Kansen 5 ~The Daybreak~ Review
Well, considering the overwhelming (and international) success of the critically acclaimed The Last of Us it seems this is the perfect time for me to review another Kansen game, especially as an opening to this Halloween month. While the fourth game wasn’t bad, you could tell the creators were trying to play it safe so as not to disappoint the fanbase in light of how good the third game was, and sadly that resulted in a game that was only above average. From what I’ve been able to gather, others who played it had similar thoughts on Kansen 4 so customer feedback probably had some influence on the design for its sequel as it’s obvious from the beginning that Kansen 5 is trying to be like its much more successful predecessor, Kansen 3. As for how well it does at that…I kind of wish I could trade this in for The Last of Us.
Pros: No timed choices, introduces some interesting concepts for the Kansen universe, characters are mostly likable, some character development is handled well, new view switching system is an interesting and good idea, artwork is good, voice acting is good.
Cons: The fake routes get too much focus, Akari is not well written as a character, unwinnable heroine, the glitches…oh God the glitches!
WTF?!: The older sister heroine and the Oneechanbara reference.
Set at the same time as the third game, Kansen 5 follows Makoto Nakazawa, a boy who lost both his parents and memories during the first outbreak. While on a school trip to a nearby island, the second outbreak occurs.
From the start you can see that Kansen 5 is definitely trying to provide an experience similar to the third game, but with improvements. You can probably guess from the way I ended the introduction how that turned out, but before we get to this game’s many faults let’s take a look at what it does right. First it does a good job establishing a bit more of the Kansen setting in the aftermath of the first outbreak, a good example being people suspected of being infected along with being quarantined also had a barcode tattooed to their arm so as to keep track of them. Unfortunately, this results in the survivors of the quarantine facing persecution by the rest of society who fear they might actually be infected. Also done mostly right are the characters as the main cast (click here for profiles) is interesting and likable, and the same can be said for a couple of the side characters. This is mainly due to the fact that the common route does a good job introducing all of them and the character interactions between them do feel genuine such as the MMO online friendship of Makoto, Soichi, Taya, and Sato. The game also does a good job in portraying the zombies as a threat once again, with the infected versions of some the heroines coming off as genuinely creepy, especially Akari.
Concerning the routes…well, in the long run I’m going to have more complaints than praise, but I will give credit where credit is due. Before I begin though, I should explain how the routes are structured. There are the non-canon individual routes for each heroine which you’re required to play first and the then unlocked True Route which has an ending for each heroine. Out of all of them, I’d have to say the good ones are Satsuki’s non-canon route and Taya’s non-canon route. Satsuki’s route I consider the best first because not only do she and Makoto have good chemistry, but the story concerning her is really good. Her backstory is interesting as it not only ties really well with Makoto’s character at points in the story, but the mystery surrounding it and the secrets that are slowly revealed over time make for a good story to read. Taya’s route I enjoyed for a couple of reasons, first the interactions she and Makoto have are pretty well written and being a gamer myself I kind of have a soft spot for gamer friendship stories, and second, once the outbreak occurs the story of the two trying to make it out alive and the tragedy they encounter make for a good survival story with a bittersweet end reminiscent of Maya’s route from the second game. The only thing that makes Satsuki’s route win out is I think maybe there could have been a slightly better transition from the relationship Taya and Makoto have as friends to lovers as I think it happens a little quickly.
Now we get to the not so good routes: Natsu’s and Akari’s. I’ll start with Natsu’s since of the two, hers is better by having a good start with a pretty natural progression of her and Makoto’s relationship, and a decent ending. My problem with it has to do with the story in between, which I found disappointing mainly because it essentially reduces Natsu to the role of damsel in distress, which just doesn’t fit her character all that well considering the other routes portray her as pretty badass (when she doesn’t get infected). As for Akari’s route, this is the one I really have a bone to pick with. I will say it has a couple interesting moments such as trying to portray Arai, one of the side characters, as being more than just a character that falls into “the bully” trope or its approach to Akari and Makoto’s relationship as a platonic one, but those parts aren’t given enough attention to make them truly effective story elements. One of my biggest problems with this route has to do with Akari herself; while not an unlikable character by any means she’s not a very well written character either. While there is potential for an interesting character there such as her family’s connection to the first outbreak (which is only given the minimal addressing in the entire story) or her martial arts skills with a naginata (which she barely uses even though a CG of her using it is one of the most prominent promotional CGs), what the writer chooses to focus on is Akari’s secret sex fetish over any other character traits that would have been interesting. For a cheap sex romp eroge that’s not a problem, but for a game in the Kansen series, an eroge series that (for the most part) balances its story and ero content and offers at least decently written characters to follow, this comes off as incredibly weak writing especially considering that this is supposed to be our main heroine.
Moving on to the True Route, I should start off by saying I don’t outright hate this route as it does have good moments. The buildup to it is nice as there are hints at better character development for a couple of the side characters, Makoto gets a chance to be awesome, the official start of the route has interesting story potential, the reveals about Makoto’s lost memories are told pretty well told (with one exception but we’ll get to that later), Akari actually has some decent character moments (not to mention she FINALLY uses that naginata of hers) and the end scenes with each heroine would make for a satisfying conclusion. The main problem is…the route is too short. All that buildup and an interesting start, but from there the route wraps up in about 30 minutes at most, and that’s just playing it the first time. Once you finish the route and load your save so as to see the other heroines’ endings through that route, there’s so little diversity you finish in 10-15 minutes (and most of that time is because of the route’s heroine’s ero scene). This really hurts the route because it not only cheapens the satisfaction of everyone surviving, but it also leaves you baffled as to why the True Route is so short while the fake routes are so long and in some ways have more emotionally satisfying conclusions. It also doesn’t help that the True Route flat out ignores or barely acknowledges important story elements from the fake routes that might have made it more interesting and even given each of the heroines’ endings in that route some plot diversity. Speaking of which the fact that the True Route is largely the same regardless of which heroine Makoto ends up with results in a bit of a feeling of contradiction in that the story for the route is obviously written with Akari in mind as the heroine. That also brings us to my one problem with the reveals concerning Makoto’s lost memory. While for the most part it makes for a good backstory, it seems as if the writer decided at the last minute to tie it in with Akari’s role as the main heroine by introducing a completely new character almost completely out of nowhere and having said character be an important part of Makoto’s forgotten memories. Aside from coming off as a weak addition to the plot, it also comes off as a copy of a major story element from Satsuki’s non-canon route and big surprise, it’s not as well executed.
Having covered all that, I have one more story related complaint. After two games straight, Speed has once again given us an unwinnable heroine in Taya’s friend Sato Murasaki. She interacts with Makoto about as much as Taya in the common route, is a pretty humorous character, makes it out fine in the True Route, and the game hints at several points that she’s attracted to Makoto. In fact, the Infection route (which is basically a joke route) outright teases you with the possibility of a route. While I could accept time limits for the game’s development as why there isn’t a route for her, considering the True Route endings are 10-15 minutes long with only the heroine related scenes I’m pretty skeptical that they couldn’t have just squeezed an ending for her into the True Route itself that maybe could have been unlocked after getting Taya’s ending.
Regarding the system aspect of the game, Kansen 5 does add a new way to switch character POVs. While the standard part where at certain points in the story the game pauses and you pick from multiple character POVs is still there, when it’s just one alternate view point an icon for the character shows up at the upper right of the game window. You can either select it to go to that viewpoint or ignore it and go on with your current scene and the icon eventually disappears. It’s an interesting new addition and a good way to keep the story flowing with little feeling of interruption. Of course, the biggest improvement that Kansen 5 brings to its system over its predecessors is this: the removal of those accursed timed choices!! While I’m sure many a fan of this series would be celebrating at that, I’m afraid that joy would be offset by the one area Kansen 5 surpassed 3…the glitches…
To this day I don’t think I’ve ever played a glitchier eroge, let alone visual novel, than Kansen 5. The third game did have bugs but they were just three game crashing bugs and a game freezing bug, Kansen 5 has (ironically) five major glitches that I had to deal with. The first and perhaps worst of them would be that the game can’t remember what text you’ve read, basically after clearing a route and starting a new one when you click the skip text option to skip past already read text the skip function will work for a few seconds and then stop and treat all the text from that stopping point as if you’ve never read it before. This means you have to rely on the “skip all text” function and hope you have a good enough eye to catch when a new scene is coming. Moving on to the next glitch, this also has to do with the game’s faulty memory in that some of the ero scenes don’t show up in the extra gallery after you’ve seen them. The remaining three glitches are all text related. First off, to add insult to injury with the game’s bad memory with the text, if you use the skip function for a few minutes it will often times cause the game to crash.
Then when you get to the unread scenes, you’ll at times have to deal with odd spacing errors in the game’s text window…
…and completely blank text windows in between occupied ones.
Now before anyone sends me any comments or messages about Speed releasing a patch to fix these glitches or how they didn’t encounter any of these glitches, let me explain. In regards to the latter, you probably got a later release, my copy was from the run first released. As for the patch, while I certainly have no complaints about that (I ended up using said patch after clearing a few of the non-canon routes) I can’t help but wonder why Speed would release a game with so many glitches considering the previous game had next to none. Did their beta testers get sick during the testing period or something? Also, the patch doesn’t fix the text skip crash glitch.
In the area of presentation Kansen 5 does well. The artwork is good (though I will admit Natsu looks better in her CG than her character portrait) as is the voice acting. The music is mostly the same as in the prior games, though there are new tunes. They’re okay, but of the bunch the only one I found particularly memorable was “The last Good-Bye”.
As for the ero scenes, they’re all good, be it the good end ero scenes or the ones of the darker variety.
Kansen 5 is an overall decent entry into the series, but much like the second game it’s a game created with a lot of ambition so it could surpass its successful predecessor only be brought down by story flaws that really should have been looked over before being given a pass. To its credit it does have a good story supported by a likable cast of characters, but the bizarre choice to considerably shorten the true routes in favor of the non-canon routes really hurt the story’s effectiveness. It’s certainly worth trying out if you’ve been playing this series from the start and shouldn’t come as a waste of your time or money, just keep the bar low when it comes to expectations.
Final Score: 6/10 Above Average
Author Recommendation: Try it out.
As for the anime…I don’t really know what to say about it since after watching both episodes I’m not entirely sure what I watched. What it is seems more akin to a dime a dozen hentai doujinshi than an adaptation as the setup for the two episodes (I’m not even going to bother calling it a story) do not occur at all in the game. The villain of the OVA is really an overall minor character in the game and for some strange reason his appearance was so greatly changed I’m still not sure if I’m only guessing it’s him. He goes from looking like this…
And for some reason the creators of this OVA gave him a nameless (and butt ugly) flunky (ignoring the fact that the guy was a flunky himself in the game) that wasn’t in the original game, even though he already had multiple nameless flunkies who didn’t even look anything like that.
Also the only main heroines this focuses on are Akari and Natsu (Hanazawa is a minor character in the game) with the rest of the cast mysteriously absent except for a couple seconds worth of a group shot in the second episode.
All this and yet the oddest thing to me is…I don’t hate this OVA. Don’t get me wrong I don’t particularly like it either, but I’m honestly just too astounded at just how hard it fails as an adaptation that I can’t hate it. It’s like asking someone to make a simple shape out clay like a ball and when you see that person somehow failing so spectacularly at doing that you’re too amazed at the how wrong that person got it to condemn his/her attempt.