Saturday, October 27, 2012

Import Games for Adults Halloween: Kansen 2 ~Inzai Toshi~

Kansen 2 ~Inzai Toshi~ Review

            The first Kansen game was a good example of making a good survival horror themed eroge with its likable cast of characters and a story to keep you on edge for both main routes (not to mention it made a pretty ridiculous sounding zombie concept something you could take seriously). So naturally, it was a hit, despite the fact that it was obviously made on a budget. The next thing for Speed to do in light of that was to make a sequel, which was released June 15, 2007, and from the start it shows how they put work into making it bigger and better than its predecessor with a bigger setting in a large mall (pretty obvious what that’s a tribute to), a bigger cast of characters, improved artwork, and a longer story. Sadly, all that effort failed as Kansen 2 turned out to be a shining example of how bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better.

Pros: Some of the main characters are likable, better artwork than the last game (for the most part), Maya’s route, story revelations behind the outbreak are interesting, character POV switching was an interesting idea.

Cons: A number of the game’s characters have no real plot importance, Alice’s route, Miki and Naomi are unwinnable, no ero scenes in the good endings, other ero scenes feel gratuitous, Infection route’s endings are disappointing, timed choices, the zombies look ridiculous.

WTF?!: These are the game’s zombies…scary huh?

            Kansen 2 takes place at about the same time as the first game, starting a couple days before the outbreak. You play primarily from the point of view of student Hiroshi Ohkura as he and his friends go on a class trip to the city’s supermall for a look at possible future career choices. Soon the outbreak occurs and Hiroshi and co. end up having to work with the few remaining uninfected that they meet in the mall to somehow make it out alive.

            All of this sounds like the setup for a very good zombie story and at first it looks it too with the game introducing a very diverse cast of characters brought together by this one disaster and having to cooperate to survive. Unfortunately, the story runs into two main stumbling blocks: the characters and its higher ero content. The problem Kansen 2 has concerning its characters is that it doesn’t really handle them well. While most of the core cast is likable only a few of them are given good story roles, while the rest kind of get shafted as characters go. This includes one of the two winnable heroines, Alice, who already has the problem of coming across as a clone of Yu from the first game. I will admit that the writer at least tried to deviate from that problem later so I won’t count it as a major flaw, considering the flaw concerning her character lies with her route. Let me start by saying this, both endings for her route are good ones as we get either a nice bittersweet conclusion or a dark almost cliffhanger-ish conclusion that hints at more going on behind the outbreak and its containment. These two endings are sadly marred by a story from Alice’s POV where very little except ero scenes happen and she has to interact with two of the three most useless (and unlikable) characters in this game, which really lessens the effect of both endings.

            Speaking of heroines that get the shaft, Kansen 2 also suffers from having two heroines not being winnable, but for different reasons. The first case is with Miki, who we’re introduced to fairly early on and not only is she a likable character, but she also has interesting story behind why she’s at the mall with her trying to find her boyfriend who she was waiting to meet when the outbreak occurs. Sadly the game only uses her character as rape bait and nothing else, even the so called “conclusion” to her subplot in the Infection route is handled badly. Now I realize in a comment concerning the first game I said I didn’t mind Tomomi being unwinnable since the story already has her in a relationship, but in that case we know both her and Yuji pretty well, making their being unavoidably infected such a tragedy while in this game we never see Miki’s boyfriend except in one scene during the Infection route so there’s no emotional investment there. Considering one of the main dramatic themes in the Kansen series is the main characters having to deal with the loss of friends and loved ones as a result of the outbreak one could have easily given Miki a route based on that, so really she comes off as a missed opportunity.

            Speaking of missed opportunities, we now move on to the second unwinnable heroine to get the shaft (no pun intended), Naomi. My main problem is that her only role in the game’s story is in the Infection route as we play through it primarily between her and Hiroshi’s points of view as Naomi is an SDF soldier sent into the mall to look for and rescue any survivors shortly after all the main characters get infected. What’s interesting is when Naomi encounters Hiroshi and co., Hiroshi is able to maintain his sanity and is able to get some of the group to keep theirs and rather than try to kill them, Naomi ends up making it her mission to get them out to try and get them treated while there’s still time. The writing for the route does a good job in showing that Naomi’s choice to do this isn’t one based on compassion alone due to the aforementioned portrayal of Hiroshi and co. plus her willingness to go the extra mile to save them not only helps in portraying her as an awesome character considering how much the odds are against her, but it also gives some subtle depth to her character as you wonder how much her motivation is backed by not wanting the rest of her team to have died in vain. It’s no exaggeration that Naomi makes the Infection route so memorable, but the problem is the two endings; they’re both insultingly abrupt and Naomi is just suddenly removed from the picture. If the writer was trying for a tragic conclusion, then I’m afraid that failed because of how abrupt both endings are as it leaves you with more of a “that’s it?” kind of feeling than anything else. Actually no, it does leave you with one more feeling; after completing the Infection route and you reflect a bit about it, you wonder why the writer didn’t have Naomi in the main story as there are a few characters  that could have easily been written out, which brings us to the next flaw.

            Perhaps the one of the most significant flaws Kansen 2 has concerning its characters is its inclusion of three characters who are completely useless to the plot. The two biggest offenders (and also the ones that made Alice’s route suck) being Ryuya and Chihiro Nagasaki. Part of what makes Ryuya such a useless character is that his role in the story is supposed to be as a villain, but that role is pretty much confounded by the fact that the way Kansen 2 is written it doesn’t really need a villain as the zombies are more than enough of a threat. Now I know you can have an effective human villain in zombie stories; someone who comes off as a different but still very significant threat to the characters, but in Ryuya’s case, he just doesn’t have the character for it. The only thing that makes him threatening to the other characters is that he happens to have a knife on him while the others are unarmed, but what really makes him such a crappy villain is the fact that his only motivation throughout the game is to molest anything female that he sees to the point that he barely seems to care about the zombies. This makes him more annoying than villainous, but in all honesty the main thing that makes Ryuya useless as a character is that overall, he barely does anything storywise. He mainly just features in Alice’s route, and is barely in Maya’s, and his only real role in the Infection route is for Naomi and Hiroshi to yell at him from time to time.

            Moving on to Chihiro (notice I have no gripes about her being unwinnable), she actually suffers from about the same problems I have with Ryuya, including really only featuring in Alice’s route and contributing nothing to the overall plot. However I have two main problems with this character, the first being that similar to Ryuya she’s also attracted to just about anything female plus she has a snooty disdain for anything male. I won’t play any anti-homosexual stereotypes complaints card since I don’t know enough about the issue to make an appropriate argument, but I really hate the man hating bitch character type since it more often than not results in an annoying character and Chihiro is sadly no exception since that and her attraction to Alice are the two main aspects of her character. My second problem is that unlike Ryuya, we see a glimmer of likability in Chihiro in the Infection route where she actually has a couple of amusing moments interacting with the main cast like when she basically has them raid the mall’s clothes shops since they need new clothes and no one’s really going to care now. We actually get to see Chihiro have an actual conversation with the other characters rather than her drooling over Alice like in the rest of the game and subsequently this is one of the few scenes where she acts like a believable character rather than a heroine whose only real purpose is to be in ero scenes.

            Finally we come to the final useless character that the writer didn’t even bother to name; basically Hiroshi and co., while fleeing the zombies, come across this girl hiding from the zombies who they decide to take with them despite the fact that she’s obviously mentally unstable. Now originally my problem with this character was that their taking her with them even though she’s obviously been infected seemed pretty stupid, but considering they don’t find out about the infection until later I’m willing to let it slide on the grounds that the group did it out of compassion. My guess is that maybe she was supposed to be a tragic sort of character who we see is doomed to become a zombie and slowly lose her remaining sanity and our not learning her name was supposed to add to the tragedy, but if that’s the case the writer failed to accomplish that as first the character’s lapses between sanity and insanity come off as annoying rather than dramatic so they don’t illicit much sympathy for her either and second the character has absolutely no impact on both the story and the characters. This is seen best when she finally leaves the group so that the infection can run its course away from them; this is supposed to be a dramatic scene where we see a character sacrifice herself for her companions but this scene falls flat because we never see her get close to Hiroshi and co. and she barely interacts with them so there isn’t much of a sense of loss and finally after this scene and Hiroshi and co. move on to the next part of the mall, this character is never brought up again. In the end you’re left wondering just what the point was.

            Now having said all that, you might think I utterly hate this game, but there is one redeeming story element besides the majority of the Infection route: Maya’s route. This is the only all around good one from its start as not only does Maya make for a good sympathetic heroine as the writer did a good job in demonstrating the personal loss she goes through as the result of the outbreak, but the character development in the route is handled well in how we see Maya bond with the rest of the group as well as how we see develop from the shy introverted girl we initially meet into a significantly stronger young lady. Also well-developed is the Hiroshi and Maya’s relationship as it does a good job in first establishing it as friendship brought on by Hiroshi having a role in helping in encouraging her to survive (it also helps in establishing him as her first real friend) and when we finally see the beginnings of romance at the end of her route it feels believable because of all they’ve gone through to make it out alive and as it becomes apparent that they’re both really all they each have by the end. There’s really only one flaw to this route, but I’ll get to it later.

            Now while the game doesn’t have any real gameplay it does have it that you can change character perspectives at certain points in the story and you unlock more as you complete routes. It makes for an interesting addition as we learn a bit more about some of the characters (it is interesting to see things from Yuki’s perspective) and a little background info about the virus. Sadly this isn’t used as well as it should and its main purpose is to unlock ero scenes. A new addition that wasn’t in the original game, which I sadly have to count as a con, is some of the choices are timed. The reason this is a con is because it only gives you three seconds to make your choice, a bit of problem if you’re only semi-literate, even if you are using a walkthrough as you need to read the choice fast if you want to make the right choice. I get it was supposed to add an edge to the choice making, but three seconds is way too short and comes off as an annoyance instead. I realize Mass Effect 2 had those dialogue interrupts that lasted about that long, but that did not result in a game over if you missed it, and while other VNs like the Moero Downhill Night series and the Sakura Wars series have timed choices those at least gave you enough time to read the choices. I will say that the game at least gives you the option to continue right before the timed choice after the game over, but it’s still annoying none the less.

            Presentation-wise, this game does a lot right. For the most part, the artwork is superior to the first games as the characters are better drawn and the music, while mostly the same as the first game’s, does have better sound quality. There’s only one problem in the art department; as can be seen in the WTF?! back at the top: the zombies look ridiculous. In the first game, the zombies looked off but still came off as creepy and intimidating, but in this game, they just look silly, including the core cast that gets infected. This makes for a really bad contrast with the first game because in that game, when one of the core cast got infected and the group ran into them it was unsettling not only because you’d grown to like them over the course of playing but also because the way they looked and acted as zombies was almost like a twisted mockery of their original personality. In Kansen 2 we only see this happen to one character, Yuki, but all the other characters that get infected don’t have that depth of change and they don’t look any bit intimidating (I dare you to take a look at an infected Miki’s character portrait and not laugh).

            Finally we get to the ero scenes and this is one of the few cases where I have two cons that seem so opposed to each other. While the artwork and voice acting is pretty good, the problem is that the ero scenes just come off as gratuitous. In the first game there was some actual purpose to each scene such as showing the incoming danger of the outbreak or the horror of seeing a friend so utterly changed by the infection, while in this game, the ero scenes just feel like they’re there just to be there; like the game is more interested in showing ero scenes than telling a story. This ends up making the game come off as boring at certain points, which is not a good thing for a survival horror themed game. My next complaint is that for all the ero scenes this game has strewn throughout its story, there are no ero scenes between Hiroshi and either Maya or Alice in their good endings, only in final bad ending for their routes. Some of you may wonder why I’m complaining about that just after complaining about the gratuitous ero scenes, and the reason is simple: if any ero scenes were of importance to the plot those would be it. To better explain, in the first game the final ero scene that occurred between Yasuyuki and either Yu or Hitomi served not only as a way of showing them taking the solidifying step in their relationship that had been built up from almost the beginning, but it also served as a culmination of sorts of the pair making it through all the danger and drama of the route and serves as not just some sort of reward or salve for the loss they experience but also as a setup for them moving on past the events of the route. The lack of this in Kansen 2 essentially lessens the effectiveness of the good endings, and while I understand that with the way both endings are written an ero scene would have been hard to include in the main part of the end of the route but an epilogue could have worked.

Character Profiles:

Hiroshi Ookura:
The main character of the game, Hiroshi ends up being the un-appointed leader of the group of survivors after the outbreak begins. A good natured fellow to a fault, Hiroshi can’t abandon someone in need.

Alice Hayami:
One of Hiroshi’s friends and classmates. Gets along so well with Hiroshi one would almost assume they were a couple.

Maya Jinguji:
The daughter of the head of a large company, Maya has lead a pretty secluded life and main company is her dog, Jean, and her grandfather. Has seen Hiroshi, Alice, and Yuki while walking her dog and has wanted to actually meet them, but never has had the nerve to do so.

Yuki Kobayashi:
Another of Hiroshi’s classmates, and his best friend. Is very popular with girls as they consider him a pretty boy, though he doesn’t seem all that interested by that.

Miki Anzai:
A recent graduate from medical school, Miki works in the nearby hospital and is currently in a relationship with one of the medical staff. Like Hiroshi, she also feels a need to help those who need it and takes it upon herself to help Hiroshi and his friends escape.

Chihiro Nagasaki:
Popular, athletic, and intelligent, Chihiro is admired by the many girls at her school like an idol and she’s more than happy to return those feelings of her admirers. Hates men.

Naomi Tsuruta:
A soldier from the JSDF sent in as part of a team to find any survivors. After she barely escapes her team being annihilated by the horde of infected, she encounters Hiroki and his friends, unaware of their being infected.

Ryuya Sugou:
A truck driver for a local transportation company, Ryuya is a vulgar and selfish man who has no problem using the outbreak as an excuse to satisfy his own self-interests, especially concerning any women he may encounter.

Hiroshi and co. encounter her while hiding from the infected. Shows obvious signs of being mentally unstable from the start.

In Conclusion:

Kansen 2 is a game that I really wish I didn’t have to render such a harsh judgment upon. It’s obvious that the creators put work into it in order to make it a game to surpass its predecessor. However before it can even take the first step forward, it stumbles back and falls on the weaker story and characters, and bumps its head on the bad placement of ero scenes, not scary zombie designs and timed  choices. It does get credit for picking itself up with Maya’s route and an improved (but sadly flawed) Infection route. While those two elements save it from being a horrible game, it’s still not that good a game, and (especially considering the price for importing) I only recommend it to people who really like the Kansen series and want a little more background information concerning the virus.

Final Score: 5/10 Average

Recommendation:  Avoid it.

As for the two episode anime, I will say the first episode is decent. However, there are two things I’m not particularly fond of in it, both of which I’d consider just my luck. First, considering how much I liked Maya’s route, guess who’s completely written out of the story? And don’t tell me it’s because her character design looks too loli, they could have easily changed how her character looks to make her look older in that case. Then again since the anime adaptations always follow the bad ends, maybe it was for the better. Next, the second episode focuses on Chihiro…enough said.

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