Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Demo Impression: Eroge! ~Sex and Games Make Sexy Games~


Demo Impression: Eroge! ~Sex and Games Make Sexy Games~


                Earlier this week, Managagmer announced the release date of their first game from their new partner Clock Up!, “Eroge ~Sex and Games Make Sexy Games~”, which will be September 13, 2013. Along with the announcement came a demo for this game, which I’ve played…and boy do I have some things to say about this game.

Pros: The concept is interesting, Nene and Iori seem like they could worth reading more about, music is nice.

Cons: Kisara and Momoko.

WTF?!: You know if you had more likable heroines I’d have a more positive answer…

 
                In Eroge! you play as Tomoya Mochizuki, an avid eroge player who wants to enter the eroge industry. Unfortunately for Tomoya he has not been able to find any work with any of the companies as he doesn’t really have any game making skills. His chance seems to come when he’s able to land a job at an eroge company called Flower…until it’s revealed that said company is facing going out of business unless their next game sells well. Upon discovering the problem lies with how each of the girls in charge of making the games is talented in their field but not very good at applying it to making eroge, it’s up to Tomoya to use his vast knowledge of the genre to help ensure a good game is made.

                From what I’ve played of the demo, I have to say the story concept is interesting as it provides a look at how an average eroge company goes about making a game and I can’t help but notice similarities between that and how an indie developer works. Also having a light hearted take on it would help to give players a look while at the same time keeping them from feeling bored. Sadly, whatever enjoyment I could have had of the demo’s story was ruined by two characters that made this feel like more of a chore than cleaning a bathroom.

                Before I begin though I should point out that of the four heroines of this game the other two weren’t so bad. Nene for one came off as a pretty funny character and I am interested in seeing just how she got into the role of president of an eroge company, and Iori I could at least appreciate for making me interested in her (though part of that concerns I’ve heard…things about her route). The same cannot be said for Kisara and Momoko who I quickly despised soon after they were introduced and the demo does nothing but add to my dislike for them.

                My main reason for disliking these two characters is quite frankly there just isn’t anything to like about them. They both treat Tomoya like absolute crap, and with practically every other line they have to say being an insult it gets old and annoying really fast plus it ends up taking you out of the story. The fact that this seems to be their only character trait (aside from their role in making their companies game) really weakens whatever character they’re supposed to have because it makes them seem like they’re the same character, the only difference being that Momoko is the slightly nastier of the two. When you have heroines that are one note and annoying like that it really doesn’t give player good prospects about playing their routes. Now I’m sure some of you are probably thinking that “Maybe this is a phase that they’re going to develop out of”, but I should point out this demo does skip ahead after the first available character interaction and subsequent ero scene. From what I could see that may apply to Kisara, but in Momoko’s case the scene seems to take place further into her route…and not much has seemed to change about her character.

                In the area of presentation, this game does alright. The music is pretty good so far and the voice actors did a good job. The artwork I’m not sure about yet; it’s been okay to good for the most part but a couple of the character portraits look a bit off at times. I’ll have to play the actual game before I can give a solid opinion.

                As for the ero scenes (yes there are ero scenes in this demo), well Iori and Nene’s were decent. Unfortunately the first ero scene you get is one played for jokes which sadly aren't very funny. As for Kisara and Momoko's I'm afraid my dislike for the characters carried over to their ero scenes.

 

In Conclusion:

                Eroge! is a game I really want to like, not just because the concept of the game’s story was interesting but also because the company behind it, Clock Up, has several interesting looking games in its library and if this bombs we probably aren’t going to see them localized. Unfortunately the demo for this game isn’t doing much to impress me with two of the four winnable heroines being downright insufferable. My advice to anyone thinking of getting this game, at least play the demo before putting down forty dollars on this.

The demo can be downloaded here (and warning NSFW images):
http://www.mangagamer.com/detail.php?goods_type=1&product_code=4

Monday, August 12, 2013

Import Games for Adults: Kyonyuu Fantasy 2


Kyonyuu Fantasy 2 Review

(and of course, no cover image since the game’s cover, like its predecessors’, is NSFW)


                After the surprise I got last year out of Kyonyuu Fantasy and my overall enjoyment of its fandisk, you bet I made sure to move its sequel to the top of my “to get” list (which made for good timing given its release date of May 25, 2012). Considering both games managed to deliver very good stories to accompany its numerous ero scenes, I was quite anxious as to whether KF2 could provide the same quality and perhaps even surpass the original. In short, it was able to provide that same level of quality but as for surpassing…well, that’ll take some explaining.


Pros: Well written story overall, most of the characters are well written, Zebia, voice acting is excellent, artwork is as great as always.

Cons: The beginning of the game feels like a retread of the first game, canon route has its weak points, the villains are pretty weak/annoying (except late in the canon route).

WTF?!: Did you know Cyclops in this universe make good pets?



                You play as Ruin Demedium, a student at the Royal Academy of the kingdom of Hillsland, where the future elite of the country are schooled. Unfortunately for Ruin, he is not the best in his class and is regarded by his fellow students and teachers as worthless.  In a move to get rid of him, Ruin is assigned to the backwater town of Boinbara, a town plagued by bandits and run by a corrupt lord, where it’s expected he’ll either be stuck there forever or die.  However, Ruin’s surprising success in dealing with the problems of the town will draw him into a struggle for the future of the kingdom as the king is about to choose a successor to the throne.

                I know what some of you may be thinking after reading this summary and I fully acknowledge it does make for a weak start: the premise for this KF2 is almost identical to the first game. I’ll admit it’s understandable considering how well the first game turned out, but it only results in making the beginning of the game feel kind of boring if you can call what’s going to happen because you’ve literally seen it before, plus it doesn’t help that personality wise Ruin is practically identical to Ryuto. If it’s because the writer wanted to preserve the rags to riches story setup, there could have been other ways to start things. Thankfully the story does get a lot better once it starts to tread its own ground.

                While about half of the first story arc is weak, it does a good job of introducing the initial cast of characters and makes for a good setup for the two paths the story can take and from there we get the good story, great characters, and good and numerous ero scenes we’ve been waiting for. Beginning with the characters (click here for profiles), I can say that most of them are both likable and memorable, particularly our main heroine, the dark elf, Zebia. While I admit she could have had a better introduction in the first chapter, the rest of the game more than makes up for that by making her a character that can be cute, hilarious, and most of all completely and utterly badass (she’s probably one of the strongest fighters in the game). When you combine that with a well written devotion to Ruin, and you have a main heroine as likable as (but very different from) Shamshel from the first game (a very pleasant surprise) and dare I say the best dark elf character I’ve read in a long time. Yes, even better than Drizz’t Do’Urden (post Dark Elf/Icewind Dale trilogy of course…what? I was a fan…back when the Forgotten Realms books were still good).

                Of course the other heroines are good too. Shaharl provides us with a slightly more serious (but no less amorous) succubus heroine than we got with Shamshel with her being an effective governess, extremely powerful magic user and almost as great a partner for Ruin as Zebia. Shaharl’s friend and bodyguard Elicia proves to be an interesting character with a very interesting backstory and that’s well explored in her route, plus she and Zebia actually have some very good moments together from banter one would almost expect to see between a dwarf and elf in any other fantasy setting to some good friendly interactions at the end that also help to better show her character development. Nadine and Lorelia also manage to be interesting even though they’re not really involved on the action end of things, Nadine for how clever she proves to be in dealing with the political machinations that occur in castle and Lorelei manages to make up for being kind of useless for much of the plot because of her involvement in things once the story reaches its climax at the end.

                Concerning the other major characters, they’re pretty well handled (villains aside). You’ll remember who they are and appreciate the scenes where they end up either joining Ruin’s cause or show their good sides, but the two that receive the most story attention are King Galahad and Zeminario. In Zeminario’s case, you can tell early on he’s pretty much going to be this game’s equivalent of Martel in the last game (he’s even voiced by the same VA) and while that does make him a bit less effective than his predecessor, the writer still did a good job portraying him as someone who is faced with having to choose between doing the right thing vs. doing the personally safe thing, and unlike Martel he does deal with this earlier on in the game. In Galahad’s case, this time we get some depth to the king character unlike in the first game as we’re given a look at a flawed but good king haunted by the consequences of a rash action he took in the past that ends up becoming a major plot element at the end of the story. I won’t spoil it, but I will say it makes for an interesting look at guilt clouding judgment, the consequences of letting that happen, and ultimately choosing to do what’s right even if there isn’t much hope of it fixing the damage of those consequences.

                Surprisingly, if there’s one thing that Kyonyuu Fantasy 2 does better than its predecessor, it’s how well the unnamed characters are written. First we have the squad of gnolls (yes, I realize they’re called something else, but since there doesn’t seem to be a good translation of the term I just fell back on the first D&D equivalent that came to mind) assigned to Ruin at the start of the game who we see develop from having no respect for him at all to respect after the accidental defeat of a bandit to ultimately becoming Ruin’s loyalist followers after Zebia. These guys provide not just good comedy but also good action scenes and some genuine heartfelt scenes where we see just how far these guys are willing to go for Ruin, who they regard as their leader and friend. The second case is the squad of palace guards and their role in the true route, while I’ll keep this spoiler free, I’ll say that once the story takes the expected serious turn and begins to build up for the grand finale we see the guards get caught in the thick of it and end up having to face a darker version of the dilemma Martel had to face in the first game. This does a good job in adding to the already high stakes that all the good aligned characters face at this point in the story, and that subplot gets just the right emotional pay off when the story reaches its climax and makes the ending all the more satisfying.

                That said, you’d think this would mean that Kyonyuu Fantasy 2 surpasses its predecessor, but I’m sorry to say it has its story problems that keep it from doing so. The main problem has to do with the true route’s story problems.  To begin with, the route moves along too slowly mainly because of the position Ruin’s given as a result of how the first chapter ended. The chapter is supposed to be a political intrigue driven one with Ruin trying to bring about reform in the town he’s assigned to so as to make things better for its non-human residents (and the rest of the kingdom if it’s successful), but it doesn’t really make for an effective arc because what’s supposed to be political intrigue is boring because the villain of the arc is annoying and not the least bit intimidating, we’re not really shown much in the plight of the non-human citizens, and there isn’t really much of a feeling of high stakes when the story arc reaches its climax. The introduction of Lorelia and her father also prove to undermine the chapter’s main story since you end up becoming more interested in them anyway.

                While the story does get interesting again once Shahal gets more involved and we see Ruin start rising up thanks to his accomplishments, the story still hits a couple more stumbling points. The first would be we get a bit of forced drama where I get they’re trying to establish the king as a flawed person, but part of it depends on Ruin suddenly having convenient moments of incompetence that just don’t seem to fit his character. To the writer’s credit he does try addressing this later, but it still doesn’t make that point of the story feel any less forced. The second problem is that the story slows down, which I will admit is sort of necessary to better introduce Nadine and better establish Lorelia as a heroine which is accomplished, but after doing that it seems to just show one ero scene after another with little written in between as if trying to cram in as much as it can before the story’s inevitable serious turn.

                Before I get to the final story problem, I should point out one reason I may seem to be nitpicking the true route is because I inevitably end up comparing it with the alternative story path you can take at the beginning of the game which is basically Elicia’s route. The reason is it’s a better structured route than the true route, moving its story along at the right pace, is full of political intrigue that actually has you interested, and we really get a good look at how awesome a character Ruin can be such as being an effective town lord, a good strategist, and a good diplomat. The story also gives Elicia more character moments than in the true route and the friendship she develops with Zebia is also better. We also get an interesting role reversal when we see a major battle between an army of elves and an army comprised of orcs, gnolls, humans, and a dark elf…and the latter side is the good guys! To the true route’s credit though it has a much stronger finale, so I have no problem with it as the canon story (would’ve been nice if Ruin could have had the pet Cyclops in the true route though). I just can’t help but wonder how much better it could have been if the story had been as well structured.

                The final story problem I have is that the villains are for the most part weak and kind of annoying. The worst of these would be Devlin, the villain for the weak political intrigue chapter I mentioned earlier. While I get he’s supposed to be a political threat to Ruin, he never really comes off as one since for most of the chapter the only thing he does is have the corrupt city guards be jerks to Ruin (which creates some annoying minor villains who just seem unnecessary since the story never really addresses why Ruin doesn’t just dismiss and replace them), and when he finally does make a move to really threaten Ruin it’s resolved so quickly you’re left wondering why this was the villain for the arc. Highness and Alhif fare better since they actually become effective villains in the true route who you really want to see be defeated (if you ever wanted a glimpse of what Joffrey of the Song of Ice and Fire series could have been like with absolute ruling power, you’ll get that). Unfortunately they’re not that effective before then, and since their only motivation seems to be greed (meaning their motivation might as well be “they’re just evil, that’s it”) they come off as weaker than Bernstein from the first game as while he too may have been out for personal gain and was far from a nice or likable guy, there were at least hints he felt he was doing what was best for the country.

                Still, so I won’t end talking about the story on a low note I’ll give the inevitable continuity questions an answer. I’m not going to say when this takes place in relation with the first game since that would be a bit of a spoiler and much more fun to find out. As for returning character cameos, while some places and minor characters from the previous games are mentioned, we only get one major character to show up. That may not sound like much, but the writer for the game does a good job in implementing this cameo so as not only to surprise returning fans but also to get said fans interested in the inevitable sequel*. No I’m not going to say what the cameo scene is or who the character is because this is a reveal that I will not spoil and anyone who has played this game shouldn’t spoil either. Actually, wait…I just remembered that there actually are some recurring characters besides the surprise cameo. The Alphabet Assassins are back too!

                In the area of presentation, I’ll say Kyonyuu Fantasy 2 does just as well if not better than its predecessor. The artwork is in many ways better than the previous games when it comes to character design and the design of the background CG. As an interesting little extra, the credits for each route are comprised of rough drafts of the some of the game CG for the heroines with comments by the artist. Like with the previous games almost the entire event CG is for the ero scenes, but KF2 does a good job in getting around that with the good character artwork, voice acting, effects, and good writing that almost makes it seem like your imagination doesn’t have to do much to fill in the blanks. We see this best in the final battle of the true route, which I can only describe as epic. The music is good as always, establishing the right moods for each scene from the day to day activities of Ruin and co. to the action scenes. Of course KF2 truly excels in the voice acting as everyone except Ruin is voiced and the voice actors all succeed at bringing their characters to life, particularly Zebia’s voice actress Momo Ariga, who some of you may recognize as the voice for Cleo from Harem Party…and if you’ve played Harem Party, one, I’m so sorry (I’ll review that cauldron of mediocrity someday if I can ever find the mental strength to take on Sophie's route), and two, rest assured she does an even better job in KF2 than in that game.  Another good VA worth mentioning would be Shahal’s who also did the voice for Roxanne in the first game, and it’s quite interesting to hear how different (and effective) a performance she gives for this character even if the voice doesn’t sound that different. Speaking of which, another returning VA from the first game is Elicia's who did the voice for Ruseria, and she does the voice so differently I didn't even know it was her until someone from VNDB (BTW thanks, tiglath) pointed it out to me.

                As for the ero scenes, they’re once again as good as they are numerous, though like I said before I think they crammed a few too many in before the main plot takes its serious turn for the finale. Like in the first game the epilogue is essentially a string of harem style ero scenes over seeing how things are going after the events of the finale, but considering the previous games did that I’m just going to accept that as a norm for the series.

 In Conclusion:

                Kyonyuu Fantasy 2 is by all means a worthy addition to the series with a good cast of characters, almost all of them well acted, great artwork, and good storytelling. It is disappointing though to see its story problems prevent it from surpassing its predecessor, but said problems are kind of negated by the satisfying final arc and conclusion of the true route which serve to get it to break even with its predecessor. If you enjoyed the first game and the fandisk, then this is certainly worth picking up.

Final Score: 7/10 Great

Author Recommendation: For Fans Only

                *And speaking of inevitable sequels, at the time of this review Kyonyuu Fantasy Gaiden 2 has been announced and the main site for it can be found here:


                At the moment there isn’t really anything except a map of Eurodia, a statement that seems to hint it’ll focus on Ryuto and co., and the date for the site to actually come up complete which is August 23, 2013. I have been able to find this tentative cover on getchu that features all the heroines of 1 and Gaiden, plus three new heroines, and a tentative release date of October 25, 2013.

The new heroine on the left appears to be a mermaid, possibly a relative of Lorelia’s but we’ll have to wait and see. I admit I do find it disappointing that there doesn’t seem to be any sign of the KF2’s cast as I was kind of hoping to see them interact with the cast of the first game, especially two characters in particular… Still, this is all prerelease stuff and the official site isn’t even completely up yet so we’ll have to wait and see what’s to come. Hope you’re all looking forward to it as much as I am (and here’s hoping Isis, Roxanne, and Ruseria actually get a chance to do something this time).