It also has quite the fanbase in its country of origin seeing the having been rereleased twice with new heroine routes and story elements, two fan discs that each focus on one of the heroines (one of said fan discs receiving Nintendo DS port), and quite a bit more which goes to show how famous this game is. Now without further delay, let’s take a look at Shuffle!.
Pros: Overall good story, diverse plot, good characters, great artwork, good music, interesting setting.
Cons: Abrupt beginning, passage of time isn’t handled well at some points in the story, not all heroines are winnable (in this version).
WTF?!: How do the kings of the gods and demons get anything done government wise if they’re Rin’s neighbors?
            In Shuffle! you play as Rin Tsuchimi a pretty much normal student in a world where gods and demons live among humans as a result of an incident that connected their worlds to the human world. His normal life takes a bizarre turn when two new transfer students, a god and demon, arrive at his school. It’s revealed that they are both princesses of their respective worlds and they’re both arranged to marry Rin, a revelation that certainly surprises our hero and his circle of friends (especially of the opposite sex). Will Rin choose to pursue a romance with these princesses who seem to know him from childhood or will his future lie with one of the girls counted among his circle of friends?
            In the area of story, Shuffle! has a pretty good plot and interesting characters that are likable. The character interactions are both interesting and funny, especially with the interactions with the heroines. If there’s one thing Shuffle! does a good job with it’s in establishing and portraying the relationship Rin develops with each heroine. Each interaction reveals something about your chosen heroine from personality quirks, back story, and also provides hints at the coming drama that will occur as Rin’s relationship with them becomes more serious. I’ve got to admit that for a game that’s mainly a slice of life romantic comedy it does present the dramatic moments fairly well. Depending on the route some of the story elements that we see include learning to forgive oneself for causing another pain even though that person has already forgiven you, moving on from the living for a deceased loved one, and how self sacrifice can sometimes cause more harm than good. These moments are kept from clashing with the lighter parts of the story because the story is written so as to ease the reader into it, and each dramatic part to the story is given just the right amount of depth so that it doesn’t undermine the previous events of its respective scenario (though I will admit that Sia’s had a pretty abrupt conclusion). Some have argued that the drama isn’t deep enough or that it’s shown better in other games, but for the former I just explained and the latter I think that’s a pretty unfair comparison. Many of the games I find people bring up in comparison tend to be of the more dramatic story heavy variety, which isn’t what Shuffle! is. That’s like comparing Transformers to Gundam.
            The setting for this game is also interesting in the game does a good job of explaining how the situation with the connected three worlds came to be and its affect on the human world. I will admit I would have preferred if they’d shown a bit more than they told, but considering the fandiscs and rereleases seem to provide this (though this is mainly hearsay) I’ll be willing to let it slide for now.
            Now for my route preferences:
1)      Kaede
2)      Nerine
3)      Tie between Asa and Primula
4)      Sia
            Now while I enjoyed the game’s story, it does have its flaws. To begin with, the start of this game is a bit abrupt since it begins by dropping you into the middle of a conversation between Rin and two other characters without any introduction at all. This makes for a pretty weak start since it makes you feel a bit lost, but fortunately things build up well enough from there once more of the main cast is introduced.  Another problem in this game’s story is the passage of time from day to day, some day occurrences are just shown as very brief and pointless and you end up wondering why they didn’t just skip over that day entirely. The only other flaw, admittedly a minor one, is that sadly there are unwinnable heroines, and I’m afraid they’re only winnable in the expanded edition which we didn’t get (yet, I hope).
            In the presentation department, this game still looks really good despite the fact that it came out in Japan over 7 years ago. The artwork is excellent, the voice acting very well done, the music goes along well with its appointed scenes, and best of all this game even manages to make browsing through the extras menu fun. There’s basically an amusing little commentary from each heroine depending on what you select and when browsing the CG section if you start from one heroines CG set and move on to another heroine’s that heroine will have something to say about her and vice versa. You can spend quite a bit of time going through each combination, though if you don’t understand spoken Japanese the fun may be lost on you.
           As for the ero scenes, they’re pretty much good. They’re placed at the right points in the story, the art’s good, and they’re written well enough into the plot.
In Conclusion:
Shuffle! is a an enjoyable romantic comedy that you can easily appreciate for what it is. With each route having its own unique and over all nicely told story, you’ll hardly feel the 30-35 hours it takes to complete this game pass. Hopefully this game will do well enough that we can get either of its two fandiscs and maybe even the expanded version someday.
Final Score: 7/10 Great
Recommendation: Buy it now.
You can buy a copy of the game here.
            On a side note, if you want my opinion on the anime I’ll say that for the most part I liked it. The anime has a better start than the game does and it does a good job in putting several scenes from different routes together to tell a pretty enjoyable story…until after episode 15. From there I just couldn’t enjoy it anymore because that was the point where the series pretty much starts clearing the way for the route that the anime’s going to follow. Sadly this results in events that make sure the other routes have no chance of happening and this is where the anime creators took some creative liberties that I quite frankly didn’t like, especially with Sia and Kaede. This also results in Rin being portrayed as annoyingly indecisive, which he isn’t in the original game. Other than that, the anime’s fine and is worth a look if you liked the game (which is more than I can say for some anime adaptations of VNs). I think the game is superior, but I will admit that the anime had a much better opening.

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